5x5: 2016 In Review, Part II

Finishing up my 2016 in Review with the last two categories of my 5x5. Part I is here

5 Things I Was Proud of in 2016

Truthfully, the word "proud" makes me cringe a little bit. I had a hard time feeling confident in sharing these and patting myself on the back. That being said, it is okay to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Every one of these 5 things involved struggles, doubts, setbacks, and hard lessons along the way. I just want to remember the progress I've made. 

1. Turned The Big and Bright into an LLC. In February of 2016, I decided it was time for my little blog-turned-photography-business to put some big girl panties on and become a legitimate, registered company. With legal contracts and mileage tracking and taxes and endless to-do lists and all the other lovely details that come with owning a small business. It's been a fun journey so far, though - SO worth it - and it's only just beginning. 

2. Ran a sub-2 hour half marathon. And haven't run more than 4 miles since. Ha! And if we're being really honest, I only beat this goal by 20 seconds. I broke out in a dead sprint on the last half mile once I realized it was maybe within reach, but I didn't even check my official results until later that morning, so when I saw 1:59:40 next to my name, I almost didn't believe it.

I go through phases of enjoying running and not enjoying running. Right now I'm in the Not phase, and I'm okay with that. I've never been a "natural" runner or naturally fast, so reaching this goal involved a lot of hard work. It took me 2 years and hundreds of miles in training to shave 18 minutes off my first half marathon time, so seeing what my body was capable of this time around was really rewarding. 

3. Followed generally healthier practices than ever before. After all the half marathon training left me slightly burned out on running, I finally ventured into the weight room and haven't looked back since. I didn't totally nix the cardio, but focusing more on strength training and mixing in lots of Body Pump classes (so fun!) has been a welcome change.

I started paying more attention to what I put in my body, too. Less sugar and things that come in boxes, more veggies and simple ingredients for homemade meals. Between picking up some weights and filling our fridge more so than our pantry, I just feel so much better. And stronger, too! Haven't given up the DP yet - not happening - but I did quit drinking them during the week. It's a little shameful how excited I get to hit the drive thru on Friday afternoons now for my end of the week reward (is it just me, or does McDonald's have THE best Dr. Pepper? And don't even get me started on Sonic's DP - gross).

4. Did a better job of managing our finances. Basically, we bought less crap. A crazy concept, I know. We used envelopes for personal spending money for about half the year, and talk about figuring out your priorities... having a finite amount of cash for the month in a literal envelope makes cutting back pretty black and white, because when you run out, you run out. I feel like the things we did buy were for the most part, pretty smart purchases. More on quality clothing items, less on mindless Target trips. More on equipment for my business, less on impulse buys. And mostly, more on experiences and less on things. I wasn't always pleasant about it (I might have shed budget-related tears on multiple occasions... #getagrip) but we want to build a good financial foundation for our family and I felt like 2016 was a good start. 

5. Invested in my photography business by attending a workshop. I heard about Sheradee Hurst's workshops from a photographer friend and thank God I signed up, because that styled shoot workshop was a game-changer. I learned more in that workshop than I had in months of teaching myself. Sheradee also helped me articulate my creative style and nail down my vision for The Big and Bright. Spending that time with a seasoned professional (and gaining a friend!) was worth more than any gear or lenses money can buy. 

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5 Things I Learned in 2016

1. Marriages are like fingerprints - no two are the same. A wise friend actually told me this when Andrew and I were dating, but it didn't really hit home until 2016, I think because we've spent a lot more time this past year in the company of other married couples. No matter how solid your marriage is, it can be so easy to fall into the pit of comparison - 'that couple bought a new house,' or 'that couple never fights' (in public), or even 'look how cute they always look in pictures,' and on and on. What if those couples do things differently than Andrew and I do simply because the guy isn't Andrew and the girl isn't me? Every relationship is the merging of two unique individuals. So what works for one marriage may not work in ours, or maybe it just doesn't apply to our season of life. Our communication, our priorities, and our timeline won't look like anyone else's. 

2. The only way to get better at things is to DO them. Whether it's honing a creative skill, shooting weddings, running faster miles, or really anything else - improvement requires consistent practice (and patience).

3. Having less stuff makes me happier. By no means is our home a tiny house, but it's got one tiny bathroom and a few tiny closets. Part of the reason we bought less crap in 2016 is because we have nowhere to put it, and surprisingly, the lack of space has been incredibly freeing. We took a sickening amount of things to Goodwill in 2016 and I don't miss a single one of them. In fact, I constantly have the urge to see what else I can get rid of. Isn't it sad how we don't even remember half of what we throw out? All I know is I've got a lot more empty shelves and drawers these days and zero desire to fill them up.

4. Friendships will ebb and flow through seasons of life. Navigating friendships after college is interesting because you lose that common ground - literally and figuratively. Add different jobs, home bases, relationship statuses, family situations, and babies into the mix, and things are bound to change. Not necessarily in a negative way; they're just different. Last year taught me to go with the flow of evolving friendships, balancing effort and investment with comfort and security in knowing that the ones who really matter will be there for the long haul.

And finally...

5. Don't buy the beige couch. No matter how pretty it looks in the furniture store. 

 

Looking back, I'm so grateful for the ways 2016 shaped and changed me. All I can hope for in 2017 is to place my priorities where they need to be: my faith, my marriage, meaningful friendships, and meaningful work. I'm looking forward to so much about this year already. I want to build on last year's better habits, but more than that, I want to let go of some self-imposed pressures, and I want to show grace - to others and to myself.