What Were Your Highlights in 2009?

bright spot

The first week of January is a natural time to look back. Just as the earth begins another whirl around the Sun, we can’t avoid confronting the reality that yet another sizable chunk of lifetime has been sealed and locked away in the archives. We don’t get many of those chunks, seventy or eighty if we’re lucky, so it makes sense to step back, look at how we’ve spent this last one, and adjust the sails if necessary.

A family member had a great idea and passed it on to me. This time of year, we should all come up with the year’s highlights, much the way they do for sports, news, and the arts. It’s a good way to identify exactly what the year means to us when we consider the big picture, zoomed out far enough that we can only see the brightest bits.

So here’s the deal. I’ll post my top five highlights of 2009, and hopefully you will be inspired to post yours, either in the comments below, or on your own blog if you’ve got one.

Approach it however you like. They can be things you started or finished in 2009, decisions you’ve made, experiences you’ve had or any other memories that stand out. All that’s important is that they serve to represent to you this particular chapter in your story, whether you’ve been authoring it consciously, or haphazardly.

As you’ll see, my choices are not quite the memorable, standalone events one might think of when they hear the word “highlights.” Each of these five happenings marks a revelation of some kind or the beginning of a new arc in the story. That’s just how they came to me; you do whatever you like.

These kinds of lists make me nervous, because there is always the risk of some unforgivable omission. But here are the highlights that characterize the best of 2009, in my life:

5. The decision to make audacious plans – The first twenty-seven years of my life left me rather unambitious. The four-sentence version of my life story goes like this: I excelled at almost everything as a kid. I became extremely accustomed to victory and praise. I had a taste of defeat and found it unbearable. I thereafter avoided all forms of challenge or competition, so that I could never lose and never fail. Tragic.

A light flicked on at some point in 2009, though I can’t recall a specific date. I’m not sure exactly what triggered it but I suspect it had something to do with the fairly rapid success of this site. From the seed of an idea and a fair bit of elbow grease, something wonderful grew out of nothing, and suddenly the future seemed to spread wide open, awash with possibility.

All those awful clichés have been suggesting the same thing for years: You only get one life; Reach for the stars; Make the most of it; You can do anything you put your mind to. There are a million ways of saying it, and I heard the same sentiment so much as a child I learned to tune it out. I guess I always supposed it was true, but the messages a young adult gets from his surroundings seem to deny it. People generally do not reach for the stars, they reach for what’s comfortable, and stay there as long as it remains comfortable, which is usually forever. I grew up in a culture of complacency.

So something clicked, and I began to see that I can make just about anything happen, provided I don’t let the opposing extremes of fear and comfort influence me too much. I’ve made an extensive life list, which I now regard as a roadmap rather than a wishlist.

Included in this rush of ambitious plans was the decision to become self employed, to travel like mad, to reach millionairehood, to speak multiple languages and over 150 other more-than-worthwhile endeavors that never would have happened had I continued to let comfort and ease be my compass in life.

I’m already checking some off, and getting others underway. Suddenly the future is bright, and so is the present. Life was never quite like this before.

4. Unclehood — On September 11, five weeks before I left on my trip, my sister and her husband had a baby boy. I went to meet him after work. The room was full of family members, some of whom had all just earned a new title. A new mother and father, new grandparents, new aunts and new uncles.

They were all familiar faces, except there was one more this time: baby Keane.

Now, I’ve met lots of babies. I’ve held newborns. They’re cute, but I had never been so affected by a baby as I was this time. In fact, I had never really understood all the excitement about babies. People have babies all the time. They all look the same, they don’t do anything. They don’t even know where they are.

But Keane didn’t strike me as just someone’s baby; he was a complete person right from the start. I can still picture his tiny, bewildered face as I held him on his birthday. He was already one of us; we didn’t have to warm up to him. His face was already familiar.

Unclehood doesn’t usually confer any additional responsibilities, but suddenly I feel my role on this planet has become a little more important, like it’s taken on a little more consequence. My nephew has wonderful parents and an unbeatable family network to love him and help to raise him. If it takes a village, he’s got one, and I’m grateful to be part of it.

3. Overseas travel — As I write this, I’m staying as a houseguest in Nelson, New Zealand, sitting in a blue armchair, looking out over a valley through a pair of French doors. I keep finding myself in scenes I never could have imagined. My life is full of people I didn’t know a month ago. I’ve been in the country for six weeks, and before that I spent a month in Thailand. I have loved virtually every minute of it, and I foresee much more globetrotting in my future.

I am meeting new people and encountering new ideas at a much higher rate than I was during my regular 9 to 5 routine at home. I’ve become aware that I’m growing much more quickly than I was before I left. Fears and hangups are dissolving, social skills are blossoming, and ordinary moments are glowing brighter and brighter.

Initially, I had a fair amount of apprehension about solo traveling. Somebody else had always made most of my travel arrangements, so I wasn’t all that confident in my ability to show myself a good time. Thailand seemed especially dodgy, and for a while I considered skipping it altogether, even though the flight would have been free and it’s much cheaper to travel there than in New Zealand. But I went, and more than anything I was surprised at how easy the whole thing was, even for a recovering introvert like me.

I was not always interested in travel. I pictured it something like this: you spend all year saving up thousands of dollars, then you use your precious two weeks of holidays taking pictures and drinking Coronas beneath palm trees, then you go back to work for another fifty weeks and start saving again.

I know now it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to go to resorts, you don’t have to spend thousands, and you don’t have to spend fifty weeks a year working.

Even before I left, I was sufficiently excited about travel to decide I will tailor my lifestyle to make it possible. Look at my life list, it’s out of control. To get to all those places I’ll need to do some serious lifestyle planning. Yet, at the time I wrote it I hadn’t spent a day overseas. Turns out I do love it, more than just about everything.

2. Hollyhock — In October I spent a week at an educational retreat called Hollyhock. It’s a humble village on an island of the coast of British Columbia. There were only two courses that were scheduled during the time I would be in the area, so I chose one called The Buddhist Path to Love and Happiness.

I didn’t know what I was getting into. I thought it would be a series of easygoing talks about Buddhism, with plenty of spare time for jacuzziing, wine-drinking and beach-walking. Instead, I discovered it was an intensive program of meditation. The days began at 7am and ended at 10pm, and we were not to speak for the entirety of the five day program.

The first day was very difficult. For a novice meditator like me, spending hours and hours sitting alone with one’s thoughts is an extremely taxing experience. Without the obscuring static of incessant thinking, you wouldn’t believe what feelings and fears that surface.

By the end of it I had learned a shocking amount about myself and how I operate. I also recognized the importance of meditation in learning to steer my life. Everything I do to manipulate the top layer of detail in my life — the realm of time management and goal-setting — is almost in vain without the clarifying effect of this mental work. The head-noise takes over otherwise, and moment-to-moment impulses undermine long-term plans.

From my internal viewpoint, the effect of those five days on my life has been dramatic. Even though I’ve been traveling through unfamiliar places and situations ever since, I’m far less uptight, far less confused, far less preoccupied with control. The insights I experienced that week are irreversible. I can never again be quite who I was before.

The food was also awesome.

1. Raptitude

Ah, my own baby.

Sometime in January 2009, I stumbled across Problogger, and life changed. Suddenly I was wrapped up in the idea of running my own blog. That night, I signed on for two years of hosting, then downloaded WordPress and started playing with it. Six weeks later, as of the Ides of March, I was online .

I don’t think I’d ever had such a strong, sustained interest in any pursuit before. What attracted me was the sense of community I saw amongst the bloggers in the comments on Problogger. Everyone was doing their own thing, but they were all aware of what was going on in their own respective online neighborhoods. Each niche had its own set of up and comers, big shots, emerging styles, legends and forefathers, wannabes, has-beens, old-fashioned doctrines, and avant-garde experiments. I wanted to become a figure in one of these 21st century virtual communities.

So I did. I was surprised at how quickly I gained momentum. Within a week I had formed a support group with a handful of other new bloggers, and suddenly we had our own little block in the virtual neighborhood. Nine months down the road, I’ve got over a thousand subscribers, even though I’ve done zero marketing during the last three. I built it and they came.

Raptitude has served me in ways I never expected. Aside from the wonderful sense of community, and the connections that come with it, I have tapped into what blogging God Seth Godin might call a “Tribe.” My writing has attracted a bright group of people who know that a human being can have much more say in the quality of his or her life than the average person would suppose. I love those people, and they come here on a regular basis to read, comment, email and Facebook me. I am blessed. Finally, I have found a sizable group of human beings who are on the same page.

My blog has become such a solid part of my consciousness, it is hard to believe that in 2008 there was no such thing as Raptitude.

***

So 2009 was a stellar year. For me it was the best ever. I’ve hit my stride like never before. Without even a hint of optimism, I can tell you that 2010 will be better.

I would love to hear your 2009 highlights. You don’t have to have five. Post them in the comments below, or on your own blog, and link it from the comments.

R

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

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sarah January 4, 2010 at 2:58 am

love it. i did this for 2008 on a month-by-month thing. http://bit.ly/2VtZju

i hadn’t done my 2009 highlights b/c i got stuck on january.. “now what happened in january again?”…. i like your “top 5″ method… that list i can definitely come up with.
cheers to blogging! :)

David January 4, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Hi sarah. By the looks of it, 2008 was pretty fine. If you decide to do your 2009 top 5, let me know.

Henri @ Wake Up Cloud January 4, 2010 at 9:06 am

2009 was the year when I stopped chasing money and went after my passion. It is how my blog was born, which has been one of the best decisions of my life.

2009 was the year when I decided to move to another country, because it felt right. 2009 was when I knew 2010 would completely destroy everyone’s minds (in a positive way ;))
.-= Henri @ Wake Up Cloud´s last blog ..Why Some People Almost Always Get What They Want =-.

David January 4, 2010 at 9:16 pm

2009 was a good year for blogs. So many promising new ones. Just as people began to say “blogging is dead.”

Erin January 4, 2010 at 11:57 am

Oooo. Pity party alert. I was feeling sorry for myself a minute before reading your blog. Thinking I am treading water and just surviving. Your post made me evaluate 2009 and count my blessings. There are many.

Book published
Completed Jack Canfield coaching
New job
Grew spiritually, intellectually and emotionally
Lots of great days walking in Garden of the Gods park with man of my dreams and 2 Labradors
Made a couple of new friends
Read Raptitude and David goes Kiwi every week and loved it
.-= Erin´s last blog ..Opportunity =-.

David January 4, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Doesn’t sound so pitiful to me :)

I’m having a bit of technical trouble today, maybe I’ll do a bit of blessing-counting before I get too worked up about it. Thanks for the reminder. Happy 2010.

Daphne January 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I didn’t write my 2009 accomplishments as theme-based as you did, but I posted them on my blog before the year was over at http://daphneanddonald.blogspot.com/2009/12/2009-year-in-review.html. Thanks for sharing yours and good luck to you in 2010!
.-= Daphne´s last blog ..Rocking 2010 =-.

David January 4, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Hi Daphne. A good year for you too by the looks of it. Your January looks to be super-productive so far too. Keep it up :)

Avi January 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm

In September I met 5 new friends!

David January 4, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Nice. They may make your future years great too.

Earl January 4, 2010 at 3:01 pm

In 2009 I decided to start creating more structure for my global wanderings and project ideas; began my own blog; did some life-changing volunteer work in Calcutta that I always wanted to do; improved my fluency in Spanish; and learned to surf. These five things alone are more than enough to sling me into 2010 with an abundance of positive energy.
.-= Earl´s last blog ..A Decade of Wandering Ends, Another One Begins (Part 2) =-.

David January 4, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Hi Earl. Congratulations on your stellar year, and your decade of wandering too. Happy trails in this next decade.

Brad January 4, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Geez Louise, 2009 has to have been my most uneventful year ever. Seriously, my 10 or so interviews would be one highlight. Part time writing would be a second. I joined a soccer team. And learned 2 or 3 songs on piano. I’m pretty sure that is everything of substance. Oh, and learned a tad of Esperanto.

Yikes! 2010 will be good though, I am better planned for this year.

David January 5, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Well you know a hell of a lot more Esperanto than me. You should pat yourself on the back.

Patty - Why Not Start Now? January 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Hi David – Like you, I started blogging in 2009, and it’s been quite a ride. I didn’t get hip to the community thing until a few months ago – just spent the first nine months writing. My last post of the year was sort of about highlights, but focused on small, meaningful moments and scenes, rather than the big stuff. Love your list, though. Thanks for the ongoing inspiration and great writing.
.-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Introducing Meaning Mondays =-.

David January 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Ah, the community aspect is the best part of blogging. I am itching to get back into the swing of commenting and tweeting and all that goes with it. But I have to walk down a hill and pay by the hour for internet access, so it just isn’t feasible right now. I left a comment today and I felt so alive :)
.-= David´s last blog ..What Were Your Highlights in 2009? =-.

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) January 5, 2010 at 6:36 am

1. Making the friendships I used to wish for
2. Eating regularly from my garden
3. Sustainable online business
4. 90% renos done inside the house
5. Writing~

David January 5, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Fantastic, Char. Who could ask for more?
.-= David´s last blog ..What Were Your Highlights in 2009? =-.

Brenda (betaphi) January 6, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Hi David. I’m glad you had such a great year. I’ve enjoyed following your blog. I recall a comment from an English professor once, saying she told her students to follow Raptitude for an example of a well-written blog. That’s huge!

Betaphilings has been around since 2006, but it was only in April of 2009 that I began to encounter really good bloggers like you. I have Twitter to thank for that, so Twitter gets a huge shout-out for introducing me to the blogosphere. April was also the month I finally got the gumption to end a dead-end relationship. In August I discovered I’m going to be a grandmother, so this April’s going to be another biggie for me.

When you’re a grandpa someday, you may find yourself reexamining the role of comfort and ease. At my age I am loving me some comfort and ease! Happy 2010! :)
.-= Brenda (betaphi)´s last blog ..A Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye =-.

David January 7, 2010 at 1:34 am

Congrats on your great year Brenda, especially your impending grandmotherhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I love comfort and ease, I just can’t let them be the most important thing anymore. They take up too much space.

Vincent Nguyen January 7, 2010 at 12:31 am

I see that “Raptitude” is born from one of your eureka moments in life and now it has flourished into something very engaging and beautifully insightful.

5) Started yinnergy.com then had to focus on reality.
4) Traveled to Vietnam (home country)….just stunning
3) Walked away from career to follow “personal pilgrimage path”
2) Starting a family with a baby girl on the way
1) Relaunched yinnergy into youryinnergy…coming full circle my friend :-)

1a) Re-connecting with all my blog friends :-)
.-= Vincent Nguyen´s last blog ..Reach out of your "comfort zone" and Explore =-.

David January 7, 2010 at 1:36 am

Good to hear from you Vincent.

So many people are having landmark years by the sounds of it. Thanks for the flattering words, and I hope to hear more from you in 2010.

Andy January 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I am fairly new to your blog, but I want to thank you for articulating so much of what goes through my mind. It seems like every post I read of yours allows me to analyze, reflect, and clarify my own life. I also love your phrase “recovering introvert” as I can totally empathize!

5) Made the hardest (but correct) decision of my life and quit teaching at an international school before my contract was up.
4) Lived in Hawaii for 3 months unemployed
3) Found a job with great people in the “great recession”
2) Made a fun and informative work music video called “(Serv)Ice, Ice Baby”
1) Discovered that apathy is my self defense mechanism

David January 7, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Hi Andy, and welcome. I think it’s so great that your top highlight is something you learned about yourself. It shows you have your priorities straight. Thanks for posting your highlights, and I hope to hear from you in the comments again soon.
.-= David´s last blog ..What Poker Pros Can Teach You About Your Deepest Issues =-.

Anthony Morris January 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm

I’ve read every post (not since the beginning, I had to back track) and I’ve loved every single one of them. We’ve talked a little bit before but not much, I don’t comment on here but I thought this could be fun.

Top 5 of ’09 (No order)
1) Made huge improvements in myself both physically and mentally.
2) Flew on a plane for the first time (to Victoria!)
3) Bought my Nikon D90, first DSLR.
4) Met and dated an amazing girl and filled my year with memories with her.
5) Began learning piano.

It’s pretty tough to actually only come up with five!

David January 14, 2010 at 8:42 pm

*Wild applause*

Andy Parsons February 28, 2010 at 7:14 pm

In 2009 I made what for me was a very courageous decision to quit my job and start enjoying my life.

This enabled me to have what was the best holiday of my life, travelling to England and spending nearly 2 months there, including one full month at Butlins Minehead, where I met several fantastic new friends who share my enthusiasm for Butlins, and began the research for a book I am now writing about the history of Butlins Minehead.

This also inspired me to begin writing another book simultaneously, which will be a type of autobiography containing my thoughts about the many crazy things that go on in the corporate world, and I am hoping I can write it in such a way that it gives readers reason to re-evaluate their work and what they are really getting out of it as a person.

I also got to spend a fair bit of time with my wonderful nephew and neices, all 10 years old and full of life and fun and inspiration.

I am not yet certain what the highlights of 2010 will be but I do plan to repeat the holiday I had last October in a few months time, to complete at least one of my books and get it published, and to either get a job which I will actually enjoy for the long term, or start my own business doing something I enjoy.

I must admit this is far from being a clear path for me as yet because I only have limited capital to invest and I’m struggling to think of a gap in the market that I could fill. Hopefully I’ll come up with something.

Finally, discovering this site might well go down as one of the highlights of my 2010 too, because it’s full of exactly the sort of advice and ideas I’ve been searching for for years, so many thanks for that David!

David February 28, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Sounds like you’re headed in the right direction Andy.

I’m flattered that this site is a highlight for you. I appreciate your remarks and hope you stick around.
.-= David´s last blog ..A Shocking Instance of Self-Discovery =-.

Jon April 11, 2010 at 2:01 am

In no order,
1. FINALLY started learning how to play the guitar.
2. Learned that indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love.
3. Discovered what I’m passionate about.
4. Started taking my dad’s advice. Turns out he’s known what he’s talking about all along.
5. Spent the summer as a camp counselor in Cape Cod. Too many individual moments/highlights to choose just one from those 8 weeks.

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