Time

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My life is coming to a fairly significant crossroads. In just over a month, I commit myself at 50 to becoming my own arbiter, attempting to create a new career as a 21st Century Nonconformist. In a World where so many shout their mantras into the ether, which some believe rotates far too closely around circles of electronic Hell: will I be seen as any different to the heretics and fools that embrace diversity, speeding us all towards the World’s end? This historical period is as close to chaos as many will remember, but for me I am reminded first of the early 1980’s and before the 1970’s: the Cold War and the Three Day Week are memories I carry a world away from what now passes for normal daily life. If the last few days of dreams are any indicator, my subconscious grasps only too readily that these are turbulent times ahead.

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I have always been considered as a troublemaker: however, I never really wholeheartedly embraced the concept of rebellion until I hit my late twenties. I’ve come to most things later than others, I realise now because of the ability to properly grasp implication behind those actions involved. With the benefit of time, an environment was created which allowed me to both develop and evolve at a pace that suited mind and body, and that was not dictated by circumstance. Only now is it becoming apparent how useful that has become in order to be able to see a larger picture. It is also a daily reminder of just how lucky I am as a white, middle-aged woman to have the opportunity to begin with.

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If I went to the Bank on June 1st and asked for a loan to become a full-time digital writer, they’d laugh at me. I could submit articles to a hundred online sites and be rejected for every single one. This is a profession that is so subjective as for it to be impossible to quantify what matters on any given day: the way in which we devour, create and even transmit our communications alters sometimes on a daily basis. My online newspaper of choice doesn’t simply provide written commentary any more, there are short video ‘articles’ peppered amongst the headlines. If you want a novel to be a success, having robots recognise your website is as important as a set of good reviews. My ability to communicate in 140 character bursts is as important as long form mastery, and textspeak. It isn’t about being ‘down with the kids’ and more either, there are languages for every part of the Web. If you don’t know your Deplorables from the Untouchables? You won’t last long in the Digital Wild West.

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What I bring to the table in this Digital relationship is time: not only have I been here since inception, but I’ve grown with trends and diversification. I am very much anti Facebook and pro Twitter, but it doesn’t mean I don’t grasp the commercial implications of both. I may avoid SnapChat because of the filters and vanity, but it doesn’t take an idiot to grasp how significant the platform is for a generation of users, for whom instant information is key. Learning how to be a better person might seem a waste of time in a place where nobody needs to know who you are, but when you’re willingly giving away personal details to anyone with a contact form? Consequences will matter. In fact, there will be a generation of Internet users for which the repercussions of digital immersion will only truly become apparent if we can survive the next forty years without the Planet disintegrating around us, mostly because lots of people failed to pay attention to Science when it mattered. Of all of this, in the digital world around us, a grasp of Biology, Physics, Chemistry and every sub-branch in between is more important now than it has ever been.

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I’d love to say that telling stories is the real reason I want to be a writer, and although that is true, I’ve realised in the last few years it isn’t all that now matters. I can still spin fictions in the manner I choose, but not at the expense of ignoring bigger stories. The Internet of Words is my way to do many things at once: fulfil my dreams, yes, but also expand the potential of others, because without learning to better communicate as a planet, we are all doomed to failure. It cannot just be any more that you work towards your own ends, making individual success matter. Without everybody being able to win, frankly, there’s not much left to live for. If you think the future is living in your own, safe and consequence free bubble, I suspect there’s some major shocks coming very soon indeed. One of the races in my favourite computer games have a phrase: ‘Time is money, friend’ and this morning I realised that’s more true on an intellectual level than I’d ever previously grasped. The time I have lived is indeed worth something, what I have left to use so precious that not a moment should be wasted.

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I’m now sitting on a lovely pile of CoPromote reach and on Monday I’ve decided to use the IoW site to officially launch my concept to a bunch of total strangers. I have no idea how this will go down and frankly, I’m not that worried if the interest is minimal. What matters most is having the confidence to stand and fall on an idea, and nothing else. Bringing unique perspective is what I’ve always done best, and I’ve ever been afraid of being unpopular as a result. After all, as I never grow tired of reminding anyone who’ll listen, the reason why you fail is to learn how to succeed. Once you know what not to do, the options become less complex to grasp.

Then all you need is courage to take that first step.

There There

This week has been tough. Mentally I’ve coped pretty well but physically, my digestive system is a mess. Having to lose what I’ve become reliant on in terms of high fat foods was a wrench my body initially wasn’t at all happy about. However, a week in and I’m beginning to cope. The other major loss is what counted as rewards on Treat Days are effectively out of the window too until I can get the all clear on my scans. I’ve been living on coated nuts in small portions, the occasional flapjack and luck, mostly. I wondered if I was doing this right until I got on the scales: my weight’s dropped consistently this last week, and I’m almost two pounds down. The key here is that there’s been only light exercise, because again I’m on orders not to strain my trunk area too vigorously.

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It is more than a year now since my last period. The night sweats remain, but are slowly tapering off, and I don’t seem to get hot in the daytime nearly as much as was the case before: *gasp* I’ve felt genuinely cold on a few occasions this last week, which is a distinct change. The biggest difference is my skin, which used to be really greasy: now I’m almost permanently dry, but the skincare routine is taking care of that. Oh, and body hair’s stopped growing, which means that I’m brushing my hair less and it is undoubtedly thinning. If genetics isn’t lying I won’t go bald, but even if I did I think that’s a hurdle I could tackle. I love my long hair now and I’ll be making the most of it for as long as I can.

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It seems odd at this stage to be undergoing so much change, but I’m quite sanguine about everything that is happening at once. I’ll be doing a session at the Gym later with weights but only light Cardio, just so I can keep momentum going. I don’t have a PT on Monday as my trainer is away so I think going forward I’ll plan to do *something* daily in order to keep the weight loss moving but not get too stressed if I don’t break goals. I’m certainly not in a mental state of panic or unhappiness over anything related to weight or exercise right now, and long may that continue.

In fact, everything’s looking just fine.

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Life is a constantly evolving learning process. This fact is lost on so many people that it staggers me: no two days will be the same. Of course, the biggest single problem for most people is being able to see life with enough objectivity to understand what is going on around them to begin with. In my 20’s, the undoubted problem was a basic inability to escape from that understanding. In my 30’s only the introduction of another life allowed that process to begin. It was my 40’s that truly broke the fourth wall of insularity, taking a good decade to put pieces of my disparate puzzle together. Depression and anxiety crippled me for a long time until I was able to identify the triggers that began those downward spirals.

I’m never going to be cured but I’ve become supremely good at crisis management.

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When your life is dictated by everything at once and you’re unable to filter the chaos from meaningful, there comes a point where the only thing left is complete withdrawal. Yesterday, I’ll happily admit that the Internet became too much to even read, let alone participate in and so the standard disassociation tactic was employed: headphones on, music as distraction, be somewhere else. As I worked to clear out stuff from the front room, something interesting happened. Answers to questions appeared without prompting. The issues I had were resolved far faster than I ever remember previously, but more importantly the residual guilt I normally feel wasn’t present. It is okay to be myself. That feeling hasn’t gone away, whereas on previous occasions in stressful situations my self doubt has always returned. Somewhere between Christmas and now, something fundamental truly has changed.

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It’s also meant that I’ve stopped obsessing about weight, in fact I don’t remember the last time that I’d got hooked up on loss. I’ve become more concerned with shape and tone, that my back no longer hurts and that my arms are adjusting to an improvement in technique. I’m now approaching food with more realism too, so I can eat more of what I enjoy yet not beat myself up over those same choices. This is undoubtedly both the strongest and fittest I have ever been, and the journey now is to integrate those achievements into a lifestyle that allows me to reward myself without excess. Therefore today, after I’ve written this, I’m going to my favourite chocolate seller’s website and ordering an Easter egg. I’ve already ordered a new teapot and loose leaf tea. As my husband said to me on Saturday, I am incredibly simple to please: cuppa, chocolate and to be loved is all that is required. That’s the truth, too. Everything else, frankly, seems excessive and often pointless.

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Yesterday therefore was something of a revelation, and as a result my brain’s creativity unlocked as thanks, and I wrote fiction. Now what needs to happen is for me to not allow distraction and my own failings to get in the way of what needs to be done. This matters enough for me to give 110% to the cause, and so I shall. I have non fiction completely sorted now, and a routine that works for me. The next step is to insert the stuff I love most into this mix and them make everything work to my advantage. I’ve also got some interesting projects in mind for when I begin my Patreon, which I’ve decided will begin in late June. Most importantly of all I’ve opened my mind to collaboration. I won’t say anything more than that right now, but these are exciting times ahead, and I have an awful lot I want to say.

Without further ado, let’s get working.

Size of a Cow

This is the story of how I FINALLY lost 10 pounds and moved my exercise journey forwards.

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This week, the scales shifted down for the first time in quite some weeks. Fitbit has only recently started registering and tracking weight loss, it never existed when I first signed up. However now, I can see how much has vanished since the new software kicked in. There’s a sad truth behind this 10 pounds that made me stop in my tracks. I didn’t grasp just how many times it has taken to get this far. The problem with apps is that they rarely lie, and that means that, at least for me, five pounds has been a millstone for quite a while.

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I was shocked at this statistic, and went to look at my weight measurements for confirmation. I’ve been trying to lose the same five pounds for close to a year.

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This belittles the work I’ve done to get this far as well, because it doesn’t show the level of effort or that muscle and fat have been swapped with a quite definite regularity. If all you see are the numbers and not physical change, the potential to go backwards is, I know, a fair deal stronger than it would be if all I had was weight loss as my objective. This journey’s become therefore a lot more about self-education: yes, I can read all the gumph in the world about eating to lose weight and what exercises work the best, but none of that is necessarily going to work for me. That’s the problem with the Internet: everybody is out there trying to sell you the best way to do things like they’re a) the only person doing so and b) their way is the optimal path for you, and that’s a bunch of wobbly dumdums. What is best for ME is when I understand WHY things are happening, and I can grasp the relationship between what I eat, how I exercise and how that affects my progress.

This is the new world I now find myself in, and it is amazing.

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I can tell you the key changes that have been made to improve my ability to lose weight: they include stopping with the Special Fried Rice on takeaway night, removing myself from temptation when hungry and not lying to my PT when she asks me if I did all my exercise promised from the week before. However, I hate to break it to you guys, but the #1 overriding reason why I’ve succeeded in losing weight is that I’ve worked myself into the fucking ground. That meant that yesterday, on the back of five hours sleep, I dragged myself out the door, walked to the Gym, ran for nearly an hour and did 30 minutes of weights, before walking home and promptly falling asleep. Yes, exercise is meant to give you energy and vitality, but in a menopausal 50-summat it was enough to destroy me yesterday almost completely.

That’s normally when you want to give up.

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When I look back at myself in pictures, from when I started the serious part of this journey, there’s now an inescapable difference between then and now. Once upon a time I couldn’t see it, and had I allowed myself to be swayed by the fact that nothing (apparently) was changing in my mind at the time, I’d be no further forward. All those years of trying and failing to lose weight had nothing whatsoever to do with how I did it or with whom. The biggest single issue, ultimately, was myself. That’s easier to write now than it has been at any other point in the past too, that there’s come the final grasping of a truth that underpins everything else that I do. When jokingly I’ll mention that ‘people are stupid’ to someone in conversation, I’m talking about myself. This inability to want to grasp the failings and shortcomings that have hindered progress for decades makes the current revelations all the more bittersweet.

This could easily have happened a long time ago, but never did, because until fear was addressed and faced, everything was impossible. Shame and embarrassment are potent shackles in a mind that believes that what matters more than being free and happy is conforming to norms that were never placed on you to begin with, but end up being applied by everybody else. Once there’s the ability to look beyond the constraints of what the rest of humanity tells you is possible or acceptable? The only thing stopping progress, ultimately, is death. I write this sentence for a friend of mine who, right now, is going through the most difficult of circumstances as a reminder: every day is special, each moment to be appreciated and treasured as if it were the last, because that might well be the case. A life not lived well is not really a life at all.

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Now I’ve lost 10 pounds, the next goal is 15. These are hardly real world issues for you or anyone else but for me, this is a journey I am determined to complete. It has become a metaphor for an ability to do what is needed, to allow honestly to underpin everything, and to not be a lie. It is in effect, not clean living but honest living. I don’t need funky foods and stupid fads to be better, just myself and common sense. This then becomes a measure of how the two combine with current circumstances.

I believe I am capable of anything I now want to do.

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From time to time indignation rises to a point where I decide that yes, I’ll let genuine annoyance consume me. This morning, it was a Guardian Red Carpet snapshot from the BAFTAs that did it. Yes, I KNOW mostly this is about frocks, but there are some of us who get a bit tired of the fashionisas deciding only the beautiful people get a showing, and often it is only about who wore the best dress according to the reporter. This is sexist, because in the main it precludes good looking men. Hang on, I hear some of you cry, what are you on about? We’re just looking at frocks, stop making it about bodies… but isn’t that EXACTLY what happens when a bunch of stick thin women are the only ones you decide to highlight? Where’s the body positivity? Where are the ‘normal’ women and the men in all this? Fair enough, Tom Ford gets a look in wearing a velvet tuxedo that I’d like to own, but it is hardly fair. Fashion makes me crazy, because what people choose as ‘interesting’ rarely includes diverse shapes, or a range of sexuality.

In fact, anyone with an extreme view that won’t grasp the significance of EVERYBODY needs a really good talking to at present. Take, for instance those I know who now push themselves as ‘active’ feminists in response to the Orange Twat and his influence in the US and beyond. This man may be a pariah, but only SOME men are: you can get as upset as you like about them, but in the end it won’t help. Your bigger threats come from a wider stage: ignorance, stupidity, plus a staggering lack of respect of anybody who does not agree with the feminist PoV. In shock news, everybody is allowed an opinion of their own, and just because that doesn’t mesh is not an excuse to start threatening and throwing around pronouncements of fear and ignorance. It’s like any kind of basic fundamentalism, and it is just wrong on so many levels that it defies belief. The only way anything changes is when EVERYBODY gets a fair shout.

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There’s another Guardian article here about the lack of diversity in the acting craft but as is typical in the UK, it is class that is considered more important than whether an actor’s sexual or physical characteristics are put to the fore. I feel that maybe the obsession with money that many people’s lives revolves around is the greater issue still: after all, when you’re staring at Adele’s handfuls of Grammy awards, do you consider the working class roots she hails from or are you considering the state of her bank balance? When Daisy Ridley dazzles in what could be Victoria Beckham are you imagining you’d be there or just having the money to afford that? Mostly, you stare at the unattainable as an escape, a release, a way to forget how shitty your life is… but would you want that? Maybe that’s why I don’t need to stare or imagine, because I’m lucky enough to have a life that makes me happy. Mostly that happens because I refuse to let other people ruin the time I have trying to convince me their future’s the only version of reality that matters.

That’s why feminism really hacks me off. However, it isn’t just that cult at fault: there’s the hardcore religious, the blinkered gamers, the arrogant and selfish parents, the holier than thou foodies… the list is endless. All these people, trying to sell me a ‘version’ of a reality: the truth is less about aspiration and more wrapped around basic survival than I think any of us like to accept. If you choose to sign up for any one of these, and in many cases they end up being as insidious as veneration, the speed at which reality can desert you is quite staggering. That’s why you really shouldn’t get upset when your heroes get political, because those are the people who genuinely grasp what a potentially perilous situation current developments in the US and across Europe place the planet in. Don’t tell your musicians to stop making political statements and stick to singing, because the fact you’ve found high profile people who get that it isn’t just their brand that matters is something rare and precious.

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I’ve decided that being angry about the world is now a waste of my time and effort, and instead I’m going to fight back in the only way I know: with words. That means if I read something that upsets me, I’m going to respond. I have a list of letters that are going to be sent this week, and a number of topics to address, and this should allow my indignant middle aged grumpiness full and unimpeded space to spread and grow in the weeks that follow. Mostly, it is an exercise in sanity, as I understand that the best way to deal with stupidity is to expose it as the hypocrisy it is. A lot of the time people decide their truth is that based on no real facts, and even less actual evidence. You just agree with the person you spoke to last, or the last piece of news that you had any empathy with. That’s not understanding, it’s simply meek acceptance of untruths force fed to us since childhood. Girls can wear blue. Men deserve red carpet space because women think they’re attractive, and don’t care they’re not in a dress.

It is time to grasp that the future is everybody’s to dictate, and not just a chosen few.

Burning Heart

I am not an Expert.

I’ll grant you, sometimes I probably sound like I’m trying to be one. For the record, this is ABSOLUTELY NOT the intention. If you asked me what I’m really good at, I’d struggle to give you a representative answer. I can do a decent fist of writing, if the wind’s in my favour. I take an okay photograph. I’m awful at domestic chores, fail consistently at being both prompt and in remembering significant dates, and my cookery skills remain woeful at best (MUST FIX THAT.) I also fail at being empathetic, sympathetic, understanding and generally spend a lot of time fighting emotional states to maintain a decent illusion of coping. I am singularly, definitely, positively NOT an expert at ANYTHING.

I’m brilliant however at reacting: someone yesterday called me a ‘take no prisoners’ kind of personality and yeah, I will often not really care about how you feel if I think you’re being a Class A Twatface, I’ll just point out the stupid and move on.  However, because I know that empathy is often one of my failings (unless we know each other, then you get double) I do now attempt not to sound like anything at all when I see someone on Social media struggling with a bad time. Then, I watch other people pile in with ‘expertise’ that often makes me want to throw pot plants at them, because in my mind there is NOTHING WORSE than when you say summat like this for a bunch of people to pile in with their own ‘interpretation’ of what appears to have transpired.

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This is the virtual equivalent of ‘if you don’t have anything useful to say, don’t say anything at all.’ I know my Grandma used to replace ‘useful’ with ‘nice’ but in the Modern world, that’s not happening on the Internet to begin with. When I watch someone say summat on their feed which is clearly meant as a explanation of their actions and nothing else, to watch other people dive in to ‘interpret’ that is, I have to say, depressing beyond belief. This, for me, is where the GIF has become a way of me being able to show interest, but not dig a hole for myself, which would often happen previously when I’d have only words to fall back on. That whole adage of ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is absolutely spot on: that’s why, when I’m done here, I should go find more hug GIFs because that’s what I and others need most right now. That and artistically-photographed cake, beverages, lovely serene landscapes and Mini Dogs. Lots of lovely, fluffy and perky canines to keep me sane when it all goes Pete Tong on my feed.

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I also sense, behind a number of Avatars, a slow realisation that appearing not to care about anything but your own agenda is part of a larger issue that will start affecting more people than just Governments and large corporations. I may appear to operate a fairly 1/0 approach to caring about Randoms on certain days, but I can guarantee that’s not the case. I am passionate about everything, to the point where some days it is mentally exhausting. I’m now reining in the urge to go HAM on your Feed because I can see the difference between something that needs to be commented on and summat the person just needed to say for their own sanity. Just because someone says summat on Social media does not mean you need to respond, and just because nobody answers you does not mean nobody is listening. This vital point has somewhere been lost, and everybody is an expert at everything.

Oh, and as a reminder I’m not claiming to be an expert here.

I’m just pointing out the fucking obvious.

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Because everybody is watching everybody else, all the time, potentially nothing is missed, but we all know the truth is a long way from that reality. Some of you will get hugely aggrieved that there’s no response to what you want to talk about, or that when you need help there’s ‘nobody around’ when in reality that often equates to a few people or even a single person of interest. It is the ‘Notice me Senpai’ approach to life that assumes that at any given time, like it or not, you are the centre of the Universe. Well, of course you are, because that’s how Social media works. You make a space, you carve out a niche, and then you sell it (if you’re wanting to make a name) or you find a soapbox and stand on it (if you’re orating to the crowd) and so on, ad infinitum with all the things this platform can be used for. However, how you perceive that space is far more important than the area itself. Unless you clearly define that to other people, or make that obvious via your own actions? You will only have yourself to blame if the wheels come off, and they always will when there’s not an acceptance that definition could ever be an issue.

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You need to be made of strong stuff to stand ‘in public’, when all is said and done. As you get older, vanity and substance should give way to acceptance and understanding, but more often than not you just get more sensitive and less capable. If I am to become an expert at anything in my life, it should be to just being what I am without allowing anyone else to dictate those limits to me. If you don’t like my attitude at first glance, maybe it isn’t just my problem to address but ours to jointly negotiate. Everybody doesn’t need to come down to your level or act as you see fit. Put the expertise on hold for a minute and don’t just think you’re capable of solving all the issues in the World, because you can’t and won’t. If someone refuses to listen? Don’t take it as an insult, and try and understand why. That’s what’s missing more than anything else right now, from every aspect of my life. People don’t want to, or they’re too tired to, or it isn’t what matters any more. That’s a big fat fucking lie.

Understanding is EVERYTHING.

Stop pretending you’re an expert, because you’re not.

Faith

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This is my last major Objective for 2016. I’m not talking about the second definition: sorry, those out there hoping for a quick Convert, it’s been tried before, and they failed. It’s not that I don’t possess belief, or confidence, because if I didn’t the health thing would be simply a possibility and not a truth. What I lack now more than anything else is a consistent faith in everything and not just the highlights I choose to share, and that needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.

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Social media makes you act differently, there’s no denying that when I get a compliment from a random stranger it becomes somehow more worthwhile because it was unprompted. What I crave most however is compliments from the people I care most about and to get those is going to take a phenomenal amount of hard work. This is where I lack most, and some might argue that it is other people’s jobs to change too and not simply mine. That’s only true to a point. You can be unique and special, but if you refuse to work in the World’s version of Reality (whatever that happens to be at the time) you’re screwed. I’ve never reacted well to change. I’ve always been slow and awkward and nervous. These are the true issues that need addressing in 2017, the ones I never share with you because I’m too afraid to find the right words.

These are the biggest hurdles I am yet to surmount.

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When all is said and done, I don’t want to be the person with their life laid out in public for everybody to see. This isn’t about standing up and unloading all the emotional baggage in one hit. A lot of what needs to be achieved is in how I react to things, managing when stuff doesn’t go to plan, what takes place when challenged with something that amends or alters my world view. This is where the biggest growth needs to take place, and in the last couple of weeks I feel I’ve made some genuine progress on this front. However, I’m not the one who judges that progress, it is the rest of the World, and they have very short memories. People won’t remember how great you were, only the bad stuff. You are only as good as the last review, after all. You have to try and make each one better than the previous, and that’s a tough ask.

It’s funny watching people decide how awful 2016 was for loss, when I know how much I personally gained in the last year. If I can maintain a fraction of that momentum I’ll be beyond happy. Three words will be written and inscribed on a Post It Note, and we’ll come back here (fates willing) in a year and see how I did. That should be the biggest take-away all of us who remain on this earth have from the last 365 days. We’re still here. Never stop fighting, learning and growing. Make every day worthwhile.

#BeBetter with every step you take.