2019 wasn’t all that mean. It wasn’t all that nice, either. In fact, after this year, I’ve decided not to judge years, months, or days as good, bad, or indifferent.

Rather, I’m shifting my outlook towards experience. Which includes failure and success. Failure leads to learning and growth, just like success leads to learning and growth. They’re simply polar opposites of the same coin. Each of their journeys are different, but the end destination is the same.

So, in this rundown of 2019, I’m going to share with you a bunch of failures. Failure after failure. My anxiety. My depression. My fear.

I’ll also share my successes with you, both personally and professionally. This particular reflection will focus on the personal, and the next piece will focus on the professional.

I won’t present any of these successes or failures as “good” or “bad.” Rather, they’re merely a collection of my experiences this year. Hopefully they can add insight and value to your perspective, consequent thoughts, and decision-making as you traverse your own journey … in 2020 and onward.

Personally, I experienced:

  • Crippling depression from January to February. What a great way to start the year, right?
  • Daily bouts of anxiety that lasted anywhere from 3-5 hours in duration
  • The ebbs and flows of relocation and cohabitation 

In the same breath, I also developed:

  • A mindset grounded in unwavering resilience.

Throughout my depression, I pushed myself EVERY DAY to step outside my comfort zone by testing my physical limits. On one particular day, I completed 1,000 weighted box step-ups within 50 minutes. On this same day, my depression threatened to immobilize me and shackle me to my bed. But, for some reason, my stubborn resilience took over and moved me.

For anyone who currently has, or previously experienced, depression: when depression cripples every part of your life, yet you’re able to push through in one area of your life, day in and day out, you begin to develop a mindset of persistence, action, and confidence. I don’t know what part of my soul enabled my physical body to overcome my mental destitution, but whatever it was … it made me better. It’s making me better. And it will make me better in confronting and overcoming future challenges. If you can overcome your own mental limitations, you can sure as hell overcome any worldly or external limitation forced upon you.

Main lesson learned: We truly do bring two dogs to every mental and emotional fight we encounter. Whether internally or interpersonally. And you have to feed one. Every time. You can’t feed them both, and you can’t avoid feeding them outright (in other words, you can’t just choose to do “nothing,” since that’s a choice in-and-of itself). In that case, one dog will eat the other, and it’s normally the “wrong” dog that wins. And no matter how many times you’ve fed the wrong dog, you ALWAYS have the choice to feed the “right” dog in every future decision. The more you feed the right dog, the stronger it’ll become. And the easier it’ll be to keep the wrong dog at bay.

  • Self-love and self-care.

I’ve never exercised self-love or self-care before this year. I’ve previously allowed my negative thoughts to overwhelm, overpower, and overtake me. Which is probably why I experienced severe depression earlier this year. As I developed a mindset of unwavering resilience to combat my seemingly relentless depression, I similarly started to practice self-love as a way to combat my daily bouts of anxiety.

In the forms of long morning walks, extra fitness time, and listening to Worship music, I battled my recurring anxieties, insecurities, and fears. My unwavering resilience and self-love were necessary adaptations to depression and anxiety; without depression and anxiety, I may have never cultivated resilience or self-love.

Again, they’re polar opposites of the same coin. Which is why I refuse to label them as “good” or “bad.” Depression sucked. Anxiety still sucks. Neither of them are pleasurable. But the journey of discovering, unlocking, and cultivating my mindset and self-image … it’s indescribable. And no matter how I feel about depression and anxiety, they are both crucial elements of my personal growth in 2019. They had overwhelmed me for years, and continue to do so today. But every time I get depressed, or feel anxious, I realize that I’ve been given an even more awesome opportunity to refine my mindset, and practice self-love, to benefit myself, impact others, and overcome bouts of depression and anxiety in the future.

And when worldly/external issues become more troubling than my own thoughts and limitations, that’s when I know I’ve conquered my mind. And, even better, I’ll be able to overcome these external pressures way more effectively, and quickly, than my own inner demons. They’re no match for what I’ve put myself through on a daily basis. Which only helps my resilience, confidence, and determination. And fuels me to continually elevate my self-love/self-care game.

Main lesson learned: Mind over matter is fundamentally true. Once you transcend your own thoughts and limitations, you’ll empower yourself to overcome almost any external challenge that life throws at you.

  • Identity.

Over the last year, I’ve opened myself up to new experiences. I moved across states. I moved in with my girlfriend. I traveled to the West Coast for the first time. I published a book. I closed the “social” anxiety chapter of my life and cultivated personal relationships like never before. I pursued various hobbies and interests that helped guide me towards my current passion for canine adoption.

With these experiences, relationships, and accompanying roles, I frequently questioned who I was. I would label myself, analyze the implications, and prevent myself from conceptualizing the underlying, fundamental me.

I’m a son. Brother. Boyfriend. Author. CrossFitter. Consultant. Content Creator. Collaborator. Volunteer. Friend. And depending on who you ask, I’m sure I can be labeled in many other ways (LOL!).

 Just like I refuse to view experiences as “good” or “bad,” I now refuse to label myself. When I label myself, all I’m doing is putting myself in a box. I’m not allowing myself to fully grow, in all of my functions and roles, because I’m not looking at who I am in aggregate. I’ve lost sight of the big picture by focusing too heavily on individual pixels.

I am a child of God and person of worth. That’s my identity. It’s more than I could ever hope to be, yet it’s a status that’s been granted to me by Christ. In fact, Christ has granted us all with this identity. It’s up to us whether or not we want to claim it.

Many times, my “earthly” identities will change. I’ll gain identities, lose identities, and switch between them without conscious recognition. Maybe I’ll add “father” or “grandfather” to my list of titles. I’ll drop the “boyfriend” title when it transitions into “husband.” I don’t think I’ll ever lose the “CrossFitter” title, but hey, I’m not complaining.

No matter my mental state, emotional wellbeing, or physical circumstance, I’ll always be a child of God and person of worth. Nothing, and no one, can take that from me. I can’t even take it from myself.

With this identity firmly in place, I now have an anchor for my thoughts, decisions, and actions. I can center myself around this identity, which will drive everything in my life. No matter the temporary role or title I may possess at any given time, I can claim a permanent, everlasting identity for guidance.

 I’ll admit, there’s a LOT about myself that I simply don’t know or haven’t fully recognized just yet … and that’s okay. With my identity locked in, I can start uncovering who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to change. My identity has given me conviction and confidence to move forward in all my roles and relationships.

Main lesson learned: “Identity” is the way that I “dent it” in me. I am a child of God and person of worth. I express this core identity to myself over and over. I feel it, over and over. And I practice it, over and over. Words, to thoughts, to action. Don’t get bogged down in labels. And don’t limit yourself to “fit in,” whether it’s your own expectations or somebody else’s. Know who you are by embracing yourself, as you are. Not by what you think you should be, or what others want you to be. You’re constantly growing and evolving, and you need to embrace yourself every step along your journey, no matter your current label or form.

In the grand scheme of things, 2019’s depression, anxiety … and uncertainty … are a blip on my radar. Life is what you make it, and I’m excited to make 2020’s bli[m]p read, “Resilience, Self-Love, and Identity.” In other words, I’m getting ready for Redemption J To reclaim who I am and who I will become, as a child of God and person of worth. The journey never ends, and I’m truly excited to see where it will take me. And I’m excited to see where it will take YOU too!

How has 2019 shifted your perspective, and what does your 2020 Goodyear slogan look like?

Whether the “good,” “bad,” or indifferent, 2019 gave you experience. Use it wisely, and use it NOW!