2017 was a weird year. I have no other way to describe it.
On the few days leading up to New Year's day and on New Year's day itself, I found myself not really being able to remember much of 2017. Every year I can always look back and pick out the moments that changed me, that challenged me, the moments where I felt truly accomplished and like I had conquered a goal, but I couldn't do that so much looking back on 2017. When I try to look back at 2017, I see a grey cloud and feel an overwhelming feeling that I didn't accomplish very much.
Of course I know that isn't totally true. Of course I accomplished things. Of course I'm very proud of those accomplishments. That thumbs down feeling though, is what I keep coming back to and when I look at 2017 as a whole and when I break it down into pieces, I can see where and why it holds such an odd and sort of desolate feeling.
A lot of life happened 2017. I was really, really busy and I let myself get bogged down with it. I didn't give myself the opportunity to work it out and I was pretty hard on myself for not having the time and not being in the best head space to get back to my normal creative working self. I mean, the last time I blogged was in April. And honestly, I tried. I tried to force it and every time I started writing it felt like my mind was just taking out the trash. If there's one thing I hate, it's forced creativity or forcing myself to write just for the sake of writing because I think it's what I'm supposed to do. There's a difference to me between writing out the bad stuff and writing because I have nothing better to do. A huge part of my identity is wrapped up in writing and when I can't accomplish it the way I want to, I can get discouraged and that melancholy often finds its way into other parts of my life.
I dealt with a lot of health issues in 2017. Moving into a new place and adjusting to that. Being on the road a lot and living out of a suitcase most of the time. And the most memorable change in my life from 2017, the one that likely is the reason for most the year having a dull sheen to it, is that I lost my best friend of almost 12 years, my best guy, my dog, Jack Jack, suddenly and right in the beginning of the year and it freaking sucked. It still sucks and I've struggled moving on from that.
But, I'm owning this behavior and taking my time and my mind back this year. This year I thought I would share my process with you guys, just incase any of you might be out there needing some encouragement as well.
At the start of every year I set a list of goals for myself. These are things I'd like to work on, work toward achieving, ways to better my mental and physical health...etc. Every year I list 20 goals I want to focus on for that particular year, and these 20 goals are split up into 4 sections: Health, Personal Happiness, Career & Misc (which are usually ways I can better the world & others and personal goals not necessarily related to career.). For example, a few years ago one of my health goals was to eat less meat and make my way to becoming vegetarian and mostly vegan. Another year a health goal was to work at completely cutting out fast food. On the career end, one year it was to go on my first cross country tour and on the MISC end, a couple years ago I decided to go cruelty-free with all of the beauty brands I use and I cut out brands that aren't cruelty-free. Some of the goals are as simple as getting up earlier in the morning, going on more walks, talking less and listening more...etc.
While I can't say that I did the best with my 2017 goals, I'm showing myself some grace and deciding to kick ass in 2018. By sharing this list, it not only holds me accountable, but might just help another person out who may be needing some reassurance and direction. My way is obviously not the only way, but perhaps you'll find a way to fit yourself into this template and make it your own if you're still searching for some direction in 2018. Read on to check it out if you'd like. I've offered some explanation after each section.
The Big List - 2018 Goals
1. More focus on my mental and physical health & stop making exceptions.
2. Get back to my boundaries with fast food and soda.
3. Make more time for physical health (running, walking, yoga...)
4. Less social media.
5. Stop skipping meals on busy days.
When I get busy, my mental and physical health are usually the first things to take a backseat to whatever else I'm doing. This is silly seeing as I can't be good at my job or anything else if I'm not healthy. The best I have ever felt in my life was about two years ago when I was avoiding fast food 90% of the time, eating completely gluten-free, eating vegetarian and mostly vegan, avoiding soda, not skipping meals and making time to run/go for walks/do yoga at least a few times a week. I started dealing with some new health issues in June of 2016. Up until that point I had been treating my body well and made it a point to do that, but 2016 was an incredibly busy year. I went on two cross country tours, recorded and released an album, released a music video, played a boatload of shows and was on the road 9 months out of the 12 month year. It's no surprise that I started having some health problems that year, right after I released my album. I wasn't running/walking/hiking as much as I normally do, I wasn't eating properly, I was drinking more soda/caffeine than normal, I wasn't sleeping much and I was spending more time on social media.
Before you ask, yes, I've been to the doctor several times to try to sort some of this out and we really haven't totally figured out what's wrong with me, but we know that it mostly stems from my diet, my weird digestive system and stress. In 2017, I tried eating differently, adding and subtracting some things from my diet and I would have days where I barely ate anything at all out of frustration. Sometimes not knowing exactly how to fix a problem allows you to make excuses for yourself, sort of the "well it's not going to change no matter what I do so I might as well just drink this can of soda..." and ultimately all you do is make it worse and it's a downward spiral.
So in 2018 I'm getting back to the diet that works best for me and accepting that this is something I have to deal with and I can make the best of it and be smart about it, or I can suffer. It's my choice. I'm making more time to exercise and focus on my mental health as well. I'm not setting ultimatums because I think ultimatums rarely work well in accomplishing personal health goals, but I'm setting accountability and making lifestyle changes. This also means less social media and going social media free on some days. I'm done looking at my phone just because I'm bored, or having my phone out when I'm with other people or talking to other people. I mean, how rude is it when you're talking to someone and they get their phone out and start looking at it? I know I've been guilty of this. My phone is tool, it's a wonderful tool and in my line of work it is a very important tool. Social media is an awesome and great way to connect with people and share experiences, but it can be incredibly toxic in so many ways and I'm over it having any control over me.
1. No more comparing my life to others.
2. Take some time off once in while and stop feeling bad about it.
3. Pray more and get to church.
4. More time for journaling, reflecting, clearing my head.
5. Read one book a month.
Every single thing on the list above suffered in 2017 and these are normally things I'm really good at.
I know comparison kills creativity and lowers self-esteem and I found myself comparing my life to others A LOT in 2017. There is a difference between being inspired by other people and letting someone else's journey make you feel like yours isn't good enough. For someone who has advised their friends about how harmful comparison is and how to trust the timing of your life, I certainly wasn't practicing what I preached. We will never know why some things happen for some people and not for others, why some opportunities seem to fall in the laps of those who least appreciate it while others have to go through hell to work for the same opportunities, but spending ANY amount of time comparing the way your life looks to someone else's and why it looks that way does nothing but harm. So I'm done with this behavior in 2018. I'm done feeling like I'm not good enough or like I'm doing something wrong because I'm doing something different. One of the most successful years of my life was in 2016 and not comparing myself to others was a huge reason for that. For whatever reason I set aside this knowledge in 2017 and I started the process of comparison again and it did nothing but discourage and slow me down.
I've also always been very transparent on social media because so much of what people share about their life on social media is fake and/or their highlight reel, which I think is harmful to those doing it and those viewing it. I let this get the best of me in 2017 and I'm over it. Perfectionism is a myth. Vulnerability is beautiful and my favorite kind of people are the people who've made mistakes and learned from them. People who aren't afraid to admit that they are broken. I want to be the kind of person I would admire. Enough with the noise of trying to always come across a certain way or look great in every photo or video. Ugh, I'm exhausted thinking about it.
The last time I took a real vacation, where I didn't work at all, was almost 10 years ago. No joke. I've toured since then a TON and for me that feels like vacation and that's usually what I consider my "vacation" since I realistically and economically can't do both. What I CAN do though is take a day off every once in awhile.
You guys, I'm really, really bad at this.
I truly do not know how to take a full day off and I feel extremely guilty when I'm not working. I always have to be doing something and I'm terrible at sitting still when I know there is work to be done. I love being goal-oriented and working hard, but I know working all of the time is not healthy. In 2018 I'm working to get better at this. I'm going to take a day every once in awhile to do something I like to do, phone off, messages disabled, real, honest to goodness time off. This might be going to the bookstore for a couple hours, going for a hike, exploring a new part of TN I haven't seen yet, taking myself on a date to a show I want to see or going to a movie. Hopefully this will help with one of the other personal health goals I have for this year, reading one book a month. I love reading and I didn't finish one book in 2017. Weird. I feel like part of the reason my health suffered in 2017 was because I never took any time off and I was constantly thinking about work. I know part of being good at your job is knowing when to allow yourself a break to enjoy what you've worked for, so I welcome any tips and ideas on how to be someone who is good at taking a little time off because though I know it will be difficult, I have to do it.
When I mentioned earlier that the best health I'd been in mentally and physically was about two years ago, a big part of that was my relationship with God. I didn't pray as much in 2017 as I normally do and because of my crazy travel schedule, I didn't go to church as much and I didn't make it a priority. I know this had a huge baring on my health and my ability to see clearly. I know this was a huge reason for my comparison issues, stress, feeling overwhelmed and feeling anxious and hesitant. When I'm not praying as much, it's usually because I'm allowing myself to believe in fears that aren't real and not trust God's timing. I'm telling you, the most clarity and the most confident I ever feel in my life is when I have a clear understanding that the most important thing I can do is trust God and listen when God gives me direction.
1. Be an Artist, not just a manager and booking agent.
2. Write what I want to write and make writing a priority I enjoy, not just a task I have to do.
3. Finish songs, don't just start them.
4. Release new music / music video.
5. Rebrand KLB, especially creatively.
I'm an independent artist. This means that I do everything myself, the booking, the publicity, the books, the e-mails and phone calls, the tours & organization, the budget...all of it. There is ALWAYS something that needs attention. And you know, it's crazy sometimes and I can lose myself in the hustle. I've been touring hard the last few years and it's been awesome, but 2017 showed me that I haven't been allowing myself to be an artist as much as I need to. I didn't feel like I had time to focus on being an artist this last year and when I did have time I was exhausted from trying to keep my head above water with everything else.
The problem is that all the shows played, songs written, music recorded and tours booked don't matter if I'm not putting my best self and work forward. To me, there is nothing worse than the feeling of being just good enough to get by. So, if that means I have to play a few less shows a year to make time to write a kick ass album, then that's what I have to do and I have to not be afraid of that. Number 3 on the list above is part of this. Y'all have no idea how many recordings I have in my phone and "almost" finished songs that need a little love and attention. I let myself not finish a lot of new songs and ideas last year because I got "busy" with other aspects of my career and for someone who always finishes what they start, this is a terrible trait that I don't plan on keeping around.
Additionally, I have to make time to work on other writing too. A lot of people don't know this, but I graduated college with a writing degree. I love writing music more than anything, but I'm also incredibly passionate about writing in general. I've been working on a novel since I was a teenager and I decided that this year is the year I'm going to start making time for that again because I'd like to finish it and some other creative non-fiction short stories I've been working on for a while, sometime in the near future. I honestly think working on some of these things more will make me a better songwriter.
Number 4 goes without saying. The guys and I are trying REALLY hard to get y'all some new music this year. We're working to record and release a new EP and that is my biggest career goal for 2018. Our fan base is awesome and you guys have always been patient while waiting for new music and believe me, I want to release it just as much as y'all want us to. I'm saving, budgeting and figuring out how to make new music and new music videos happen for you guys this year, promise. <3
KLB is hard at work too. I love my band. I love the group of guys I get to make music with and I have to say I haven't been this excited about making music with a group of guys in a long time. Get ready for some fun shows, new music and fun changes coming your way this year. The guys and I are stoked to revamp our show for you and put some new songs in your ears.
1. Shop less and shop slow, sustainable, second-hand.
2. Spend more time writing with my piano.
3. Electric guitar and Mando yeah!
4. No phone right when I wake up.
5. Give more time and energy to experiences and less to things.
I try to tackle something every year that I believe makes the world a better place. I know I'm just one person, but I'm consistently trying to make small changes in my life the not only better my life, but also the lives of others and/or our world.
One of the changes I am focusing on this year is to shop sustainable, small and second-hand. I already do this, but I am going hard this year and making a point to stop shopping fast fashion brands. I actually got the idea to make this my 2018 "better the world" goal from, Danielle Nagel, the owner of a RAD female inspired brand called - Dazey LA (check it out!). I own the coolest jean jacket from her brand and I love the clothing she designs and female creators she works with. She is about the slow fashion movement, supporting small business and creating quality, long-lasting fashion and I am about that.
We tend to buy cheap clothing from brands like H&M and Forever 21 because it's cheap and we can get a good bang for our buck, but we don't always think about why that clothing is so cheap and we end up buying way more than we need. Outsourcing production overseas (which means unemployment in the US), sweatshops and factories with unfair working conditions, pollution (fast fashion is the second biggest source of pollution next to big oil) and cheaply made clothing are all byproducts of fast fashion and I don't want to contribute to the cycle anymore. Consumers are the only people who can reverse the wasteful trend of buying fast fashion and I want to be part of that movement. I love fashion and I love putting together fun outfits for shows, but not at the expense of our planet and other people. Plus, I love supporting small businesses! I am a small business after all. So I am saying goodbye to fast fashion brands this year and when I do shop, I'm shopping slow, sustainable and second hand. Whoohoo!
I'm also going to spend more time having fun with music. When your passion is your career it is the best thing in the world, but it also means that your passion is your job and once in awhile I forget to have fun and learn new things. I'm spending some extra time with my piano, my mandolin and electric guitar this year. Who knows if these instruments will make it on stage or not, I'm not worried about that right now. I love writing on the piano, I love the simplicity of the mandolin and I want to get better at electric guitar because it's a fun instrument, so I'm going to focus on that and give those instruments more of my time just because it feels good.
Anyone else go to bed looking at their phone and wake up in the morning and the first thing you think to do is check your phone? Yeah, me too. I'm going to try this in small doses, maybe starting with 10 minutes and working my way up from there, but I want to stop checking my phone first thing in the morning and letting it be the last thing I look at before I go to bed. I don't need to start my day by seeing what someone posted on their insta story the night before and I don't need to end my day on that note either. I'm not saying I'm not going to look at it at all, I just don't need to see it right when I open or close my eyes. I'm going to start with not looking at my phone for the first 10 minutes when I wake up and the last 20 minutes before I go to bed and work my way up to a half hour or so. I think this going to give me a much better start and end to my days. I have a feeling I'll spend less time reading and looking at meaningless garbage altogether because of this too.
We all like certain things. The more I live life and get to experience new places, people and adventure, the less I crave things. I think we all have certain comforts we like to be surrounded by (I like candles, records, incense, plants and cool vintage decor for example), but at the end of the day we probably have more things than we need. I want to spend more of my time, money and energy on people, experiences and things that contribute to my goals this year and less on things I don't really need. I think this goal sort of sums up this entire list. At the end of the day it's the experiences I've had in life and the people that were there for those experiences that make me feel fulfilled. I think it's important to know what people, places, experiences and things make you feel fulfilled in this life and focus on cultivating and collecting those things more and all the other stuff (because it's just stuff) less.
Ok, let's do this.
I'm not expecting perfection (because perfection isn't real) and I'm not expecting changes to happen overnight, but I refuse to look back on 2018 and see a grey blur. I want to look back at 2018 and have memorable moments and achievements I'm proud of. I want to have reasons to want to look back at this year, even if they are as simple as I read more books, wrote more songs I'm proud of and prayed more.
Here's to 2017. I'm thankful for it. I taught me that there are a lot of things I need to change, so in that way it was a very important year. May I not dwell or focus too much on what a weird freaking year it was and focus more on how it forced to me change.
Cheers to 2018. The best is yet to come.
Thanks for reading y'all.
Nothin' but love.
xo - Kari