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The Journal: What A Year
Common Discourse is a project designed to help others (and ourselves) think through creativity, focus, and intentional work—from Alex Tan & Alice Otieno.
Every Tuesday we share words from a journal, a few ideas, a quote from somebody else, and links worth sharing. On Fridays we invite a guest to share images from their camera roll and a sound that resonates with them.
This time of year can carry a slight discomfort, where feelings of celebration and accomplishment are accompanied by the contrary of nostalgia and melancholy. I often find myself suspended in the “in-between,” wading in darkness at the tail end of a closing chapter while peaks of light shine through reminding me that there’s a new one around the corner. Perhaps it’s my mind and body’s way of acclimatising to a new seasonal rhythm. After all, the natural world mirrors this pattern as it draws toward temporary hibernation.
2022 has been stretching. A year full of growth, new joys, and also new lows that I didn’t quite know how to navigate. It’s been a year of facing myself—head on—and recognising that, no matter how wonderful companions they’ve been along the way, some cycles and fears have no place to join me while I venture on to my next destination.
A friend and I have had an on-going joke that this year has been a repetition of what our 2019 personally consisted of. A testing if you will, to see: have you really learnt those lessons from three years ago or will you fold under the pressure? Which route will you take this time?
I think both her and I found ourselves repeatedly coming back to this theme in 2022, the first point of completion following what we have had to endure and adapt to as a collective, through the pandemic and its consequent adjustments.
Writing this and looking back at 2019 feels monumental. In hindsight, I now see how the frustrations and questioning forged the path to where I am now. This dissatisfaction and existential dread both had their meaningful place. And towards the end of that year, I came to understand that such times are also part of the process.
We can’t appreciate moments of clarity if we aren’t willing to wade through ambiguity. They come in a package. Stepping into the unknown with openness is what allows us to prune and refine the person we’ll become when new seasons arrive.
What has worked thus far, who am I after past seasons of growth, do I still believe or value the same things I used to? Are some of the questions I’ve had to ask myself following instances of enduring and overcoming challenges.
As uncomfortable as it can be, welcoming uncertainty is a valuable part of becoming and fulfilling the desires that feel closest to us. I see it as a vacant space that makes way for rebirth.
The weight of taking risks, and trusting yourself even when what you see is contrary to what you believe, doesn’t get any lighter. But what I do know, is that documenting moments from the past where you have encountered and overcome similar milestones equips you with a personal map—one that you’re able to reference while navigating the future. I’ve come to learn that observing patterns from our past is such a powerful way to take ownership of our journey, even when our footing may be unsure.
I love how bell hooks emphasises the importance of committing to gathering and conversation, aiding us towards collective and individual healing. In her book titled “Sisters Of The Yam”, she expounds on this notion with reference to an excerpt from Mwalimu Imara’s essay titled “Dying is the Last Stage of Growth”.
Committing to those small steps, daily or weekly, are what pave the way to achieving our long term goals. While this act of commitment can show up in different ways, I’ve so naturally found it in this very room. Every week on Common Discourse I find myself excited to share and document experiences with others who are embarking on a similar path, making this project feel significant in its own way. It’s also encouraging to know that on the receiving end of this project, is a community of people who want to contribute towards building a space that facilities personal growth and expansion.
Working in this space over the last year has felt particularly fulfilling. Being able to actualise the curiosities I had when initially encountering the newsletter two years prior (while navigating post-grad life) has been such a rewarding exercise. One thing Alex and I talk about quite frequently, is the insecurity that can often creep up when identifying with the title of a “writer”, and how this project has allowed us to grow that skill and embrace that there is no one set path.
From introducing Sights & Sounds and featuring 32 guests, to sharing many links, a number of ideas and quotes that we resonate with on a weekly basis. Though unclear at times, these small acts of commitment have compounded throughout 2022 and shaped the project into what it is today. Choosing to show up to a common goal even when you don’t always feel like it has been a lesson in consistency rewarding itself in the future.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this project with us. Whether you’re returning or new, we appreciate you all!
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