Annual Review 2014: Flinchingly Honest & Unfiltered

2015-01-08 11.54.02

2014 was the year of new beginnings.

In some ways, 2014 was a hard year, and in other ways, it was a much easier year than those which came before it.

Hard because I threw myself into a process known to some as ‘baptism by fire’ (learning by doing before you really know what you’re doing). Easy because this year felt like a journey towards, as opposed to away from, myself. I didn’t do so many things I didn’t want to do, and I also did a lot of things that scared the crap out of me (not even counting publishing this post since we’re in the new year now.)

Today I virtually stand before you as a very different person than the one who started off 2014.

What went well last year

  1. I started my business. This was big. I juggled many, often unrelated projects as a gymnastics coach, stretching coach, nanny, language coach for English and Finnish and living abroad coach. I re-launched my website, wrote a blog for the year, did my own accounting and collected promising testimonials from my clients. This was the year of a new beginning. I learned, and am continuing to learn, about the different components of running a business, wearing many hats and goal setting. It was extremely challenging but looking back, I’m happy I did it. I’m happy I’m doing this.


  1. After this year and for the first time in my life, I can truly say that I know what I want out of 2015 and beyond. Most of my childhood and adult life, I’ve gone with the flow and chosen the path of least resistance. I can’t honestly say that I was an avid learner, despite always doing well in school, for the simple reason that I didn’t really understand why I was learning what I was learning. I was anxiety-ridden at not being able to envision myself outside of school actually using what was being taught in the classroom, nor could I put my finger on what was wrong. This year, I made getting to know myself a top priority (and it all started with this personality profile – you can download yours free here). I questioned what I thought I knew and focused on my relationship to myself, before looking to the world around me (this was tough for an extrovert like me). I spent a lot of time and money invested in my personal and professional re-education. As a result, I was able to tell a friend of mine this summer that, “the experience of being Irina has significantly improved and become more pleasant.” On a grand scale, I have confidence in my vision and the overall direction of my life. On a smaller scale, I’ve managed to become more self-aware in the moment, recognizing my weaknesses as well as my strengths and often resisting giving into negative or downward spiraling emotions (also challenging for a dominant feeler such as myself).


  1. In the autumn of 2014, after many months of suspecting, I finally acknowledged and even embraced that I’m in a period of mass transition. I didn’t ask for this, and I tried to deny it, I even tried to put an end to it, but alas, it’s here and it’s welcome. This realization and acceptance has helped me tremendously in creating a solid foundation for myself off of which to grow. I feel that getting comfortable with the unknown, uncertain, and their associated changes, has given me more patience with myself and improved my ability to be present in the moment. After tinkering with it for years, I finally succeeded in setting up a meditative practice that works for me. This has been such a vital tool staying calm, centered and focused throughout all the changes.


  1. I spent the year working primarily in Finnish. This was enriching in many ways, the main one being that I’ve gotten to a point where there are few situations I can’t manage in the language. I started at the gymnastics club in the fall of 2013 but over the past 12 months, there’s definitely been a deeper shift. I think what’s going on is that I simply understand more of what’s going on around me. The more I relax into it, the more I learn. Yes, there are still times I don’t know what someone said or I tune out conversations but this doesn’t matter so much, as long as I pick up the thread from somewhere, or ask when I don’t understand. I think one of my best moments there this year was getting through to a teenager who had been acting out for weeks at the gym, in Finnish, with lots of attitude, and social tensions. Another huge leap came from spending the fall nannying 5 kids (2 families), aged 2-7, in Finnish. In both these cases, using English was never an option, and many situations called for immediate ‘think-on-your-feet’ skills. I’ve never been more challenged, exhausted and engaged and excited. Other Finnish language feats include speaking mostly Finnish for a week-long vacation with my Finnish. In 2010, I would’ve cried tears of joy at the idea of being able to do any of these things. So reaching new depths of confidence with my Finnish made the list and it’s worth celebrating.


  1. I joined an international community of multilingual language-aficionados; we call ourselves polyglots. On a surface level, a polyglot is someone who speaks lots of languages (the jury is out on how many languages makes you a polyglot). I think the community needs a definition to sum it up on a deeper level though, so allow me to try to write one here: the polyglot community is made up of language lovers, yes, but what these people share is a love of people, of communication and a dedication to understanding the plurality within and among different cultures, countries, and languages. After all, a language is a form of expression. I attended two events with this wonderful group of people and blogged about both: Berlin, Germany in June and Novi Sad, Serbia in October. I met so many new people, made lots of new friends and felt genuinely at home in their presence.


  1. I really like to travel, and this year, I made it to quite a few destinations: Austria, Switzerland, France (for an hour), Spain, Germany, Canada, US, Hungary (first time!), Serbia (first time!), Romania. Many of my trips are to see my family at their home or travel with them somewhere (this was the case for all of the above except Spain, Hungary and Serbia). I don’t often make a list of all the places I’ve been so I thought I’d include it in this annual review because it was a good year for travel and I have many happy memories from these excursions.


  1. This year I’ve put more thought into how my physical space makes me feel, especially since I spent most days working from home. I’m excited to say that, slowly but surely, our home has taken on a new shape and a new face: one of warmth, comfort, expansiveness and soft lighting! We’ve gotten new furniture, thrown out furniture we didn’t like, moved things around, done some painting (thank you Jessie!!!), and continue to look for ways to organize our space better. This has brought me much joy in terms of enjoying the little things and I find myself excited to spend time at home. I’ve also been really psyched about Feng Shui and Pintrest in inspiring ideas and possibilities for future projects!


  1. And last but not least, Juha. Every year our relationship has gone through different stages as no two years so far have been the same. This year we both started brand new jobs in January 2014 and have each gotten to know new sides of ourselves, as well as each other. Communication has been a big theme throughout our relationship and this year has been no exception. I am so grateful to have him in my life and by my side in the years past and those to come.


Now for the part that makes me flinch…


What didn’t go so well:


  1. While all the other stuff was stuff to be grateful for, there are things that I’d like to improve. Namely, I think I had a few too many ‘mental leaks.’ These are basically things I left unresolved or ignored for too long and which caused me regular bursts of negative emotion, like feeling anxious, panicky, insecure, afraid, worried, helplessness, disconnected, etc. I believe this rollercoaster ride was happening for 4 main reasons:
  • Money: my beliefs and habits around money can be greatly improved, and I’ve suffered for it this year. Although I managed to cover my expenses for the year, I didn’t properly track my finances in order to know this ahead of time – I only found out later. This constant stress of not knowing whether I could make ends meet from month-to-month had a ripple effect on how I felt about everything that cost money, and also on my overall mental energy. This will be a big theme to focus on in 2015.


  • Social Contact & friendships: For those of you who know me personally, I am a social being. Well this year, even I forgot that about myself. 2014 has been my most introverted year. I found it hard to connect with people and felt very cut off from life in general. I think this is to be expected when you move to a foreign country, but I didn’t expect this in my 5th year living in Finland. Part of this came from starting work as an entrepreneur and not having a place to come to everyday, like an office or a classroom, where you have the opportunity to connect with people. In addition, I felt that my friendships suffered this year. I felt very disconnected from going through so much transition. The problem was, I didn’t know how to reach out for support, so I stayed quiet. In hindsight, I would’ve done this differently, but sometimes you need to learn these lessons the hard way.


  • Health: I’ve had a chronic cough that I should’ve taken care of a few years ago. It got pretty bad right around the new year, a few weeks ago, and coincidentally, I went to the doctor with a friend (he was the patient). I had such a bad coughing fit while we were there that multiple people working there told me I should see a doctor. I decided to prioritize my health and go the same day. They think it might be asthma; let’s see. I feel better just knowing it’s being looking into.


  • Self-worth: This is a biggie and although I wouldn’t quantify this entirely as a ‘what didn’t go so well this year’ point, it has been a mental leak. Changing fields and reorganizing my life can really take the wind out of your sails. I’ve had so many ideas this year and so much inspiration but because of my own self-limiting beliefs that I haven’t acted on nearly as many of them as I could have. I try to put a positive spin on things and ultimately, I think that the meditation and reflection work I’ve gotten into the habit of doing regularly will help me come out from under this, step into my power and moving forward.


  • Food: Since August 2010 I’ve been a ‘part-time vegetarian’. This means that on most days and when given the choice, I opt for a non-meat dish over the alternatives. With all these changes this year, I noticed that I lacked the proper energy to take on these mental challenges. I was also constantly worried about food and stressed about not spending too much money if eating out or what I would cook at home. This was so taxing overall and although it didn’t seem entirely related at the time, I decided to start eating meat regularly again. I don’t like labels so I don’t want to say that I’ve given up ‘part-time vegetarianism’ but I feel this was the best decision for me for the time being.


  1. My daily routine and lack of overall flow this year, impacted by the leaks above, kept me from moving forward on many occasions. I noticed that the days I did get into a flow were WONDERFUL compared to the stop-and-go of ‘multitasking’ or indecision about what to do next. On a smaller scale, my daily routine – or lack thereof – meant I rarely had a productive and positive flow going on. This was to be expected as I did lots of self-employment-related things myself this year but a daily routine is going to be sacred for me in 2015.


  1. I struggled to get into a writing groove this year and really express my voice on this blog. I succeeded in posting regularly, despite not having kept to an editorial calendar, until about October. Then I felt that a change was necessary and it took me awhile to find it (I found it now!) I wanted to communicate passion and excitement, I wanted to share my thoughts and dig deep into what it means to live abroad – beyond the cliché stuff. Things are already looking up in 2015. Stay tuned.


  1. For most of 2013 I did gymnastics twice a week in an adult class. By the end of 2014, I was going to work (to coach) but not training on my own anymore. I was pretty disappointed in myself since I know I feel good when I go, yet I didn’t have the (mental) energy to get out there. This coming year, I want a regular schedule that involves breaking a sweat, as well as working towards quantifiable goals, such as learning and developing new skills and/or working towards a performance.

So yes, I’ve lived and learned and for these reasons, I am a new person. It didn’t happen overnight – it happened throughout every second of 2014 and most of all, it happened when I sat down and spent some time thinking about it.

Categories for 2015

So with all that in mind, I have the following categories to focus on for 2015…

  1. Mental well-being (creativity, writing, meditation) – self-expression and centeredness
  2. Physical well-being (food, health & movement) – quality and quantity of energy
  3. Family & friends – those we spend our lives with
  4. Business – growth and direction
  5. Finances – earning, spending & tracking
  6. Learning & development – experience, courses, books
  7. Home – projects
  8. Routine – the choreographed start to the day
  9. Languages – another arena of personal growth


2015 Key Word & Goals

For 2015, my keyword is ENGAGEMENT – engaging and connecting with people and different types of experiences.

I’ve spent almost a month thinking about my goals for 2015 and decided not to define them as explicit goals. Some would advise against this, but instead, I chose a few questions which allow me to look for opportunities in the year to come, for each of the categories above. Such as…

+ How can I incorporate more creativity into my day?

+ How can I break a sweat today?

+ How can I show [name] I love them?


In addition, there are 3 goals that I absolutely want to reach this year. And they are:

#1 Launch the first Finnish Language Coaching program of its kind.

#2 Complete 100 coaching sessions by March 31st

#3 Develop and maintain a balanced morning and weekly routine

There are others, but I’ll let them unfold naturally as time goes on.


So what about you? What are 3 things that went well in 2014 and 3 things that didn’t go so well? And what are you doing in 2015 to make sure things go your way? Leave a comment below.

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Hi! I’m Irina.

I’m a multibelonger to Finland, Canada and Romania, without ONE language or culture to call my own – I have several. My intention is to be present where I am and find inner peace and harmony where ever life takes me. I’m embracing the gems of the ongoing cultural and linguistic transition which is my life and hope to inspire others interested in doing the same. Click here to find out more!