2020 was a Year of Reckoning
In the last few years, I started a fun tradition with Michelle Khouri — Founder & CEO / Executive Producer at FRQNCY Media. As we wind down the past year and roll into a new one, Michelle and I catch up to discuss a theme for the coming year.
In 2017, it was the Year of the Warrior. It followed a year of awakening, kicking off a time to truly start fighting for what we believe in, pursuing our dreams together, and reaching for the highest achievements without fear of failure.
2018 — it was the Year of the Butterfly, expanding on that Warrior mentality into a beautiful evaluation, followed by the Year of the Reaping in 2019 when the seeds we planted had grown and ready for harvest. Michelle wrote to me saying that our hard work would be manifested into reward.
For 2020, that theme continued into the Year of the Reckoning, searching for a more profound power and aiming to live in an ever-present harmony, Michelle wrote. Little did we know what 2020 would have in store.
As a fan of Michelle and her work, it has been amazing to see her words ring true as she’s seen continuous success with FRQNCY Media, taking on producing prodcasts for heroes includingDiane von Furstenberg and Jane Goodall.
Getting to watch entrepreneurs like Michelle pursue their dreams, tell stories, and create jobs is just one of the many things I love best about this industry. On a personal note, for me, 2020 was also a year of professional growth. I took on a new role as VP of Marketing at Curricula helping to scale a startup I mentored through the Atlanta Tech Village.
There were still happy moments of growth in momentum in 2020 despite being a year of challenges.
And if 2020 taught us anything, it’s to fix your potential problems before they come a-reckonin’.
2020 was an arduous 52 weeks. Every problem we had as individuals, in our work, and as a society was exacerbated by the Coronavirus.
But even before the onslaught of the pandemic, I was taught a very important lesson in the mountains of Jackson Hole. I suffer from weak ankles — a problem I’ve consistently put on the back-burner instead of pursuing physical therapy — and went skiing where instead of pacing myself on the Greens, I took a very icy Blue and sprained an ankle (thankfully it wasn’t worse).
Instead of moping about the cabin unable to ski, we found other activities which included heading to the top of Jackson Hole resort to Corbet’s Couloir where this photo was taken.
It felt like I left a piece of my heart in those beautiful mountains. Even with a bum ankle, I wanted to stay longer and keep exploring. Leaving Jackson Hole, we came back to Atlanta on March 8 only days before the whole world went into the Great Lockdown over COVID-19.
All of the plans we’d made for the year, including my sister’s wedding, were scrapped due to the need for social distancing. March and April were months of so many unknowns while the lockdown continued. Then my job opportunity came about bringing good work to do instead of worrying about the world around us.
And a busy late spring was followed by a tumultuous summer as COVID cases started rising, then the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery gave rise to a renewed civil rights movement.
Coming face-to-face with the issue of racism has presented its own moment of reckoning for Pretty Southern as a brand. What we set out to do in questioning ‘What does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century?’ means to question everything when it comes to societal norms.
A fellow member of our Pretty Southern squad, Jenn Ciccarelli (who some of y’all might remember from her Game Day Prayers or when she broke the internet in Charleston when her post went viral) shared these words which summed it up pretty well:
The death of George Floyd forever changed something inside me. I’m sorry it didn’t happen sooner. I’m working to ensure that guilt is never a burden, and instead is the fuel behind an effort to make up for lost time. In searching for words that might fit the current state of my insides, I thought about settling on altruism. I am trying to live myself as selflessly as possible (probably also to make up for lost time) and giving is the most compelling of good energy…
2020 was a shitfire year but I’ve repeatedly said it wasn’t without its magic. We have seen what happens when we come together for our communities and we stand up for what’s right. Change just takes one person and few a ripples
Over here at Pretty Southern, this meant offering support and giving a platform to voices needing to be heard. Both Quay Bowen and Kyiah Oliver published beautiful, heart-breaking editorials about what they’ve faced as black women in the South. Quay’s On the Topic of Equal Opportunity and Kyiah’s testament to how African American women have been treated for quite some time are both worth reading again to remember the mission we’re on as a collective force for good.
Thinking ahead for this new year, I found these wise words from Stefanie Diaz, who saw her own good work come to fruition in 2020 by becoming a Partner at Zane Ventures (here’s Stef’s feature in Hypepotamus). Stef and I first met in 2017 when she had me on her show, Mastermind Your Launch on Business Radio X (y’all can replay it here).
Stefanie shared these wise words at the close of 2017…
Honor your journey. Shift blame to blessings. Shift regret to gratitude. Because the evolution you’re in (however hard it may be) is pointing you towards your next treasure, and love is the key that will unlock the chest.
Things have really come full circle to 2021
Working with so many wonderful humans, hearing their thoughts and listening to their wise words has helped me so much on my own journey with its destination unknown. This brings us to the theme for this year.
2021 will be the Year of Expansion
When I continued our annual tradition and asked Michelle what the word for 2021 would be, she first reflected back on 2020 and how it was a Year of Reckoning for sure. So many good things happened but there were challenges like we wouldn’t believe. So 2021 will be the Year of Expansion.
To quote Michelle directly: “What I feel with the word ‘expansion’ is that it’s not going to be altogether comfortable because it represents expanding our minds, our hearts, our definition of things, what we think is good vs. bad, what we feel works and doesn’t.”
“Ultimately, we need to break out of the prisons we built and expand into a new way of being. It’s going to be magnificent but a journey in-and-of-itself.”
I am so thankful for these words, for Michelle, Jenn, Stefanie, Kyiah, Quay, and all y’all in the Pretty Southern squad. All of our years to come will have their challenges, but we’re here to get through them together.