Happy New Year people! It’s about that time where I reflect on the year passed, and make goals for the year ahead.
2021 flew by in a flash, and unfortunately, COVID has stuck with us the whole way. That said, away from COVID, it’s been a good year… and I know that to even be able to say that during these hard times makes me very blessed. I travelled abroad again for the first time since early 2020, I started a new job and I built (with help) a complex recipe platform which is just on the edge of launching. I rediscovered some old passions of mine, refocussed on what I enjoy, celebrated 7 years in my relationship and had a good time with great friends.
What went down in 2021
👔 I got a new job
After 5 years at my first gig, I moved to a new company this year! Same role, different firm.
It was quite a whirlwind – everything seemed to go from zero to 100. One day I’m just getting on with it and doing my work, next thing I’m having some chats, before I know it – I’m thinking about my resignation. It certainly wasn’t planned. Whilst I never have closed myself off to a good opportunity, at that moment in time, I had no concrete plans set to try to move to another role.
Leaving a place you’ve spent 5 pivotal years (straight out of university), where you know the people, the systems and have built up a reputation is incredibly daunting and hence it’s a really tough decision to make. But if I’m being totally honest with you, it was a decision I could have regretted, even if I had moved and turned out to be miserable, because based on the information I had available to me at the time, I was absolutely certain that I was making the right decision. And that’s really all that you can do. If I hadn’t made the decision due solely to fear of failure – well then I’d be regretting that so much more and beating myself up about it right now. To cut the story short – I’ve been very happy with my decision!
🍴 I built a recipe platform that launches in Q1
Soulful Kitchen – an African and Caribbean recipe platform that personalises the user experience, and is all about community, heritage and authenticity, was in my mind going to launch in 2021. We came super close – but we still need a bit more time to fine tune a few final features on the website so, it’s now a Q1 project. I’m very excited to launch and it has been so much fun building this platform.
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💸 I paid off my student loan
One of my biggest achievements of the year was paying off my student loan. I made the decision in 2019 to start paying it down voluntarily here and there, the logic being that I was paying 6ish% interest on my loan, plus it was accrued – so I paying interest on interest. I figured the return I can make putting my money into other asset classes might be lower than my student loan outgoings, so the trade off was to pay it off. The amount of interest that was added to my loan in total by the time I’d paid it off was around 25% of the initial balance. In the end, I diversified how I invested, and I considered accelerating the payment of my loan as one of these investments. Eventually, the number got low enough and I paid it off at the start of the summer.
I don’t know if I expected some sort of fireworks or balloons or something, and whilst I know I’m super lucky to have paid it off, it was a tad anticlimactic. And I’m not really the kind of person to go and announce it on Twitter with an accompanying thread about money management alongside my new eBook on how to pay down a student loan. Maybe that’s me being silly around securing the maximum bag.
In any case, a few months later SLC added a few more hundreds to my amount owed, claiming it was some sort of “settlement”. After A LOT of back and forth and me telling them off, I repaid that balance and this time kept my evidence such that they have no excuses to make such a claim again. The truth is SLC don’t want anyone to pay down their loan, they discourage it even when you make a voluntary payment. In my opinion, they just want to continue to collect their absolutely ridiculous and stupid interest. So if anything, I’m glad I’ve taken that away.
SLC / the gov really try to disincentivise you from paying off your student loan early as it doesn’t work in their interest. They’d rather continue to collect their obscenely high interest payments – I was paying around 6% on my loan, but the bank rate is 0.1%….ko make sense
— Kemi (@kemiakinn) November 23, 2021
📚 I decided to write a book
Writing is my first passion; as much as I have grown to love so many things over the years, it’s this passion that holds the most special place in my heart as it charted as a love of mine at only 5 years old. When I was super young, I’d write a new story every weekend, it’d be about 15 pages and I’d print it out and give it to my parents and favourite teachers to read. As I was entering my teens, I was writing 1-2 stories a year – as I got older I would plan my ideas more meticulously – my last story I wrote at 15 years old was 150 pages and 45k words.
I’d write so much that my parents promised me that at 18, they’d help me try to publish a book. It was all very exciting, but after that last book I wrote at 15, I just… stopped. Not purposely, but I felt as though I had ran out of ideas. I kept waiting for an idea to just hit me, but then GCSEs passed, A Levels and university came knocking, work started and before I knew it, 10 years really just passed.
This year, my family started to encourage me to start writing again. During my gardening leave, my mum told me again and again to spend the time planning a story. Whilst I didn’t plan anything, I at the very least put it on my agenda to write a story again one day. Some months later, my brothers (who tend to be sort of oblivious to many things I do, ya know – boys), actually asked me why I stopped writing too. That one sort of took me by surprise.
Finally, I listened and I decided to write a book again. I feel like I only owe it to myself and also my younger self who dreamed of the day I’d turn 18 and try to get a book published. I am somewhat past 18 now (cough, cough), but I want to essentially have a book written and try to get it published by the time I’m 30 – as you can see, I’ve given myself many years to reach this goal, as I don’t want to rush anything. I do suspect I will finish writing something sooner than 30. Re: publishing, God knows if I will be successful at this, but I am going to try. It’s exciting.
⭐ Honourable mentions
- I travelled for the first time since the pandemic began – I went to Ibiza with some friends and Levi in July during my gardening leave, and took 2 work trips (Denmark/Swedbank and Norway), before omnicron unfortunately shut down the world again
- After 1.5 years at home, I returned to the office, and this time it was a new office in the City (I used to be based in the Wharf). I haven’t minded the hybrid in office/WFH structure and the food spots in the City are pretty good
- I did quite a bit of work with Investin, which is a organisation that provides students aged 12-18 with an immersive experience across multiple careers. If you’re in school and looking to get into careers such as Investment Banking, Tech, Law and other STEM areas, definitely check them out
- I started driving again! I stopped driving for many years as I didn’t have easy access to the car I drive with my brothers (long story), and COVID exacerbated this. Plus, living near Central (and a tube, DLR and overground)… there’s not really anywhere for me to drive anyway. But I set myself a task to start driving – quite honestly to nowhere – to try and oil my rusty wheels, whenever my brothers and I are back at our family home
Lessons of the Year
⚡ Focus: There have been periods I’ve had just way too much on my plate. At the peak this year I was working a demanding job, building a fitness page, writing weekly blog posts, building an online recipe platform and taking yoruba lessons, plus gyming 5 days a week and just… having a life. Jack of all trades and master of none kinda situation. This year, I sliced down my list of to-dos to things I wanted to fully focus on. I must say that I am super excited about I’m focussing on right now and I’ve never been more at peace with the things I have on my plate. This came together through prioritising what I do and don’t want to do, and what I think I can do well with the time that I have.
😰 Fear: It would have been super easy for me to not take the plunge into a new role. Why risk having to start from scratch, learn about a whole new company with all new people and build up a reputation when I’d already spent 5 years doing that somewhere else? Honestly, it scared the shit out of me. But, that’s also a good thing. I’ve found the periods I’ve grown the most in life have been when I’ve found myself in situations that are not completely comfortable. Sometimes you really need to shake things up to move up to another level and often being too comfortable signifies that you need a change.
🙏🏾 Gratitude: Recognising that I am truly blessed and lucky for so many reasons. Life is a lottery and the environment you’re born into defines so much, and I know that the path my life has taken is a good chunk of a product of my environment.
🔬 Perspective: Taking stock, drowning out noise that makes me feel bad (that handy “mute” button on social media) and taking things for what they are. All that glitters isn’t gold.
Revisiting my 2021 resolutions
1. Blog more consistently (!); put a lot more focus in general into Skylish.co.uk, and continue to work on growing my fitness page
I definitely achieved (half) of this! I blogged 40 times in 2021 vs. 24 times in 2020.
That said, I actually ended up deactivating my fitness page. Whilst I could post content, I didn’t have time to post regularly or to post the level of quality I would have wanted to. I also felt like I was posting the same thing over and over again, and there’s only so many times you can share thoughts on the importance of compound exercises and highlight that carbs aren’t evil. When I thought about what I saw long term for this page, I couldn’t totally put my finger on it. Whilst this isn’t to say I won’t delve into the fitness space again, I just decided to take a breather on this Instagram page for now.
2. Launch the project I’ve been working on
I made a ton of progress on this project this year. It’s crazy looking back to this time last year when I was just doing a mock up of the initial thoughts around design, to having a full product now that is almost ready to be released. I wasn’t able to get the launch ready into the timeframe I had initially hoped, but we’ll be up and ready in Q122.
3. Continue to work to be smarter with money – (i) pay off the rest of my student loan, (ii) continue to put money away into funds periodically and (iii) potentially make a bigger investment…
As you read above – I did indeed pay off my student loan! Woo. I also have invested into ETFs regularly and into cryptocurrencies on a number of months too. The “potential” bigger investment was me considering a buy-to-let mortgage, it’s something I uhm’ed at ahh’ed around, and it’s on my list to explore more seriously in 2022.
4. Make another leap in terms of confidence
My confidence over the years has been upward trending, but definitely jutting up and down. When I was c. 6 months or so into 24, I realised I was miles more confident than I’d ever been before, and it was showing in everything I was doing and also being recognised by others. My year of being 25 (the start of the pandemic basically), I saw even more growth in this area. This all said, I always felt as if I was “faking it” until I “made it” – I had finally mastered the art of getting others to perceive me as someone with a lot of confidence, even if that wasn’t totally how I felt inside. This year, it dawned on me that I didn’t really feel as though I was “faking it” anymore, my actions fully matched up with how I felt inside. This resolution tends to make it onto my list near every year, but for these reasons I’ve just explained, it’s one I’m finally going to remove.
5. Excel with my career choices
This is another resolution I put on here every year that is always sort of open-ended. Half the time I don’t even know what I mean, all I know is that I want to end the year feeling like I’ve progressed with my career. This year it materialised into a whole new job.
6. Get to the best level of fitness I’ve ever been at (if gyms are open for more than half of the year anyway…)
Am I at the best level of fitness I’ve ever been? Well, I can say that I don’t have six pack abs and I’ve been lighter than I am right now in years prior, and I imagine those are 2 things I had in mind when I wrote this last year.
However – I’ve never had such a wholistic focus on my health and fitness as I have this year. In previous years I’ve mainly focussed on leg days and hip thrusts; this year, I started training arms, doing LISS 30 minute runs, incorporating more HIIT into my workouts and doing more focussed, but sometimes shorter, regular workouts. I definitely think that taking everything into account on the health and fitness front, I’m in the most balanced place I’ve ever been. My cardiovascular fitness is for sure the best its ever been (no matter what my Apple Watch says…)
My goals for 2022
1. Launch Soulful Kitchen
2. Continue to blog consistently – more times than I did in 2021. Make efforts to try to expand this blog in more ways than just regular posting
3. Make some good progress with writing this book
4. Up the amount of investments I make another notch
5a. Get better at tuning out multiple and conflicting opinions of what I should do with my life
5b. Be confident in my path in life, believe in my own success and stop feeling like I need to prove myself to anyone
6. Have a strong year on the career front
Sign up to my new newsletter!
Finally, to kick off the start of 2022 – I’m launching a monthly newsletter! It’ll be short and snappy monthly snippets with a more personal look into what I’m up to/favourites of the month, plus thoughts on all things blogging, career, business, personal finance, productivity and more. Check the header of the index page of my website to sign up – the first newsletter goes out this afternoon!