Jessica in front of a pagoda.

Happy New Year friends! It’s hard to believe that my first post of 2020 is two weeks in, but I’ve been planning & preparing and I wanted to come back to you with a bang. Funnily enough, I’m posting this around the same time as last year’s reflection post, which was January 21. If anything, at least I’m consistent! I hope you brought a snack. If not; go grab one. It’s about to be a long ride down memory lane!

2019 – Wow. What a year, huh? When I think of 2019, I think of it as my “building” year. At first, I had some pretty negative reflections, especially business-wise, but then I remembered Elizabeth Gilbert’s statements that I, Jessica, am not a Fortune 500 company! I do not need to feel like every single year of my life must “outperform” the last business-wise. More importantly, that I am separate from JITK, albeit an essential part of it, and that as I grow older it’s more and more important for me to distinguish myself from the company lest I get completely lost in my work. That whole sentiment reflects this year for me. While I did grow business-wise, it wasn’t as exponentially as like 2018 was, which at first was a real bummer. Personally though?! WHAT a difference.

If you recall, my 2019 word was SEEK, and it was the overarching theme for the year. SEEK, I did. I truly got to know Jessica, once and for all, for better and for worse, far more than I ever had my whole life. That started with a sudden decision on January 25, 2019, around 8 PM in the night with a pair of scissors in my hand and lots of snipping. The second I chose my word I knew: I wanted to do all the things to get to the real Jessica, which included cutting off all my processed hair and going natural. What a decision that was for me. 

2019 was full of lots of adventure and new situations. Firstly, we moved houses a few days before 2019 started. Our new home is about twice the size of our last, and honestly, it took me the entire year to adjust! We still have unpacked boxes after I broke my leg (again) and photos still to hang up, but I know everything will get done in its proper timing.  On top of moving, we wanted to truly travel, and boy, did we travel! For the entire summer! So much more on that below; but all in all, it was quite a good year. 

So many things happened this year! I love the structure that I created for the 2018 Reflections/Recap so I’m going to follow it for this post too. 

Jessica sat on a cliff edge, overlooking the sea.

Top 5 Business Accomplishments I am Most Proud Of

  1. I went on several sponsored trips. Here’s the thing about sponsored trips for me. It shows me that a brand sees so much value in my own brand that they find me worthy enough to cover all my expenses for a certain time period in order for us to work together. Not only do I get to experience new places in the process, it truly is a major confidence booster for me. It shows me that my work is getting the recognition I deserve. It makes me feel proud. It’s one of the reasons I actually love doing sponsored blog posts with brands I love too. After my very first sponsored trip in 2018 to Israel, I was shocked and extra excited to go on not one this year, but two! One to beautiful Mexico, my favourite country, allowing us to spend yet another anniversary there. The other in my own country which has never happened before! Being able to go on these experiences and share them with you guys made me very proud indeed!
  2. Speaking at several schools & lecturing young people. When 2019 started, I felt an incredible urge to give back in a way that I was able to use my talents that would specifically help young people. That was almost word for word the statement that came to mind. 2019? It showed up in that way for sure. Last year I gave more lectures and speeches at high schools and university events than any other year of life. In fact, one of the speeches I gave I didn’t even know which my school-centric, but it turned out the company wanted young people to be able to hear the sentiments from all the speakers that year. Can you say, the Universe is listening?! It felt SO good to do that. I’m still in contact with some of the students to this day and it felt incredible to be able to inspire and guide them in my own way to help them with their life decisions.
  3. I collaborated with so many wonderful & talented creators. This was one of my favourite things to do! There are still so many more creatives on my list to collab with for this year, but in 2019 I really got the opportunity to collaborate with some of my favourites. From doing a guest post on my friend Jenne’s blog during her maternity leave to shooting a video with JITK long time reader-turned-friend Tasmin to shooting one of my friend’s incredible products that weren’t even food! I really got to flex my creative muscles in a whole new way. It showed me a few things. Wow, I’m a great photographer all around! That I don’t have to keep viewing this space as a lonely space. And that I LOVE collaborating! Being around like-minded creators in different niches or even the same niche is such a fun part of this business that I wasn’t truly tapping into. Now I can say for sure that collaborating really opens my creative mind and allows me to make new friends, or strengthen other ones.
  4. I hit 5 Years of Jessica in the Kitchen. Wow, 5 years! When did that happen? Where has the time gone? I’m “sad” to say, I didn’t “celebrate” five years. I actually missed the date because we were in Bali honestly having a blast, so the way I see it, I was celebrating life! But to believe that this year will be 6 years! What a treat. I’m so proud of this blog and everything I’ve been able to achieve because of it. All the lives touched. All the memories created. All the delicious meals, oh my!!  
  5. Solving a major site problem and getting it fixed. This was such a bittersweet “accomplishment” because it goes right to the Fortune 500 company thing. Long story short, I got really bad advice from a professional that totally messed up my Google ranking and my recipes markup. All in all, Google doesn’t actually view my recipes as recipes, which is very bad for a food blogger! This stalled the growth of JITK this year which is pretty hard to type out. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know until it’s too late. I was able to hire someone to do over the coding from scratch and I’m happy to say that it’ll be accurately implemented soon. I view this as a WIN because I spotted the issue only a year after it began to ruin my ranking, as opposed to like ten years down the line. It was a hard hit, but it could’ve been harder, and more importantly, my recipes & posts still reached so many of you despite it all. The funny thing about business errors is that you can try your hardest and if you get bad advice, you just get bad advice, simple. It’s not worth beating yourself up about it. It’s more important to flip it to gratitude! This plagued me for SO long this year (since it also directly affected my earnings), but I tried to turn it into gratitude each time, which really helped.

Top 5 Personal Growth Changes

  1. I went natural! Oh my goodness, I went natural! If you’re not familiar with that term, it means I cut off all the processed & straightened parts of my hair and embraced my natural hair texture. I haven’t been natural since I was 13 (I begged my mom for my 14th birthday to “cream/relax” my hair) so, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Now, I loved the years I had processed hair. This is in no part to say it was terrible or that natural hair is the “better’ way. But for me? It was. I wanted to go natural in college, but I was SO afraid!! That has its own long history that I don’t have the space to go into now, but I was so afraid that it wouldn’t look good. I had only heard how “hard” it was and viewed as “unprofessional” and man, was I scared. But that feeling grew, year by year. Then I started the transitioning process in 2018. I kept wanting to do it now, but no, let’s wait a little longer. Then in 2019 on that fateful night, scissors in hand, towel around my neck; snip snip! Off it all went. I felt SO – free. SO FREE. That started a real self-love journey like no other. I’ll admit that I’ve gotten mainly positive feedback, but the negative feedback? Whew. Brutal. That negative feedback taught me that I had to stop caring about what others thought, and just DO ME. That doing me has allowed me to care for my locks so well. To keep it moisturised, healthy, and growing! 
  2. I started back exercising. GUYS – I went back to the gym! I haven’t had a steady gym schedule since again, college (oh law school, you changed so much of my life). My feedback about this change? Boy, does it feel good. I exercised right before writing this post, too. I got very consistent with it and eating lower carb before our South East Asia trip then that trip kind of stopped my consistency. Funny enough I came back from the trip having lost weight despite eating my weight in carbs and vegan desserts (Bali, you’re so good to me!!). Since then, it’s been on and off, but I’ve never quit. I was able to lose 20 pounds (!) and go down a few dress sizes and most importantly – feel CONFIDENT and in love with my body. I’m even lifting weights, which is my favourite part!! I’ve really loved exercising again and want to ensure I stick to it throughout this year and make it a life habit!
  3. I prioritised sleep. MAN, it felt good to type this! Last year I said, no matter what time you go to bed, you better get those 7-8 hours of sleep. Went to bed at 4 am? Don’t wake up before 11 am! I am SO tired of living my life to suit others who don’t pay my bills, don’t affect my business and aren’t supportive overall. I HAVE to ensure I am living my life according to my own schedule and what is best for me. Sleep is important. SO important. I found that I performed my very best with a full night of sleep in me, and my very worst on 4-5 hours of sleep. Know the amount you need, and make it a priority!
  4. I travelled the world! Ticking off 22 countries! Oh, the places we’ll go! Last year I ticked off a total of 22 countries I’ve travelled in my entire life. I’m not looking to travel to them all, but it is still pretty cool to say. I love experiencing new cultures, new experiences, or even re-visiting countries and experiencing something new there. The journey continues this year to Japan (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! screaming with excitement) and who knows where else! Travelling does my soul so good.
  5. Being way more comfortable being uncomfortable. This was a change that Gav pointed out to me. He said he notices how better I’ve gotten at being comfortable being uncomfortable. Now, I was never one for the comfort zone anyway, but I did get a serious amount of anxiety when unknown circumstances popped up, or I wasn’t able to properly think out plans A-Z. With everything from the issue on the blog to other business things to almost missing our boat to Gili Air, uncomfortable situations were the NORM last year. One by one, I knocked them down, and they got easier. So much so that as we were racing to our Gili Air boat, I was laughing. I had realised by then that, this is life. This is what makes life real, unpredictable, challenging. Many times, those uncomfortable situations led to good. Sometimes, they didn’t. Either way, it was okay. Every single time though, it taught me a new lesson or re-iterated an old one.

Top 2 Challenges I Faced

Breaking my leg – again. It’s actually hilarious to me now that I’ve broken the same foot in the same place, twice now in my life! It wasn’t funny then, of course, either of the times. I wrote about how this eventually saved my life (no, really), so while it was a challenge at the moment, I am glad it happened.

Imposter syndrome. This stemmed again from the recipe ranking issue/error that messed up my recipes. I started having some terrible thoughts. How did I not know this would’ve been an issue? Am I even a proper business owner? Am I even good at food blogging? That combined with the fact that I didn’t produce as many videos or blog posts last year as other posts, led to some serious imposter syndrome. It leaked into every area of my life. I found myself asking Gav and my mom to look over so many professional correspondences for me since I had convinced myself that I didn’t know what I was doing. It took being very kind to myself, recognising that these feelings of feeling fake weren’t accurate and that I AM successful to really push me through imposter syndrome. So far for 2020? I’ve gotten pretty good at trusting that I KNOW what I am doing, and acting on that instinct. It’s been a powerful affirmation for me – “I know what I am doing.”

Top Lesson Learned

I, Jessica, am enough, just as I am & I am more than my work. I learned the importance of BEING, not just DOING. Oh friends, I am a doer. In fact, I’m such a doer than I have to plan days off, else they won’t happen. Many times I feel so angsty if I’m not doing. This all made so much sense after I learned about my enneagram number last year (I’m a 3). You see, the issue with always doing is that I’ve always felt like I’m essentially earning my keep in this world solely by accomplishments. I want to use up ALL my talents, all the time, with just enough sleep to wake up and keep going on. To leave a true impact on the world. I want to make a difference. There’s nothing wrong with any of that; but that mindset led me to believe that if I wasn’t doing, I wasn’t contributing, which meant I wasn’t making an impact, which meant I wasn’t enough if I wasn’t doing. Sitting still or simply relaxing began to feel like wasting time, and that I wasn’t good enough by being just as I am. It got so bad that I worked throughout the majority of our Bali trip, something I truly regret. 

After that regret, I began to recognise the importance of being. Of taking spontaneous days off. Of going weeks, WEEKS! In the holiday season not working. I got more comfortable “being”. I’m not going to act like it’s easy, it’s not. “Am I wasting time?! I’m almost 30!” But I learned that especially as a 3, I need to feel comforting being. Existing. Knowing I matter more than my accomplishments and my work. Getting into things I love that have nothing to do with blogging or photography or making money. Knowing my family will love me regardless. It’s been a true lesson that I look forward to continuing learning in new ways, over and over.

2020 Thoughts, Word of the Year and Intentions

I want to create real systems and processes for not just my business, but also my life. Although many friends would describe me as “organised”, there are many times that I feel like I do things far too unprepared or with an ill-thought-out plan. I’ve led a completely different path this year. I already have months of content planned to execute, and Gav and I have developed a far better content production system for this year. It’s made such a huge difference already and is a constant reminder: there’s always a better way to do this. 

I also plan to ask for and allow for more help this year. I get very caught up in proving that I can “do it all myself” which is difficult to admit but so true. Additionally, sometimes I allow myself to feel like I carry the burden for all young, successful black women on my back. Constantly proving that yes, I too am educated and skilled and the photographer and videographer and the editor in the midst of constantly hearing “so your husband must take your photos, right?”. I’ve let the doubtful questions and rude assumptions allow me to overburden myself, refuse help, and be stubborn about sharing duties. What a waste of time! People will think what they want to think, and you must always do what is best for you, your sanity and your business. This year, I’ll allow myself to put myself first in that regard, in whatever form it brings. My goodness, it would be a relief to share some of it, that’s for sure! 

Word of the Year: LOVE

“In all things, do it with love” 1 Corinthians 16:14. Late last year, the word love kept coming to me in the way of showing love to others. I want to ensure, that in all that I’m doing this year, I’m doing it with love. That when I want to get angry, I try and think “How can I do this with love?” It’s not about dismissing fair emotions, but for me, it’s about embodying one of my core values in the best way possible. It’s already helped me so much, especially with communication. To breathe first, walk away if upset, and then come back with a view of love. I am looking forward to how this word will lead my year – I’m so excited about it!

That’s IT, my friends!! How was your 2019, friends? You can let me know in the comments section below, or even via email! I’m wishing you the BEST year yet!