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  • Siria Contreras

2023: A Dose of Reality




Three years after the pandemic changed the ways of the entire world and how we as individuals went about our daily professional, personal, and social lives–something that we are still trying to figure out, we find ourselves celebrating and embarking upon yet another new year.


These chapters that we've now closed also changed the way many brands and products positioned themselves and advertised to consumers.


2023, in spite of showing up somewhat unceremoniously, was still a new year that as with any new year was still anticipated by many. Even if the anticipation was without the overall exaggerated enthusiasm and extreme excitement levels and the celebrations were not equal to that of new years of yore where we all buzzed about in the days leading up to that midnight hour, such as say…2020.


The anti-climactic end of 2022 did not have any of that electricity nor #bignewyearseveenergy.


That’s not to say that none of us were sad to see it go, nor that we were dreading 2023. On the contrary, I think it’s safe to say that as a collective we were all more than ready for a new year. Yet, as the final days of 2022 found us they greeted us with the equivalent of a mere nod. December 31st approached without the sparkle, shine, and excitement typically embodied by sequined outfits, sky-high heels, bubbly champagne-- all living for that midnight hour when the symphony composed of jarring noise makers busy battling it out with the tinsel-edged metallic party horn section all meet crashing and colliding across the world, summoning the spirit of the late Morricone to take that joyous chaos to bring it all to order and give us all that more fitting climbing crescendo that a new year truly deserves.


No, the ending of 2022 and less-than-grand entrance of 2023 perhaps deserved a score more fitting of an M. Night Shyamalan or perhaps even a Wes Anderson or Woody Harrelson film, or perhaps even a Seinfeld episode. Replete with characters muttering while going about their business.


A screenplay that reminds us of what we’ve been through, but also reminds us that we are to keep moving forward whether we want to or not. The soundtrack may not make our 2023 Spotify Wrapped perhaps, but again would keeps us from having to be alone with our thoughts and queues us on to the next act.


Ambivalence is probably a good descriptor for this particular new year, less expectations but still happy to see it.


Thinking back, the new year of 2021 was where we’d placed our hopes when it came to seeing an end to the pandemic and getting back to our “normal” lives. If we could all just get back to our “normal” lives and routines, everything would be ok again.


By the 2022 New Year, we’d come to the conclusion that there was no such thing as returning to “normal.” It was too late, we had all changed in ways we never expected to. There was no going back, which is good as what we really needed was to keep moving forward. New income sources arrived for many, yet so did inflation.


Indeed, 2022 was a mixed bag for everyone. Some did well economically, some lost a lot. Some thrived when it came to self-care, others lost their mind as they navigated what socializing and work life now entailed without Cliff’s notes. Some found their life passions, while others continued to go through the motions. The one thing that we all had in common was that we each faced the reality that we created for ourselves or that we chose to remain in.


So what about 2023?


In my opinion, 2023 is giving us a much-needed dose of reality, but with an advantage.

The gift of 2023 for each of us is that we know exactly what we're working with.


At this juncture, we are completely aware of where we stand economically, professionally, and in personal relationships.


There is no longer the false illusion that adds a sobering quality to this new year. 2023 encourages us to be realistic about our state of affairs and where we’re headed.


The cold breeze of January 1st blew away the neptunian fog and lifted the rose-colored glasses off our faces, snapping us out of any fantasy worlds that we might have been spending too much time in.


2023 also reminds us that we still have business to tend to unfinished business and encourages us to be present in the here and now. And just like very new year before it, 2023 still somehow brings the same readiness in all of us, perhaps more out of habit, to make realistic resolutions and come forth with a potential willingness to make the changes necessary in order to #nextlevel our lives.


2023, at least to me anyhow, feels like a year of reality.


Sure, there are many, many ways to escape reality at any given moment–daydreaming, self-isolation, sleep, and of course drugs and medications to list a few. Yet, master escape artist or not, if escaping is your thing then that will also be a part of what colors your reality.


In 2023, there is no longer that false illusion nor hope that anything nor anyone will come to rescue each of us from our perils, whether they be minor or major.


By now, I hope, we have each realized that we are in charge of our own destiny and pave our own paths forward. We know that many areas are (or remain) broken not just in ourselves but in society, yet we are each a part of the solution. For some things the solution is not yet clear, but we’re close to discovering it--if we want to.


One thing is for certain, in 2023 and beyond in order to thrive we must not fear change.


While I certainly resonate with many of the qualities of my sun sign Taurus, the fear of change that it is famously associated with is not something that I resonate with. I like stability, but change doesn't bother me. In fact, I've been an agent of change most of the years that I have lived on this planet, spending my entire life creating and/or contributing to new ways of doing or consuming things.


At this very juncture, we ALL find ourselves in a time where there is an abundance of opportunities to pioneer...one of my very favorite things to do. The next big thing could come from anyone, a kid living in the flyover states or a weathered hermit currently hiding out in the Scottish countryside. All it takes is ingenuity, curiosity, imagination, drive, determination, and a willingness to do.


That’s what 2023 is, a close-to-equal playing field-- if you're willing to join the fun.


Sure, some people may have an advantage of having more money, more time, more knowledge, or just a head start. That is the case in any era. However, if you can collaborate with those that possess the resources that you lack, that much more progress will. be made.


But before anything can happen, we each have to be willing to take the steps forward that are necessary with our own two feet--steering them in the direction that you want to head in or the destination that you ultimately want to end up at.


If you keep revisiting the past by taking backward steps or you get distracted from the prize or goal that you seek, or if you’re riding piggyback on someone else’s back rest-assured that you also may not reach your ultimate destination, whether that be a person that you long for, the professional success or validation that you crave, or just an overall lifestyle that you’re seeking.


Rest assured that even if you don’t take any steps forward, the rest of the world will and eventually you will too. Only you will end up having to take extra steps to catch-up, when you could've been either keeping pace or outpacing others.


The lyrics from an old song (“Dreaming With My Eyes Open”) that I listened to as a pre-teen sung by one of my then favorite country singers, Clay Walker, came to mind.


“… Every time the world moved on, I fell a little further behind

From runnin' back or followin’ someone home

Until I learned that one step forward will take you further on

Than a thousand back or a million that ain't your own


… I spent half my life on bended knee begging somebody to change

And the other half prayin' to God that they never would

And all it got me was twice as lost when it all turned out the same.”


Yes, there will be some people that may not want to change, that may not want to move forward, but we can only worry about ourselves and to a certain degree our loved ones.


Like I always say, wouldn’t you rather be the person providing the opportunities rather than having to be the one asking for the opportunities? As you grow and become more successful, you can then help those other deserving parties that surround you and there's no better time than the present to set out on that journey.


All of this is advice that I can and should apply myself as I did slow myself down significantly in 2022 on purpose, those that know me know that I’ve been going at least 70-100 mph for the past 2-3 decades so a respite of sorts was needed, but since that is not my natural state of being I was never as comfortable embracing it. Yet, I knew that if I wanted to better my health and to make room for other things, I would need to make some changes. As a marketer and data-enthusiast, improving upon things based on learnings is second-nature to me and that is how I see 2023 playing out. A year to continue to improve upon how we do things and twelve new months to help us find our new optimized rhythm.


And 2023 is indeed the era of optimization. Overall, it’s not a glamorous theme, yet it is beyond necessary. Optimization is always necessary, but especially this year.


Our population is more than prime for new social media platforms, more green technology and solutions, better fintech and entertainment options, etc., etc. The list is endless. Those things won't just create themselves.


In short, the past two to three years have taught us what no longer works for us individually and as a collective. We have experimented with going back to our old ways of doing things and old habits, some even old lovers and social circles. Much of it no longer serves us and only prevents us from making significant progress. We know better and therefore should do better. We also have learned our value and need to honor that and not settle for less, especially in human interactions.


A friend of a friend recently made me laugh saying (at nearly 50 years old) that she could not date anyone with baggage. The truth is that everyone for the most part, including each country, city, and town across the world has baggage. Baggage comprised of the past, trauma, bad-habits/vices, and more.


However, as we’ve all gotten to know ourselves better, our luggage hopefully is no longer bursting at the seams due to also carrying stuff that does not belong to us. Many of us have succeeded in eliminating most of our baggage or at the very least reducing it to a carry-on.


Regardless of what state 2023 finds you, it is a year that should hopefully allow you to make significant progress if you view it via a realistic lens and are willing to put in the work.


Sure, dreamers still have a place in the new year as those visionary perspectives are the stuff that new inventions are made of, yet to actually bring anything to fruition and for forward motion to occur, we must also have our feet planted firmly on the ground ready to put one in front of the other as we set the pace instead of falling behind. Most importantly, it is a year meant to get you closer to your best self and to set your own pace. Optimization doesn't mean constant change, that would be A/B testing. No, no what it means is making small adjustments to deliver the best results in whichever areas you need it most.


Happy New Year. May it be a year of improved health, prosperity, and productivity for one and all.


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