Sneakers screeching on hardwood floors, the slapping POP! of a palm against the roundness of an airborne ball--further passport granted on its speedy voyage across the net...and so the volleying continues.
It’s been a while since I played volleyball, but as a teenager I still recall the shouts of “I go!” in my own 13,14,15,16 year-old voice and that of my teammates letting the others know that they were about to step up in a moment of leadership and duty to help prevent a ball from dropping. Literally.
For the first time in years, that phrase found its way from the recesses of my mind to the forefront recently, as while working on a project, I found myself wanting to exclaim, “I go!” as a confirmation of “I’ll handle that.” I somehow refrained from doing so, but it made me laugh and also wonder how all of these years later that still came so effortlessly.
2021 has been an interesting year.
A year of start.stop.start.stop. Ok, now go! Oh wait, stop. Let’s try this again. Go.
In spite of the time spent acquainting ourselves with how to once again engage in more public and interactive settings and with the new precautions and efficacies now in place. However, regardless of the painstaking effort that some elements have required, at the very least it allowed for some industries to resume, even if in more limited capacities. While on the outside many of these attempts at business as usual may not embody the gracefulness of a synchronized swimming routine, the frenetic energy does emit forward motion, which is what has been needed in 2021 most of all. Forward motion and momentum--key elements.
2021 is not the fruit borne from a restful hiatus where we all took a time-out and came back refreshed with that just back from vacation glow and positive “let’s do this” attitude.
No, 2021 was the bottom of a scoreless ninth with extra innings looming ahead until a victor was identified. Only everyone in the game was playing a different sport entirely and while some commonalities overlap across each sport--we were reaching. Well...baseball, basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, and tennis all use a ball, so let’s put those all together over there. Archers, Pole Vaulters, Fencers, and Discus throwers you go stand over there under the precision label. And so on...Okay kids, go make some magic happen.
Yet, somehow we all made it work and now you have hybrids and new models--created out of necessity and not just innovation for the sake of innovating. Although, there was some of that as well. Yet, if we wouldn't have faced the challenges of 2020, these would not exist. Corporations and projects found lifeboats often-time in the most unlikely of places in the past two years. If you didn't already prior to the pandemic, you certainly learned the art of the pivot and perhaps perfected it in the last year.
2021 also meant spotting others as they did the heavy lifting or as they braved the tightrope. For some helping others will always have a self-interest component as they also struggled to stay relevant and to stay afloat, but others did it out of a desire to genuinely help others that they saw struggling, knowing that their expertise could help move certain areas forward much quicker.
I am glad that I got to see the latter scenario far more often than the former in 2021. I myself stepped into that role a few times throughout the year where seeing someone or a company struggling with something that is a bit more effortless for me or an area in which I possess some expertise, to help them pave that path forward. If you work with me in any capacity, you’ll find that that’s one of my more heavily used terms that I pull out every so often--”What do you recommend as a path forward”, “as a proposed path forward”, “here’s the path forward”, “let’s align on the path forward,” “the path likely to face the least resistance…”, those are probably all phrases you can search within my email inboxes and find a few instances of their use.
I am all about forward motion. Sure, sometimes we need to give something a moment--to reflect, gather learnings and insights, or just to honor it. Ultimately, though the direction we need to head in is forward, back into the present day preparing for tomorrow to clear a sustainable and scalable pathway that allows not only each of us to navigate through without obstacle, but others as well.
This is true of corporations, small businesses, nonprofits, political parties and agendas, and even in our personal lives.
While 2021 has been a year of exploration, we spent a portion of it as the weary traveler who had been through many battles--from financial to professional to psychological. Everyone emerged with at least one battle wound and even if there is no scar showing prominently on their exterior, it’s there. Guaranteed. I don’t know a single person who is going into 2022 without some PTSD or repercussion faced in 2021. However, it has made many of us more selective of who we let into our lives.
I’ve been a bit busy all through the pandemic and this last quarter of 2021 has not been any different, busy but not without a team or rather multiple teams that rely on me. For as much distance as there has been between some of us, I am the most connected that I likely have ever been and that’s saying A LOT, I am a digital pioneer after all--I helped create, develop, or grow many of the platforms that you now enjoy that are so embedded in our daily lives. And as much as I love history and learning about all that happened before there was a Siria Contreras, I love the future and finding ways to define and contribute to it even more.
In the past couple of months, I, as I’m certain many others have as well have taken some time even while my brain has been focused on continuing helping others and projects continue on their path forward taken a bit of a time out where I ignored many things to focus on what I want to carry over into 2022. What do I feel is needed from me, what can I continue to contribute to make not only the present upside down world we find ourselves better, but also better for future generations. What work still brings me joy. Who I like to surround myself with. Who I envision as a part of my future.
The truth is it’s all of the things that are innately a part of me--creativity, analysis/strategic-thinking, innovation, problem-solving (most know I love a good challenge), compassion for others, philanthropy, and yes stability--I work hard to create that for others where I can as well. As far as individuals go, I'm always up for collaborating with others, in fact in 2021 I've likely collaborated more internationally than any other year. The truth here though is that because my brain does work quite fast, I likely do need a bit more stimulation sometimes accounting for all that I take on. My tight-knit friends circle will remain those who I still engage with and should I decide to engage in a relationship with anyone that too will have to stimulate me intellectually but also needs to be fun, because I'm not as good at being serious 100 percent of the time. They also need to have some drive on their own and of course compassion for others, seeing as how part of my life is dedicated to making the world better for others.
So don't worry, I’ll start to notice people around me again and give more time to others, no need to panic if we haven’t talked in a little bit. I can assure you that you haven’t been singled out, I’ve communicated likely with about five people consistently in the past two months outside of my teams and work colleagues. As I know that in order to move into 2022 in a forward-moving way, that I needed to take this moment, knowing we’ve got a big year ahead of us--a year that will require all of us to continue to put in the work, but also more importantly to collaborate, innovate, strategize, and execute in order to win--to win big enough that the victory is never ours alone, never an individual win--but a collective win. As we've all grown in the past year, we may also have found that our wins look a little different than they did before.
So, who is the Siria of 2022? She’s still the same 14,15,16 year old shouting “I go” to meet whatever comes next and even better yet, to define it. I don’t ever use the word fearless, because in my opinion to be fearless requires a bit of a psychological disorder-- not courage. Yet, I am scared to face very little--especially not the unknown. I have spent most of my life and career defining and shaping the unknown into things that you now can’t imagine life without. There are other mes out in this world, and that is why you also shouldn’t fear that which you don’t yet know. You’re never alone unless you want to be (I highly recommend spending time to check in with yourself exclusively whenever you need it and to never feel guilty for doing so.).
And lastly, what’s my year-end wish for 2022 for you? I wish you many wins. Wins so big that all of those around you benefit from them. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a billionaire or even run your own company--win for yourself, win with your teams, win for your community, win for our planet. These are not the toxic wins leveraged for boasting or building the ego, these are the true wins that mean something to someone or many someones more than yourself. However, if you do have personal goals that you’d like to see reach fruition--make those a reality as well. Don’t neglect what makes your heart sing and what gives you a sense of fulfillment. Surround yourself with others who encourage you along the way, who offer to help even when they have nothing to gain from your success and do the same for others.
Whether in your personal or professional lives, romantic connections or platonic, 2022 will continue to require collaboration and it’s best if you can show up as a whole person ready to step up with or without your own version of “I go” when the opportunity arises.