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  • Writer's pictureJustin Key

2019 Year in Review

To begin every year I sit down and plot a course for the coming 12 months. 2016 was the "Year of Establishment" where the foundation for this dream was constructed. 2017 was the "World Tour" where dreams of travel and building my name were the priority. 2018 was the "Year to do Better" where my previously low expectations were raised dramatically to the level of "better". If this were a mission to the moon all that would've been accomplished in those first three years was a pair of scrapped test rockets and a sketch of the Earth with an arrow pointing to the moon.

A black and white holga photo of photographer Justin Key and his dog Lambeau at the sand dunes

2019 started just as the previous three years had started, with a goal. 2019 was the "Year of Discipline" and the goal was to develop exactly that. For too long I'd taken things slow thinking my head was in the clouds when it was really somewhere physically impossible to reach. Distractions became my favorite thing behind excuses. The word "busy" got thrown around a lot even though productivity was lacking. It felt like I was standing on the launch pad waiting for my rocket to liftoff without any fuel in the tank. Well in 2019 I finally gassed it up.

Now, this is the year in review so let me throw a spoiler out quick and tell you I'm far from stepping foot on the moon. 2019 was the year of discipline, and discipline, as I discovered, takes practice. While I entered 2019 with dreams of straightening out my bad habits I'm entering 2020 with similar plans.

My problems with focus and motivation haven't been fixed yet. Once again those bright little rectangles of light distracted me from the big rectangle of light I use for work. After making a pledge to remove the temptations from the office altogether, excuses were made to bring them in again and again. The mental practices implemented to correct that problem didn't stick and precious time was lost as a result. Social media got left on the side of the road somewhere around October. My search for new locations to display my work ended before April showers brought May flowers and my big year of festivals came up short.

For those of you that have read my previous New Year outlook pieces you know resolutions aren't my style. My approach is slow and persistent. Rather than set a firm goal I plant seeds of adjustment and hope they grow throughout the year. The seeds usually take root but it can take years for them to reach the surface. Over the course of the year, those seeds serve their purpose, reminding me of my goals. It's whether I water them that becomes the problem. As I said, discipline is a practice, it takes time to develop.

Social media and I have always had a strained relationship. The decision was eventually made to abandon it temporarily in order to gain peace of mind that allowed me to concentrate on editing. While the hope was to catch up completely on my immense backlog of photos, I settled for a large dent instead. The break also provided a chance to examine my approach to social media and form a better strategy for 2020.

My search to find additional locations to display my work may have ended in the spring but not before I found a number of new locations to show with. My work has hung in at least two establishments for the majority of the year. Festivals were absolutely a bust both in acceptance rate and sales but once again I enter the offseason with a slew of knowledge and adjustments to make.

Perhaps my biggest accomplishment of 2019 was the change in my health habits. The tired voice in the back of my head begging for the snooze button lost the battle with will power and a morning exercise routine was established. As for my diet, kale is now a staple for breakfast while I'm still looking for ways to mask the dirt flavor of chard in my afternoon salads, so yeah I've made some improvements. It still takes a strong conscious effort to curb my eating habits away from binging on sweets but the results have been extremely evident with better moods and more energy.

The journey to find discipline has not been easy. The greatest battle remains with the voice armed with excuses. My workout habits allow for the gorging of sweets. A long day of editing grants phone time between batches. The disciplined voice has begun to speak up to protest the excuses, it just needs to learn to argue its point better.

The three years before last were vital in getting me to where I am today. I've slowly been building up momentum and confidence that wasn't there in 2016. The reason I can look back at those years with such disappointment is that the changes I needed to make were evident then too. There was always a voice telling me to focus more, stay on task, eat better. Last year was the first time I listened. Looking back at 2019 and all that I accomplished, I can only imagine where I would be had that discipline been there from the start. Rather than dwell on what could have been though, it's time to look forward again. 2020 is here. It's time to light the rocket.


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