Whenever I think about January, I see it as a blank canvas. It’s a fresh start, and whether intentionally or inadvertently, we make resolutions, jot down those S.M.A.R.T goals, or like me, make a vision board that captures our dreams and ideas for the year ahead. There’s people who do none of these, but find themselves feeling hopeful by the year’s newness and freshness.

This though, wasn’t the case for me when 2020 rolled in. I was partly confused, weak, and crippled by grief. My dad who’d been unwell for the better part of December 2019 had pushed through to the morning of New Year’s Eve and for a long moment, my world stopped the same time his heart did. So on the morning of January 1, nothing felt fresh and what was new was a dark hollow of emptiness. There wasn’t much I could do besides feel that pain and hope that it would get easier as hours became days then weeks.

By the end of those 60-something days of January, I wanted to feel the happiness I knew my dad wanted for me – and what were the odds that while idly scrolling on Instagram I came across a vision board party. Planning and-or-while partying sounded like my kind of jam. I did that ‘click-the-link-in-bio-to-buy-a-ticket-to-the-party’ and reserved a spot without hesitation.

I wasn’t too keen on preparing for the event, I wanted to be surprised; but a friend who’d already made a vision board a year before advised that I print a few images that captured what I wanted for 2020. In all fairness, I just wanted to be happy – but I didn’t know what that looked like at first. I went back to Instagram and looked at accounts that I liked, the ones with pictures of minimalist interiors, with style and fashion hacks, and with inspiring quotes. I printed a few of them and was ready for the party.

The event host, Prisca, welcomed me and the other attendees to the event and shared about the whole concept of a vision board – which I understood as a visual-focused planner, a board where you visually captured your hopes, goals, and dreams for the year. This realisation made me dissatisfied with the images I’d printed because technically, I hadn’t taken time to think about where I was at in different areas of my life and so couldn’t plan for the year ahead accordingly. But I was still certain about that one thing: I wanted to be happy.

By the end of the four hour event, my vision board wasn’t complete, though it was two-thirds done. I’d included a section with my travel dreams after deciding that travel was one of the things that had previously given me a sense of pride and joy – because I’d paid for my trips and moved around as a solo backpacker, trusting myself to navigate the unfamiliar cities I’d visited and meeting new people and hearing their perspectives; but for my vision board I wanted to elevate to more comfortable, luxurious travel. I wanted to catch flights, not feelings. 

Then I captured my wellness goal with a cut out of the words “strong” which I pasted right next to an image of a well-toned Nichole Murphy. 2020 was going to be my year of fitness! And because I already had some positive history with working out, this seemed achievable.

But most importantly, two things: I was going to read more to immerse myself in the vastness of the literary world and in doing so grow my bookshelf, and I was going to move into my own place. I had a clear-cut plan for the reading habit – but as far as getting my own place, I was going to wing it and maybe lean on my mother’s unlimited hope in God’s miracles. Overall, I was satisfied with my vision board.

COVID-19 had other plans though. A few weeks later the first case was announced in Kenya. There went my travel plans, and soon after my world started falling apart, with the worst thing of all being a conversation with my housemate about me moving out; not because I wanted to, but because she needed to accommodate her family who’d been stuck in Nairobi when the nationwide lockdown was announced. The lease was under her name so while it was “a conversation”, it was technically her kicking me out. 

I shared my predicament with a family friend who’d previously proposed I move into the guest bedroom in her house as I saved to get my own place in exchange for my time tutoring her eleven year old daughter. In my desperation, I circled back to the conversation with her over a brief (and probably unexpected for her) call and she said the offer was still on the table. The truth is, I was scared of having to move back home, and I wasn’t financially ready to get my own place. Plus with all the uncertainty, I wasn’t sure if making an investment in an apartment made the most financial sense. The vision board started to feel useless, even though I still hung it on the wall closest to the door of my new but temporary room. 

I’d look at it everyday and try to think about the best and the worst case scenarios. I made peace with the hope that at best, one thing could come out of it – something that I had control over; and at worst, the rest of the things that had possibilities of being tanked by forces beyond my control would not come to be. 

I chose to spend less time obsessing over what was going wrong in my life and found some serenity reading. That year Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns and Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other became some of my favourite reads.

The uncertainty around the pandemic had made a lot of people sparing with their money and this prompted various sales from different companies – mostly those that dealt with items that weren’t primary essentials. I’d started saving some money and so began buying the essentials I needed for the place I was planning on finding and renting. I guess in some way my hope was slowly being restored as I tried to navigate what happiness looked and felt like each day. 

When the time came to begin my house hunt, I was mostly anxious about finding a suitable place. I didn’t want to get anywhere just for the sake, but wanted to find a place that ticked most of the ‘wants’ I had on my list, which ranged from my budget to my ideal location to the amenities that were in my non-negotiables category. It took me two weeks to find a decent one-bedroom, and another two to pay my deposit and first month’s rent. I had mixed feelings the day of my move, but I was mostly excited. 

The first night I spent in that little one bedroom was quiet; it was different, and I barely slept; I couldn’t contain my excitement – and for a moment I sat at the edge of my new bed, looking at my vision board, which I’d hung up on my bedroom door. The picture on it that illustrated the kind of place I wanted to live in, looked shockingly similar to the architectural design of my living room, and my navy blue velvet sofa was too similar to the one in the image. It seemed there was a psychology to the pattern of creating the vision board and looking at it daily – even in passing, as long as it was within view.

In 2021 I decided to make my second vision board, this time with a lot more thought. I didn’t let myself be too ambitious or too hopeful, but I left a section of the board blank – a space to note down any surprises at the end of the year when I would take stock of my year by reviewing the board. Sure enough, a few things had come to be – but even those that didn’t, I could see how I’d taken active steps to getting towards them. I was happy with myself, and I made a mental note to keep my vision board planning a habit.

I recently sat down and reviewed my 2022 vision board – the one that had a visual illustration of a passport and the word ‘travelling’; the one that captured my professional goals of writing and doing so to drive social change; the one that was guided by my words for the year: “ease” and “peace”. My 2022 vision board had some magic in it, and I can’t be convinced otherwise – because everything manifested in a way that I can’t explain. But that was the main thing that got me excited to make my 2023 vision board. I finished it a few days ago – and I’m not gonna lie, I’m stoked about what the year has in store for me, as well as what I have in store for me and the world around me.

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