The blog is back – and that means, so is sharing my thoughts and personal journey here. As I return to the blog for the first time in almost two years, I feel compelled to write about some of the major changes that have since taken place. And as the sun sets on 2023, I find myself in a quiet moment of reflection. This year has brought about profound change and self-discovery. It was a year in which I consciously began tailoring my life to align with the person I most aspire to be, a journey that led me to understand and embrace my inner self like never before.
2023 commenced on a challenging note. Around Christmastime last year, my main job and source of income came to a close, as the company let go of all its employees and contractors from one day to the next. I remember feeling a little bit scared, because I had just signed on year-long contracts with an accounting firm and switched my business base + setup based on the financial comfort I held last year and what I had forecasted for 2023. The timing could not be worse, but I remained hopeful. I’ve always believed that with every close, comes an opening of some sort. And it was in that moment that I decided I would jump back to pursuing my dreams wholeheartedly, following a slight dip in motivation brought about by the pandemic and a looming recession. So I waltzed around my office that very day, a little bit frantic but mostly just happy. I felt I could trust the process. I’d be lying if I said that my positivity stuck through the coming months. There were lots of ups and downs. I was starting from scratch. A new business set up, a new city. But then I took the time to really think of the things that made me happy – the things I could imagine myself doing for the rest of my life. And that’s how my media studio expanded into a branding studio, and I joined forces with other creatives to provide my clients with a fully-fledged creative team that would help them achieve their goals. I began to study brand design in detail and built a solid strategy for VIĆ Studio – and things have looked up since.
The most heart-wrenching yet transformative experience was the loss of my beloved mother. Earlier this year, my darling mum suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at the young age of forty-three, together with the baby she carried, due to a pulmonary embolism. I had never experienced grief on this scale before – it was all-consuming, and it became a catalyst for profound self-discovery. I found solace in the arms of my loved ones, and I took time to journal and reflect, both at therapy and in my everyday life. My mother was my twin in some ways, just as much of a dreamer and as sensitive and nurturing as myself. She loved cats, much like myself, and loved to write. I always knew what was on her mind, because we were so alike. She knew me so well, more than most people too – despite not having spent as much time with one another as you would expect from a typical mother-daughter relationship. She was never not smiling, and empathetically reaching out to loved ones to offer a shoulder to cry on. She was the kindest, bravest soul who had endured so much as a result of her first marriage – yet she dedicated most of her days to being there for others.
Her passing brought me closer to my maternal family, particularly my three half-siblings. Being the eldest sibling (eight years older than the eldest of them three!) I had grown up independently, mainly with the paternal side of my family and under the control of my father, and felt like an only child for most of my life. And then that all changed in the most bizarre of ways, overnight, when my mother passed. We became one family – the divide between maternal and paternal fizzled away and never came back. We grew immensely close, and I felt inclined to protect them in ways I never knew before. Which resulted in me travelling back to Malta frequently, a lot more than I had ever planned.
Simultaneously, this period of mourning allowed me to identify and distance myself from toxic relationships and environments. It was a tough lesson in the importance of nurturing healthy connections. When you lose someone you cherished and begin to truly understand how fragile and fleeting life is, everything else begins to feel futile. And suddenly, it becomes easier to let go of things that bring you pain. Unhealthy friendships that feel more draining than anything else, or situations that continuously test your boundaries and morality, no longer feel worth fighting for. While my mother’s passing brought me closer to certain people, it also served as a wake up call to take my distance from others. One of those was my own father, following a lifetime of psychological trauma that I spent years recovering from. I don’t know if I am yet ready to write about that part of my life, and that story is too long for a blog post… It might feature in a book one day! But what I mean to say is, you aren’t bound to biological relations. You can choose your own family. And 2023 was the year I truly began to understand what that meant. 2023 was the year I lost both of my parents, you could say. And that is what propelled me to move forward and do better, be better.
One of my dear, wise friends said that very phrase to me one evening, when I was sitting at home, overwhelmed at the thought of the coming week. She also urged me to take more space. I have been a people-pleaser for most of my life. I would always say yes to something that mattered to someone I cared about, regardless of what I needed, and then never cancel in fear of letting them down – and then I would be tired, overwhelmed, sometimes physically unwell due to my failed attempt at juggling it all. And this year I experienced those symptoms more than ever. I was grieving and supporting family through the loss they too experienced, not particularly keen on doing much else – but life goes on. Birthdays, weddings, social events, work and travel plans are still happening. And the smaller, day to day things – you cannot just abandon everything. But when I heard her say those words – simple, but impactful – something just clicked. I suddenly realised that if I was unhappy, I could make the change. I could say no. I had full control over my own choices, and my own happiness. Again, this may not have had the impact it did if I hadn’t just been through a life-changing experience that shook me to my core. But now it did, and I suddenly gained the strength to begin prioritising my self, politely declining requests that drained me, and scheduling in time for my wellbeing. Real, uninterrupted, self-care time. It all formed part of my mission to form a kind relationship with my self. People who know you and love you will understand. They’ll never expect more than you can give. And the people who don’t get it, or try to get it? Those aren’t the people you’ll want on your healthy journey anyway. Moreover, you’ll quite quickly realise that saying yes to everyone and everything attracts some wrong people, for the wrong reasons. And you’ll also notice that if you do not prioritise and say no from time to time, you will be too thinly spread out to be mentally present and genuinely involved for those who need it or deserve it more.
When I made the decision to work on my mental well-being, and persevere through the challenges that the first half of 2023 brought about, my physical well-being improved, too. I knew that in order to introduce habits that aided me mentally, I would partially be relying on physical activity. So I would go on a walk every time I felt overwhelmed or sad. I tried several different forms of sports until I found what I loved – mainly aerial pilates and dance, followed by golf – and then I made sure to fit at least two of those every week. I researched food that helped with a healthy hormonal balance and certain food intolerances I struggled with. And then I tackled my hormonal imbalance with the help of a dedicated doctor and a continued lifestyle shift. That included tailoring my days according to my cycle (more on that on another blog post!). Sure enough, within a matter of months, I began to feel healthier and happier.
You might know this through Instagram, but if not – Marcus proposed to me last year, in a rustic Tuscan cottage we stopped at on our road trip from Malta to Barcelona. I wholeheartedly said yes – and what a whirlwind of beautiful milestones and emotions we’ve experienced since then! And earlier this year, surrounded by our nearest and dearest, we celebrated our love in a picturesque Mediterranean villa. The Maltese breeze, the laughter of friends, and the golden sunsets provided a backdrop for memories that will last a lifetime. We have yet to begin planning our wedding – but you’ll be the first to know when we do!
As I pen down these reflections, I realise that 2023 was not just another year; it was a chapter of metamorphosis. It was about embracing change, learning from loss, finding strength in vulnerability, and celebrating love and life in its myriad forms. I do wonder what 2024 will hold – a second home and three gorgeous weddings are already on the horizon! And this blog will document it all.