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Ah, 2019

January 6, 2020

Ah, 2019. What a year it has been. I almost cannot believe the past twelve months have already passed us by. It feels as though I was standing outside in Vienna just a month ago, hugging random people I’d formed a strong bond with – well, for just that one evening – as my tiny bottle of champagne spilled over on my belongings. I promised myself then, that 2019 would be a year where I’d be happy, where I’d let go of negative influences in my life, where I’d stop missing those who wronged me, where I’d take control of my drinking habits and just live a good life. And I did – almost every resolution I made for this year was respected, bar perhaps my hope of illustrating more or improving in the kitchen. These are still my resolutions for 2020. Although I did just expand on my illustration freelance work so, that seems to be a very realistic resolution already! 

Anyway, that night was just so emotional. Once the clock struck midnight and the first of January came around, tears of joy and sadness and deep, riveting conversations took over. And it feels as though I’ve grown so much since. I’ll look at the things I accomplished in one year and can’t help but feel so proud of myself. I do hope that you’ll read this and take a step back to really evaluate how much of your mentality has changed over 2019, and really think about your accomplishments. A lot of what we take for granted and forget to think about it is often rather impressive.

2019 saw me grow as a creator. My aesthetic and visions came to life, my signature style has materialised. I think you’ll now know me by my brown theme, classic style and perhaps far too lengthy photo captions. A year ago? I was still very confused about that part of me. My personal love for content creation became my job, and has just now taken off, allowing me to embrace life as a self-employed content creator. I write, I photograph, I create brand identities through some design work, and I build a social media presence for brands and publications now. I also illustrate. AND I’ve just launched my new website, detailing the work I do for some of my clients. It doesn’t incorporate all of it, just the passion projects I currently devote myself to: natalya-vukovic.com

It wasn’t easy. I left a very comfortable job where I was incredibly undervalued, only to join what I thought would be my dream job, and ended up stressed, sickly, and doing the exact opposite of what I’d been promised. And so I left again. I didn’t really know what stability meant for the last half of this year! It was unplanned – something I never thought I would do without a job lined up. I never thought I’d enter the world of freelance so suddenly, without a concrete plan and enough clients to keep me steady. Yet the sudden change of plans gave me the push I required to really chase what I had been dreaming of for so long. And now? My own little freelance business has come about, and it is only a fraction of the creative business ventures I am visualising, the ones that will come to life over the next ten or twenty years of my life. Actually, it feels overwhelming. Having this many ideas and being nowhere close to the financial numbers required to kickstart most of them! But that’s alright, I suppose. There’s a lot more I’ve yet to learn first. 

Traveling had been a huge part of my life in 2019. In most people’s eyes, my trips for the year would seem very minor, but I didn’t grow up with the luxury to travel. I honestly barely had travelled, which is kind of annoying when you’re living on such a small island. So this year, I escaped to Madrid, Serbia, Sicily a couple of times, Paris, London, and Suffolk. I even embarked on a sailing trip around the Greek islands – the most adventurous, memorable, and motion sickness-inducing thing I’d ever done. I probably spent more than I had room for, but the memories are ones I’ll treasure forever. And the inspiration I acquire from my travels is unparalleled. To come back to this little island filled to the brim with ideas, photographs, and big goals? Heck, it’s worth the financial expense. 

The relationships I formed this year also made it a grand year. The older I grow, the pickier I become about who I surround myself with. I look back at friend groups I had in secondary school and wonder how I put up with such toxicity – not all past friendships were terrible, of course. Every relationship in your life serves some kind of purpose for that phase. Most of the time, you just grow out of your relationships. Still, observing my past romantic relationships is also odd. There was a lot I was willing to put up with at, say, age sixteen. Strength and confidence came with the experience I’ve built over the years, and 2019 further contributed to that. I look at the people I have in my life now, and I am so happy. So, so happy. I adore my friends – they are genuine, supportive, fun people I trust. They are beautiful souls with beautiful stories to tell, and that’s what I love the most. I want to be around interesting people, with aspirations and character depth; ones who will sit with you and spill out their most honest, compelling thoughts over a bottle of wine. And of course, I hope I am one of those individuals for them as well. 

One of the things I am most satisfied with having dealt with in 2019 was my tendency to drink too much. As is often the case in Malta, I began drinking excessively and partying from age thirteen. Those former years aren’t ones I miss, I hate the embarrassing stories and odd people I would meet through my bad habits. Over the years, the innocent shots of vodka and repulsive mixers turned into glasses of straight vodka, or some other spirit I’d calmly drink on its own, on a warm afternoon. I didn’t need to be in a party setting – I actually wasn’t, most of the time. It led to awful hangovers, wasted days, a lot of sporadic emotions and just an overall dissatisfactory feeling. I don’t quite like not being in control of myself and my emotions – I prefer to think of myself as a rather composed individual, someone who takes a logical approach to most situations. Alcohol took that away from me, and as someone who comes from a line of alcoholics, I have thankfully always been aware of the problem. I still drink, but I switched to a bottle of wine shared over an interesting conversation, and that odd, sad feeling has not returned since. I’m quite a boring person in the eyes of many; at age twenty, I probably live a bit more like a thirty year old would – bar the occasional unnecessary purchases I naively make. But I adore this lifestyle, mostly because it allows me to manage a career and surround myself with the right people. 

And so, I am pleased to welcome the new year with open arms. I cannot wait to see what it will bring, and what my twenties will introduce. I am excited to know what my career and relationships will evolve into. It’s going to be a great one, I can feel it. When writing all this, I also truly acknowledged my privileges. Growing up in a very broken family dynamic and with limited opportunities, I often pitied myself. I still don’t think I’ve had as much of an easy or typical upbringing as most Maltese twenty year olds, but it led me to accomplish a lot of things that many my age couldn’t. It really does put things into perspective – even when I’m stressed out, juggling my student loan and handling taxes as a self-employed individual, I do realise my lifestyle is a great, big luxury. Being able to do what I do is a luxury in itself. So my greatest aspiration for 2020? To spend less on frivolous items, support small businesses, and contribute more to causes I believe in. And I hope you will too <3

Natalya Vukovic