2023: The year I finally understood myself

After reviewing 2023, I did a quick high-level review of the previous years I have on record in my journal. 2022 is the year I started my journal in its current format, but I have spotty records going back to 2018 at least.

For every year I have on record, my annual intentions are mostly the same. I clearly struggled to actually make any progress on them.

They all really boil down to one underlying theme: find balance. Be more intentional. Be less reactive. Be structured.

This manifested in various aspects of my life as intentions to:

Every year, inevitably, I wouldn't make any meaningful progress on any of these things. As far back as my journal goes, and as far back as I can remember, I've been stuck in a cycle of hyperfixation and burnout.

I suspect I've been in chronic low-level burnout for a long time, with the actual level of burnout rising and falling like a roller coaster, depending on the circumstances of my life. Especially after a period of hyperfixation – where I would obsess over a new interest, lose sleep, but also feel incredibly lit up, engaged and excited – I would deepen my burnout to the point where I had zero motivation to do anything. I stopped enjoying things I usually enjoy. I woke up tired, and went to sleep tired. My focus was a shitshow, and it was “like I have ADHD” (I actually wrote this in a journal a few years ago, and somehow it took until 2023 for me to actually seek a diagnosis)

In 2023 – in fact, in the last two months of 2023 – this changed completely. What, exactly, changed?

Mid-way through the year, I discovered that I am Autistic.

This alone was a pretty fundamental shift in how I viewed and understood myself: finally everything in my life made sense. Why I felt so different from everybody else.

As I learned more about what being Autistic means, I learned about my needs (and that I even have needs!) and the necessity and impact of proper rest.

Going into 2024, I am confident, in a way I never have been before, in my ability to be more consistent by managing my energy and stressors and keeping myself out of burnout.

Let's take a deeper look at 2023, and what I've got planned for 2024.

Notable Events of 2023

2023 might go down as the year I had the longest hyperfixation episode. In March, we hired a bunch of new folks at work, which took a huge load off of me. As a result, I hyperfixated on work for four and a half months, from March to mid-July. It was so bad that I have very few journal entries for April and May, and literally none for June, because my journaling habits are often one of the first things to fall apart when I'm fixated.

I began to suspect I might be Autistic in August, and started doing a ton of reading and psychometric tests. For the most part, my lifestyle satisfies my needs, so I found it difficult to really feel confident in the idea of being Autistic. I waffled a lot. Maybe I am.... maybe I'm not.

In October, however, I had the opportunity to really explore being Autistic in an environment that very much did not satisfy my needs. We had to drop off the RV for service, and while that was happening, I stayed at my son's apartment where he lives with his fiancee.

This is a high rise apartment building, in a very dense neighbourhood, in Toronto. It is sensory overload, all the time. Being in that environment made it painfully obvious to me that, yes, I am Autistic.

I experienced my first post-discovery meltdown. I tried to cram too much stuff into one day – stressful things, too – and all of a sudden, dogs barking tipped me over the edge. My nervous system felt like it was on fire.

On top of all of that, there was a ton of uncertainty around when the RV service would be complete. The RV is our full-time home: this is akin to being evacuated from your house, with no communication or timeline on when you'll be able to return.

The sense of calm and peace I felt once we finally got the RV back was powerful. That whole experience only continued to validate for me that I am Autistic.

Throughout November and December, I learned more about burnout, my needs, and the importance of rest, and I prioritized burnout recovery by lowering my expectations of myself and resting as much as possible. Truly shutting off my brain and resting.

Accomplishments and Experiences of 2023

We drove up the Pacific coast, from Los Angeles to Vancouver, from February to April. We drove through the Canadian Rockies and across Canada back to Ontario from April to July. We got to see a ton of cool stuff!

We also did a road trip out to Nova Scotia, and parked on my best friend's property.

We spent five weeks living off-grid in a remote area of northern Ontario, and definitely plan to continue doing more of that in the future. We're even considering going off-grid for a couple of months in 2024.

I built a “schedule of interests” for myself, that I use to guide how I spend my time, to ensure that I am making progress on all the things I want to do. I also re-established some financial systems I had created a long time ago, and have been following them consistently for a couple of months.

Lessons of 2023

My intentions for 2024

For the first time ever, I feel like I've actually got a handle on most of the common themes that appear in my annual intentions:

✅ Self-care routines, especially understanding and advocating for my needs ✅ Financial systems with a detailed plan to get out of debt ✅ Building social connections – especially with the Autistic community, who I've been able to connect with more easily than any other community before ✅ Being more consistent with creative endeavours and learning new things

The only one missing is building passive income, and that's going to be a major priority for me in 2024.

My intentions for 2024 are to:

I realize these are vague... but a year is a really long time. My annual intentions are usually vague, and it's up to the shorter timeframes in my journal – quarters, months, and weeks – to interpret those and transform them into more concrete objectives.

I'm excited for 2024. I feel like I finally understand myself and what I need, and I'm hopeful and confident that everything I've learned about my needs will help me build a life that is sustainable, and in which I'm consistent in pursuing my goals and dreams.

Happy new year, y'all. I wish you the absolute best. Take care of yourself ❤️