Looking back: lessons of 2015

I tend to be a pensive person anyway, but the fact that Christmas, my birthday and New Years all cram into one week – I go into major reflective mode.

It was a complicated year in many ways. But isn’t that how it always goes? Ups and downs, success and challenges, joy and suffering. But I learned some important things this year:

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable can have some serious rewards


This one shocks me. Public speaking seems like a terrible idea for an introvert with social anxiety. But I get to talk at conferences, schools, libraries and organizations about the topics I love – authenticity, passion, living your true path even if it’s different from what people expected. It’s never easy, but every time I do it, I realize that it doesn’t kill me. It’s actually good fun and I’ve met some incredible people. I’m looking forward to the events I have scheduled for 2016.


Need something? Start something.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.35.47 AM

Here’s the thing about being a writer – you spend a whole lot of time alone, starring at a screen. I love talking to other writers at conferences, but realized I was missing that at home. I wanted that kinship but I didn’t really know where to find it. So, I created it. I invited a few writers to have tea with me on the first Wednesday of the month and talk about our work. And books and words and pens.

This little group now brings me such joy. We get together to talk about things that spark or challenge us and we commit to accomplish certain things by our next meeting. It’s all very responsible and keeps us accountable. But more than that, we have a deep sense of community and connection. We send  little messages of encouragement and vent to each other when Salon.com doesn’t return our email. (Ahem.)

It’s so important to have a support system – but these things aren’t automatic. I had to reach out and create the community that I was missing. I didn’t know the people in my writing group very well when I invited them to tea, but now they are my sisters in words. It takes some courage and effort, but it feels amazing to mindfully create the things you need.


Being a teacher doesn’t mean you have all the answers


I started teaching an online memoir writing class this year through Writing Pad. I was scared out of my mind to do it. Like, two hours before the first class started I was pacing my house and crying. What if my students grilled me about non-defining relative clauses? What right do I have to tell anyone anything? I don’t have any fancy degrees. Hell, I was tossed out of high school.

And at the end, my class and I were all swapping information and saying how much we loved each other.

I found that my job was to encourage others to be their most brave selves so they could share their stories. My job was also to be myself and put my own spin on things, like talking about the Hero’s Journey as it pertains to Dr. Seuss. I’m thrilled to be able to teach another class in January.

I’ll be a student forever



Yoga isn’t just exercise for me – it’s a way of life. I wanted to learn more about the practice, so I took a yoga intensive teacher training this year.

Yoga for me has been such a powerful tool for getting my anxiety under control. It’s a full body/mind/spirit cleansing. Whenever I get overwhelmed and need to get my head right – I hit my mat. I love being able to share that with other people. And it’s fun to do yoga-pretzel poses at parties.


Marking death is celebrating life

g and me

My Gramma passed away this year and that loss is still sharp for me. But I get my love for words from her, so I feel like I get to continue in her footsteps. She was my first yoga student and one of my first blog readers. I will continue to work on my terrible spelling in her honor.


Everyone defines success for themselves

I got to open a big box and it was full of my words. And while it’s fantastic that my memoir You Look Like That Girl was published, I’ve been staying away from the reviews, sales stats and the Amazon rankings. I don’t want to get caught up in those traditional markers of status. That stuff doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as getting a note from someone who said they enjoyed it and felt that it resonated with them somehow. Besides, I figure if I made it to some best seller list or won a Pulitzer – someone would let me know.

I write because I think words are an incredible way to connect. That’s why I love personalizing books for people. There is something really cool about the idea that the book goes directly from my hands to yours. And recording the audiobook was crazy good fun – I like that I get to keep people company on their commute.


Book tours and interviews are cool…but…


I did a book tour for You Look Like That Girl and read in bookstores all over the place. Sometimes lots of people showed up, sometimes not so much. I did live interviews on morning television and I called in to twelve radio shows in two hours. Sometimes I was eloquent and witty, sometimes I got tongue-tied and spilled something on my shirt. Some interviewers were great and others made me respond “I’m not going to answer that” – repeatedly. It was fun and I’m grateful to have had the experience because it allowed me to connect with even more people. But it was also nerve-wracking and I had to wear nice shoes and they put lots of makeup on me. Life is this continual balance, and I’m just learning how to surf those waves without falling on my face.


What is 2016 going to be about for me? More writing. More connecting. I’m working on my next book – it is about anxiety, panic attacks and depression. It’s my story, as well as the stories of others, told with love, humor and a whole bunch of legit sciencey research. This topic is incredibly important to me, and a big thank you to those of you who have contacted me to say that you are looking forward to reading it. That keeps my fingers on the keyboard, even when there is a Downton Abbey marathon calling to me.

As always, I am entirely grateful for all the support I’ve received from readers. I could not be doing any of this without you and so thank you thank you thank you. The community that we have created around this blog and social media has given me faith in the humanity that can be found in the world. There is a lot of crummy stuff out there – and there is also so much kindness. Y’all rock.

Okay, now you go. What were the coolest things you got to do in 2015?

Happy new year, everyone!

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22 Replies to “Looking back: lessons of 2015”

  1. I published my first novel (Next Stop: Nina) in 2015. It has been the biggest year of change in my life. I learned about the depth of love that I’m capable of feeling. I have very much enjoyed your writing. It’s been a great year. May your 2016 be wonderful. The best is yet to come!

  2. Wow! Your 2015 was very memorable indeed 🙂 Congratulations on all of your achievements! Especially on your book, which really was fantastic. I’m sure you will look back on 2015 with very fond memories in years to come.

    The way you have written this post is a lesson in itself. We should all try to take something from everything we do, be it good or bad. Even in adversity and sad times, you have still tried to take something positive from it. I’m definitely going to try and do this more next year – especially the getting comfortable with being uncomfortable part!

    Well, the biggest thing that I’ll remember 2015 for, was getting engaged on my 30th birthday which also happens to be Valentines day! On a lesser note, I managed to successfully take a ‘photo of the day’ everyday for the whole year on Instagram…I will not be doing this again! I won’t miss the regular panic that often ensued as I noticed it was 11.55pm and without a photo, resulting in about 50 photos of the cat and at least 50 of various household objects! However, Jasmine the cat proudly posed with your book on day 203/365, so that was an easy one 🙂

    Wishing you a very happy new year, Lisa! Thanks so much for everything you share.

    Here’s to 2016!

    Louise x

  3. It was a good year for me, with ups and downs, but fortunately more ups than downs.
    Have a great 2016 and as an Irish blessing says, “may the best day of your past be the worst day of your future” 🙂

  4. Sounds like your 2015 included a lot of learning and growing…and a lot of happiness in recompense, which is a lovely sort of reward for all that growth. Hope that the coming year brings all the more.

    As a natural extrovert sometimes it’s hard for me to really appreciate the strength it takes to put on those nice shoes and face a lot of strangers. But I do understand that it can take more courage than I can imagine, and so as we used to say, hooah, you; pick up your decoration at the orderly room!

    Looking forward to reading your new work…

  5. What an honest, reflective year-end review! My 2015 has also been filled with ups and downs, but with that comes immeasurable growth. I got my first freelance contracted position, traveled around the globe, strengthened my meaningful relationships and spoke up about my anxiety. Hopefully 2016 will have more ups than downs; I’m embarking on an entirely new and foreign adventure. But that’s what fuels me and keeps my anxiety at bay! Best of luck to you in the New Year!

  6. hi Lisa- i too crammed Christmas, my birthday on new years eve and new years into one week. complicated yr for me too- pipes break in an office building last feb shutting us down for 2 weeks; loss of a father in law; double move for the law firm over the span of 3 months etc etc i guess its reflective mode time for me as well as i look back on 2015. Alot of positive things to be thankful for as well however. enjoyed your book and even bought one at xmas for my sister. hope 2016 is a good one for you Best regards, Mark Ventrone-Syracuse, NY

  7. Lisa,You speak with such passion! Thank you for the inspiration. Happy New Year to you and your family. Joe Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Rogers network. From: Lisa JakubSent: Thursday, December 31, 2015 8:44 AMTo: jtpavia@rogers.comReply To: Lisa JakubSubject: [New post] Looking back: lessons of 2015

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    /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ WordPress.com

    Lisa posted: “I tend to be a pensive person anyway, but the fact that Christmas, my birthday and New Years all cram into one week – I go into major reflective mode.

    It was a complicated year in many ways. But isn’t that always the way? Ups and downs, success and cha”

  8. When my daughter was about to graduate high school and we all had such high hopes for her, she looked at me and said, “What if I don’t want to change the world?” In truth, she had no idea what she wanted to do. After months of soul searching, she decided that she wanted to be a nurse. She succeeded. And although she may not be changing the world, she IS making someone’s world better, one patient at a time. You remind me of her, Lisa. Your honesty and your passion give us insight and give us hope, one person, one reader, one follower at a time.

    Happy New Year, Lisa. And may 2016 bring only good things to you.

  9. This brings tears to my eyes. Happy ones. One of the coolest things that happened to me was that I started calling myself a writer. And I got rejected by the New York Times! Huzzah! ❤

  10. Hello Lisa! Just dropping in on friends, followers, and favorite bloggers.

    Despite its ups and downs, 2015 was a pretty rockin’ year for me. Some things I accomplished included officially becoming a dual citizen and getting my second passport, officially becoming an advisor for my fraternity, being a backup dancer in a music video, learning how to paddle board, visiting Montreal and Prince Edward Island for the first time, fronting a salsa band, surviving my first semester of teaching at the university level, meeting/becoming friends with a reality TV show winner, and doing a self-choreographed partner performance in ballroom dance showcase for the first time.

    My goal in 2016? To get more blog followers (hopefully), become ABD, and to read your book!

  11. I just started following you this past year, and I learn much, am really inspired by, and occasionally amazed by what I read in your posts. The hardest part of this writing thing is not to be intimidated by that blank screen; I think this year I let it intimidate me just a bit too much. Reading this . . . it’s nice not to be alone. So thank you and keep inspiring and amazing.

  12. I’m very excited to read your next book…even if I haven’t read your current one yet. One of those terribly great things about being a writer and a reader, I have literately boxes full of books I haven’t read yet. I can’t explain it but there was a weight that lifted off of me when I read the topic of your next book. You’re such a fantastic writer that I’m confident that you will be able to talk about a subject that I’m unfortunately familiar with in a way that will be flawless. I hope you have an amazing 2016! Happy New Year!

    1. I’m so thrilled to hear it! Thanks so much for the kind words. It’s so nice to know that people are excited for the next book…

    1. Hi Jim,
      If you are talking about subscribing so that posts are sent to your email, enter your new email in the follow box at the top right side of the page. I’m not able to sign up for you.

  13. This is a wonderful article. I’m trying to grow as a writer and push myself up a notch. I’ve been submitting to some magazines even though it’s stepping out of my comfort zone. I really like your idea of getting a group of writer’s together and am going to try the same thing. We’ll see if it works. Your new book sounds great. When will it be out?

  14. Oh! Your section about what you’ve been up to according to the internet is HYSTERICAL. And there are people who actually believe all that. Your comments are priceless.

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