The ROI Year: 2023

The ROI Year: 2023

Well mes chéries, nothing that happened in 2022 was on my bingo card.

I asked a few of my close friends what their word for the year 2023 is. I got intention, maturation, focus, exploration, fun, and growth so far. It’s pretty indicative of what shifts they want to make after reviewing their 2022s.

Now I don’t know a single person who had an enjoyable 2022. To quote my own words during a raging rant to my friend, “It feels like I’m being bitch-slapped repeatedly by the universe.” I’d ask my Tiktok FYP astrologists what the hell was up with last year, but we can only blame Mercury and Mars retrogrades so much. The reality is, the chaotic year of 2022 needed to happen after the “lost” year we had in 2020. The last two years have been an awkward transition into a foreign normal that we had to accept to survive. The simultaneous shifts in socializing, US and global politics, and work dynamics culminated in an extended time of painful growth and destruction for all of us. So many people have been challenged to face ugly truths and the reality of these shifts.

As someone who falls into habits and cycles easily, I understand how comforting something suboptimal can be. It’s familiar, predictable, easily manipulated. However, it’s stifling and regressive. It births toxicity over time. One of my favorite quotes from a former employer’s CEO is “Growth and comfort do not coexist.” It’s a motto I have continuously lived by since I first heard it during my internship orientation in 2016 and one of the reasons why that year was so pivotal for me – enough to be tattooed on my outer left wrist. If I was to add a year next to it, it would be 2022.

I am calling 2023 my ROI (return on investment) year because I hope to reap all the rewards of my self-work in 2021 and 2022. I’m starting the year in a brand new job where I skipped two title levels ahead with a total compensation package I only dreamed about getting by the time I was 28…and I did it at 27. I’m also starting the year with some of the healthiest mindsets I’ve ever had when it comes to dating and in the healthiest friendships. I barely dated for two years, allowing myself to heal and really work on becoming the fullest version of me so I can be open to love (rather than repeating toxic cycles) and my future family. Usually at this point in an anecdote like this, someone reading will say it’s just part of “maturing” or “growing up.” Some might even dare to say “you just got really lucky.” In fact, I might have even said that a few years ago. But to say that to anyone would discredit all of the intangible work put into personal growth and attaining success.

Let’s be very transparent: while I have dated in my own age group, I have also expanded the age range into the 40s many times. I have also befriended females years older than me. I can tell you right now that you don’t grow up in time; you grow up in experiences and what you make of them. I have always been more mature than my peers for reasons that have to do with my childhood that I will keep offline. It wasn’t until I went through the last 18 remorseless months that I truly learned how uncomfortable you have to be to grow and get to this “thriving” point I seem to be approaching. I faced two layoffs, an insane amount of production/heartbreak drama from the TV show, cutting off an entire friend group, two incidences with sexual harassment and assault, two illnesses followed by two deaths, challenging family matters, the decision to mend my relationship with my estranged father, long-term effects of COVID not once but twice, a minor concussion, cyberbullying, toxic relationship cycles, new health issues, a few scary experiences with the spiritual/psychic realm (oh yea, you read that right), rebirth of my faith, and an entire list of financial stresses that outdoes a CVS receipt.

But the most haunting thing I faced throughout all of that was this one question: What do you really want? Every time something occurred to lead me to an event I listed above, I had a choice to make. Each choice proved to me that I didn’t really know what I wanted, never mind what I needed. I ended up feeling like I was constantly short of breath wobbling on a slackline hanging between two balloons in the stratosphere that could disconnect and float away at any moment. The only safety plan I had was betting on my intuition and knowledge.

I started this blog to give my roaming thoughts a home. I started my podcast to tell stories and have unfiltered conversations. I started my YouTube channel to document my adventures and maturation into the woman I hope to become. But I started all of these things to hopefully reach someone who is feeling isolated or in need of inspiration. That being said, I’m not going to walk you through every gruesome detail of those 18 months or my one trillion emotions about it all. Instead, I’m going to leave you with just three things I learned throughout that time that brought me to sturdy ground:

  1. What you want cannot be found in things but rather in feelings.
  2. There are no such thing as cons. Every con can be turned into a pro.
  3. Have faith.

And what does that mean?

  1. We often chase tangible items (a new Chanel bag, a job title, a boy). We forget that what we really want are the way certain things make us feel. For example, we don’t want a billion dollars necessarily (although that would be nice); we want the feeling of security, success, abundance. Find people or experiences that give us those feelings, not things that shallowly represent them.
  2. Someone wise recently told me that there are no such things as cons. The cons list is a list of opportunities. They’re growth levers that will always end up working in your favor if you act smartly. I didn’t realized I had been doing this subconsciously, and it’s probably the main reason I was able to combat anything.
  3. You will never be handed something you can’t handle. It will always work out in the end.

This past year may have been the hardest one yet, but I can safely say there are no cons. Every challenge and obstacle gifted me a win that brought me the feelings I have chased after all my life. The few friends I lost gifted me with time to meet over ten incredible new friends in 2022. The jobs I lost gifted me with the best growth in my career. The guys who didn’t last long gifted me with comfort knowing I had learned my lessons and am no longer easily susceptible to the same games. And all those negative things that happened in my life gifted me with room for deep bonding moments with loved ones and healing of old wounds.

Last year, my word was intention. This year, my word is faith. It’s time to stop wondering why I was able to skip two levels in my career or how I survived the shitstorm 18 months. It’s time for me to start having a little more faith in my strength and capabilities and a little more faith that things are truly working out for the best.

The same goes for you. Ruminate on that.

Until next time, bisou bisou…





Erica Huang
Erica Huang

Based in New York City, Erica Huang is the creator and voice behind Bouge & Rouge. This blog is a playground of her thoughts where she invites you to join her on her journey through her 20s. Erica shares her lifestyle, fashion and beauty tips, adventures, and personal thoughts with the goal of inspiring others to always persevere and be unapologetically yourself.

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