Life Lately: December and a Review of 2023

I realized this morning that it’s already the last Friday of the month and I had completely forgotten about my monthly updates (which should have gone out yesterday). I thought about just skipping them and coming back in the new year. But then I realized that this roundup is also my chance to share some of the private insights I’ve had as I’ve started to review my 2023 over the past couple of weeks.

So I just had to sit down, write, and publish as soon as I got back home.

The reason this felt so important is that both this blog and the people who read it—especially those who share their own thoughts and reflections with me—have been a huge part of my life this year. In many ways, this has been my safe, happy place in one of the most difficult years of my life.

2023 has been a rollercoaster.

I’ve been heartbroken, overwhelmed, and just purely exhausted for much of the year. I’ve felt lost, fearful, and I’ve doubted myself more than I ever have before—so much so that at times I felt like I’d even lost the purpose of my entire career in fashion studies.

But in 2023 I also saw some of my biggest accomplishments in my life so far. It was a year filled with love, gratitude, and growth. And I felt like I was surrounded by the most amazing beings pretty much every single day of the year—even when I felt isolated from some of the people I love the most.

So, to celebrate the end of this bittersweet year, I want to share some of its highs in this final monthly roundup of 2023.

I am consciously choosing not to talk about the many lows to end the year on a positive note—and because you’ve already witnessed enough as I’ve navigated through my heartbreak, self-doubts, and burnout over the past few months. This time around I’m also skipping my usual “Food for Thought” section, but I promise to share a snapshot of my January study guide via email next week (and you can access the full thing on Patreon, as always).

Laura’s 2023 highlights

I’ve gathered a list of 12 professional highlights (one per month) for this year. I’ve already shared some of them with you in past issues or on social media, so they might not come as a surprise. But today I want to acknowledge that I couldn’t have accomplished many of these highlights without you.

Thank you, thank you for believing in me, for supporting my work, and for being and staying here throughout the year(s). I hope we can continue to grow together and find more ways to expand our knowledge of fashion studies to reshape the industry and create a better future for fashion ⭐️

  1. I rejoined the team at The Fashion and Race Database, where I’ve gotten to share some of my research, gather new study resources for more diverse fashion narratives, and help design a more comprehensive editorial strategy and upcoming courses.
  2. I submitted my Ph.D. dissertation for review by a panel of scholars I respect and admire and was immensely proud to receive their positive feedback and encouragement to continue pursuing research that integrates the history of colonialism with present-day fashion practices.
  3. I presented part of the most difficult chapter to write of my Ph.D. dissertation—on tailors and markets for fashion and textiles in the colonial Andes—at the RSA Annual Conference in Puerto Rico and rekindled my love for art historians and academic events.
  4. I gathered the courage to resign from a job that was no longer making me happy and was starting to feel like I was everyone else’s dream but mine, only to work on reconnecting with my life purpose beyond my career in fashion studies.
  5. I graduated from my Ph.D. after five of the most difficult years of my life and the hardest research project I’ve embarked on so far.
  6. I supervised four graduation projects and juried a Master’s thesis and I couldn’t be more proud of what resulted from my superstar students’ creative practices when met with some slow research and lots of critical thinking.
  7. I launched my first self-paced course on fashion studies (in Spanish) and redesigned the entire strategy at Culturas de Moda, where a growing team of rockstars is helping me build an entire educational platform dedicated to expanding knowledge on fashion studies for Spanish speakers.
  8. I re-launched my Patreon, this time opening a space for a monthly book club, which has become my favorite hour of the month in no time!
  9. I was offered a new job in a place that I believe is striving to integrate fashion studies more thoroughly into design practice, and where I’ll get to work with some of the people I’ve been admiring for years from afar.
  10. I pitched one of my “crazy” ideas to one of the fashion curators I admire the most and received an astounding yes as a reply—and now I’m working to bring it all to fruition by the beginning of May.
  11. I met with the exhibitions team at one of my favorite museums in the whole wide world to officially start planning an upcoming exhibition based on my research on colonial Spanish American fashion—some of which I shared in my Instagram takeover for The Art of Dress (a bonus highlight of this year).
  12. I launched a brand new podcast, where I’ve collected all of my “loose thoughts” from the past couple of years and I’ll share some additional ideas and inspiring interviews with amazing fashion thinkers from around the world starting in only a couple of weeks.

As I reread my list, I suddenly felt like all the weight of the difficulties of the year disappeared—although this is perhaps also the result of all the hard emotional labor I’ve done to reckon with and process them. The result is that now I feel quite positive and excited for what’s to come next year.

But before moving forward, I do want to share some unsolicited advice for those who are struggling to find a positive end to this year: Sit with your emotions and all the difficulties first, honor them, and have compassion with yourself before moving forward. It has certainly helped me get here and it has taken me months to see the highs in this very difficult year of my life. (And feel free to reach out if you want to know more of what I’ve done to get here—but please know that I’m no certified therapist and can only share my personal experiences.)

Coming up next year

I’ve been hinting at some big news for months now and I’m finally ready to share that I’ll be starting a “new” life in the UK in January (as I briefly mentioned on Instagram yesterday). I’ll share more details in the new year but, for now, I can say that I’ll return to a formal academic setting while I continue to research and write for the FRD and grow my independent practice as a consultant.

I’ve been in conversations to publish a couple of books (one in English, one in Spanish) so I hope to be able to formalize the contracts and write the full manuscripts over the next year. And I’ve been invited by some of the most incredible groups of researchers of colonial art in the Andes to join them in a project that I’m very much looking forward to.

Finally, I’ll continue to write my weekly newsletter + blog combo, host my all-time favorite book club, publish new educational content over at Culturas de Moda, and grow my newborn podcast (which I’m still over the moon with).

As always, I’ll share my updates over here as they come up. Please subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t already to be the first to know via email!

Thank you, thank you for reading and for all your support over the years. I hope you have a beautiful end of the year and an exciting start to 2024!

Until next time,

—L 🩷

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