What a year.

Wars. Unfathomable suffering. Hate. Bigotry. Genocides. Natural disasters. People dying way too young. Right-wing rising. Decades of trying to create equity eroding. Emotional and mental breakdown at every turn. After every news report.

2023 is certainly one I will never forget.

I started the year with a month of rest. That was what has sustained me in addition to my tight family, close friends, and my faith in God. Taking each day one hour at a time. Fiercely protecting my kids and keeping them offline. Fiercely protecting my space, peace and energy. Removing myself from spaces and places I’ve simply outgrown. From conversations that don’t advance our greater good and humanity.

When I chose “GRACE” as my focus word for 2023, there were six aspects of my life I wanted to apply this word in.

(1) If it doesn’t align with my purpose or energy, I won’t be in those places, spaces, and relationships.

In 2023, I quietly removed myself from a lot of places and relationships. I no longer exert my energy in spaces where I’m not respected, appreciated or valued. Places where I’m taken for granted. This also means having even tighter boundaries and access going into 2024.

(2) Choosing the quality of how I fully show up in all I do. Moving with intention in a smooth and relaxed way.

It has been incredible to witness the personal growth I’ve gone through this year. In under one year, I’ve matured in many ways. 

Beyond turning 45 this year, my energy field settled.

Situations that would have phased me in the past simply don’t fluster me anymore. Spaces which excluded me in the past I now simply view as small ponds. Having an abundance mindset means naturally moving towards the ocean.

I showed up more fully with intention, more wisdom, and more grounding. And I am organically expanding and evolving in ways that feel right, and not just for the sake of relevance.

I am simply becoming and it has been incredible to witness from within.

(3) Using God’s gifts in my life as a storyteller and artist to keep creating work that makes others feel fully seen and less alone.

My fifth book and second novel, EVERYTHING IS NOT ENOUGH, was published this year to such incredible reception from the likes of Jennette McCurdy’s Book Club, The Washington Post, The Sunday Times, Vanity Fair, Shondaland, and so many more. 

In addition to several travels, I led my own photography experiences in Croatia and Mongolia. I led a cultural expedition to Greenland and directed a short documentary there. I took 30 travel writing university students to Croatia. My favorite Danish actor Pilou Asbæk even sent them a personal greeting. I developed my craft in Estonia under the tutelage of legendary master of light Joe McNally. I held another solo exhibition in Stockholm. My name was plastered across the freaking side of a building!

Lola Akinmade Åkerström

And if you followed my news across social media, there was at least something worth celebrating and being grateful for every single week.

Because I live the Biblical parable of the talents, I use my God-given talents and voice in service. And my purpose and act of service is to make people feel seen, heard, and acknowledged through my work.

(4) Moving with a spirit of abundance and gratitude before, during, and after every metaphoric meal and provision in my life.

On paper, 2023 was an incredible year in terms of professional growth and reach for my work. Every week brought humbling moments for praise and gratitude.

Personally and privately, it was my worst year. 

I went through a difficult divorce stemming from close to five years of emotional and mental strife. Leaving a relationship of 17 years is never easy. I essentially had to rebuild my life from the ground up once more. Moving into an empty place and making it a home within a week.

Two of my good friends died too young; one of which was one of my five closest friends here in Stockholm. 

I gained weight from stress. Not entirely from comfort eating, but from absorbing draining and stressful energy around me because I am that sensitive. I was so emotionally drained that I could barely fit in routine exercise. This is also why I often retreated into my own corner and bubble of isolation to recharge for long stretches of time. Away from friends and family too. Away from external energy.  So I can reset and forge on.

I am not a bottomless well of strength, but 2023 definitely showed me just how emotionally strong, mentally powerful, and resilient I am.

And for this, I remain eternally grateful.

(5) Giving myself all the time and care I need to move through this season of my life at my own pace.

Because 2023 was my unhealthiest year physically, I also decided to do a photo shoot with the incredible Jessica Wikström to celebrate myself and just how far I have come instead of focusing on that. Wading through an emotional minefield and patching up clipped wings almost every single day for the last couple of years, while still showing up fully for my kids, my work, and for myself required supernatural grace. 

And God came through for me, holding me, guiding me, and giving me strength.

So when I look at these photos which capture this particular moment in time, they will always remind me of that joyful liberating moment when I chose me and the life I deserve to start living.

(6) Being thoughtful in my words and considerate in my delivery. Taking up space with full presence

And boy did I take up space. I finally stopped dimming my light.

As I said at the beginning of the year, I will continue to manifest grace, love, and compassion in my character and all I do. I will continue to bestow mercy, walk in kindness, never dim my light, and let the deep beauty within continue to surface.

I will continue to give grace and hold space because I write this year-end reflection as a product of divine favor.

May 2024 be full of grace for you and your loved ones.

As always, thank you for your incredible support.