Sunday, March 12, 2017

Looking back on 2016

Common themes in my Instagram best nine of 2016 - water, mountains, sunsets, Austin. Sounds about right.

On January 1, 2016, I felt like I was getting on a train ride that I didn't know where it would take me. I knew there would be some serious ups and downs, but couldn't picture the destination. I knew I would be in grad school in a new-to-me part of the United States -- but there were a lot of details missing from that picture.

And it turned out that the train was a rollercoaster (how far can I stretch this metaphor??) Because like a rollercoaster, I ended up in much the same place that I started -- still in DC, still at my job -- but my insides feel all different after the ride.
To recap-- January saw me submitting my last few graduate applications, then I heard back from schools when I was in Tunisia in February and March, decided on Fletcher in April, gave my notice at work in May and then accepted their offer of a promotion and a new portfolio if I deferred for a year. Over a summer of weddings and travel, we packed up our DC apartment and in August, we moved Austin to Cambridge for law school while I moved in with my parents. From October to December, I worked in southern Turkey on our programs in Syria. 
All in all it was a very good year for me personally (as much as that feels out of step with the mood of the country and the horror of a Trump presidency sneaking in at the end). While there were highs and lows, they were all in the service of growth.

Lessons learned

+ that I can trust myself to do the right thing when the right moment comes. I didn't consciously reference my word very often, but it was humming in the background. What I am taking away from 2016 is a deeper well of trust in myself, in my ability to make decisions and to steer my own life.

+ that while you can't control how people respond to you, you can act in a way that you can be proud of. I, like everyone else, am constantly learning that I can't control everything - but I have a new appreciation for the fact that I can put my best foot forward and let my satisfaction come from the knowledge that I did my best.

+ there is no "ready" and no "perfect time." This is a theme that came up repeatedly in conversations with my friends and Austin. Life is always going to be crazy, and it is only going to get crazier as we accumulate responsibilities. The things any of us want to do are always going to be at least a bit inconvenient. There is no sense in waiting for a quieter time or a more opportune moment to dive in.


Professionally, this was a good and busy year for me. I got promoted to a position that, for the first time in my career, does not have the words "intern" or "assistant" in the title. I authored (or played a major role in) two public opinion research reports. I took the lead on two major proposals that landed us more money. And I spent nearly three months working abroad in Tunisia and Turkey, the most in any year since I started this job. Like everyone, I sometimes get bogged down in the day-to-day and so it's cool to look back and realize that I'm now doing things I've wanted to do since the beginning of my career.

This was one of the funnest years ever. We went to four of our best friends' weddings, nicely spaced throughout the summer, and had a blast. While I feel like I worked more than ever before, I also took more vacation time.

New countries visited --  British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Cyprus. The fun part about these is that I would not have guessed them at the beginning of the year. And between the Caribbean and Cyprus, I visited eight islands total.


With everything else going on this year, I didn't too much creatively. Ironically, I did more blogging and creating even while balancing the grad school application process last year than I did this year, when I was excited to have more time and bandwidth for that. I am resolving to get back into the habit of finding little pockets of time to be creative because as referenced above, I am never going to magically have more time.

More miles, fewer races. I was 2/2 for signing up for races (the DC Rock and Roll half marathon and the St. Michaels Running Festival) and then being out of town and not running them. As I've done the last three years, I tried and failed to run 365 miles-- but I did run more miles (about 180) than I had since I started keeping track, so that was a win.


So long to 2016! You were a trip. And with more travel and a move to Boston (for real this time!) on the horizon, 2017 promises to match it for adventure.