If nothing else, doing a lil yearly recap simply reminds me of this quote: "the days are long, but the years are short." It is easy to get lost in the grind: wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch tv or read, go to bed. Rinse and repeat.
Add a toddler to the mix and all of that is just a little more exhausting and looooong. For example, in the past 24 hours, I said the phrase "you can't watch Trolls again today until you pick up your dinosaurs," "please stop throwing your food," "get off the ground, now, we are leaving this store" and "you have to wear a hat, it's -17 outside." Of course, all of that is measured with snuggly cuddles on the couch, the sweetest smiles in the morning, and a big "Mom!" shout when I pick up from daycare.
Within that somewhat mundane but also magical daily existence, it is also easy to forget that I did some cool shit this year! Here's a quick list of highs and lows from 2017.
High: Buying our first house and making it our own. YAY. We saved for a down payment for more than a year and took advantage of some work bonuses and extra income. Having a home to call our own is a luxury, and I'm grateful we are financially able. We did a ton of projects around the house as well, like redoing our basement completely, updating a bathroom, light fixtures, backyard landscaping, cleaning and repainting the deck, all the painting, and a kitchen backsplash. And the fact that I don't have to scrape off a car windshield in the dead of winter like I've done the past 10 years of my life? #garagesareamazing
Low: Not really sticking to a budget. Luckily, this wasn't a huge issue, but it's not a great way to be fiscally responsible. We would save up for a while, then blow money on a project we all of a sudden decided to do, or go on a trip, or enjoy some pricey wine out. We were fortunate to be able to make those privileged decisions, and we didn't spend outside of our means, but next year my goal is to be much more mindful with finances instead of feeling like I don't always totally know where our money is going.
High: Making 6x my freelance income goal. This.... still shocks me. I had set a small goal a year ago, thinking, "Okay, if I made X amount with freelance work on the side, that'd be super cool." Then the more I worked, the more I made, and the more I put myself out there, the more other opportunities came floating along. It was a solid blend of good timing and hard work; sometimes the wins came from blindly pitching a story idea and crossing my fingers and other times it came from pitching again and again and again and again until a success happened. Considering I've never had any semblance of a lucrative career (um, I majored in literature and got a master's in religion, lol), it felt empowering and eyebrow-raising to pay all my bills and have extra leftover. It allowed us to pay off five figures of credit card debt, pay for home projects and remodels and also made me about a billion times more confident about my own ability and talent.
Low: Struggling with burnout. Turns out when you work full-time, write 10-15 freelance articles a month, pitch article concepts and essays on a weekly basis, and then do all the regular life stuff like be a parent, spouse, sister, daughter, friend, person—AND clean AND go grocery shopping AND run dumb errands that never end AND catch up on laundry AND take the dog on a walk AND AND AND.... you get my point. I am insanely grateful every single day to have a life partner who supports me 100% and does his fair share; however, the bulk of physical, mental and emotional work related to parenting/house management often immediately falls on the mother/wife/woman. It just does, and I know I'm not alone. It is an ongoing conversation with my husband, who again, gets it and offers support and help whenever possible. But last year I came eye-to-eye with my limits more than once. And even though I was writing a bunch of content all the time, most of it was for my day job or deadline/client purposes, which often left me feeling creatively zapped. That's something I'd like to change in 2018 if possible, using some of the tools I've learned from my friend Jen.
High: Actually prioritizing self-care. I got really good at saying no this year, not that it was ever easy. But I could quickly identify the feelings that preceded the need to say no: resentment, avoidance, stress, anxiety, hesitation. Everything I wanted to do, I did, and it became very clear when I did not want to do something. But in the past I would force myself, or get hung up in the "shoulds." Instead, in 2017, I said no and moved on. Were people disappointed? Yes, and sometimes vocalized it (ow). Or maybe they were and never said anything. Oh well. Not my problem, I've learned. I took lots of baths and put myself to bed early and stayed home over the weekends (almost all of December you guys, which is previously unheard of for me) and drank wine and ate chocolate and watched Netflix and went to yoga and sat the fuck down while my son napped on the weekends instead of doing a thousand household tasks and laughed with my husband every day. I also practiced some phone boundaries, keeping use under 2 hours per day (download the Moment app if you need to reign in screen time!) and being on it less in the mornings/evenings while E was awake.
Low: Having a miscarriage. Sucked, but I learned a few things.
High: Traveling! On a happier note, I traveled quite a bit this year, which is one of my favorite things to do. I visited my friend Nora in Santa Monica and we made a road trip to Joshua Tree, which basically made me realize I need more than one evening there to explore. I went to New York City for the first time ever (I know) with my parents and younger sister. I actually wasn't going to go, but I'm SO glad I made it work; we traipsed around Central Park, checked out new coffee shops, saw Broadway plays and just had so much 1:1 time to connect and have fun in a different environment. We headed up to Minneapolis to visit our friends K + L, where we drank some delicious brews while chasing E around, did some lake walks and ate the best food. I made the trip to Chicago to see some good college friends, and we partied like 21-year-olds but mostly laughed so much our cheeks hurt. Finally, we flew to Charleston to spend time with my best friend of 20+ years and her family, including her sweet boys who are the same age as E. We went to the beach, had a double date sans kids, and just enjoyed some much needed face time together since we hadn't seen each other since my wedding two years ago! Then, we road-tripped to Raleigh to be with my cousin and her husband and their new baby girl. Travel is such a priority to myself as an individual and our family, and I'm so glad we budget for it as an experience.
Low: Learning how to give constructive criticism. As a newer manager at my day job, I had to work on . . . well, managing people. Ha. Turns out it is harder than it seems. Figuring out how to motivate without being bossy, how to offer support while empowering your team to find solutions, how to give constructive criticism to help people grow versus hurting their feelings—it was tough and I learned a ton about myself and work relationships in general.
High: Being more disciplined with my morning routine. This is still a work in progress, but I've honed in on what works in terms of a morning routine. Waking up an hour before the rest of the family, doing a little reading/writing/meditating, and getting myself ready with a cup of coffee in hand is CLUTCH to a sane, productive day. The days where I oversleep and rush to get out the door on time always leave me frustrated and annoyed, and I want less of them. Even though it is challenging to wake up early, I did a pretty good job (especially the latter half of the year) with sticking to it at least 2-3 times a week.
Low: Feeling some friendships ebb and flow. It's no secret that becoming a parent means you have less time for other things. For me, I was used to being "good" at showing up for other people—reaching out to set up coffee, going to those parties or cultural events, sending cards, driving to see friends, asking new friends to hang out. And in 2017, I had to let that go. I just didn't have enough time or energy. Consequently, I fell out of touch with some people I really like, and it was a bummer to realize they kind of . . . felt the same way? I'm not sure. I was surprised at how many people, once I stepped back, didn't appear to have the same interest or energy for building or maintaining a friendship. I do think this is a natural part of adult life, but still, it hit me at odd moments and left me feeling sad at the change.
High: Feeling loved and supported by a small group of people. The flip side of the previous low is that I quickly realized who was there for me and made an effort with friendship. It was crystal-clear, and helped me understand how to better balance my friendships so that it felt like joint effort versus a tug-of-war. Some were friends of ten years or more, and others were brand new out of nowhere. And the thing is, not all of these people are individuals I spent a lot of time with, but I still knew our friendship mattered and we found a way to genuinely stay connected. Shoutout to those of you who stepped it up when I couldn't, who sent me "Hey, I just want you to know I'm thinking of you" texts and rescheduled dinners and didn't hate me when I forgot our coffee date. Equal shoutout to those of you who hopped on a plane/in a car, or called me for the third time, or sent me hilarious Snapchat videos or thoughtful text messages or made space for a 10 minute conversation while we both sat in our cars at the grocery store. You're the best, and I love you. Also, the fact that both of our families are seriously the best ever makes me know I've got it good.
Low: Navigating bumps in the road of marriage. I'll be honest—even if you love and respect someone, even if you share goals and dreams and priorities and babies and homes, even if you think they are the bee's knees and want to do everything together, eventually you're going to look at them and be like, "Okay, so this is it? This is what we're doing?" Because your partner is also human, just like you. They are nuanced and complicated and unpredictable. They will disappoint you and surprise you in the same day, and vice versa. We didn't have a bad year at all, but we definitely struggled with communication and carving out time for each other. It is really easy to dive head-first into parenting and work and run out of air for your spouse. It is really easy to make assumptions and feel resentful. It is really easy to view the exact same situation totally differently. And all of that is okay. It is normal. Marriage is not perfect, at least mine isn't, and it requires work, conversation and humility, but that's how you get stronger as a unit.
High: Watching E grow into his own person. Omgggggg. Obsessed with him, his affinity for cars and anything small he can carry, his bright smile and love for music, his sweet kisses and hugs and little voice saying "hi," his questions, his pleasure at experiencing the world as it is and exploring as much of it as possible.
Low: Losing J's grandfather suddenly after Christmas. Death is always hard, and I'm lucky to still have both my grandparents, but this loss took a toll on my husband and his family. One day we were all together, playing cards and drinking beer and laughing—and then a few days later, he was gone. Just like that. I *know* the reality of mortality, but it was much more palpable this year. You never know what tomorrow brings, and most of the stuff we all fret over truly doesn't matter.
High: My health, my job, my home, my car, my writing, my family, my friends, my body, my ability to serve, my privilege to step up, my faith in a higher power. This life is a blessing, and it's an honor to share pieces of it with all of you.