My 2018 Year in Review
For 26 years, I have been the grateful beneficiary of my mother’s wisdom, which I shall henceforth refer to as “Vicki-isms”. One such Vicki-ism she has echoed to me throughout my life is that the only thing constant in life is change. This truth has comforted me during challenging seasons, in the knowing that no matter what I’m facing this too shall pass, and has served as a friendly reminder to exercise humility during the joyful times as well.
There is no denying that 2018 was a year of massive change on a global scale; some of which were positive changes and others that were perhaps not-so-positive. January started off with a bang as the United States witnessed an unexpected (depending on who you ask…) succession of the presidency, which quickly hastened an already simmering divide in the country to a full on rolling boil. Heated debates about polarizing topics like immigration, gun control, and the “Me Too” movement dominated headlines. It’s a wonder we didn’t all chuck our phones into the nearest trashcan or deactivate our facebooks just to get a little break from it all. And on that note, let’s talk about social media in 2018. In a historical move by Congress, the founder of Facebook was summoned for an intensive hearing regarding the platform’s privacy standards. In other media news, 2018 could be coined the year of the podcast. From inspiring interviews with business moguls, to celebrity gossip, to expert commentary on the impacts of climate change, you can find it all just by clicking the purple “Podcasts” button on your iPhone. Oh and speaking of climate change, from the hurricanes that ravaged Mexico and Puerto Rico, to the devastating California wildfires, 2018 was a year of awakening for many people to the very real and dangerous impacts of global warming. It was also the year when in an unprecedented move, several large corporations (like Starbucks) committed to discontinuing the use of plastic straws.
Much like the intense changes and events that humanity collectively weathered (pun, intended) in 2018, this year was also one of radical transformation and shifts in my personal life. If you had told me this time last year that come December, I would be teaching English in Thailand with my fiance and focusing on building a new blog, I would have been skeptical at best (at worst, I might have cried, but hey..what do you expect from a drunk girl on NYE!?). And yet, here I am. It never ceases to amaze me just how much change and growth can occur in the span of 365 days and it fills me with hope for what's possible in the year to come.
Last week I was listening to a podcast episode from one of my ultimate girl crushes and renowned life coach, Rachel Hollis, as she described an annual exercise she does to review the years successes and challenges. (Rachel is the author of the wildly popular and inspiring book, Girl, Wash Your Face, and host of the Rise podcast. You can check her out here!) In this particular episode, she shared the things that she felt she did particularly well during 2018, the areas that could use some improvement, and her specific goals for the year to come. Ever on the path of self improvement, I was inspired by Rachel’s words. I decided to turn my microscope inward and conduct my own (far less glamorous, but hopefully rewarding) year in review.
I broke down my 2018 year in review into four categories: Professional, Financial, Health, and Personal. In each category, I documented two things that I did well and one thing I could improve. Then I created goals for 2019 (something about the word resolutions doesn’t really vibe with me) in each category, that I can track my progress towards throughout the year. I wrapped up this exercise by choosing a specific word to be my theme word for the year. The purpose of this word is to serve as an anchor and personal reminder over the next 12 months of how I want to show up in the world.
My 2018 Year in Review:
What I did well:
Grew as a Leader/Mentor: In the beginning of the year, while I was working full time as an IT consultant in the Washington DC metropolitan area, I was given the opportunity to lead a team of 8, responsible for the development and deployment of 13 public facing software applications with a global user base in the thousands. I worked directly with the Product Manager (our client) each day to strategize our road-map, provide a readout of our progress, and proactively communicate impediments.
This role was challenging as hell, but also immensely rewarding. In the span of January - October, I grew my ability to think on my feet, analyze a problem from every possible angle, and identify potential impacts. I got my first real experience in people management by leading a team of 8 individuals, ranging in level from analyst to Subject Matter Expert. I gained self confidence by being the “face” to the client - which meant that on the days when something went haywire, I was the one responsible for communicating the problem and strategizing our path forward. I practiced my public speaking skills by presenting at ceremonies with upwards of 300 people in attendance. Lastly, I was asked to write my first letter of recommendation for my co-worker, friend, and mentee as she applied for graduate school - which was a great and semi-surreal honor.
TEFL Certification: As David and I grew more serious about taking time off from work to teach English abroad, it dawned on us that we actually had no teaching experience….like none. So we decided to enroll in a 12 week online course to get our “Teach English as a Foreign Language” certification, to give us some much needed foundational knowledge in teaching English to non-native speakers. Some days it was tough after coming home from a long day at work, to click through an online lesson and complete the assignments by the Sunday deadline. But by paying for this TEFL class (which wasn’t particularly cheap) we got a crash course in “teaching 101” and lit a fire under our asses to keep moving forward on the journey to teach English abroad.
What needs improvement:
Giving and Receiving Feedback - Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to get a little squeamish at the thought of giving and receiving feedback, especially at work. In terms of giving feedback, I often struggle with providing meaningful, actionable feedback. I have no problem doling out kudos (and enjoy doing so!), but in terms of constructive feedback, I often find it difficult to coherently communicate what I’m thinking and then end up worrying if I’ve said the wrong thing.
In terms of receiving feedback, as a sensitive person I tend to take feedback to heart. I have a difficult time decoupling someone’s feedback about a specific task from their perception of me as a human being. In 2019, I’d like to focus on developing the ability to interpret feedback unemotionally, view it as actionable data, and take the constructive advice of my peers and mentors less personally.
What I did well:
Refinanced Student Loans - This year, after many discussions with my financially adept fiance, I took action to consolidate my government held student loans and refinance them with a company called SoFi (Social Finance). This was one of the best decisions I made all year! SoFi provided me with a lower interest rate and a manageable fixed monthly payment (as opposed to the graduated repayment plan I was on with my government loans). Also - a unique, albeit non-traditional, aspect about SoFi is that they host periodic (and super fun!) social events for their consumers. Dave and I went to a SoFi sponsored happy hour at District Winery in DC and had a blast.
Monthly Contributions to Investment Account - In terms of personality, I’d consider myself to be on the free-spirit side of the spectrum. In terms of personal finance, however, I’m quite risk averse and dare I say non-adventurous. My fiance, on the other hand, has quite a different outlook and spending philosophy when it comes to money. He is naturally a positive and optimistic person and this attitude translates to his relationship with money, as well. In 2017, we opened a joint investment account and made a significant contribution to begin preparing for our future. In 2018, we continued this trend and Dave continued offering me his valuable insights about personal finance.
What needs improvement:
Tracking My Spending - When it comes to spending, I’m pretty good about staying within my means. Mostly, I prefer to spend my money on good food, travel, and the occasional Free People top. That being said, I could definitely benefit from having a clearer picture of where exactly my money is going so that I can make more informed purchases and curtail unnecessary spending. With apps like Mint, that link to your bank account and form a dashboard of your financial data, there’s really no excuse to not be tuned in to your own financial trends. In 2019, this is something I’d like to get better at!
What I did well:
Morning Workouts - I am proud to say something I never thought would be true about myself, but in 2018 I officially became a morning workout person! In the beginning, it was hard to will myself out of bed in the morning. But as my work schedule grew more intense, I knew that if I didn’t make it a habit to hit the gym in the morning, then I wouldn’t make it there at all. So I started to do things that would make it easier to wake up in the morning, like learning how to use the alarm function on my coffee pot, so that a fresh pot of coffee would be ready when I went downstairs in the morning, and setting out my gym clothes on my dresser the night before. Once I got in the swing of morning workouts, I realized that it made my mood and my day infinitely better, plus it opened up my evenings to other activities. After a couple months, I was hooked.
Completed My Second Whole30 - In January 2017 Dave and I completed our first round of the Whole30 program. Whole30 is a clean eating challenge, where essentially you eat in the “paleo” style (a diet of real, nutritious food like meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) for 30 days. You eliminate processed food, added sugar, alcohol, dairy, and legumes from your diet during this time. At the end of the 30 days, you do a 10 day reintroduction, where you slowly reintroduce one kind of “off-program” food (like cheese for instance) back into your diet to see how it reacts with your system. Whole30 is a great way to reset your health after the holidays! We loved how we felt after our first round of the program, so we made a tradition out of it and completed our second round In January 2018. This time around, we purchased Melissa Hartwig’s (the founder of the program) cookbooks and had a ton of fun experimenting in the kitchen.
What needs improvement:
Drink more water - This is one of the easiest choices you can make for your health, but an area that I struggle with every day! I have no problem drinking several cups of coffee, but I tend to reach for water only during a workout, at lunch, or at dinner. I know that water is essential for my body to perform optimally, not to mention it’s a game changer for my skin! In 2019, I am committed to up my water intake and put my sweet SoFi water bottle to good use.
What I did well:
Moved to Thailand - I can’t talk about 2018 without celebrating our monumental move to the Land of Smiles! When we learned that our school placement was in a small rural town in Northern Thailand we were super excited and totally nervous. But, since the day we arrived in Phu Sang, we’ve never felt more welcomed, cared for, or included. We have fallen in love with our little town and the people in it. And we make the most of our weekends by traveling around Thailand, experiencing all that this great country has to offer.
Launched The Curious Dabbler - Perhaps the accomplishment I am most proud of in 2018 is launching this blog. For several years, I desired to create an online space where I could explore the world through my writing. But for many years, I let my fear of other people’s opinions and my fear of being too vulnerable outweigh this desire. Towards the end of the year, I came to the realization that the other people (whose opinions I was so afraid of) wouldn’t have to live with the sinking feeling of knowing that I wasn’t living up to my full potential. If I didn’t start this blog and go all in (including shameless self promotion) only I would have to live with the disappointment of knowing I could have done something more. And thus, The Curious Dabbler was born.
What needs improvement:
Developing Patience and Perseverance - Anything worth having, takes perseverance to build and patience to grow. This is a lesson that I am continually learning every day, especially in terms of building The Curious Dabbler. In the age of social media, I sometimes find myself in a negative tailspin of comparison when I see other incredibly successful bloggers (who have been in this industry for years, might I add) on social media. So within the last few months, I’ve adopted a new mantra to help me pivot out of this negative head space. When I’m feeling jealous or stuck in a comparison spiral I say to myself, “I swap comparison for inspiration. I trade jealousy for admiration.” Repeating these phrases in my head, helps me to remember that someone else’s success does not take away from my current or future success. If I stay the course, eventually I will succeed.
My 2019 Goals:
Obtain a New Certification - As the old saying goes, education is a lifelong process. This year, I am committed to obtaining a new certification to continue my professional development.
Attend a Personal Finance Seminar - This year, I’d like to grab a friend and attend a personal growth conference about finances. I’m specifically interested in the relationship between women and money, so I’d like to go to a conference or seminar to explore that area.
Run a Half Marathon - This one is pretty self-explanatory! The past two years, I’ve ran some sort of race: the Army Ten Miler in 2017 and a St.Patrick’s 10K in 2018. This year, I finally feel ready for my first half marathon (looking at you, coach Meg!).
Learn Italian - During college I took beginner’s Italian for 2 semesters. I am one of many, who find Italian culture and language to be extraordinarily beautiful! This year, I also learned that I am 32% Italian (specifically, Sicilian!) thanks to my ancestry DNA results. In 2019, I’d like to pick Italian language back up and find a partner or group to practice conversation with.
My 2019 Word of the Year:
This year my word is intentional. In my relationships, career, health, and finances I want to be extraordinarily intentional with how I’m showing up in the world. Is the time I’m spending with friends and family feeding my soul? Is the work that I’m doing adding value to the somebody’s life or contributing to a cause I believe in? Will sitting on my couch watching yet another episode of Gilmore Girls while eating halo top ice cream and peanut butter help me get washboard abs? You get the idea. This year I am committed to being crystal clear with my intentions in each of these areas, taking notice when my actions are out of alignment with my intentions, and course correcting accordingly.
Over the years as I’ve waded deeper into the personal development space, I’ve learned that in order to get to where you want to go in life you have to be willing to look at where you came from, celebrate what you’ve accomplished, and take an honest inventory of your mistakes. Reflecting on the previous year is a really powerful way to intentionally prepare yourself for the year to come. By acknowledging your accomplishments, identifying personal growth areas, and documenting (in your journal, your laptop, or a note on your phone) your goals for the new year you can begin 2019 with some positive momentum.
If 2019 is anything like 2018, we’re in for an exhilarating, challenging, beautiful 365 days ahead. I hope you take some time to consider how you want to show up in the world this year. And with that, I’ll leave you with this quote (one of my favorites) from the screenplay adaptation of the book, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
Wishing you a safe and happy New Years surrounded by the people you love!