It's easy to hate on 2016. During the past few weeks, that seems to have been the Facebook post of choice for most of the people on my social media networks. As awful as these past few months have seemed, there was a lot more to 2016 than shocking elections and tragic deaths.
Reflecting on my own year, a lot has happened. I’ve had a variety of highs and lows, and 2016 has been a year with lots of changes. I’ve grown a lot as a person, and there’s a lot that I’m grateful to have experienced and learned from. As it comes to a close, I've realized there's a lot that happened to me in 2016 that has changed my life for the better.
From Nicaragua to California to New York to Portland, this was the year I learned how to travel. Sure I'd flown from one coast to another for college and visited various family members across the nation many times, but I'd never traveled by myself before this year.
It started with a research trip in March to the Makengue Reserve in Nicaragua, where I learned that maybe I wasn't as outdoorsy as I'd thought. A childhood of hiking and camping trips never could have prepared me for the constantly high temperature and humidity, relentless bug bites and lack of water. But despite the dizzy spells and exhaustion, I left ten days in the rainforest with the confidence of knowing that I could make it through that. Not only that, but I left with the most incredible memories and experiences and an unquenchable hankering for plantain chips.
I saw the Milky Way in all of its indescribable serenity, watched wild monkeys and sloths in treetops and realized that I’m truly awful at Spanish.
Next was an impromptu trip to Northern California (you can read about it here) to visit one of my friends from college. In the past I’ve flown out to see family, but I’d never traveled without my parents and I’d never stayed with someone I wasn’t related to. In a weird way, it felt like my first taste of independence. I concluded my summer with a road trip trip to Portland for a weekend of camping.
When I returned to school for fall semester, I managed to squeeze in two New York trips. Through the first one left me lost in Harlem with an anxiety-ridden grandmother waiting for me in the Bronx, I left with a deep appreciation for the 2 and the 5.
With the new year, came the biggest influencer on 2016 for me, Phi Mu. I joined a sorority in January and by May had over 100 new sisters who (as corny as it sounds) changed my college experience. The thing with Greek life is no matter how lame I think it is, or how many times I think it's a pointless perpetrator of societal gender norms and as fake as it gets, if it wasn't for Phi Mu, I never would have found my best friends. For the sake of that alone, joining a sorority was one of the best things to happen to me in 2016.
I found two incredible roomates (one in the spring and one in fall) who both have brought so much joy and inspriation into my life. My mom has always told me that it's the people we spend the most time around that shape us the most, and I truely believe that living with both Rachel and Erika has influenced who I am and how I've changed over the past year.
This was the year of strep throat, the flu and catching every strain of every illness that came my way, but you have to hit low points sometimes for a good dose of self-realization. With my downward-spiraling health hitting lows last spring, I started the summer with the intention of mindfully changing my lifestyle habits.
I practiced vinyassa, hatha and yin yoga for over 20 hours a week and really concentrated on the foods I was eating and how my body responded to them.
In the fall, I continued some yoga practice with a one-credit class where I was able to develop a practice specialized for Yoga with Scolosis (which I will be posting soon). I also developed a passion for running (something that I never would have thought possible before). I've run in the past, but it's always been more about pushing myself and as a supplement for other activities I was partaking in.
This time when I started running, it was as a way to destress and escape from the anxieties of school and work. I focused mostly on just running to the best of my ability, going as far as I could and running for as long as I could. As a result, I watched as my speed and distance rapidly increased from two miles, to four and then seven.
As much as I complain about AU, I'm truly grateful to be attending a university right now. In 2016, I found teachers that were genuine and subjects that made coming to class worthwhile. I took more writing classes than was possible to manage, but from that really learned what I'm passionate about. I explored different outlets, poetry, visual storytelling, newswriting, short stories, to learn the different ways to share stories and words with others.
From getting to interview people outside the White House to reading Nietzsche to researching public opinion on abortion to taking classes from a Pulitzer prize-winning professor I realized the advantages to attending school in D.C. and felt genuinely thrilled to see what would be happening next.
To be honest, working this year was a lot. They say one of the best things you can learn while you're in college isn't necessarily what you want to do, but rather what you don't want to do. My internship really taught me more about myself than I could have ever hoped to learn in a semester and my jobs were incredible in allowing me the flexibility needed to finance my education while still allowing my priorities as a student to fall first.
But there's been a lot that I accomplished this year in regards to my work and career. I reported on how the raising minimum wage impacts Seattle youth for a podcast, I wrote another piece for the school newspaper, I made this blog, I started DJing on my college’s radio station, I learned how to run audio and cameras for live events and taught myself creative cloud.
I managed to find a good mix of work and education while genuinely feeling like I enjoyed everything I was doing (I've come a long way since the two weeks I spent at Safeway this summer). I'm incredibly lucky to have found people who supported my ambitions and me this past year.