2017: What I Learned

Am I the only one who can’t believe 2017 is just finally coming to an end? Looking back on this year and all of the things that have happened it’s hard to believe some of it was within the past 365 days. From travel to work to my health, so many big changes and events happened for me this year that it’s hard to comprehend that I haven’t had a few more breakdowns. If I had to describe the year in one word it would be learning.

Every part of this year taught me something new about myself and about others – whether the lessons were good, bad or still undecided.

Travel

masadaI started this year with a trip to Israel with 40 strangers. If you haven’t read about my Birthright trip yet I highly recommend you do, especially if you are eligible and on the fence about going. The whole experience was eye-opening and I am forever grateful for having been afforded the opportunity to go on the ten-day trip.

Going to Israel opened my eyes to a culture I’ve never experienced before. From seeing the day-to-day in Israel, and how much it can differ from one city o the next, to celebrating Shabbat in Jerusalem and attending services at a handful of Synagogues (an experience I still share the story of to this day – in fact I was just telling my Lululemon coworkers about it on Christmas Eve) every interaction taught me something new about Israeli’s way of life.

Having a group of Israeli soldiers with us for the duration of the trip made it an even more remarkable experience. Getting the chance to talk with them about their childhood, what it meant to be an officer in the military, and being able to learn from them and have them help us navigate on nights out or trips to the open air markets was so interesting. In so many ways it was just like our upbringing, yet a complete opposite in so many others. Had they not been on the trip with us I would not have felt such a strong connection to Israel or been so engaged throughout our journey.

Not only did I learn a lot about the culture, but spending ten-days surrounded by strangers non-stop also taught me a lot about myself. I went into the trip not knowing anyone, which meant I had to quickly make friends and try to meet everyone I could. We had such an eclectic group on our trip with a somewhat large age range and from so many different backgrounds that it was truly amazing to watch everyone interact, find common ground, and form a bond with some, if not all, of the members of our group.

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Our group on top of Masada for a Bat Mitzvah celebration

We spent up to half of some of our days on a bus together, went floating in the Dead Sea, shared an emotional day at Yad Vashem, shared hotel rooms, celebrated Shabbat together, and the entire group saw me have a breakdown on the top of a hike and had to help me muster the ability to get down from the peak when I felt like I couldn’t move. I have a feeling most of my friends who I’ve known for 20+ years couldn’t have gotten me down from Masada or Mount Tzfahot, but my new Birthright friends who I’d known for a week could.

It is absolutely mind blowing to see the way strangers can come together and form bonds that surpass those they could have had before.

Work
This year was the hardest year I’ve ever faced in my working life. Since I was 15 I’ve had a job – though admittedly in college I did not work during the school year and only worked when I came home on breaks. But, I’ve had steady employment ever since I was in high school and even had an internship offer shortly after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2012.

Now I know how this is sounding, and this is not turning into a story of how I went unemployed. I cannot begin to stress how fortunate I am to have been able to find consistent work and been able to support myself, and while I didn’t lose my job or go without work for months, I did have a similarly scary (honestly possibly more scary in my opinion) few months in the middle of this year that resulted in a career change and a few new jobs under my belt. I say possibly more scary because with no income coming in and having to still work when I could have been spending 100% of my time job hunting and interviewing when I potentially could have at least been collecting unemployment.

This summer the company I had been working for for about 5 years hit a financial struggle and with little notice we found out we would not be receiving our full paychecks. After a half month of agreeing to take a temporary salary cut we found out that salaries had just been cut, and there wasn’t any reassurance of when we would have them again. For two and a half months I struggled trying to help secure new business for my company while finding ways to actually make money to be able to pay my rent and bills. I got two part time jobs, one at a local cycling studio and one at Lululemon, and began searching for a new job, unsure of if my current company would be bought out, close, or somehow make a comeback.

The whole situation was one of the most stressful, trying, and frightening experiences of my life, but it also taught me a lot about how I act in the face of adversity. There are plenty of things that it would have been easy to do during that time; move back home, tell my roommate she had to cover all of our rent, given up on job hunting, taken the first full-time job I was offered because I was desperate for money, stopped working. You name it, and it probably would have been easier.

But instead I started to hustle. I continued pitching new business and making cold calls for my company, but at the same time I started working at a cycling studio. I would work some days from 5am – 9am at the studio, go to my job from 9am – 5pm, then go back to the cycling studio from 5:30pm – 9pm. I got another job at Lululemon and was going to be working there up to 4 days a week and 3 days a week at the full time job (they had unlimited PTO before the financial difficulties so it worked) but the day I finished Lululemon training I found out I got a new job that was a perfect move for me, and I started doing more freelance work.

With the help of supportive friends, my loving boyfriends, and very helpful family, I was able to get through the toughest financial time I have yet to face and am coming out on the other end with two jobs that I couldn’t be happier to have, a new appreciation for receiving a paycheck, a better understanding on my financials, a bigger appreciation for a healthy savings account, and the belief in myself that I have the strength and tenacity to get through anything.

Health
2017 really changed the way I view my body and my health. That’s not to say this is the year I dropped those 20lbs from college or that I miraculously switched to an all natural diet that added 10 years to my lifespan, but it did change the way I view my need to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

For starters, this year I really set out to change the way I view my relationship with fitness. I’d never say that I was one to truly have an issue with over-working out, but I definitely focused a lot of my energy on working out to lose weight rather than to be healthy and fit. I used to get very upset when I was bloated or if I needed a shirt in a larger size, not to the extent where I battled an eating disorder (though my thoughts go out to those who do struggle with that, because it is very real and very hard, and I in no way mean to disrespect that so I hope I am not through my statement), but I did let my body image negatively effect my mood some days.

I made a very distinct shift in my thinking in this year, and to say it happened immediately would be a lie – it was a journey that took me most of the year. Now, instead of working out to lose weight I work out because it makes me feel strong, proud, and happy, and I eat healthier because I’m more aware of what I’m putting into my body. But I also don’t feel guilty or like I have to work out because I ate a cookie the day before or splurged with some ice cream. Working out should not be a punishment for eating, but that’s easier said than practiced.

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Happy and glowing after a successful Whole30

One thing that truly helped me this year was going through Whole30. During my 30 days I really got to witness first hand the difference diet could make on my mood, energy, and physical appearance outside of the obvious waistline changes. I found myself cravings more natural foods and veggies, my skin and hair glowing, my taste buds changing (I still cannot drink soda anymore, it’s too sugary!), and my energy levels skyrocketing when I expected them to plummet. It really opened my eyes to the fact that we are, in a sense, what we eat. I’m really looking forward to the new year and trying to be the healthiest, happiest version of myself yet.

What changes did 2017 bring for you? Was this a year of learning, growing, testing the limits, new beginnings, or something completely different?

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