I saw a Twitter prompt a few days ago that said this, "quote this tweet with your top 3 personal accomplishments of 2017 (you decide what counts)" - Adam J. Kurtz (@adamjk)
1. I transitioned to another role at work, doing something I’ve wanted to do for the last year at least.— Maria B. (@rialucia82) December 27, 2017
2. Made my dream trip come true!
3. Flexed my leadership muscles in my volunteer work. https://t.co/zncuW1Cmry
So that is where we will start today.
2017 marked the 12th year of my patchwork quilt of a professional career. I participated in two of the four "codefests" that were held at my company, which is trying--and I daresay succeeding--to shift its culture to embrace technology and innovation. It is still very much a financial services institution and change is slow going, but next month marks four years since I started working there and I can affirm that it is happening. In the first event, my ragtag team of developers and analysts managed to get a spot among the Top 10 finalists and pitch our app to the judges' panel and thousands of our peers who were both in the auditorium and watching a livestream. One of my colleagues and I chose to make the actual pitch itself, and as I stood there mic'd up in front of the stage lights and trying desperately not to let my knees or voice quake, I thought, "Wow, I can actually do this."
And by this, I mean work on solving consumer problems with technology solutions, when I myself am neither a developer nor programmer. We did not end up placing among the top prize winners, but it was a moral victory and it was enough to make our team want to participate again a few months later and work on a different problem and solution. While that endeavor did not place us in the finalist round, it did provide the kick in the pants that I needed to just start go for it already. So, I applied to several positions--some internal to my company and some not--until I eventually received and accepted an internal position as a business systems analyst on a team that works on customer-facing software. In truth, even after 3 months I feel like I don't know what I'm doing about 80% of the time, but that's down from 100%, so it's progress.
When I returned from Eurotrip 2015 and wrote about it in my 2015 Year End Recap, I declared that I would go on a trip to Scandinavia for my 35th birthday. I almost postponed it in favor of a trip to Japan instead, but when Wow Air announced in late 2016 that they would start service from Pittsburgh in the summer of 2017, I knew that I had to stay the course. So, I booked a plane ticket to Copenhagen by way of Reykjavik in November, and spent the next 10 months carefully planning a two week tour of Iceland, Denmark, and Norway...with a bonus stop in Sweden.
|My trusty backpack follows me wherever I go!|
Iceland is achingly and hauntingly beautiful. While there actually are trees, they aren't numerous, and the landscape belies the fact that the island is pretty much one big volcanic plain. I was only there for two days, but I managed to pack in plenty of sightseeing through Reykjavik, as well as get out into the countryside on a Golden Circle Tour to see geysers, waterfalls, and the border of tectonic plates.
|At the site of the famous Geysir, where the word "geyser" originates|
From there I pressed onward to Denmark, where I made Copenhagen my playground for several days. I stumbled on a walking tour and met some fellow world travelers, two of whom I ended up exploring a few more sights with after the tour. One was a guy from Canada and the other was a lady from Australia, and unfortunately, none of us thought to exchange contact information or even take a photo while we were together, so our afternoon chatting and exploring must only live in memory!
|Doing the tourist thing in Copenhagen|
|Thanks, ya Bastards! (It's the actual name of the restaurant.)|
|Cruising the Sonefjord|
|Ikea on a Saturday!? That's a crazy idea in any country.|
All in all, my "Scandinavitour" was a wild, wonderful, empowering, exhausting trip and I am infinitely glad that I had both the motive and the means to make it happen.
A couple months later, I even snuck in a trip to Orlando to visit Alyse!
|Live your best life.|
#3: A Tradition of Leadership
When I was still in college, the tagline of my sorority was "A tradition of leadership", and it has since changed to "Aspire to be." I like them both, but the leadership and education elements have always been a big selling point for me where Kappa Kappa Gamma is concerned. So, I went and collected another Kappa Hat in January and took another volunteer role as a Programming Specialist for our Ohio & Kentucky chapters and associations. It's daunting work, keeping tabs on two officers each from 9 active chapters, but it has been rewarding and has led to some more great connections (and hilarious conversations) with sisters all over the country. Between that, as well as my second term of presidency for the Greater Pittsburgh Alumnae Association, Every Member Educational Training, and finance advising, I have a lot of Kappa and opportunities to lead in my life and I love it. It's a big part of the reason why I am very content to remain an individual contributor at work for the time being!
I can't not go there.
I have a personal theory that the degree to which you can completely ignore and/or avoid the political arena and social upheaval in 2017 is roughly equal to the amount of your privilege. As a brown
The best part about New Year's Eve is looking towards the next one and telling yourself how much better it will be. I swear I am not being cynical; we have to do this or else how would we recover from the collective hangover after December ends? I have plenty to look forward to!
For one, I'm returning to Paris in April. Both of my parents traveled extensively through their time in the US Air Force. I've noticed that their favorite stories are usually the ones where they wandered off by themselves for awhile, so I come by that honestly. And what started out as another planned solo venture has become a Mother-Daughter duo. Mom is coming with me! If memory serves me, she hasn't been back to Europe since leaving Germany in 2001, and she's raring to go. We will meet up in the airport in Reykjavik and fly on to Paris together, walking and eating our way through it all with gusto, I'm sure. I will practice the following phrase, "C'est ma mère, pas ma sœur."
There's always work to do, friends and family to see, relationships to cultivate, trips to take, and what is sure to be one hell of a midterm election season. We press onward through all of it.
Wishing you and yours a prosperous New Year!