Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve 2016

I won't lie to you, readers.  I've felt a bit apprehensive about sitting down to write this all week.  I haven't missed a Year-End blog post since I started writing them in 2009, however, and I'm not about to stop now.

Objectively speaking, 2016 was a wonderful year for me.

I started out with a brief escape from Pennsylvania winter to spend a long weekend with my brother and his family in Florida.  I hadn't seen them since The Great Flight From San Diego of 2014.  Going two years without seeing a sibling is, unfortunately, just the reality of my life since we all left the family home and dispersed throughout the globe.  Going two years without seeing my nephews and niece, however, is positively mind-boggling because of the amount of growing that kids do in that span of time.  They fascinate and delight me.  I'm so blessed to the their Tía Maria, and I can finally understand why it is that my own Tías fussed over me so much!  They still do! 😆

January 2016: Freezing at the Beach!

In October 2015, I accepted a position as a trainer for my sorority.  It's a volunteer role that I share with around 70 other sisters, whereby we travel to chapters and alumnae associations throughout the US and Canada and give workshops on educational topics, such as team building, delegation, leadership, communication styles, etc.  As I mentioned, it's totally voluntary, and it's up to us how often we do it, because it's all based on our availability and interest.

We're just asked to do at least two per year. Easy, right? Well--I did eight.

Six of those were within 3 months. And four of those six?  They were at the chapters that happen to fall within the western PA area.  On the fifth of the six spring visits, I was at a chapter leading a workshop on the benefits of being a member of an organization.  We were really cooking in there, having a rich discussion on the perceptions that people have about Greek Letter Organizations, why we all chose to join one, why we stayed, and how it's benefitted us, etc.  I left the campus feeling simultaneously great about the workshop, and ridiculous for having preached about alumnae associations when I myself hadn't had much to do with one in the 11 years since I graduated college and took alumna status.  I resolved rectify that, so I went looking for Pittsburgh's local organization to see how I could get involved with it.

I found out how pretty quickly.  It turned out that they had an immediate opening for Alumnae Association President.

I mean, if it's open and nobody else wants it...😬

I won't lie to you, readers--I'm really enjoying it.  It's been a lot of work and a steep learning curve, but it's a labor of love and has been so rewarding.  In eight months I've met so many incredible women and spent a lot of time collaborating, networking, strategizing, and wondering what the best time of day to post to Instagram is.  (Turns out it's about 8pm on Mondays.)  I look forward to seeing our organization continue to grow next year.

Honoring past Association Presidents at Founders Day 2016

Because I have been focusing so much on the alumnae association this year, I did have to let a few other things take a bit of a backseat.  I stopped taking regular bellydance classes during the week in the latter half of the year, and I chose to go for more weekend intensive workshops with guest teachers instead. This has actually worked out quite beautifully because it's allowed me to get more exposure to different styles.  Unexpectedly, it was at the annual Pittsburgh Bellydance Festival that I had a brush with a different genre of dance altogether, and it's inspired me in the best kind of way.  A guest flamenco dancer at the festival did a performance that lit something inside of me in a way that hasn't happened since, well, the first time I saw a live bellydancer!  It took me almost 4 years after that first sighting to actually take lessons, but this time I'm not waiting that long.  I followed the  dancer's trail to a local performance group, attended their final show of 2016, and decided to keep following my guts into flamenco lessons starting next weekend.  I still plan to continue taking bellydance workshops, and when the time is right, I will eventually go back to either troupe or solo performing.  I'm so thankful for such a supportive Pittsburgh dance community that makes those opportunities possible!

As for my other great love, travel, I took my standard 2 week jaunt across the pond in August.  I re-visited Paris, got in my 10th trip to Germany, and finally FINALLY went to Switzerland. Finally. 🙏  Six years of German and 3 months of French pay dividends when you visit a country where people greet you with "Guten Tag" and thank you with "Merci".  Or was it greetings with "Bonjour" and closing transactions with "Danke"?  All I know is, I would love to go back and see more, because 2 days in Bern are just a tease.  I'm pleased to say that next year's big adventure will be all new, for I've booked a trip to Scandinavia by way of Iceland for my birthday in September, as was my declaration when I returned from Eurotrip 2015.

Perched atop the Eiffel Tower

Dear reader, I am grateful for everything that I have, of which there is much.  I'm gainfully employed in a career that I like, that challenges me, and that I can see going far.  The bachelorette pad is shaping up nicely and I love my neighborhood.  I saw all four Best Friends for the second year in a row.  My cats are still awesome (if not a little high maintenance).  I'm healthy.  I've been made Tía for a fifth time over with the arrival of my newest nephew and second Godson this December.  It bears repeating:  2016 was a wonderful year for me. Objectively speaking.

And yet...

And yet...

I am deeply, deeply troubled by the events surrounding and including the 2016 US Presidential Election.  I haven't felt this kind of general anxiety and unease since the day after my 19th birthday, which happened to be September 11th, 2001.

All year long waking up to news about unarmed black men being shot by law enforcement officers, and the tension and controversy that's ensued since, was only a prelude to Election Night.  I haven't felt fully myself since that day, and I'm starting to get used to the idea that I will never feel quite the same again.  Millions have been changed by the results.  That change, however, doesn't necessarily have to be for the worse.  In fact, a part of me can actually see the long term good in popping the bubbles we surround ourselves in and getting punched in the face by reality.

Where I'm at is here: there always have been, and always will be things in our life that are within our sphere of control or influence, and there have always been, and always will be things in our life that are completely out of either.  We have to figure out which is which, and deal accordingly.

Things in my sphere of control:
  1. What I say
  2. What I do
  3. Where I spend my time, and who with
  4. How I spend my money
That's about it.  

Things not in my sphere of control?  Cabinet appointments, wars, and what other people think about me or how they vote.

Also not within my control?  My feelings.  Words and actions are controllable, but feelings are what they are.  Over the years, I've learned not to look to others to validate them, and been better off for it.

By and large, I'm looking to just keep doing my thing in 2017, with some minor course corrections to get my mental and physical health to where I'd like them to be.  Politically, economically, and socially, things might get a lot worse before they get a lot better, but all I can do is my best to be resilient and hopeful.

Wishing you and yours a happy and prosperous New Year.  Cheers.