This year has been incredibly eventful, so much so that I feel like I have trouble remembering all the many things that went in to it. I am so grateful for everything that I’ve learned and accomplished, and for the many wonderful people in my life who have been there to guide me through all of it. I’ve taken a few key lessons from the year that I am putting here because I think they apply to my growth both personally and professionally.
People and situations will meet your expectations
If you move to a new place, go visit a friend in a different town, or spend time around your new coworkers, those situations will all reflect your expectations. A few years ago, I had this epiphany on a visit to a friend: I was so determined to make my trip fun that even when some parts of it didn’t work out how I thought, I still had a blast. The same held true this year when visiting Boston for the first time (love Boston!), meeting all my new friends in Tallahassee, or even just moving to the town in the first place. Because I expected to have a good time and find something for me in my new home, I did, and now I feel comfortable here and feel like it’s a place where I can grow and learn tremendously. The same is true for professional relationships, btw–because I expect the people I’m around to impress me with their incredible insights and great ideas, they always do because I am open to letting those amazing qualities come through in our interactions.
You really can do what you love
I remember being worried about feeling ‘boxed in’ at a desk job or in a situation where I might not get to conduct research and grow in that way. As I went through my MLS program and my Center for the Book certificate, I realized all the incredible opportunities there were for me to discover new things and how much interest I could generate in a project I cared deeply about. I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to enter into a PhD program, because it has shown me that I can pursue my dreams and that other professionals believe in my abilities enough to support that pursuit (this has been the case for a long time, but sometimes it takes me a while to see things). Now that I’m here, I’m amazed at all the things I am learning and at how welcoming, fun, and inspiring my peers and faculty members are. I’m also learning that I can use the PhD as an opportunity to try my hand at a few different types of research in different areas (while I still have faculty who I can work with as a student and ask for guidance!) and get a better understanding of my many research interests (and whether they will still be interests for me later on!) Even in my personal life this is true–now that I am pursuing my hobbies my renewed vigor, I have noticed that I have the opportunity to share what I learn with other people through my food blog or just by bringing people food, and that makes it even more fun.
Loss is an opportunity for growth
There were definitely some losses this year, just like there are every year. When I was in high school and studying as an undergraduate, I had gone through a number of very traumatic and life-altering losses, and I learned some very valuable lessons. First, that those losses are an important part of who I am and that the things I learn from them are lessons I should cherish. Second, that I will never ‘get over’ my losses, nor is that a healthy approach to take. I had an incredible professor and mentor as an undergrad, who taught me to view loss as something we incorporate into our experience rather than something that we place a time limit on (i.e. I just need to grieve for a month or so then I’ll be over it) or assume that it only has relevance to our past. I have survived some pretty incredible (and some incredibly bad) circumstances, and each has taught me that I can survive whatever comes my way because I know I can incorporate it into my lived experience and use it as a learning experience. That learning can come from something as seemingly minor as leaving a part-time job to something as major as death of loved ones. This year has been an incredibly valuable reminder of that, and with that reminder comes the reminder to treasure what we have in the present moment (being aware and present is something I hope to work on in 2012).
And finally…Change is good! Very good!
I stayed in Iowa City for 10 years. Iowa City is an amazing town filled with amazing people, and living there gave me a chance to grow and learn and build connections. Without that experience I would not be in the same place I am now, but since it was not the first place I lived I also knew when it was time to go. I still miss a lot of the people there, but I am amazed at how refreshing and invigorating it is to be in a new place and pursuing new opportunities. Moving to Tallahassee has been so rewarding personally and professionally, and has inspired me to think about bigger changes I could make in the future (living overseas, perhaps?)
I’m excited to see what changes 2012 brings to me and to all of you! Happy New Year!