Although we’re told that the fourth Thursday in November is the day to be grateful, I always find that I’m more reflective at the New Year. As I near the end of a long holiday break, I’ve had time to decompress and relax, more so than I usually do at Thanksgiving, which typically sneaks up on me in a rush and when exam season is just around the corner, always on the brain.
So, with that said, I’ve been thinking lately about 2015. It hasn’t been a perfect year, to be sure, and I could (if I wanted) list all of the things that didn’t go my way or left me disappointed. But I don’t want. On balance, it’s been a pretty great year, and I have much to be grateful for: my health and the (relative) health of my friends and family, a wife with whom I can share the highs and lows and for whom my love grows every day, a job that leaves me feeling challenged, No, all things considered, it’s been a pretty great year.
Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights from 2015:
In March, I helped chaperone a 15-day service learning trip to India. As a bonus, because Emily was doing weekend duty on campus last year, she was eligible to travel as a “faculty participant” at cost. It was an incredible and humbling adventure for both of us—something neither of us will ever forget.
In June, Emily and I bought a “new” (gently used) car: a 2012 Subaru Outback with low mileage. This was the first car either of us had bought on our own, so we’re pretty proud of her. I did have about a week of buyer’s remorse as I feared that we bought more car than we really needed—and we did—but we got a good deal. I drove Emily crazy with all the research, but in the end, she agrees, we got the right one.
Later that month, I headed north in the new whip to the Boston area, where I spent the summer on the campus of Wellesley College working as an administrator for the same summer program where I cut my teeth in education as a college student. It was a crazy, exhausting two months, but it gave me a ton of great experience for my new role (see below). I saw a lot of myself (my old self) in the staff: energetic and idealistic. Hard not to be inspired in an environment like that!
It was tough being apart for Emily for two months (though she did come up to spend the Fourth of July in Boston—an experience I highly recommend for anyone who has the chance), but being on my own in a new environment did have an upside: it allowed me to reset some of my habits (especially around eating and exercising) and build some healthy new ones. I spent the summer eating well and running, and in the end, I lost about 30 pounds. (Actually, at one point, it was closer for 40 pounds, but after the holidays…)
I got a promotion as well, and in August, I returned from Boston to start in my first administrative position. It was a whirlwind few weeks, especially since my boss was out of the country for the start of school, but I eventually got my feet under me. I’m still learning a lot (and making mistakes), but I’m trying to practice what I preach and keep a growth mindset.
Finally, after an incredibly busy 11-month run (India over Spring Break, Boston for the summer), Emily and I finally got some much-needed R&R during the first part of the Thanksgiving holiday. Having loved our trip to East Africa in the summer of 2014, we decided to check out another part of the African continent. On the recommendation of a friend and colleagued who has lived and worked there, we spent several days in Senegal—mostly reading and relaxing in a hammock and sleeping in a treehouse built into a baobab tree and eating amazing French food. We didn’t do a lot of sight-seeing on this trip, but it was a glorious experience nevertheless. To top it off, we were able to take advantage of a direct flight from DC to Dakar to make it home in time to spend Thanksgiving with our families.
Over the last few days, I’ve spent some time looking forward as well as back—thinking about what the next few years might hold for myself and for Emily. My new role has brought about some fresh thinking in terms of the issues I want to work on, and the New Year gives us reason to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for and all that we hope for in the years ahead.
Perhaps I’ll write more about that going forward, but I’ll end with my resolutions for 2016. For now, I have two: to be a better (i.e., more communicative) son/brother/friend, and to make more time to write (whether here or elsewhere).