Quite honestly, I wasn't going to make a year in review, as 2018 is the year of me shutting the fuck up about my growth, but then Ingrid Nilsen made a wonderful video about the highs and lows of 2017, which is no surprise, since she is a wonderful human and I'm
Here is the original video she posted, in case you're interested:
Just as a quick disclaimer, this is, again a personal year in review, but I cannot emphasize enough the important of engaging in political discussions. However, if I included politics in the lows section, this would be a never-ending post.
In no particular order, here are the lows of 2017:
1) Navigating the messy logistics of a relationship
It feels a little extreme to call this a low, since I have always recognized that relationships take work, and are well worth the effort. However, it is also dangerous to romanticize the issues that come with living with a partner. This was the first year I had to navigate the space of sharing a household with someone who wasn't just a roommate. That first year in particular is challenging as all heck. Not only do you have to deal with differing opinions and backgrounds, but you have to reconcile those differences with important issues like money and future plans.
Hannah Witton, another amazing YouTuber, covered this very issue and concluded that you essentially have to transition into seeing your SO as not just a romantic partner, but a business partner as well. You have to discuss things like rent and utilities (and chores! The horror). It's anything but sexy--but completely necessary.
Contrary to the popular belief that I overshare everything to everyone, I've kept quiet about the severity of my anxiety for a while. But, thanks to--you guessed it--YouTube, I've realized that suffering in silence is helpful to approximately 0% of the people in my life.
The levels of anxiety come in waves, but it has been consistently present to some extent. For those of you who wonder why I don't drive, I am not a lazy asshole who wants to waste your gas money. Crippling anxiety, when left untreated, gets worse with age, and this past summer was no exception. It got so bad, that I would stay up until sunrise every night, feeling certain that a burglar was going to try to enter our apartment (retrospectively, I spent all night watching the apartment, but had no plan as to what I would do upon facing said burglar). It's not a sustainable way to live, though I've tried to sustain it for roughly 13 years.
I have had a tumultuous relationship with anxiety, as I attribute being "tightly wound" to my academic success and time management skills, but it also damages my relationships with people and, you know, that whole relaxation thing that I've heard is so great.
This low is something I'm still grappling with, and trying to form some kind of treatment plan (any advice would be much appreciated!). In the meantime, yoga has helped tremendously, which is why it's still a necessity on the title of this blog (although coffee doesn't do any favors to anxiety).
3) Difficult teaching situations
For the most part, I have had amazing (or at least tolerable) students who constantly surprise me with their insights and intellect. That being said, this past semester was an exceptionally demanding one (and frequently demanded tools that I didn't yet possess). I dealt with a LOT of entitlement, collective rebellion, and one giant shit show of a plagiarism case that lasted about two months. I felt like I spent 90% of my time running to meetings about (and with) one student. I felt completely lost and helpless, and it started to interfere with my coursework and teaching.
Thankfully, I had amazing support from my colleagues and supervisors who were also trying to figure out a relatively unique situation. The case I spent months trying to navigate concluded with the best possible outcome, and I learned quite a few pedagogical strategies for future teaching situations.
4) The most difficult semester I have ever endured
This might seem like an exaggeration, but I genuinely believed that surviving this past semester would be a miracle. Not only did I have an incredibly demanding section of students (in addition to another section), but I took by far my most challenging courses. Both courses demanded intense research, extensive revisions, and over 200 pages of reading per week. It didn't help that I had a tumultuous relationship with one of my professors. Somehow, in the midst of it all, I also worked a second job at the local grocery store. It was the most emotionally and professionally taxing experience in my life. I will never know how I got through it without losing sleep (I turn into a horrible, monstrous creature without at least 8 hours per night), but somehow I did it, and managed to produce somewhat coherent content.
Despite 2017 being akin to a garbage pail, there were some highs of 2017 (some of which, I swear, will have nothing to do with cats). That being said, the biggest high has to be...
1) Xavier and Gato
Getting our cats was quite possibly the definition of an impulse decision. Brave Heart and I went to the cat rescue with the intention of just looking (for one cat, mind you), and ended the evening with two meowing cats in the back of our car. It definitely was not the most fiscally responsible decision we ever made, and we would probably have saved a lot of money at this point. But I am a firm believer in having at least one slightly irresponsible part of your life (as long as it doesn't hurt anyone!), and the cats bring us exceptional joy. They are our furry children, and we will always feel lucky that we decided to be impulsive that one February night.
This one was an unexpected high, and, without a drastic change in mindset, would have been a low. One of my good friends got married this past summer, and I was one of the only women in the friend group who was not asked to be a bridesmaid. It stung for a while, but, if I recall correctly, 2017 was the year of getting the fuck over myself and realizing that someone else's wedding has nothing to do with me. Still, I was anticipating discomfort in being the only one not wearing a bridesmaid dress, the only one in the friend group with a distinctly different role. I could have very well turned this into a giant pity party. However, I made the conscious effort to turn what was a difficult experience into a friend reunion. Had I not participated in the wedding, I would have A) missed out on one of my good friend's biggest life events, and B) I probably wouldn't have gone back home. That experience turned into one of the happiest nights of drinking and dancing with some of my best friends.
3) Having an established life away from home
Despite this high seeming identical to 2016's "establishing life away from home," I see distinct differences in the two. 2016 was the year of transitioning out of a place I'd spent my entire life. I remember feeling scared and homesick through December. This year, however, I felt like Fort Collins was home. I had made a life with my partner and cats, and felt eager to return to "FoCo" (as the natives call it) whenever I was visiting State College. We spent 2017 making our own traditions, which I suppose is a step into the realm of the horrifyingly "adult."
4) Kicking grad school's butt
While I could have done with less school-related tears, I'm proud of the content that I produced and the achievements that went along with it. Last year felt very "oh you haven't dropped out yet? Congratulations!", but the expectations for us second-years increased dramatically. I'm proud of saying yes to more opportunities (even if they send me in a week-long rage about STEM fields), for writing--in my humble opinion--my best paper yet, and being well on my way to graduating with a masters degree.
(I am also hoping to publish and participate in more than zero conferences, so if anyone has any advice about navigating that academic space, do let me know!).
So, there you have it. I hope I can reflect on 2018 with far more highs than lows, and with a big-kid job or some such.
Have a delightful new year, friends!