Looking back a year ago, at the end of 2015 I summarized the year as “a hell of a year.” It was my first full year of working and I was still grasping at the idea of getting paid a decent salary and having the ability and freedom to spend it on traveling, drinks and other enjoyments. In 2016, the high settled down, the monotony set it, and I started to itch for more. I told myself to live in the present, spend money on experiences rather than materialistic things, and most importantly, get out of my comfort zone to try new things. Now as 2016 comes to an end, I am proud to say I think I have successfully lived up to what I said a year ago.
In January I got my first ever job promotion to senior associate. It was not a huge feat, but this meant I was no longer an entry-level associate and I became that much more marketable to other employers. With my rotation, I understood what I liked and did not like about my job, but more importantly I discovered where I wanted to go next in my career. It took a bit of time to find my bearings, but better late than never.
I also traveled to Atlanta in January for a recruiting event at Georgia Tech and got to explore the city a little bit – checked out the Coca Cola museum, the Aquarium, the CNN museum, and nearby neighborhoods. The city was not as poppin’ as I thought, but I still enjoyed it and had a good trip; who doesn't like a company-paid trip?
In January I also learned about the solar cycle and how the Northern Lights will be dimmer in the next ten years, so I impulsively booked tickets to Iceland with Margaret, Leah, Bev and a couple others. We went at the end of February and stayed in the country for nine days – a long time for a vacation, but not enough for the amount of nature in Iceland. The trip was a blast and Iceland was beautiful. Despite the freezing temperatures and brutal wind chills, we saw the Jokulsarlon glacier, went glacier hiking, petted Icelandic horses, explored multiple waterfalls, saw the Northern Lights dance, and rode snowmobiles. The snow-covered landscapes gave a desolated but majestic vibe. We were sad to leave Iceland and all agreed that we must travel back during the summer months. Oh, and I celebrated my 24th birthday in Iceland. Skal!
Fast forward to May, I jokingly suggested a road trip to Nashville to John and Margaret, and they were crazy enough to go along with the plan. We drove 10 hours from DC to Nashville over Memorial Day Weekend. Despite the drive being so long, it was beautiful and Nashville was so unique. Nashvegas, Nashlorette, Nashtrash. Music is the main focus of Nashville and it was awesome because every single bar along Broadway had a live band. We hit up some of the classic bars like Tootsies and explored the music scenes of the city. Our Uber drove by Taylor Swift’s recording studio but unfortunately we did not see her.
Over the summer months, I spent most of my weekends and some weekdays dragon boating. DC Dragons grew a ton this year with new recruits, higher team motivation and camaraderie, which led to superb performances. Practices were brutal, but doing it alongside 20 other people made you not be a bitch because our races this season were determined by less than a second. This summer was the most physically fit I have ever been and a lot of that was because of peer motivation – by working out correctly and consistently, eating well, and drinking less. We worked our asses off all season and it paid off. We pulled multiple PRs at the end of the season and beat teams we would have never thought of beating at the start of the season. The 2K at Mercer was one that I will never forget; we said to stay aggressive and it was the strongest boat I have been on. Everyone gave it their all and some more. It was so great to see the team and individuals grow stronger – physically and mentally.
After dragon boat season ended I was hoping for a breather, but instead I continued traveling in September and October. I went to Vancouver and Seattle over Labor Day Weekend with Chang and his brother. It was my first time in Vancouver, and I was amazed at all the nature hikes and scenery. We went to Lake Joffre Provincial Park and it was the bluest water I have seen. It almost looked fake and it felt like I had stepped into a desktop wallpaper. We also did the Grouse Grind, an insane hike with an extremely steep incline. The views were blocked by the fog, but the experience of over 2,000 steps was memorable, better for some and worse for others. Seattle was not as exciting since I had been there before. I visited places I missed out on last time like the Boeing museum and the gum wall.
Just a week after my trip to the Pacific Northwest, I flew up to Cornell to host the second annual People + Money Talks. The event went as great as last year with an awesome team, but having done recruiting for 2+ years it was time to pass over the reins to younger alums. Nevertheless, it was nice to see Cornell again and to revisit my old stomping grounds.
In October, Monica and I went to Key West for her best friends’ wedding. Many people were not able to make it because of Hurricane Matthew, but we lucked out and only had a few flight delays and Key West was just outside of Matthew’s range. I never knew Key West was such a party city, but glad it was because we had a blast. Sun, booze, and friends, what else do you need? The wedding was beautiful and I was glad I was able to take photos for them and meet all of their family and friends. I went down knowing only Monica, but left feeling a lot closer to all her friends and their families.
As 2016 wrapped up, I had spent more time at home over Thanksgiving and Christmas before I headed to LA for a two-and-half week vacation. I was ready to check out from work completely and enjoy some of that California sun. But reflecting back on the past year, there were definitely a lot more highs than lows this year which I am thankful for. I like to focus on the highs because it is much more enjoyable to relive those moments, but the lows were what made me want to do more, travel more, and work harder. It is funny because I feel like you need to experience the bad to make you yearn for the good. You don't know what you enjoy until you have tried what you don't like.
Throughout the year, I had focused on living in the present and not thinking too much about the implications to the future (careers aside). This mindset encouraged me to try new things, which did not always lead to good outcomes but I would say majority of the time they did. I felt awkward being outside of my comfort zone, but what’s the point of always being comfortable and living a boring life? At the end of the day, no one is going to care or remember about all the small details, but if I don't even put myself out there I will never have the chance to know what it is like. If I ever have a doubt about not doing something, that is a sign that I should definitely do it.
As I look forward to 2017, I want to continue what I had been doing in 2016 – live in the moment, live for the experiences, and get outside of my comfort zone. But I also want to do more. I want to do all the “I’ve always wanted to…” and “What if I did…” Sometimes I have a lot of ideas in my mind, but I need to pull the trigger and just do it. If I never take action, those ideas will always be nothing more than a thought. It doesn't matter if I execute on those ideas and do poorly or even fail, but it is the first step towards doing more and better things. At least I will not be thinking “What if I had done this and that?” I am looking forward to more adventures, bigger ambitions, and doing more of what I want to do in the new year.
Cheers to 2016!