01 January 2018

I Am SO READY For 2018!!

2017 was lousy for me. Perhaps it was okay for you, but it definitely was not the best for me.

Life has actually not been that great since 2015. And a large part of that was my decision to come back to the United States. The US is awesome and I am very proud to be from this country, but living in the States does not feed me with the same excitement and varied learning experiences that living overseas does.

"What are you most proud of personally and professionally?" This is a question that my friend Karen posted on instagram a few days ago. This question has really stumped me. 2017 was an incredibly hard year for lots and lots of reasons. Some of the reasons I am not going to delve into on this post, but should be obvious when looking back at any of the headlines.

I wasted a lot of time moving to Tallahassee and starting a PhD program. This is no one's fault. I thought this program was the right fit for me and the professors thought I was the right fit for the program. But the more classes I attended and the more conversations I had with various classmates, the more I realized this program was absolutely the wrong fit for me.

The absolute best decision I made in 2017 was to walk away from this PhD program. I put so much pressure on myself that this degree had to be finished RIGHT NOW, which was ridiculous! I have proven time and time again that I can go to school whenever I want to go to school. And doing a PhD program whilst teaching 15 classes at a private school in another state is not how someone should do a PhD program--not me anyhow. There should be proper funding and time given to soak up the new information and appropriately sink into my doctoral studies. 

I was driving to and from work everyday, an hour each way, teaching and planning and wrangling students, and trying to complete coursework and readings in the evenings and on weekends. It wasn't working and my 180/141 recently read blood pressure proved this . . . Just for kicks I made a chart of how my time was spent, weekly, for the semester. See below. While I did not include the obnoxious amount of time I spent strolling the aisles at Trader Joe's thinking about food and cooking, it does accurately record the other ways I spent my time. Most activities overlap, which you will realize once you add up the time spent and see that it far exceeds a normal week's hour allotment. I was trying to read during my down time in my classrooms, or listen to readings in my car on my long drives. I cut my sleeping back to a strict 5 hours a night. I tried to write multiple 3 page papers in 30 minutes with no editing or final read-throughs. It just wasn't working, you guys. While I was steadily riding on B's throughout the semester, this is not how I wanted to be a doctoral student.

And the material we were reading and discussing as doctoral students I thought would be new and exciting. But a large portion of the material was not new and exciting to me. It was a rehash of what I just finished over the last 8 years at MICA. This proves to me that MICA is truly a phenomenal school and the thinking at MICA is far more ahead of the game than I could have ever been aware of during my studies there. 

Since 2007, I have been in school almost solidly: I finished my undergraduate degree, completed two masters (an MA and an MFA), and lived and worked overseas for 4 years whilst traveling back and forth to Baltimore to finish said MFA. That's a lot, you guys. A lot. 

Setting aside this PhD program now will allow me some much-needed downtime to enjoy my teaching and art making. And, it will allow me to further research other PhD programs that might be a better fit for me in the future. While I have no interest in jumping into another doctoral program immediately, I am interested in looking through programs in Europe, Australia, and the Northern part of the United States, and maybe waiting about 10 years before starting up school again. Best decision evers!! 🎉

Life is a rollercoaster! Am I right, peoples? So if it was such a crappy year for me, what good things did happen? It's absolutely possible for the good and the bad to co-exist . . . So perhaps trying to focus on the positive will make the transition into 2018 even better!!!

Lots of my friends had babies this year. That's awesome! Several of my closest friends got married in 2017--also exciting and wonderful! So let's revisit Karen's question from above, and refocus: "What are you most proud of personally and professionally?"

Personally, the beginning of the year was rough. But I managed to get to the Women's March in St. Petersburg, I visited my best friend of 36 years and had an absolute blast, and I went to Cuba with my new friend Anjali--one of the best traveling experiences of my life! (You can see more pics from Cuba, here and here.)

During the summer, I crunched my time to fit in a variety of interesting experiences! I went on a great Southeastern road trip with my cat Rigby. We visited friends in Nashville (where I also taught a weeklong class with my friend Emily), Houston, and Dallas. And I taught for three weeks in China--an amazing and eye-opening experience! It was an incredibly busy summer with little to no rest, but totally worth it!

The fall was an absolute blur . . . The doctoral program that I started and stopped (please re-reference beginning of blogpost) began in August, as did my new teaching job in Thomasville, Georgia. I really love my teaching assignment this year. It has been an absolute blast getting to know the small town of Thomasville and learning about all of my students. Every 6 weeks or so, I blog about our experiences in the classroom. You can read more about the projects we have been working on here and here.

I made the wise choice to spend Thanksgiving in Nashville with friends and family. Below, you can see my sister and I at the Gobble, Gobble, Give event with Kerry's friend Shauna and her two boys. We helped to prepare and distribute thousands of turkey dinners to the homeless population of Nashville. 

I also got to see Nick Cave's awesome show at The Frist Center with my good friend Camilla Spadafino and her daughter Alex. We had such a blast cheesing in front of his work and studying the extreme handiwork displayed in his pieces!! Still in love with this work after studying it for close to 10 years!! 💜

The week after Thanksgiving I made the best decision ever to move to Thomasville so that I could be a short 10 minute drive to and from my teaching job. I get a discount at the Y through my school, awesome insurance, and it's nice to be near to where my friends are. I also went to the dentist straight away and made all of my doctor's appointments for 2018. To being strong and healthy in the New Year!

Of course Rigby loves the new place and--although I have only been there for a week or so--I have already started cooking! It's fabulous to feel excited about all things again!

For Christmas, I decided to come back to Nashville and spent my first day back in town creating ornaments for the most amazing ornament exchange ever! Hosted by my friend Camilla, 10 of us showed up with wrapped gifts and swapped ornaments . . . Which meant we each got to come home with a loot of new ornaments! Check out my new collection below! All handmade and all beautiful! 

*Important side note* Camilla and I will be hosting a vintage Hollywood glamor-style party to celebrate Valentine's Day!! XO Join us on February 10th--be on the lookout via Facebook for a fun invite!

To ring in the New Year, I went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and visited my good friends Emma and Chris. It was on average about -5 degrees the entire time I was there, but I was able to make a quick trip to Chicago to see old friends and experience some fun in the snow! I had an incredible time!

Never underestimate the power behind a fresh start and trying something new! Enjoy some magic in the 2018!

PS: The first songs I listened to in the New Year are as follows, in no particular order . . . 😃 *NSFW*

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