I’m not much for new year’s resolutions, but I am big on reflection. Last year, I did a 10 things I’m most proud of from 2016 post and I’m doing a similar reflection this year, especially since last year was so eventful.
So, without these sentiments being in any particular ranked order, these are the 10 things I’m most proud of.*
- We rose up. I was part of a movement of citizens rising up and speaking out about the changes in our great country, the United States of America, and how they were impacting us and many others. Though I had already been incredibly active with RESULTS, I Marched For All, with the Women’s March and some friends, including my dear friend Pattie. We don’t see each other as often now that she’s moved to Boone and I was in Raleigh, before moving abroad, but she is a friend who really inspires me with her drive to work hard and change the world while also having such a genuine heart. As the year progressed, I joined in with the RESULTS challenge to meet with all of our Members of Congress during the First 100 Days of the new Administration. RESULTS Raleigh was an overachiever and not only met with each office, but met with them twice about U.S. and global poverty programs and solutions the grassroots was fighting for!
- My Grandfather passed away on January 27, 2016 and I was honored to represent the family and honor my Grandfather Kermit Kelley’s memory at the service. Read more of the Lessons from Loss: Do Today What You Cannot Do Tomorrow I shared with those at the funeral. I think about him everyday and wish I could share my achievements and adventures with him, especially since he served in Africa during his Army service in World War II. My Grandma Frances remains an angel connection to him.
- I visited three foreign countries, including two I’d never been to. It was nice to spend a day in Paris again on my long layover to join the RESULTS grassroots in Zambia. Visiting Notre Dame, cafes, and the Louvre were time warps and majestic, while Zambia was a whole new developing world full of stories that tugged on every possible emotion. Canada was easy to navigate during that long night layover, since it’s right next door to the U.S., on the way to move across the world.
Public speaking became a passion. Some of my speeches included two shares to the Justice Theatre Project, speaking about poverty programs to the Lee County NAACP, a speaker on the panel for the ESSP Workshop: Advocacy and Influencing Policy, a presenter for three sessions at the 2017 RESULTS International Conference, and also speaking about advocacy and women’s health at the annual North Carolina U.S. National Committee for UN Women luncheon at the NC Governor’s Mansion.
- A surprising desire to run for office came to light for many as things changed in the world we live in. As such, I attended two candidate trainings: a Lillian’s List/LEAD NC training in Raleigh in April and a Progress Change Campaign Committee training in Washington, D.C. in July. I’m not ready to run for office, but this is something I may pursue one day. Sadly, NC doesn’t make it very easy for those who don’t come from wealth to run. A “part-time job” that only pays $14K a year and expects devotion from its legislators doesn’t cut it. So, if you run for office you’re usually old and wealthy, even if you could be able, passionate, and well-qualified when you’re younger, like I am.
- I learned to put myself first as I stood up for myself in situations of abuse and disrespect, while continuing to live as authentically and genuinely as possible. Some people know that my family has changed a lot in the past 8 years since my parents split up. Sadly, that has cultivated abusive situations in which I had to step away from people or put walls up to protect myself so I sought therapy this summer and basically came to the conclusion that sometimes we have to just accept absence and sadness rather than continue to invite mistreatment. We should never have to put up with toxic behavior whether we’re related to someone or not. A long-term personal relationship I was in also dissolved and left me feeling a great loss when he could no longer give me love and respect. Out of all the heartache and pain between my family and other relationship loss, I’ve remained open with hope for more love, goodness, and positive relationships. In that sense, I’ll always be a Pollyanna. All in all, I’ve found new friendships, great new love, and created new “family” and communities for myself as I’ve moved forward.
Though I struggled with the challenges of layoffs in 2016, I am proud that I found work as a public servant in government and it is extremely satisfying. That often meant turning away lucrative contract opportunities until I found the right fit to “do some good” while working. This directed me to substitute teaching to get to know the educational and family communities in Raleigh and a connection to work with the NC Department of IT, which turned out to be one of the greatest experiences, no matter how short it was. Working with Bill, Mary-Alice, and the others at DIT was a beautiful experience and I think about all the kind people there and the things I learned with them often. An application in 2016, has now led to my career change to work for USAID as a Development Outreach and Communications Specialist. I absolutely love my job, the honor of representing the United States Government, supporting development programs, and the diverse opportunities this career provides.
- I faced health and medical conflict. When I was a child, the genetic disposition towards anxiety and depression came on strong and early. Sadly, that led to a misdiagnosis as bipolar or manic-depressive. When I went through my medical clearance for my new job, I decided to go get a second opinion and have the diagnosis overruled because I’d never believed it was accurate. It turns out that I have ADHD. This means I have been on the wrong medication and given the wrong medical treatment most of my life, as well as discriminated against to a whole other extreme because of a poor diagnosis. ADHD is much more fitting. But, it’s sad that people, including family members, have held that mental health struggle and wrong diagnosis over my head for much of my personal life and even my career moves, as it followed me into the clearance process and only allowed me to obtain a “post-specific clearance because I have been ‘so proactive about dealing with my depression.’” We should not penalize those who seek help, especially when they really truly strive to live a healthier life or are not themselves during those challenging times.
Living abroad became a reality, even more different by the fact that I was moving to a developing country. Zambia is a beautiful, peaceful good country. Living abroad was something I’d always wanted to try, but I had no idea when, how, or if it would ever happen. Here I am though and I can proudly say I’ve lived outside of my home state of NC not only across my own country in Alaska, but also experiencing a completely different country’s way of doing things. There have been few moments of fear, but it has been confusing and overwhelming at times. Overall, I’m so glad I took the chance as it’s taught me so much. Zamlife as an expat American is it for me, for a year or two. Who knows where my career will have me posted this fall, but this is a great place to be.
- I reconnected with old friends, made new friends, and contributed to organizations I found value in. Some of that came from my Women & the Ways We Work blog project. During that project storytelling series, I had the great privilege to share the stories for 30 women, some whom I’ve never even met. Of course, 20-30 Something Raleigh Chicks, Society for Technical Communications Carolina chapter, RESULTS, and UN Women also continued to expand my network and I appreciated the roles I was allowed to serve with them. The RESULTS family remains a huge piece of my heart.
I lied. I’ve got one more.
- Letting go, appreciating solitude, and taking in the scenery expanded its meaning. Living in a developing country and getting to know more people has taught me patience. My standards remain high for my professional work and what my work stands for, but I don’t expect much outside work. If things fall short, move on. Find those who value you just as much as you value them. Our differences should unite us, not divide us. Life is short. You, your experiences, and your feelings matter. Not only that, but you are worthy of greatness both in company and the things you will do.
What are you most proud of?
*Any sentiments expressed in this blog are personal views and do not reflect those of the United States Government.