If I had to use one sentence to sum up 2017, it would have to be: “not what I expected.”
Yes, life never quite goes how you planned it, but this year seemed like it was especially rife with experiences that totally took me by surprise. Here’s a few highlights and musings on another year.
I kicked off 2017 with Kayla Itsines’ 12-week BBG program. I had been wandering aimlessly with my fitness habit for a couple of months, and it served me very well to kickstart my routine. Her program gave me a huge boost in upper body strength and was an enjoyable, unfussy way of reestablishing my routine. I still use her workouts when I need ideas for the gym.
After a few weeks between programs, I decided to spend the summer tackling a goal I’d had percolating in the back of my mind: run a half marathon. As I wrote at the time, I’ve had a troubled relationship with running, and running for distance was something I always doubted I could do. It only took a few weeks before I completely changed my tune. My body and my mind took to running faster than I ever imagined. I ran a half marathon in September, and it went as well as I could’ve ever hoped.
Running is funny (and unlike other workouts I’ve done) in that when I really get in the zone, I stop thinking about running entirely. It’s extremely meditative and mentally restorative. Running has arguably done more for my mental wellbeing than any fitness routine I’d undertaken before.
According to Strava, from May through December, I ran for about 67 hours, covered about 343 miles and climbed about 25,000 ft.
I hit the ground running with the blog in 2017. I had built up some nice momentum in 2016 that I let carry through to the next year. As the year wore on, things shifted. In the latter half of 2017 in particular, I pulled back considerably from the blog. I fell behind on content I planned, missed some things entirely, and generally lost my previously military-level consistency.
While it’s not really fair to say I have less time to blog, it is fair to say I have less mental bandwidth and more competing priorities. Throughout 2017, my level of responsibility at work skyrocketed. Although I still work totally reasonable hours and I do genuinely enjoy my job, I find myself much more mentally drained when I come home. I need ample time to unwind, versus before when I finished my work day with plenty left in the tank.
Beyond that, my life outside of work has evolved, too. I’ve found myself doing more than just work, blog, workout, sleep, repeat. I’m spending more time on neglected hobbies and working on improving my house, for example.
All told, spending 3 nights a week and half my weekend on the blog is a much bigger ask than it used to be.
I don’t want to have to choose between blogging and going for a hike or reading a good book or spending the day with friends. I don’t want to overwork myself and suck all of the fun out of blogging–I don’t have to do this, and there’s not much point to it if it’s not fun or satisfying. Not only that, I don’t want to put out mediocre, uninspired content because I don’t have time or because I’m not feeling it.
All that said, the latter half of the year drove home that my old way of doing things just isn’t going to work with the direction my life has moved. While that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it does mean I have to adapt. I’m trying to find a way to take a more mindful approach to blogging and managing my time. Whatever I choose to spend my time on–blog or otherwise–I want to do it well.
Working on my photography game
2017 was a very good year for photos. Although it’s hard to pick favorites, I sprinkled a few gems in this post. I’ve continued to grow and evolve in my photography both for blog purposes and my own personal use. I’m better at using the equipment I have, better at spotting good light, and better at editing to really bring out the best in each shot. I’m really, really proud of some of the pics I took last year. I still have so much to learn, but I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made.
To drive this point home, take a look at this photo I took at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in 2016:
Compared to this one that I took last month:
On a more personal note…
Even though I’m in my late 20s now, 2017 was the first year of my adult life where no major life changes happened. With that in mind, I expected the year to be an easy, breezy time to sit back and catch my breath for a minute.
That kind of happened, and kind of didn’t. Life didn’t throw me major curveballs, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. In a way, everything was a little more calm this past year…but only externally. Not having major distractions meant I had mental bandwidth to focus more on my inner world and personal growth. That led to a lot of things like emotional experiences and personal revelations where I finally put the pieces together on things in my life. Sometimes that was satisfying and positive, sometimes heavy and saddening. Although a lot of this personal work is still very much a work in progress, 2017 gave me a much-needed opportunity to dig into myself.
Surprisingly, running ended up being a facilitator for some of those experiences. As I alluded to above, running is very meditative for me, and it gave me ample time to reflect and process feelings from life or simply to feel joyful. It helped me to open up the range of emotions available to me throughout an otherwise ordinary week. On one of my most awesome runs this summer, I remember cruising downhill on a gorgeous morning, feeling great, and just wanting to scream from pure joyfulness. Woah, what? When I said at the beginning of this post that this year brought many things I did not expect, the emotional journey of running definitely made the list.
Another element of my year’s personal journey: leaning into solitude. I’ve always struggled with loneliness, and moving across the country to a small town has only served to exacerbate that. In the years prior to last, I spent a lot of time feeling sad about my loneliness and lack of nourishing connections. While yes, I had cause to mope, I’d had enough and I decided to shift that energy. I genuinely enjoy spending time alone and solitary experiences can be beautiful and nourishing in their own right–like a solo trail run on a quiet day. I decided to work on accepting and even embracing solitude over focusing on what I lacked.
Ironically, almost as soon as I began this work, multiple friendships crystallized nearly instantly. I found myself in the middle of more invitations and more authentic relationships than I’d had in years. Although I’d been working hard to “put myself out there” for years, suddenly connections flowed almost effortlessly. Now I feel like I’m in such a better place both in solitude and in good company. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Most popular posts – in order
My personal favorite posts – no particular order
My series of giveaways for my 3-year blogiversary (these are now closed, but were so much fun to run!)
What I’m looking forward to in 2018
More running. More time outside. I spent more time outside in 2017 than ever, and it was fan.freaking.tastic. More of that please!! I hope to run a couple more trail half marathons and make some gains in my capacity for mileage and elevation gain. I hope to snag a spot in the 2018 Soulstice run in October, an iconic trail running event in northern AZ. Also, I think this is the year I’ll finally get on a mountain bike. We’ll see how that goes…
As the last fitness note, we just set up a small home gym in our garage. A friend was downsizing her Rogue setup, so now we’ve got an Olympic barbell, a full set of bumper plates, a rack with pull-up bar, and a few extras like rings and a kettlebell. It’s going to be such an awesome option for strength work or CrossFit-style workouts any time of day or night.
On the travel front, I have another trip to New Zealand on the books for April (yessss!!!!) and a double-header trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons for September. The rest of the year is still up in the air, but I have no doubt some fabulous adventures will present themselves.
Continuing the train of thought I started earlier in this post, I’m reevaluating my approach to blogging and how it fits into my life. What do I want my days to look like, and how do I logically fit blog work into that? What message do I want to send to people who visit? What sort of content do I want to improve, add, or reduce? Although I still want to be mindful about leaving time for my other priorities, I’m eager to infuse new life into this space. I’m hoping I can come up with some good answers to those questions and move into the year with improved clarity and refreshed vision for this space.
With that in mind, one tangible to-do is to redesign my site. Although my current design has served me well for almost 2 years, I’m ready to reinvigorate it with something fresh and new. This facelift will undoubtedly take a long time to plan and implement, but be on the lookout for AA 4.0 sometime this year.
Thank you for reading this year! I hope 2018 brings great things for you, and I’m looking forward to another year of sharing activewear, adventures, and whatever else life may bring!