Back on December 31, 2015, I claimed that 2016 was going to be awesome, and though I know a lot of people would disagree, I think it sort of was. There were rough patches, some unnecessary drama with a new friend (or frenemy, as the kids say), and our country lost its dang mind in November, but for me personally, 2016 was a pretty fantastic year.
I did some traveling; in fact, a friend said to me the other day that it seems like I’m always at the beach. Ha, I wish! But really, I did do my fair amount of traveling in 2016, and it was a blast! I also did my fair share of volunteering, and finding ways to make both my life and the lives of my friends, family, and neighbors a little better.
Without further ado, here’s a recap of why my 2016 was not the awful suckmonster that everyone else’s was. 🙂
Back in January, I visited New Jersey for work and ate more seafood than any one person should eat in a single sitting. I also tried ice cream with falooda noodles and basil seeds in it (not bad), and ate one of the most enormous sandwiches I’ve ever seen. Also in January, I went through my initial Red Cross orientation, which downright enchanted me and set the tone for the rest of the year.
February brought with it an obsession with iced matcha lattes and I revealed my my seltzer obsession to the world. I attended my Disaster Action Team (DAT) orientation and completely fell in love with our organization and volunteers, and I signed up for a bunch of volunteer shifts, but considered myself a good luck charm because I was never called for a disaster (my, how quickly things change).
Though the first two months of the year were fun and I thought I was busy, I had no real idea what insanity was. March started off with a bang, and acclimated me to the crazy lifestyle I now happily lead. I had my very first volunteer disaster call at the beginning of the month, and it was a DOOZY. To this day, that night is what I remember when I start to think I’m getting tired, or when I start to question whether what we’re doing makes an impact. It all comes back to that first call, and it’s the example I use when I lead new volunteer orientations and tell them how amazing this experience can be. I will never ever forget how that night felt. That night, I learned the first of many valuable lessons – always have good, sturdy, waterproof shoes available… I never made that mistake again. On an unrelated volunteer note, I did Bowling For Kid’s Sake for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The United Way, which eventually got the ball rolling for another volunteer venture later in the year. I was also put in charge of planning a large event for work, where my worlds collided and I got to show off my sweet bartending skills while at my full-time job. Later in the month, I experienced my first taste of people suggesting I leave my full-time job to work for our volunteer organization, and I was set loose on my own with a brand-new trainee without a team lead (even though I was still a trainee myself, which completely baffles me now that I’m thinking back). Eventually, I was promoted to an official team member (after taking calls on my own, I guess), and I was privileged to tour the Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services, which is still one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I also almost killed three volunteers with a seatbelt check, a story which I still love telling today. 🙂
April saw two of my worlds colliding yet again – this time, the volunteer world and the bartending world. One of the first work events of the month included a medical emergency that spurred me into wanting to take action. As a result, and thanks to the volunteer work I do, I was able to get certified in Adult and Pediatric CPR/AED/First Aid. On a sweeter note, I traveled out of my comfort zone to Antney’s, where I tried their awesome homemade ice cream as part of my 16 in ’16 adventures. I finally made it back to Punta Cana, this time with my parents and my cousin who’s just a couple years older than me. We saw some wildlife and I took some nice beach pictures. When I got back to Pittsburgh, I coined the phrase that’s become the cornerstone of my volunteer career and our unofficial DAT team motto: “Sleep is for suckers.” The very next day after I came up with our team motto, I had an insanely busy day – I was promoted to Worker In Charge, I took a Disaster Assessment leadership course, then I went to my parents’ house to celebrate my birthday (shhhhh, I didn’t announce my birthday to the world this year). I also sort-of started volunteering with the library (but not really, since most of the events are during workdays or on Saturdays), and on the last day of April, I had quite an exciting volunteer night filled with a multi-family fire, an explosion, a hospital visit, a trip to the South Side, and a minor incident in which I thought we were going to die. Typical Friday night. 😉
May started off quite nicely with a trip to NYC for work. Our customer put us up in SoHo for the week, and I made sure to get my per diem’s worth of food and beverages each day. When I got back to town, I was put in charge of another multi-family fire and I discovered the joy of pancake-wrapped sausages and dirty pictures. Later in the month, I attended our Disaster Training Institute and met some adorable therapy dogs. A week or so later, I was told I was being promoted to Team Leader, so I guess no one was deterred by pictures of me holding pancake-wrapped sausages in my mouth, nor by the fact that I can’t seem to spell my own name correctly in emails half of the time.
In June, I almost attended a Pirates game, administered first aid to a complete stranger outside of the gym, and saw one of my favorite college-era bands perform at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. The Pens won the Stanley Cup, and I skipped out of work to watch an insane parade. I received my Team Leader pin, and the very next night I spent hours upon hours overnight handling disasters. Finally, I joined yet another gym, because I have a problem and I seem to collect gym memberships like people used to collect stamps.
I ventured outside of my comfort zone and outside of the country in July when I went for a solo vacation in Vancouver, CA. I climbed a mountain and thought I was going to die (not for the last time in 2016). I ate a ton, drank a little, and generally had a really nice time by myself. When I got back to town, I took my first bike ride in years and surprisingly didn’t kill myself riding on the street.
August came and I jumped into 2014 head-first, two years too late, by finally downloading Facebook Messenger. Seems like a small thing to be proud of, but the messenger app, coupled with an unlimited text plan, has helped me become much more productive (oddly enough). I also installed an HD antenna for my tv, so the poor idiot box that hadn’t seen a picture since about 2009 was finally turned on so that I could watch the Olympics. And boy did I watch – I became obsessed. I also became obsessed with eyeliner, which also seems like something lame to get excited over, but it’s exciting for this tomboy. On the volunteer front, I secretly had my interview for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and then attended an Active Threat Preparation training that fascinated me. Towards the end of the month, we took our annual family vacation to the beach, but we changed it up a little this year – we went to Cape Charles, VA before we went to Myrtle Beach, SC. The vacation continued through…
… September! The beach vacation continued, and we survived our first tropical storm, Hermine. Luckily, the sun returned for our last beach day. I planned a surprisingly fun day trip to Beaver County, and then received notice of my acceptance as a Big the very next day. Basically, I didn’t spend much time in Pittsburgh in September, because just a week later, I was in Omaha, NE for work. As usual with my work trips, I made sure to make the most of the situation by eating and drinking as much as I could. When I got back home, I decided that maybe I should consider changing the way I eat, so I began my journey on a lower-carb diet in an effort to test recipes for my mom.
October saw my “lower carb” diet turn into a grain-free diet very quickly. I was also involved in some friend drama, which kind of devastated me, and from which I’m still trying to recover. Luckily, I’m a pro at distracting myself, so I took a day trip to Washington County and Meadowcroft, which took my mind off things for a little while. Another thing that kept me occupied was meeting my Little and then going on our first outing together not long afterwards. I also got to send my first disaster email that eventually got routed up to the President of the USA, and then the very next day I was on the news wearing crocs (not my finest fashion moment). I ended October on a high note, attending a volunteer event for work that I helped organize.
At the beginning of November, I tagged along as a police officer showed me how to break into a house, I led my first Worker In Charge orientation for the disaster team, followed just a couple days later by leading my first totally solo new volunteer orientation session (and my first foray into co-opting the volunteer office as my full-time job office). Americans lost their minds on election day, but that led to some of my friends and I making some Facebook magic happen. I tried crabs and attended a 21+ night at Carnegie Science Center, presented at our monthly volunteer meeting and then went out for margaritas with some of my favorite people, and attended Light Up Night and then had to be dropped off at the volunteer office on the way home for a disaster. The next day, someone turned the tables and did a random act of kindness for me, thus reaffirming my faith in the human race. Thanksgiving came (along with a nightmare volunteer situation that was never documented online), and my mom and I took a quick vacation to Ohio. The month ended with me taking on a new volunteer position and getting access to even more awesome things.
December started off with some culture, as I finally made my way to Wood Street Galleries. I learned how to drive our ERV, which is way bigger than a Mini Cooper, and then had a serious, out-of-nowhere discussion about my future and what I might like to do (a discussion that’s still ongoing). My faithful little iPhone 5S decided to stop ringing, which isn’t great if you’re on-call for disasters, so I finagled it that my full-time job is paying for a new iPhone 7Plus. I got to have quite a few dinners and events with my absolute favorite people in the world, and ended up spending a LOT of time in the volunteer office on my days off. I also had the opportunity to tag along with firefighters and be “one of the guys” at a disaster, and made friends with a church secretary and a vicar. The very next day, I flirted with a 60-something-year-old Salvation Army volunteer who quickly offered to leave his girlfriend for me. 😉 Food-wise, I treated myself to my first taste of Jamaican food, and then took myself out to lunch for moules frites one day. I enjoyed Christmas Eve with the family even though my body was confused and thought a holiday would be a good time to barf, and then I spent Christmas Day trying to recover with silly puppies. Finally, in the last few days, I’ve had the chance to reconnect with some friends who’ve moved away, and I jumped out of my comfort zone to try my first trampoline exercise class.
In terms of my 16 in ’16 list, I didn’t cross everything off the list, but I crossed off the most important things. Some of the unfinished tasks might get moved to 2017’s list, but they may not – I’m shifting my focus to things that are more important to me. I will, however, be eternally grateful for the 2016 list because it was the push I needed to get started with volunteering. I think it’s pretty obvious, looking back on the year, just how much volunteering has taken over my life; in fact, it’s completely changed my life for the better. I feel like a broken record when I say this, but it’s so true: I can’t remember what my life was like before I started working with the Red Cross. I know I thought I was busy, but doing what?? It’s hard for me to think back and remember a time when I didn’t know the incredible people who have become some of my closest friends over the past year. I can’t remember, and I don’t want to; my life has been permanently changed in the very best way possible.
While the rest of you may think that 2016 sucked, I’m content to disagree. Looking back on it all, I think this may have been one of my favorite years yet, and it makes me excited to imagine what more thrilling things can happen in 2017. 🙂 ❤