Well, 2017. What can we say about you? You were not good. We all thought 2016 was pretty much the worst, but 2017, you found a way to top it. For most those of us who expected 2017 to be even worse than 2016, I think it lived up to nearly every nightmare we expected. In some ways, it was even much worse than expected.
While 2017 felt like it was decades long and has probably aged us all at least that much, I do think there was a lot in 2017 that should give us hope, as long as you’re willing to see it.
However, this isn’t a post about why we should see those things and have hope after 2017. This is a post where I reflect on my own life in the last year, as I try to do each year. For me, it’s important to take this moment as a way to re-center how I see and feel about things. I consider myself a realist in my outlook, but you can’t be a realist without taking moments from time to time to recalibrate.
Much like 2016, I’m stuck in this awkward position of trying to reconcile that my personal life this year was hardly anything I could complain about, despite our world increasingly becoming a hellscape of which there is no escape.
Also like 2016, this year started off with a wonderful trip to Disney World for the Dopey Challenge, my second. runDisney races are how the wife and I have started off six of the last seven years and 2018 will follow in that tradition. It’s just…fun! And, this year, I ran a really incredible marathon in Disney. I couldn’t have been happier with it.
As for the rest of running, my goal for the year was to run a lot more races than I normally do. Typically, I only run a handful of races each year, but 2017 was supposed to be all about changing that. I’d have to say I succeeded with this. I ran three marathons, seven half marathons, a 10-miler, three 10ks, three 5-milers, and six 5ks. That’s 23 races!
Of those three marathons, the first was my fifth Disney World Marathon, the second was my redemption at Grandma’s Marathon, and the last was my third time doing my favorite marathon ever, the Chicago Marathon.
Not only did I run those races, but I PRed the 5k (twice), the 10k, the 10-miler (sort of an automatic PR, but fuck it!), and the half marathon. Can’t really complain about that! Oh, and I ran my first international race! And not only were two of those three marathons Boston-qualifying times, but they’re three of my four fastest marathons since transitioning.
I did have a few small running ruts this year and some flirts with injury in the first half that kept me from doing even more, but I don’t think I’m in a position to complain.
I’m finishing this year with 1,582 miles, a new PR by about 30 miles. And if I decide to brave the ice outside after posting this, it’ll be 1,586 before 2017 is dead forever.
Going back to the beginning of the year, we all knew 2017 was going to be rough, but attending the Women’s March in Washington DC turned out to be an amazing way to get energized and ready to fight all year. Of course, it was a mixed experience for many people, but the overall experience of that weekend for me was fantastic. I spent two days with friends and feeling the love and support we all have to give each other. This is for sure something that stuck with me throughout the year.
Speaking of love and support from friends, 2017 became the Year of Wine and Cheese parties. My friend Grace started having our group of friends over the weekend after the 2016 election for wine and cheese and, throughout 2017, this became something we did more and more. Each party was more epic than the last, sometimes with twice as many cheeses as people. Each gathering was a lady bonding extravaganza of friendship and support that breathed fresh life into us all. In times like these, friendship is important.
In addition to great friendships, our family grew this year too! We officially decided to adopt Nibbler, the stray cat we took in at the beginning of November 2016. After adopting him out twice, only to have him come back to us twice, we realized we were his forever home the whole time. We couldn’t bear to send him off to another home. Having four cats is…well, a thing. But our family is big, furry, and happy. I couldn’t be happier to have Nibbler with us forever.
Looks like Nibbler is coming back to us AGAIN! That poor little goober just can't seem to get a steady home settled down for him.— Amelia "Merry Holidays" Gapin 🎄🕎🎅❄️🕯️ (@EntirelyAmelia) May 9, 2017
2017 was also a big year for traveling. In addition to the January Disney trip, I took two other weekend trips to Disney World. One for the runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge in April and the other at the end of September with some of my former Tumblr coworkers. That last trip was a particularly amazing experience because I got to see Disney World through the eyes of a couple adults who were experiencing it for the first time. It was like being around the giddiest of children.
Despite three trips to Disney, I found time for other trips. I also went to Chicago, Duluth, Montana, London, Berlin, Edinburgh, and Reykjavik.
Chicago is, of course, one of my favorite cities and I’m glad we were able to spend the weekend of Chicago Marathon there three years in a row.
I really wish I had finished and posted my post about my Montana snowboarding trip in March. This was such an amazingly fun time with Tumblr friends and newly-made friends. I got to spend five days snowboarding in Big Sky and a day snowmobiling in Yellowstone. Yellowstone included seeing multiple geysers, only seeing the very end of Old Faithful because it turns out Old Faithful isn’t so faithful after all, flipping a snowmobile, and having a bison charge at me. Of course, there were also the beautiful landscapes, as well.
My trip to Duluth was my second time going there for Grandma’s Marathon, but first actually running it. This time, I got to spend most of my weekend with my friend Sophie and hang out around a city I find surprisingly charming and lovely. This trip turned out to be the perfect way to mentally recover from being laid off literally the day before.
Finally, of course, there was that epic Europe trip. When people ask me which of the four cities I liked the most, London, Edinburgh, Berlin, or Reykjavik, I can’t answer. They were all just so amazing. This was my first time traveling abroad alone and also my first time backpacking on a trip. Both aspects turned out to better than I could have possibly imagined.
Not forgetting about that little “being laid off” bit, I truly see that as one of the best things that happened to me all year. Yes, I LOVEEEEEED working at Tumblr for two and a half of the nearly three years I worked there, but I knew the time had come to move on, for many reasons. I had started looking for a new job already, but being laid off not only gave me the push to really dig into that job search, but it also meant I got a really amazing severance package which made being laid off an oddly solid financial investment—and this a bad run-on sentence with two
buts . Not to mention, I ended up getting a three-month summer vacation which enabled that Europe trip to even happen.
And through my job search, I learned a lot about myself and my experience. I gained massive amounts of self-confidence in my skillset and ability to do well in technical interviews. Of my seven in-person interviews, ranging from 3.5 to 6 hours, I got two offers and reasonably thought three of the others went well enough that I might get an offer. I’d always feared technical interviews. Prior to this job search, I had only done three (two of which leading to jobs) and felt like I sort of sucked at them. Technical interviews made me fear ever losing my job or even just searching for a new job, in general. Looking like an idiot or having people think I’m an idiotic imposter is one of my biggest fears in life and going on engineering interviews digs deep down into that. But this stint of interviewing showed me I shouldn’t worry about it. I not only should have confidence in myself, but I shouldn’t fear being able to find a job in this industry.
Plus, in the end, I came out of the experience with a new job at Bitly that I really enjoy. I work with some great people and feel challenged every day. It feels like the right fit for me.
That new confidence also helped me going into my second college speaking engagement with slightly less fear. I was still terrified, as I hate speaking in front of people or having a spotlight put on my like that, but it went really well. My first speaking experience was to a very small group of students a couple years ago, but this one was to a packed house of around 200 students and faculty members at Shippensburg University, including their dean and president. It was also preceded by a panel about being LGBT in the workplace with some amazing other panelists who are doing great work. Not only did I feel like the talk went better than expected, it did so with some technical difficulties. I had agonized over a powerpoint presentation to provide some visuals and a skeleton for my talk. While the presentation was mostly a crutch for me to have my talking points and outline available, there were also some points in my talk that really relied on the visual aids. However, when the projector was giving issues, I had to improvise and do without visuals. Lucky for me, I was able to use this as little bit of additional comic relief throughout my presentation in a way that made for a better talk.
Ugh, I wish I had written about that experience when it happened. 😕
And, of course, my friends Matthew and Sarah were amazing hosts while I was in Shippensburg. I’m so glad I said yes when Matthew approached me about this!
I also don’t want to forget about getting a firmer grasp on my mental health this year. I started at the very end of last year, but continued that into this year. I think I’m the most mentally healthy I’ve ever been. This is perhaps one of the best things I did for myself all year. It’s enabled me to be stronger and more resilient.
What a busy year! That’s just the big stuff too, there were, of course, so many smaller everyday kind of things, as well! While I don’t know that any single year could ever touch the life-changing level that 2016 was for me, 2017 was another really big year for personal growth and experiences.
There were for sure negatives this year, like Hattie nearly losing her tail in a freak accident. However, as I look back on my year, the negatives have faded away and are totally eclipsed by all of these wonderful things. It’s something for me to be thankful for and not take for granted. As we all know, 2017 was a complete and utter hellshow, but it’s remembering and focusing on all of these good things that keeps me going and fighting another day. Without reflecting on all of the good I’ve experienced, I’d have nothing to fight for and I’d burn out. That balance is very important to me.
I know 2018 will be, at best, an extremely challenging year for our country and the world, but who knows what it’ll have in store for me. I don’t think I could say it better than I did last year: > 2017 will, almost without a doubt, be worse than 2016, but we don’t have to lie down and accept that quietly. We can stand up and keep on fighting. 2017 may be even worse than 2016, but that doesn’t mean this has to be a thing we’ll say every year going forward. We can put in the work to make this not being the darkest timeline, but just a dark spot in an otherwise brightening timeline. And along the way, we can accept that good and bad things can happen simultaneously. We can accept and enjoy the good while lamenting and fighting against the bad. Life and the world are weird like that and the balance between good and bad things isn’t a constant. It’s a pendulum that swings back and forth.