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Life Olympics 2016

I love a good reset. Birthdays. School years. Fiscal years. Calendar years. New quarters, months, weeks, days. We get a lot of opportunities to pause, reflect, and press the reset button. For all of my post-college adult life, the Life Olympics has helped me take full advantage of these temporal markers, but the annual round-up is still my favorite.

2016 Awards Ceremony:

Career – Bronze

What a weird year for Allovue. We started 2016 fresh off of a Series A raise with big plans and big expectations for the year ahead. 2016 would mark the first full year that our product was in the market. Our team grew from 8 people in November 2015 to 24 by the end of 2016. We moved into a beautiful new office. We expanded to new states, with districts large and small, urban and rural. We hosted our first Future of Education Finance Summit. We launched our blog. We redesigned our product and built a new budget module.

Why the bronze, then? I wish I could tell you I was fully prepared for the nuanced challenges that come with 300% growth in a year, but there’s just no preparing for that. At several points throughout the year, I thought to myself, “So this is why investors don’t like first-time founders, huh?” I reflected a lot on the difference between bad decisions and wrong decisions: with bad decisions, you choose an option that flies in the face of data, advice, and general signs of trouble; with wrong decisions, you choose an option that made a lot of sense at the time, with the information at hand, and it later turned out to be wrong. Wrong decisions tend to be clear in hindsight, and I made a few of those this year. I’m ending the year a little more sobered on the myriad challenges of building something big and transformative, yet just as steadfast on mission and vision. My plan for 2017 is much more concrete and specific. In nearly 4 years of this work, 2016 may have led me up the steepest learning curve yet. In 2017, I’ll need to put those those lessons to good use.

Health – Silver

You know what? Not horrible. This was probably my most consistently healthy year, despite being on the road at least half the year and traveling about 150K miles. I even finally conquered the Whole 30 Challenge and got back down to my college weight before my 30th birthday. Silver because I still get into ruts with exercise and eating well (do you KNOW how hard it is to eat healthy in an airport?), and still prioritize work over health when push comes to shove. I aspire to be the kind person who maintains their diet and exercise regimen no matter what, but I’m not there yet. I’ve done a better job this year of saying, “Hey girl, you can take a 2 hour break for yoga. The spreadsheets will be here when you get back I PROMISE,” but I’m still not very good at keeping health practices sacred. Customer wants me somewhere? Investor calls? Employee has an issue? All those things take precedence. I’m not at all convinced that they shouldn’t. Maybe someday I’ll have a normal job and feel like work can wait, but right now I still prioritize all things Allovue over my personal needs, and I’m kind of ok with that.

Home – Gold

My little house is looking good. I finally fixed a leak that has been plaguing me for years, refinanced my mortgage, installed window treatments throughout the house, and got rid of some nasty overgrown tree branches. I finished redecorating a few rooms, and had a gangbusters year with AirBNB. This year, my AirBNB earnings fully covered the costs of my mortgage, taxes, and internet service. This has afforded me the financial freedom to save, invest, and travel. And ya’ll thought this was a terrible idea. I also hit all my personal finance goals this year by getting myself fully out of “I-floated-the-company-and-my-non-salaried-life-on-my-credit-card-for-a-little-while-debt” and finally prioritized savings.

In college, I made a deal with myself: I could make risk-it-all/you-only-live-once financial choices until I turned 30, and then I had to get serious about saving because I had officially made it out of my twenties alive. I took advantage of this by traveling all over the world with every spare cent, buying a house I couldn’t really afford, and quitting my job and cashing out my pension to chase a dream/vision. I have no regrets about any of this, but I turned 30 in November, so it’s time to hold up my other end of the bargain.

Spirit – Silver

A pretty good year for this old soul. I took trips to Paris, Cancun, Vegas, and back to the Dominican Republic for some good old-fashioned unplugging. I kept up with my singing. I hit my Goodreads goal of 35 books. I went to the symphony a lot. I saw Mike Birbiglia’s live stand-up. I’ve also just started calling bullshit more candidly when I see it, and that’s gotta be good for my soul.

I didn’t write as much as I would have liked to, so that’s a goal for 2017. I also didn’t see as much theatre as I would have liked to. And at this point, I’m really rusty on performing. I miss it, and need to find a way to incorporate it into my life that doesn’t involve 4 hours of rehearsal every night for 3 months.

Relationships – Gold fucking star 

The best thing I did this year on the relationships front was to reconnect with Ali, my best friend from college. She lives in California and we’d mostly fallen out of touch during the past few years. I learned from the Book of Face that she had landed the lead role in a Neil Labute play in Long Beach. I secretly booked a ticket and a flight and surprised her at the stage door. The look on her face (and subsequent mauling) when she realized it was me, is probably one of my top 5 memories. This was in July, and we’ve rendezvoused to Las Vegas, dined in LA, and spent my birthday weekend in Baltimore (her surprise to me) since then.

While I’ll probably never forgive the writers of How I Met Your Mother for their dream-crushing series finale, this Ted Mosby quote sticks with me:

“That’s how it goes kids. The friends, neighbors, drinking buddies, and partners in crime you love so much when you’re young, as the years go by, you just lose touch. You will be shocked, kids, when you discover how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever. That’s why, when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.”

Truth be told, it hasn’t been that hard to meet up with her semi-regularly – it just requires some effort and planning. So, find the people in your life worth the effort, and just make the effort. It’s so worth it.

And my love life? My grandmother is banned from asking about it, and so are you.

In conclusion

So this is interesting: the categories in which I usually suck – not so bad this year! I think I’m doing a better job at being a whole person. I’d still rather be working than doing almost anything else all the time, but so what? My work gives my life meaning and purpose, so it makes sense that I would want to spend as much time as possible on it. I’ve come to accept this, rather than feel bad about it.

I often find myself driving alone across a stretch of America very late at night, on my way to some Residence Inn where I can heat up a frozen Amy’s lasagna from the lobby market before collapsing in a room that looks uncannily similar in every city in the country. I hum a little Taylor Swift, “Midniiiiight, long driiiiives,” headlights piercing the black night.

“There are students in those hills,” I think to myself; and this is my manifest destiny.

 

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