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Image Credits: Rhythm Agency

Hey guys! Happy New Years Eve! It’s about that time of year again where I look back at the past year and reflect on some of the greatest moments of the year. I came into 2016 pretty broken. I was in the midst of dealing with a difficult breakup, I was stuck in a job that I could no longer stand, and I was about as miserable as could be.

2016 was by no means a perfect year. I’ve been battling a terrible illness for the past couple of months and was recently diagnosed with bronchitis. My beloved cat and friend, Gizmo also passed away at the ripe old approximate age of 21.

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Rest in Peace…Gizmo

But overall, despite how many people claim that 2016 was their “worst year ever”, 2016 ended up being pretty good for me. Here 6 of my best moments from 2016.

  1. FINALLY going to NYC…(Twice, actually).

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I have been obsessed with NYC ever since I was a little kid. I swear, I must have been born a city slicker. However, up until 2016 I’ve never actually been to NYC, my loved was based solely on what I read about it o seen on TV or in movies.

I had plans in the past to go. I was supposed to go to see the Statue of Liberty for a field trip in 7th grade, but when the terrorists attacked the twin towers on 9/11/2001 when I was in 6th grade, so naturally that field trip was cancelled.

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I was also going to go on September 11, 2013 for a job interview I had with the Christian Post. However, at the time I wasn’t exactly in the same place as I am today with my faith. I was on the fence about the job and unsure about it being in NYC which was pretty far from where I lived. I received another job offer to work at a local SEO agency the day before my scheduled interview, so I decided to accept that job offer instead.

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Fast forward to 2.5 years later and my magical job suddenly wasn’t so magical. I was unhappy and more than ready to move on.

I applied to more than 100 jobs, some of which were in NYC. When I got a call back to interview for an Assistant Digital Producer job at Scholastic I was stoked. Working for Scholastic seemed like a dream to me. I grew up reading every scholastic book imaginable and was obsessed with the book fairs. This love and obsession carried on to me even in my adult life.

The interview was pretty much a disaster. The recruiter was super nice and that preliminary screening went well, but when I met with the person who I guess would’ve been my boss it all went down hill. I thought a digital producer was basically the same thing as a content coordinator but I quickly found out I was completely wrong.

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I still don’t know what an Assistant Digital Producer does at Scholastic, but I know it’s definitely not blogging, social media, or content marketing…

But I had a great time in NYC anyway. Just being able to see the office was amazing and NYC was everything I thought it would be. I definitely still want to move there.

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I loved my first trip to NYC so much that I decided to come back there to celebrate my 26th birthday. I went to eat lunch at Black Tap NYC. This restaurant was all the rage at the time thanks to their famous milkshakes. The restaurant was actually really disappointing and the staff was horrible, but the rest of the trip was great. I was really just in complete awe of the city. I enjoyed going to the M&M Factory and Bubba Gump and exploring Times Square. I can’t wait to get back there again.

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2. Seeing Good Charlotte…Twice.

For those of you who don’t know, Good Charlotte is by  far my favorite band. I saw them perform for the first time in 100+ degree weather outside on Father’s Day at Festival Pier in Penn’s Landing back in 2010. Since then I’ve seen them Cherry Hill, at the TLA multiple times, and most recently at the Fillmore. I’ve seen them a total of 5 or 6 times, two of which were in 2016.

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Seeing them in 2016 was especially special for me because it was the first time I could REALLY hear them. They sounded just as amazing as I remembered. I liked that I could hear everything they said when they were just talking, too. Before receiving my cochlear implants in 2014 and 2015 I would miss out a lot on their talks to the crowd and teasing each other. The Madden twins have such a great sense of humor that really comes out when they play shows together. It was great to finally get to hear it in these shows.

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Both of the shows were amazing. The TLA will probably always be my favorite venue, but the Fillmore was pretty awesome, too. I like the atmosphere of the TLA better and have a lot of great memories at the TLA, but I think the sound quality at the Fillmore was better. While both shows were incredible I’ll have to say the one I saw in November at the Fillmore was probably their best show ever. It was the perfect blend of old and new songs and so very nostalgic. It was like my childhood come to life in musical form.

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I can’t wait to see them again. For those of you who really, really, really love me they will be performing/traveling with this amazing warped tour/emo/punk cruise ship package thing in October. If you buy it for me I promise to love you for forever…just saying…

3. Working at Becker’s School Supplies

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Image Credits: Becker’s School Supplies on Facebook

This one probably comes as a surprise for most of you guys.. My job at Becker’s didn’t really work out. I actually didn’t get this job originally. It’s kind of a funny story. I found the open SEO Marketer position accidentally on Monster.com, a website I rarely ever used during my job search (I was pretty loyal/exclusive to LinkedIn). I applied and got an interview pretty quickly and thought I had nailed it. I couldn’t have asked for a better interview. I got along with everyone  so well. Being obsessed with school supplies and wearing paperclip earrings to my interview also helped a lot haha.

Imagine my devastation when I received a phone call while at work on April Fool’s Day of all days. I couldn’t believe it.

But the story didn’t end there. I got another call from them about a week later. Apparently things didn’t work out with the first person they hired, so I was next in line. Eager to get our of the miserable job I was currently stuck in, I quickly accepted.

Becker’s wasn’t a bad job at all. It was actually almost anything you could ask for in a job. It was pretty much the complete opposite from my current job which was a plus. It was a family owned business that benefitted the education system in a positive way. I was honestly just excited to get out of the agency life. I also liked that it was a small family-owned business that was around for many years. But my favorite parts? Everyone was sooooooooo nice and professional and there was none of the typical office drama or politics.

I got along great with everyone and was well-liked. It was refreshing to see and work with various members of the Becker family each day. They owned the company and were at the top of the tier, but they never made you feel like you were below them. Everyone was all part of the same team. They valued and respected all of their employees. I’ll never forget how the first thing Kurt Becker, the company’s treasurer, asked me was what I thought about the website and what I’d fix. I was an employee at that time for less than a week and he still valued my opinion and expertise enough to want to know my ideas for change.

As great as Becker’s was though, it wasn’t right for me. I spent years working in SEO in the past, but it was much different. I learned that when it comes to SEO, I’m all about creating content such as blogs and other website content that is optimized for SEO. I’m not much for Google Analytics (although I’m learning!) or any of the data/analytical side of things which this position dealt a lot with. Also, while I loved school supplies my love for school supplies didn’t quite match up with the products the company sold. I thought this was a company that sold a bunch of notebooks and pens, but it was really all early childhood education supplies like furniture for childcare centers.

I used to love product meetings where vendors will show us their stuff and try to persuade us to purchase it, mainly because I’m a child and I love to play with fake sand and dinosaurs and legos and read picture books, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around early education. I never went to pre-school, let alone daycare as a kid. It was a whole new field for me.

When I accepted the job with Becker’s I still had a lot of other job applications out and was negotiating with Penn Medicine. I wasn’t sure what would happen with that opportunity. It sounded good, but I have also been negotiating for several months and nothing was happening and I really needed a new job. I was also looking into grad school and applying for the TEP program. My future was so unclear. Everything was a risk.

I have absolutely no regrets about Becker’s. I learned so much about my career interests, job preferences, and how to turn down a job that isn’t working for you. I left them with the best gift I had to give: I referred them to a former co-worker who I saw as an expert in SEO that I knew was interested in the position. She could do for them everything they needed and wanted in terms of SEO that I didn’t know how to do. They hired her almost immediately. The rest is history.

4.Working at Penn Medicine

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Image Credits: Henrietta Hudson 

While it was quite the long process, I did end up getting hired by Penn Medicine in 2016. I initially turned down the position to work at Becker’s, but they begged me to reconsider. Isn’t it funny how things work out? I applied in January and was finally hired in June.

I honestly wasn’t sure about Penn when I first applied. I previously did an internship with Slack Medical journals and really, really, really hated it. It was so boring and technical and confusing. I was afraid Penn would be the same, yet for some reason this felt really different. I almost backed out of this interview several times because of other interviews I had (first with Scholastic and then with Bernie Robbins jewelers). I am so glad that my mom and some of my friends and former colleagues pushed me to go and keep pursuing this opportunity, even when it seemed hopeless.

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Working at Penn has been a blessing to me in so, so, so many ways. First off, I really love the location. Like I stated previously, I’m a city slicker. We’re located right in University City. It’s a safe part of Philly and there’s so much stuff going on! We’re within walking distance of many restaurants which makes lunch time fun, especially if we have a new member to our team. I recently tried an Indian buffet with my co-workers and in the summer we’d frequently meet up for green smoothies from the fruit lady’s food truck or frozen yogurt from Kiwi yogurt.

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The content team at the #LoveFest Pep Rally

Secondly, I love my job itself. I get to do my two favorite things: write a lot and work on social media. I also get to teach my co-workers what I learn, specifically with our new social media content management system, Sprinklr. I’m never bored. I learn constantly and am always challenged. I didn’t know much about medical conditions initially, but have since learned so many incredible things. I’m in awe by Dr. Carl June’s work with immunotherapy and cancer. All of the neurological conditions constantly blow my mind (did you know there’s a procedure where they turn off and test different parts of the brain to see what if anything will be lost if they cut away part of it?). It’s fascinating stuff!

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My co-workers are also the best. They are so talented, kind, and hard-working. It’s also a very professional atmosphere free of office drama and politics. While everyone is always working really hard, we also have fun together with team building exercises such as monthly full staff meetings, our pep rally, and our Christmas bowling party. We are also starting a professional development book club which should be fun.

5. Becoming an Adjunct Professor AND a Grad School Student at Rowan University

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Image Credits: Rowan

Of all of the possible things that could’ve happened this year, I never imagined I’d become a college professor, but that is exactly what happened.

I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school to earn my MA in Writing for years. I didn’t want to get my MA originally. I was tired and burnt out after earning to BA’s and I didn’t think an MA was all that important to be honest. But after receiving bilateral cochlear implants I wrote a book and now I want so additional help to finish writing/revising it and publish it.

Still, I wasn’t sure how this would work. I didn’t know at the time that Penn has an amazing benefits package that would cover the cost of my tuition. I just knew that financial aid wasn’t an option with grad school, so I was on my own and grad school doesn’t come cheap.

When Professor Block emailed me about grad school and mentioned the TEP program which allows students to teach while earning their MA and pays for at least part of their tuition costs, I saw it as a sign that I was meant to go to grad school and apply.

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I knew I like teaching, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I ultimately did. I didn’t expect to get so attached to my students. I think teaching is one of the best things to ever happen to me, honestly. I love it so much. I love feeling like I’m making a difference and seeing my students improve as writers.

Grad school’s not bad, either. Some of the writing projects for Core were fun. It’s not the most interesting year for me though. I feel like I have a lot of pre-reqs which can be a little dry to take now to get to the good stuff like writing the memoir and non-fiction writing. But still I’ve really loved just being back in school again. I love the challenge of it all. I love learning.

It hasn’t been easy. Juggling a full time job in the city, teaching three times a week, and taking 2 graduate level courses a semester is no joke. But I love the thrill of the challenge and being constantly under pressure. I feel like I am constantly working towards a goal and I feel I’ve been fairly successful so far.

6. Going to Washington DC

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DC is another place I had plans to go to multiple times, but never actually went to until this year. I was first going to go on a field trip in 7th grade, but alas the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on 9/11/2001 when I was in 6th grade caused the trip to get cancelled. Then in 2014 or whenever it was I was going to meet Casey there and get back together with him, but in a really bizarre turn of events he cancelled our plans and ran off and got engaged and married to some other girl…but that’s another story…

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Every year Rowan picks a book to have the University read together as a whole. This year the book was Americanah! by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I don’t know what the book was about because I didn’t actually read it lol. Anyway though, the book inspired the University to take a free trip to DC that was open to all students and faculty and since I’ve always wanted to go to DC anyway, I jumped at the opportunity to go.

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I was nervous about the trip at first since I didn’t know anyone who was going. Who would I hang out with so I wouldn’t get lost? Should I go as a student or a faculty member since I was actually both? I hung out with faculty originally until I met a faculty member’s son who was a current senior at Rowan and closest in age to me. We hung out for the rest of the trip and became fast friends and had a blast.

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We went to the museum of African history, an African art museum, and one of the Smithsonians, though we didn’t have much time at the Smithsonian. It was a really cool trip. I’m a museum and art nerd so I love looking at and learning about this stuff. The only down side was that the main African history museum was realllllllllllllly crowded and you could hardly move.

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We also ate at a soul food restaurant. I don’t eat soul food much, if ever, so it was a different experience for me. I had these oysters cooked in some kind of a hot sauce that were really good.

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It was a really nice trip especially since it helped me to get out of my comfort zone. I am glad that I did end up befriending someone despite not knowing anyone and that I took the risk to go to a new place with no one I knew. I’d definitely do something like this again in the future and I hope that in 2017 Rowan provides me with more opportunities to do so!

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7. Going to Kentucky.

My trip to Kentucky was incredible and perhaps the highlight of 2016.

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My mom and I went with Gloucester County Community Church (GCCC). I’ve been following the making of the Ark from day 1 a few years back and when I heard it opened in the summer I couldn’t wait to go. We previously looked into driving down for my mom’s birthday in August, but it was too expensive. However, going with the church would save us money and we’d take a bus with everyone so transportation wouldn’t be an issue.

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Our trip lasted 3 days and consisted with a few hours at the Creation Museum followed by almost a full day at the Ark.

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The Creation Museum was okay. Not quite as good as I was expecting, but still pretty cool. I really loved the dinosaurs. I always liked dinosaurs ever since I was a kid. About a year ago I realized that the bible never mentions the word “dinosaur” so I started to ponder why. I turned to Answers in Genesis and they explained how dinosaurs did exist and were referred to using different words. To see and learn more about this at the museum was neat. Most of the dinosaurs weren’t as big as made out to be and the dinosaurs used to only eat plants as did all animals which the bible clearly states, but few people realize. It was very informative.

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Noah’s Ark was amazing. You don’t realize how big it is until you see if for yourself. It was also incredible biblically accurate. They had all of the animals that they had back then and the cages and everything so well done. I enjoyed learning about Noah and his family and the work that they did on the Ark as well. It made me thirsty to learn more.

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Overall, 2016 was an incredible year. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for me!

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