In many ways, 2016 was a dumpster fire. Politically, it is wet garbage in flames. Yet, personally, it was a year of incredible growth and insight. Hard times can produce deep lessons.
I didn’t especially experience hard times this year – in financial matters or societal ones. I’m comfortable. I understand and acknowledge my privilege. I believe in social justice, though, and I grieved due to the set backs brought to light in 2016. I take little comfort in knowing that there are always set backs. But, we just keep moving forward with our heads high.
I moved forward by completing my debt elimination project, and then by taking on more debt in the form of a mortgage. If 2015 was the year of paying off student loan debt, then 2016 was the year of the house. The house then took over my life in the form of a three month remodel. Every wall was painted. The carpet was ripped out. The floors were refinished. The furniture was moved in, then out, then back in. I unpacked. I settled in.
After settling in, I needed a break. I took a side hustle sabbatical and worked one job. I spent a lot of my free time thinking about my life, what I want, what matters to me, what matters to my loved ones, and then thinking through the how, as in how to make it happen.
Last year, there were three things I wanted to make happen. My big goals for 2016 were 1.) Grow my net worth, 2.) Expand my literary life, and 3.) Unfrump.
Grow My Net Worth
I did it. On the 15th of every month, I checked my accounts and entered them into my spreadsheet. Over twelve months, I increased my net worth by a little over $20,000. Of course, that includes the little bit of equity I have in the house, but I feel like it’s HUGE progress nonetheless. I hope to grow my net worth even more in 2017, but I don’t have a hard number in mind.
Expand My Literary Life
I started the year out strong with an essay in a journal about essay writing, but then I veered away from my literary essays and dug my heels in to my personal finance writing. I made several really good outlines, but I didn’t complete many drafts. I did plan a day-long literary event for a local arts organization that I volunteer for. I’ll be doing more for the organization in 2017, and I feel like the event got my contribution off to a good start. I helped plan a week of readings for the Ohio leg of my friend’s book launch. I also said yes to a public reading, and I read a piece about personal finance. As the year winds down, I’m feeling more certain than ever which projects I should focus on, and I’m eager to make headway in 2017.
I wasn’t sure what this would look like. It took some time, but I feel like I accomplished this. In August, I quit sugar. No more caking for me. I’ve been eating mostly whole foods. When I want something sweet, I eat a banana or some raspberries. In five months, I’ve lost fifteen pounds. I don’t like to think that my weight determines my attractiveness, but it does have an effect on how my clothes fit. Now that my clothes fit better, I feel better. I even feel like wearing more color, which goes a long way when it comes to unfrumping. I’ve also gotten my hair cut more regularly, so it hasn’t been a shaggy mess for a while.
None of my 2016 goals were really measurable in tangible ways, which left room for experimentation. I’m happy with the way things worked out, even though I didn’t really unfrump until the second half of the year.
As for other successes, I had a few.
- I bought a house and I made it a home. I love love love my living room, and I spend a lot of time there with my two dogs.
- I gave four academic presentations, two of which I’m really proud. I also sent out proposals to four other conferences in 2017. I have a clearer purpose in my academic research, and I’m eager to dig in over the next few years.
- Even with the tighter budget, I managed to invest a little over $15,000 in retirement accounts.
- I took a break from side hustles, and in the time I recovered, I listened to myself. What I really want to focus on became clearer.
- I made a few new friends, and spent time nurturing a few other newer friendships.
- Oh! And I don’t want to forget that I got an interview accepted at The Billfold. I feel like that’s a big win. It also jumpstarted my desire to freelance again.
That’s a pretty big year. I have a lot in mind for 2017, but none of it feels forced. I really beat myself up for the first six months of 2016. I was neck deep in moving in to my house, which takes a lot of attention. Yet, I thought I should still be able to work three jobs and workout and cook all my meals at home and on and on. I’m so glad to ease up on myself. Once the initial remodel was over, I had the brain space to tackle the sugar problem. The literary events came up naturally. And the net worth happened because I just kept slogging along.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Stay tuned for my 2017 plans.