I'm not really feeling ready to set big goals for this upcoming year, but I do feel like I want to pause and take stock of this past year. In many ways, this year felt stressful and rushed. However, it was also a year of blossoming children, substantial professional growth, deepening friendships, and caregiving for two adults. And while I may not have done all the things I hoped to do for myself, I feel that the life I'm living is pretty great.
I am in awe of my two kids, now 7 and 11. They have both become readers with confidence and passions--sharing books is a great joy (we all really loved discovering the Wings of Fire series by Tui Sutherland this year). For taekwondo, the oldest earned his black belt and the youngest her intermediate level purple belt in 2022. Their Destination Imagination team won first place in the Maryland state tournament, and I traveled (after a wild month of fundraising and travel planning to do so) with them to Global Finals in Kansas City--which was a really amazing, healing experience for my kids--whose school lives had been dominated by the Covid pandemic in the prior two years.
They also participated in summer swim team for the first time, and loved it. Each is growing into an interesting and unique young person. I enjoy spending time with both of them, especially with playing card and board games or going on nature walks. Raising children is not an easy task--it is relentless, unforgiving, and (often) unpleasant--especially during challenging phases, illnesses, or tough times. But I'm very lucky my kids are doing well overall.
During 2022, I completed 21 of my 60 doctoral degree credits (gearing up to study for comprehensive exams in January and then moving into ABD territory during 2023). Even more amazing was how much I've grown as a leader, researcher, and educator along this journey. I have also developed some close relationships with the other students in my classes and cohort (our five-person writing group made time to meet up during break at the National Harbor & it was delightful to see people in person!). Going back to school to get my doctorate at age 40 was a wild decision, but I'm glad I'm on this journey.
My programs have seen massive growth and equity-focused expansion. I've also had the joy to work with some amazing students, teachers, counselors, leaders, and higher ed personnel who are committed to improving student experience of the high school to college transition. Finally, the education law in Maryland is going through a lot of changes and my involvement with state-level coordination and implementation of the change has been exhausting, but rewarding. I continue to be excited by my career and feel blessed to have the opportunity to work for children in this way.
I also was fortunate to attend two conferences this year (one in Frederick and one in Minnesota) and met several national leaders in my field, as well as connecting with them in new ways through my doctoral work.
This year has seen a great deal of transition with the leadership above me, often creating anxiety and unanticipated challenges. We seem to have settled in a good place as this year draws to a close, but there were many times in 2022 where the action (or inaction) of a new, ineffective, or malicious senior leader threatened to impact the opportunities afforded students, and I felt extremely frustrated with myself for being unable to navigate all of it well. This has been a very, very challenging year for educators--and students--at every level (a sort-of normal year, but with all the traumas of a pandemic still lingering). I'm not at all surprised to see people leaving the field entirely.
I hope 2023 proves to be a better year for everyone in schools.
I have friendships with several women who live locally that I feel have become chosen family. Our family networks are deeply intertwined--for the most part, the kids and adults all get along well with each other. We spend lots of time together--hanging out at each others' houses or going on adventures/outings together--without some of the pressure that can come with adult friendships. I am extremely grateful to have them in my life. (Note: One member of this group has moved away, but we still connect frequently thanks to chat and other distance communications. She's had a year of big transitions, and it's hard not to be able to surround her in the love, community, and support she deserves. But she is a survivor!)
I was also able to visit a friend I had not seen in many years (who I met through this very blog--NOT KIDDING!!!--while we both lived in Korea) while I was traveling for a conference to Minnesota. This trip was very life-affirming and healing--especially connecting me back with my writing self (hopefully for us both). Recognizing how think I need to commit to in-person connections again with these long-time friends who still chat/text/phone/email, but haven't really been able to see for a few years. I felt this when I attended a high school program reunion this summer, too, and spent some time catching up with friends.
I'm also feeling more connected this year to communities than I have in a long time. Whether through volunteering at our kids' school, commiserating about graduate school coursework, collaborating on something professionally, discussing issues in social media, or dancing together in social dances or fitness classes, I feel rich again with a casual/acquaintance-level social network. I think this is the layer of relationships that suffered the most from Covid restrictions.
My mother had a stroke in August 2020, and while she lives independently in a condo a block away from our house, her recovery to independence is incomplete. It's been a bit of a rough year as we attempted to navigate her getting back to driving, but have not been able to do so yet. This journey was further complicated by the financial emergencies of my two adult siblings who my mother still feels the need to support. I'm not going to get into family dynamics here, but caregiving for a parent while being estranged from a sibling because he has past financial abuse of that parent while the parent continues to enable the abuse is... something. I continue to have to do really good boundary work and values clarity. I am grateful for the opportunity to have this relationship with my mother and help her live well, but it is NOT easy to balance it all.
Meanwhile, in early April, Mingi had surgery on his right foot to resolve several issues from a soccer injury two years ago. The recovery and the subsequent physical and emotional ups and downs from this have also triggered migraines and injured the left foot from overuse. He's not as reliant on others as my mother is, but our whole family has been impacted by his ongoing health challenges and recovery. Our network of friends and acquaintances has been invaluable through this recovery period, but it has been a struggle. We are definitely looking forward to a year where we can all do more together (hiking, traveling, silly fun), and Mingi feels more like himself.
Overall, I'm proud of what I've been able to accomplish this year and grateful for the support in overcoming challenges we've faced. Having a stable financial situation and supportive network has made a major difference; at another time in my life, the challenges of 2022 would have broken me. Instead, I feel content that I was able to give the people I love so much care, love, and support. However, I have gained another 10 lbs in the last year (on top of the 20 I had put on in the prior years), and really need to put more focus into my own health so I'm able to continue to support others and do the things I want to do.
As such, I'm setting an intention this year of ensuring that I'm giving at least equal care and support to my own health and development that I give to my family.
How was your 2022? What are your New Year's intentions? Please share!