Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 - The Year in Review

I love the end of the year.  Partly that's because I have time off (10 days this year!), and partly because I love to reflect back on the year that was. 

2017 has been a pretty major year in my life.  I started it in a long-term relationship with plans to buy a home and eventually get married, and I ended it single with cats.  But in a very good way.  I can't remember a recent time in my life when I felt as happy or as deeply satisfied with life as I do at the end of 2017.

Here's a brief recap of the major events of 2017:

The Breakup:  M and I went through a breakup in 2016 but very quickly reconciled.  In retrospect, reconciling was a really unwise thing to do, as we were even less happy in round two of our relationship than we had been in round one.  We loved each other a lot, but we couldn't actually live happily together, which is somewhat essential for a committed romantic relationship.  For me, I started seriously considering breaking up again about a year ago, and from December 2016 until September 2017 breaking up was rarely far from my mind.  It was a really unhappy way of living.

And then, it was over.  After months of thinking and agonizing and building up to the moment, I finally ended it, and I felt like I could breathe again.  All of the emotional energy I had been investing in a relationship that wasn't working was suddenly available for more interesting and life-giving things.  Like joining Twitter.

I have not regretted the breakup for a single moment.  It has been an adjustment, of course, but everything about it feels right.  People comment regularly that I look happy and that they are glad to have "old me" back, and it is true that I am happier than I have been in a long time.  I have time to spend with my friends, instead of my social life being mostly dictated by M*.  My apartment is tidy and back to the semi-minimalist state that I love.  My cats have regained their rightful place next to me on the couch.  All is as it should be.

Work:  At the beginning of 2017, work wasn't going well.  I was feeling so overwhelmed by it that I declared 2017 "The Year of Saying No" and resolved to turn down as much extra work as I possibly could.  I knew at the time that I couldn't sustain my level of work unhappiness in the long-term, so I committed to doing whatever I could to improve my job.

Over the past year, I have made some major changes.  One of the most important ones has been going to a performance coach, whom I shall call B**, and whom I promise to write about in more detail in a dedicated post.  B is trained as a clinical psychologist and used to work with high-performance athletes, and over the years he has transitioned to working with high-performance professionals such as physicians.  He and I have worked on improving my thought patterns using a sort of cognitive behavioural therapy "light", which has been hugely helpful for dealing with my anxiety around work.  He's also given me some very practical advice about things that I can do on a daily basis to enjoy work more.

I have also committed to taking vacation every three months.  I cannot overemphasize how life changing this has been.  Vacation time is the only time that I can completely let go of the stress of work, and it is essential to recharging my easily depleted batteries.  It also gives me time to stock up at Costco and to replenish my freezer food stores.  And when I return from vacation, I no longer feel the dread of knowing that the next one is a long way away.  At most, it's another three months.

Lastly, I have been saying no.  When I was stressed about having to give a Grand Rounds presentation, I said no to a week of call so that I would have time to work on it.  When I got my 2018 call schedule and saw that I was scheduled for two more weeks than usual, I found other people to take those two weeks.  When I was asked by the trainees to develop two new teaching modules during a very busy work time, I agreed to do one but not both.  I am valuing my time and my mental health more than I ever have, and I am protecting both of them by setting my own limits for what I'm willing to do.

Finances:  When M and I were still together, we were planning to buy a home, as our one bedroom apartment was too crowded for the two of us.  For over a year, I saved all of the money that I didn't spend or invest for a down payment.  After the breakup, I underwent a major change of heart, realizing that I wasn't going to be comfortable taking on a mortgage until my debt was gone.  Since then, debt repayment has been my financial priority.  You can see the change in my line of credit here:

Until September 2017, my debt was gradually trending downwards thanks to my minimum monthly payments.  But in both September and December, I put large chunks of my down payment towards the debt.  What was once over $200,000 of debt is now $64,000.  And I anticipate that I will be able to get rid of it all before the end of 2018.

So those are the big parts of 2017.  There is much more than I had thought about saying, but this post is already long, and if I were reading it I would have started skimming it a long time ago.  So I will save my other thoughts for future blog posts.

I'm looking forward to sharing more in 2018.

*Not to falsely imply that she was controlling in any way, as she wasn't.  She is simply an extrovert with much higher social needs than introverted me, so I never had energy for social activities beyond the ones that she arranged.

**I am very creative with names on the blog.  You're welcome.

16 comments:

  1. Lots of personal and financial wins for you in 2017 it seems!

    That line of credit is dropping like crazy. Also had no idea performance coaches existed, what a great idea.

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    1. Thanks! It's funny how fast you can get rid of debt when you have a large down payment to put towards it.

      I didn't know about the performance coach until he was introduced to me by another physician. Now I tell everyone I know about him. I've only gone three times, but it's been wonderful.

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  2. You certainly turned things around in just a year. I know a few life coaches, but was not aware of a performance coach. Interesting idea. Thanks for being so inspirational, even though it is not likely your intent. Happy New Year to you!

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    1. Thanks! This is probably the first time I've ever been called inspirational!

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  3. I occasionally consider paying off the mortgage like that, but since we will owe $175, and don’t have that much cash lying around, AND we might move (who knows??) and might need the cash for that we’ve been holding off. I bet you will feel so fantastic once your loan is paid off. Bye bye golden handcuffs!

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    1. Flexibility is a huge thing! That is one reason why I've held onto the down payment cash for so long. But I am keeping out enough money that I could make a larger purchase if needed, and I am going to apply for an active line of credit ASAP.

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  4. It's amazing what saying no can do for your life. I'm glad to see that so many of the changes in your life are positive. I also like to think in smaller chunks of time. May 2018 continue to have you grow!

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    1. Thanks! I keep having opportunities thrown at me, so I'm going to have to get even better at saying no.

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  5. I am not sure how I found you blog but I am enjoying it. You have inspired me to make some changes in my life.

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  6. It's so nice to have you on Twitter, I'm glad that was one of the positive side effects of the break-up. Great job on taking down your debt, those are some huge chunks you've paid down, how handy you'd had the down payment saved, hm? :D

    I look forward to 2018 with y'all.

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    1. I'm enjoying Twitter too...but it is a huge time suck. I need to learn to say no to it more.

      It is nice to see the debt disappear in big chunks, but also sad to see all of my available cash disappearing. I'm trying to figure out the right balance between paying off the debt quickly and depleting all of my cash reserves.

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  7. I also said no to a big thing -- I'm a teacher with summers off, and they asked me to direct a summer camp. They said "it's just three weeks," but that doesn't include all the planning and craziness I'd have to go through. It was a good chunk of money, but I value time with my really young kids much more than the money. Huzzah to the power of NO!

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    1. Well done! It's so easy to get caught up in earning money, but so much harder to say no to it, even when you'll be happier saying no.

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  8. I loved reading this post. I was also feeling pressure to put money down for a mortgage and it just didn't feel right but I was worried about a) making the wrong decision and b) upsetting people. I finally said no and I'm working on putting that money towards travelling. It's funny how NO can be so freeing. I'm glad 2017 was good for you and congratulations on reducing your debt!!

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    1. Thanks! It's funny how people have such strong opinions about how other people should spend their money. I'm learning to ignore those opinions, because I know that I know far better than anyone else how I want to spend my money (and at the moment it's not on a house!).

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