Looking Back on 2014: A Reflection of This Past Year

I’m happy and excited to once again participate in #Cultivate15, a blogging challenge that helps me reflect on this past year and to think about what I hope to accomplish in the year ahead. For me, it’s important to look back on my experiences from 2014, both good and bad, and to think about what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to blog again, something I haven’t dedicated much time to do in the past several years. As much as I love writing academic research, sometimes it’s nice (and a bit refreshing!) to write for a different type of outlet.

So let’s get started shall we? Meredith sent out the first prompt at midnight, which allowed me some time to think about my response:

Day 1, Reflection: What did you set out to accomplish last year? What have you done to cultivate your goals and your life? Did your intentions manifest during the year?

2014 had a lot of amazing moments, to say the least. Here are some of the highlights that stick out in my mind:

On a personal level

  • My boyfriend. First and foremost, starting a relationship with Derek in January 2014 was by far the best thing that happened to me this past year. It’s funny, when I was reading up on last year’s #Cultivate14 posts I mentioned how I was hoping to find “a man who will love me wholeheartedly that I will love wholeheartedly right back.” Little did I know that a mere 18 days after writing that post my wish would come true. Derek has been one of my best friends for the past three years – even when we were just friends I thought so highly of him (if you don’t believe me, read this post I wrote about him in 2013)! Since day one I knew he was someone special. And now, almost a year later, I feel even luckier to know him and be with him. I think he is absolutely the coolest – he’s so funny, smart, generous, passionate, understanding…the list goes on and on. All of the moments we shared in 2014 – such as the trips (Europe, the beach, skiing, yes, even Renn Fest!), the meals (we like to eat!), the deep, intimate discussions, even the tough times were easier to get through this past year because we were able to support each other and face every challenge together. Derek is truly a “Big” reason why 2014 was so amazing, there are no doubts about that.
  • My faith. I will admit, there were times over the past year where I could have been better, but I will say that 2014 was a giant step forward for me in terms of my faith. One thing did stay constant however – my connection to my small group at Atlee Community Church – and for that I am so incredibly grateful. It’s awesome to sit with a group of wonderful individuals and not just chat about the study in front of us, but also discuss what is going on in our lives in an effort to support each other. At our last small group meeting at the end of 2014, my small group leader, Mark, commented on how much I’ve grown in the past year. And I couldn’t agree with him more. It’s because of having people like Mark and my small group in my life that I was able to make such great strides. I’m hoping this year I can work on becoming more plugged into Atlee, as I originally intended. I also started a Bible reading plan with my YouVersion app and hope to read the entire Bible in one year. Because in all honesty, finding that church was just what I needed in my life when things were not looking all that great – I am so  thankful.
  • My health. As it goes with every other year that passes, and I’m sure I’m not alone, I always begin the year with such high hopes that end in a pretty epic disaster fail when it comes to eating healthier and exercising. But ya gotta keep on trying right? So I’m going to make a concerted effort once again, only this time I’m going to try to be more realistic. I can no longer kid myself – I’m not really a gym person, so this year I will try to dance more, whether it’s ballroom socials, salsa nights at Havana ’59, Cuban salsa classes, maybe even a hip hop or contemporary class thrown in there. I’m just hoping to stay active. With that, I need to overall eat better. When Derek and I got back from Europe, I was totally in that mindset, but alas, the US food culture took over my brain (and wallet!) yet again and I was back to bad habits. I’m going to try harder this year, and take my buddy Alton Brown’s plan into account when eating meals. And speaking of which, I really really need to stop eating out so much. Last year I wanted to cook at home at least once a week – I don’t think I reached that goal, so I will try once again. Of course, it’s helpful that Derek likes to cook, but when I’m home alone in RVA I can’t rely on that. It’s time to be more self sufficient in that regard, suck it up, and buy some damn groceries! 😛
  • My finances. Oh, what a mess I’ve made as a poor grad student obsessed with Coach! No more! With the help of my man (another reason why he’s the best) I’m working on getting all of my finances in order. I’m trying to spend wiser, and no longer purchase frivolous things I don’t really need (such as 30 Coach purses!). Now that I have a good salary-paying job, it’s time to wise up and think about stabilizing my financial future. And speaking of my job…

On a professional level

  • I survived, maybe even thrived? It’s true – in 2014 I completed my first full year as a tenure-track Assistant Professor. And I still really like what I do, which is a good sign that my Ph.D. wasn’t all for naught. 😉 In all seriousness though, VCU has been such a dream. From the people I’ve met, to the students I’ve connected with, to my amazingly supportive boss and Director, I am so happy to be here. And I even got validation of my hard work with a very good first annual review this past fall (phew!).
  • The traveling! 2014 was the year of international travel. It was amazing. Unforgettable. And now I have caught wanderlust and want to go to all of the places (with Derek if possible). In 2014 alone I went to China (Hong Kong & Beijing), South Africa (Durban & Johannesburg), Spain (Malaga & Barcelona) and France (Perpignan, Sete, Avignon, & Nice) – most of these places I presented research and networked, while some were extensions of those trips for some good ol’ sightseeing and fun. I’d like to think that after this past year I’m a much smarter and more confident traveler. I now have lots of stamps on my passport and I want to add even more! Who wants to join me? 😀
  • Finding my research identity. I’ve started buckling down on who I want to be as a researcher and what work is worth my while. In 2014 I worked with amazing collaborators, from my grad school friends at UMD to the amazing folks in my Intimate Partner Violence/Sexual Assault Research Development Workgroup at the VCU Institute for Women’s Health. This past August, I received my first grant from the Avon Foundation for Women to activate bystanders on campus in response to dating violence, stalking and sexual assault. And this year, I am a proud participant of the VCU’s Office of Research Grant Writing Institute, where I am closely working with folks across the university to become a stronger grant writer. It’s been such a wonderful learning experience and I hope to get a completed grant application submitted this coming spring!

Whew, that’s a lot! I guess 2014 was pretty awesome, and can only be summed up by this Facebook post from January 29, 2014:

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 2.52.45 PM

Here’s to another great year in 2015!

About Rowena Winkler

Passionate Performer, Speaker and Writer by Calling, Dancer of All Good Beats, Yoga Practitioner and Enthusiast, Spiritual Trustee of the Universe, Traveler of Many Distant Lands, Lover of Derek the Logical but Amiable, Mother of Eponine/Dex/Teyla, Architect of Spoken Word Poetry, Trainer in the Craft of Communication, Unapologetic Individual, First of Her Name.
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2 Responses to Looking Back on 2014: A Reflection of This Past Year

  1. Meredith says:

    I’m so excited to see how well 2014 treated you! I can’t wait to see what wonderful gifts 2015 has in store for you. Congratulations on all your accomplishments and research!

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