Looking back at ’16: It wasn’t totally terrible…really!

There’s no denying earth was a rough place to live this year. We’ve seen the ever-frightening rise of Trump. Brexit. Horrific and all-too-regular bad news reports from nearly every continent. The countless negative memes. Celebrities gone too soon. Sad friends. Really tough circumstances.

I haven’t been immune. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that halfway through the year, I found myself incapable of moving for nearly a week. And I mean I legitimately couldn’t force myself to get out of bed for work. Or do anything at all. I’ve hit my fair share of rough patches in the past but nothing to that extent before.

But looking back on 2016, I can recall events, people, and situations to be grateful for…even if I find myself in a bit of a rut at the moment. I’m “funemployed” once again — for the second time in my ’20s — and a bit panicked about the predicament, as is normal.

I realize I haven’t written my Amsterdam entry just yet (or Budapest, or Vienna 2.0, or my final days in Prague…sorry!!), but I feel like I need to post this instead right now. My goal is to be back in the workforce within a month’s time, and if that’s going to happen, I need to stay positive and attempt to act humanlike, even when I feel like a nocturnal sloth. I can’t devolve into that sad person from 2014 who shut down and spent her days binging Netflix and sobbing to sad music. That wasn’t fun.

So here’s my 12 months of positive happenings post! Are you ready?? It’ll be exciting. Bear with me. And/or actually enjoy it.

PS It’s long. Very long. Sorry in advance. I can’t control myself sometimes.

JANUARY:

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Hello, NOLA!

A couple weeks into the new year, five friends and I flew down to New Orleans for an extra long weekend. As I wrote at the time, the trip was basically, “Pretty buildings, ridiculous food, mystery drinks, a night with breweries, awkward selfies, and a..swamp.”

I ate alligator for the first time (not bad!), experienced Bourbon Street (k I’m good now), and saw the Mississippi River for the first time. It was such a fun, crazy break from reality and I miss that city every day! It’s most definitely on my “to-return” list. I just may avoid the deceptively strong hand grenades in the future!

FEBRUARY:

reading-terminalWith February came the chance to feel fancy for a night. My friends invited me along to Reading Terminal’s Party for the Market…a swanky fundraiser held right in Philly’s historic market.

Yeah, there was a hefty ticket fee (I forget how much now) but it was SO worth it. I’m in the “treat yoself” camp (even though I never use “yoself” ever and am tempted to backspace but nah), so I’m willing to spend cash when I have it for fun things. This was one of those “fun things.”

Lots of vendors from the markets were serving up their specialities, plus there were plenty of drink stands, and the music was stellar! It was absolutely the most memorable night from February. Since I managed to stay single all year *pats self on shoulder,* I can say that without offending anyone.

MARCH:

frank-warrenIn March, I met Frank Warren of PostSecret fame. I told him I was tired because it was past my workweek bedtime. He blinked at me. I requested a photo along with my friend Mariella (on the right). And here you have it!

Beyond that super awkward encounter, it was really, really incredible to meet the man who spearheaded a website that has undoubtedly saved many lives over the years and helped to reveal unimaginable secrets.

This experience was thanks to Yelp, a website that seems to own my soul. I was accepted into the Yelp event at the Kimmel Center in Philly and yet again felt special for an evening.

My friends and I dressed up, enjoyed a sophisticated cocktail hour, and then saw the show. Several of us cried enough for the whole year that night. It was such a moving experience to see the PostSecret show and allow ourselves to face the bits of us we don’t like to always share.

APRIL:

manarolaIn April, I said goodbye to my beloved Fairmount apartment, moved back to Collingswood for a short period, went to the AC Beer & Music Festival…and flew to Italy. Yes. All within a span of a week. It was insane and thrilling and tiring and wonderful. I spent 10 days in Italy and traveled to Rome (uuuuugh I miss it all the time), Catania, Taormina, Mt. Etna, Pisa, Florence, Cinque Terre, Siena, and Rome again.

I had previously visited Rome, Pisa, and Florence, but visiting Sicily was a dream come true. I’m half Sicilian so it was really awesome to see the island my ancestors are from. Some of them still live there, but unfortunately I didn’t get to meet any of them. And also I don’t speak Italian so that could’ve been difficult.

It’s hard to choose one photo for April. It was an amazing month and just made me yearn to travel even more. I’d love to return to Sicily one day. There’s still so much to see!!

MAY:

bday-16Happy 26th birthday to me! Yeah, I can’t seem to find anything else in my Facebook feed that was all too thrilling from May. Weird. That’s probably because my back started acting up and I was in near constant pain and—BACK ON TRACK.

So my birthday weekend was pretty fun! Since my actual birthday was on a Monday, I chose to celebrate two days early. It coincided with the Italian Market Festival, so a bunch of us had a barbecue lunch and then hit the rainy streets to browse the booths.

Eventually we ended up in bars and then a Magpie meal I don’t totally remember, but I made it home safe and sound…and without getting sick! Woo-hoo. Success all around.

Turning 26 was kind of odd. On one hand it just felt like “meh,” but on the other I felt a startling realization of my own mortality. (Yeah, talk about a contrast, right?) I’m no longer classified as an “early 20-something.”

Many of my friends are married. And have children they take care of! And/or HOMES. Apartments in the city. Equity. Savings!!! Retirements. Pet-children. 401ks. Investment accounts. You know what I have? Two cents in savings. No job. No apartment. No boyfriend, let alone husband or family. But you know what else I have? A fresh blank slate. And that’s pretty cool. Bring it on, 27! (Except not yet, because I still have like five months left of being 26 and I’d like a chance to make some life-progress before 27…)

JUNE:

pbwHmm. Yeah. June gets Philly Beer Week, as per usual. Ever since I started liking beer, I always look forward to PBW. This year’s week was on the more mellow side since CBC came through in May.

But it was still chock full of fun happenings! I went out nearly every night (not as hardcore as 2015 though) and tried a ton of great new-to-me beers, like Goose Island’s Juliet. That one stands out the most, aside from meeting Steve from Bullfrog Brewery. A month later, a friend and I road tripped to the brewery…it’s 3.5 hours away from Philly!!

Also during beer week was the sour brunch at Bru. I stood in line to try a tiny pour of Fou’ Foune. Little did I know I’d be AT CANTILLON a few months later buying a full bottle of my own. But I’m jumping ahead of myself. Let’s move on.

JULY:

beachI already mentioned July was rough for me. There’s no doubting that. But it had its good parts too. Several friend gatherings. Lots of outdoor hang outs basking in the damaging sun rays. I struggled to decide on a picture for this month. I could’ve chosen one of the many group ones, but I like this cluster.

July 3 down the shore was really an awesome and stress-free day. I visited Brigantine with friends and sat on the beach sipping radlers until it got cold outside. Then we had a very beachy seafood dinner at a local haunt. Too fun! I need more beach days in 2017.

Also I wrote 1017 just then and that was weird. Can you imagine if it was 1017 and I was typing this post?? I’d be so hip.

AUGUST:

augustAh, August. How in the world could I possibly choose one photo for August??? I triumphantly quit my job. I traveled to DC and Denver. When the month hit its final day (dun dun dun) I hopped on a jet plane to Galway! And so the international adventures began. Please note I have like adventure-movie music playing in my head right now and I don’t know where it came from. I should probably be sleeping. Ah, well.

So before I go into Prague and whatever, let’s talk about August, shall we? It was such a FREEING, exhilarating month.

I had money (can ya believe it?) and decided to use that money to see awesome friends, take trips to new places (hellllllo Rocky Mountain National Park!), go to concerts (love ya, ADTR, you share my heart), and ultimately pack up life as I knew it to try something totally new and slightly crazy. It’s safe to say I’m a big fan of August. I chose a photo at random because there were too many. Also I think my facial expression is funny.

SEPTEMBER:

pragueeeI chose this photo for two reasons: 1) because I was standing on Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in the background — the quintessential Prague tourist shot and 2) I was wearing an exclusive Guinness shirt from the Storehouse. Nice, right? I like it.

So in September I spent a week with my mom traveling around Ireland. It was a trip we had planned for my high school graduation. Alas, I’m getting very old now so we decided it was time to go. We started in Galway and then she nearly killed me driving to Cork for a couple days then we ended the trip via more near-death experiences on the way to Dublin. We also saw the Rock of Cashel between near-death experiences and that was neat. It was once considered the Vatican of Northern Europe.

From Ireland, we hopped over to the Czech Republic and I started my TEFL course a few days later. The next four weeks were utterly insane. I hardly had a moment to myself. Most of my time was spent lesson planning or sitting in the nearby mall scarfing down food so I could go lesson plan or teach a lesson.

Doing the TEFL program was insane in such a good way. It pulled me out of my comfort zone. It was the EXACT opposite of sitting in a cubicle all day. I took control of the classrooms I taught. They were real students. Sometimes they spoke very minimal English depending on the level. And trust me, I got my fair share of all levels!

While I’m currently not teaching full time, this experience taught (!) me that I could enjoy school. I learned new skills that I can take into any field. I made friends that will surely last a lifetime. And even though I’m not still there, I don’t regret my decision to do the course for a second.

I guess I should’ve talked about that in October since I technically graduated October 7. Oh well, you get the point.

PS!!!!!! I almost forgot to include this! I’ll be short since you’re likely not even reading this anymore. Also in September, my friend Amy and I went to Oktoberfest. I had gone before and hated it. It’s still not my favorite festival, but now I can say I *really* experienced it…minus the drunkenness and debauchery. So maybe I can’t actually say that. Whatever.

OCTOBER:

berlinAs the weather got cooler, I traveled to Berlin, Vienna, and Cesky Krumlov. I feel like it’s most appropriate to include this photo taken at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin for this month.

My visit coincided with the annual Festival of Lights — the one week out of the year when Berlin landmarks glow in gorgeous lights and crowds flock to experience the sights and take plenty of photos and videos.

It makes me so very, very sad to read the news coming out of Berlin right now following the terror attack. The pain and sadness is not the picture of Berlin I envision. My memories bring back culture, artistic graffiti, and history into clear view. It’s a city with dark chapters but a bright future. It’s cold and beautiful and so very gritty.

I feel for everyone impacted by the terror in Berlin…and Aleppo. And Turkey. And Zurich. And countless other cities and countries.

After returning from Berlin, I took some time to get my life in order. I thought I’d go on to teach but quickly realized it wouldn’t work long-term for me. And so I decided to spend the remainder of my tourist visa traveling in Europe…seeing as much as I could without sacrificing quality. And so I set off for Vienna.

In what would be Yelp Wien’s last official Yelp event before getting shut down (sniff), I attended the Halloween party. I was away from home and feeling homesick but the Halloween party was just the dose of familiarity I needed. It was so nice to meet the local community and have some fun.

I also spent a day solo wandering around the city — visiting most of the main sights. The city stuck with me so much I knew I had to return for the Christmas markets.

Upon returning to Prague, my friend and I took a day trip to Cesky Krumlov. We were some of the last to tour the castle before the season’s closure. It was such a cute town. I’ll never forget it!

NOVEMBER:

cantillonIf I went into every detail of November, you wouldn’t sleep tonight. It was a life changing month. I visited London, Stonehenge, Bath, Windsor, Edinburgh, Glencoe, Loch Ness *breathes*…Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Budapest, and Vienna…all before flying back to Philly on Nov. 29.

Yeah.

It was tiring.

In the best of ways.

Can I just live like that forever?? Ideally? Yeah?

People ask what my favorite city was these past few months. I have trouble answering that. Denver remains strong in my memory. Edinburgh was adorable. Amsterdam was so forward thinking. Budapest was a surprise. Vienna, of course, is my one true love right now. And Brussels was really neat to experience. I’d love to revisit all of the cities for extended stays in the future.

I chose my Cantillon visit to highlight this month because that was really, really, really, really *really* cool. I swear the Amsterdam post is coming. And the Prague one. And the Budapest one. And the Christmas markets in Vienna one. Pinky promise.

DECEMBER:

tonightDecember isn’t over. It’s not Christmas yet. I can’t highlight NYE here. So what can I talk about that was good so far this month? How about a few hours ago? Sure, let’s go with that.

Today marked three weeks since I safely made it home. In that time, I’ve mostly been job hunting, freaking out about my lack of a job (and protected-tweeting about it, which I know is bad but hopefully my Twitter followers understand the struggle), feeling bored, or catching up with friends. Tonight was the “Destination Dogs Holiday UYE” set up because my friends know how much I love hot dogs. How nice is that??

So the hot dogs were only okay and the restaurant was pretty meh overall but seeing so many friendly faces and blending right back in among my friends despite the months of virtual-only correspondence was a really good feeling. It’s nice to know this core group of friends exists and I can rely on them.

Unemployment isn’t fun. Cold weather isn’t ideal. Reading the news is heartbreaking, scary, and sometimes just plain ridiculous. But in this moment (right now only, can’t speak for the future), I’m choosing to believe that the good on earth outweighs the bad, and 2017 is gonna be one for the books.

Happy Holidays. Thank you and confetti bursts to anyone who actually read this entire post. You deserve a gold star.

See you guys in 2017. Unless I actually write that Amsterdam post sooner than that. No guarantees.

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