2019 Year in Review
Typically, I would try to write up a “Year in Review” in January, but I just haven’t had time. Where does the time go, I don’t know! Thus, my year in review is ready near my birthday instead. I will say that 2019 started off on a low note, but improved towards the end of the year. My health, mental health, and finances were a little topsy turvy, but it was also a year of adventures and perseverance. By the end of the year, I pulled things out of the fire and ended feeling optimistic for 2020!
One downside of 2019, was the return of my depression. This was a struggle between December 2018 and August 2019, with the worst symptoms occurring in December through the spring. Most of the depression was probably work related, which isn’t something I am at complete liberty to share. I will only say that there was an intense period of labor struggle accompanied by a high attrition of staff. In the end, I was one of the “last ones standing” or staying at my job. During the struggle and once it was over, I felt rather bleak about it all. I was depressed enough that I withdrew from some people and actively considered suicide. However, since it wasn’t my first experience with depression, I also sought out some therapy. While I only attended a few sessions, it helped me hold myself accountable for my mental health. Eventually, things improved and I was better able to get a handle on my depression. It is good to be at a place in life where I’ve had enough experience with depression that it will never be as destructive and debilitating as it was in my early 20s.
Another downside of 2019 was the sudden onset of painful attacks in my chest and back area. One of these mysterious attacks sent me to the ER in February 2019….while celebrating my birthday! It turned out that I needed gallbladder surgery. I had my gallbladder removed in April. The downside of all of this was the financial cost to it all. Even though I have health insurance, the entire ordeal cost me about $6000.
Owing to the unexpected expense of a visit to the ER and gallbladder surgery, I felt more stressed about finances than usual. Coupled with student loans and car repairs, there were some financially stressful moments this past year. However, in the end I was able to manage these expenses, develop a payment plan for the medical bills, and pay off my car early in September. I also picked up overtime on every paycheck between January and August at my primary place of employment. This helped with my financial security. I even increased my 401 b contribution and tried out a few new financial tools such as Acorns and Mint. I am also proud that by the end of the year, my credit score reached a peak of over 760.
I worked….a lot. As mentioned, I picked up quite a lot of overtime at the shelter. Aside from this, I continued to work at the WE Health Clinic, as the mall Easter Bunny, and substitute teaching. A downside of the year was when the work schedule I had enjoyed for four years was changed. However, I was able to eventually move to a work schedule that seems to work just as well. This caused some distress during the interim between the old and newest work schedule. Also distressing was the loss of many of my coworkers after a protracted struggle. Thankfully, things have settled down into a less conflict ridden status quo (even though the struggle was lost). It was an empowering experience, even if all consuming for a while.
I became Vice President of my union this year. I feel proud of that.
Central America Trip:
In January 2019, I visited Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. I spent the most time in El Salvador and had a really great time. Highlights included seeing many wonderful birds, visiting the Copan ruins, hiking up two volcanoes, not getting sick, and visiting historical sites related to the civil war in El Salvador.
Another travel highlight was completing the Inca Trail. I visited Ecuador and Peru in November and December for three weeks. The Inca Trail was physically challenging, but I am proud of myself for having made it!
I also visited the Galapagos Islands in December. I loved seeing the unique wildlife and celebrating evolution.
Winnipeg Road Trip:
I went on a road trip with my mother to Winnipeg. For me, this was in part to observe the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg general strike. We kept a busy schedule, visiting museums, the zoo, camping, spending time in nature, catching an outdoor concert and First Nations festival, and much more! Visiting Lake Winnipeg was also a highlight. We learned the hard way that the U.S./Canada border point that we wanted to cross closes at 8pm.
Five New State Parks:
One of my goals is to visit all of the state parks in Minnesota. Each year I try to visit a few new ones. One of the parks I visited was Forestville Mystery Cave, which is located in southern Minnesota. Although I usually go alone, Dan was kind enough to go with me, indulging my desire to see the largest cave in Minnesota. I also visited Itasca State Park, which is the headwaters of the Mississippi River. After visiting the park, I stayed with my father in Bemidji and we went to Lake Bemidji State Park together. We walked along the bog walk. Another nearby park was Schoolcraft State Park, which isn’t that impressive but is known for an old white pine. I also visited Father Hennepin State Park on a day trip, but did not see the famous albino deer.
Where the Mississippi River begins
I can always be thankful for my friends. Adam, Lucas, and I went to Madeline Island and Houghton Falls for a memorable adventure together. The three of us also went for a hike up Carlton Peak, while Adam and I did a few other hikes. As I mentioned, Dan and I also went on an adventure to Forestville Mystery Cave. I also had a great Halloween, as my friends and I dressed up as the seasons. Although we didn’t win the costume prize, I felt proud of our costumes and had a great time dressing up as dry season!
I read 39 books last year. To some people this may seem like a lot and to others, this may seem disappointingly low. Some highlights include The Last Days of the Incas, Handbook for a Post Roe America, The End of Roe v. Wade, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, 1491: Before Columbus, Eels, Frankenstein, and a few books about Yemen. I always try to “read my age” so, I will have my work cut out for me when I am 80.
135 Activist Events:
I attended 135 activist events. This includes meetings, protests, pickets, social justice educational events, etc. The number is down from the last two years.
133 New Species of Birds:
I saw 133 new species of birds in 2019, many of them in Peru and El Salvador. A highlight from Minnesota was my first Boreal chickadee.
Socialist Action Split:
The socialist group I have been a part of since the early 2000s split this past year in November. This was a bit awkward since I had been the Vice Presidential candidate for the party. While this role was far outside of my comfort zone, on a personal level, I really hate disappointing people. So, I regret if I disappointed the SA comrades over this matter. On the other hand, a large number of comrades were expelled over dues payment (which followed a long debate over Syria, analysis of imperialism, and trans issues), so leaving was the principled thing to do.
From Leftist Trainspotters, the cover of SA news shortly after the split, before my photo could be removed…
Those who left or were removed from Socialist Action went on to form a new group called Socialist Resurgence. There is a healthy energy within the group, even if we are small. The new group has made my local branch more politically engaged than it has been for a long while.
Each year, I try to challenge myself to try new things. A few things that I did that were new this year include attending a burlesque show, attending a mycology club, visiting new state parks, visiting Madeline Island, trying some new foods like Lingonberry ice cream, rose apple, cherimoya, rambutan, and Hibiscus Lacroix, making a bat house, attending a roller derby event, hiking at high altitude, becoming certified in mental health first aid, etc. I wish that I had enough time to do roller derby, as that seems like a really fun sport. I also wish I had time to become more knowledgeable about fungi.
I kept up my regular hobbies of reading, birding, camping, travel, hiking, and writing. I didn’t write in my blog as much, but I felt pinched for time. I took a watercolor class, continued gardening, took a community ed class about preserving herbs, played community soccer, went cross country skiing and snowshoeing, attended Planetarium classes and events, tried DuoLingo for Russian and Spanish, and so on. I also started to attend a poetry club and even read poems at an event about body autonomy. I failed to keep up with dancing, yoga, bicycling, and violin.
I also try to face my fears each year. Playing co-ed soccer meant facing a fear, since I felt uneasy about playing soccer with men. I also don’t enjoy substitute teaching very much, since I am afraid I will make a mistake, disappoint the teacher, be unable to control the classroom, or somehow my logins won’t work. So, each time I sub, I face my fears. My short tenure as VP for Socialist Action and doing more writing for SA and SR also means facing fears, since I fear that I am not smart or knowledgeable enough. I fear disappointing my comrades by “not being good enough.”
New Year’s Resolutions:
I had 100 New Year’s Resolutions. I completed about 64 of them. I don’t feel upset about this, as 100 is quite a few. For those who are curious, the black resolutions are ones that I completed and the red text are resolutions I did not complete. There is always room to grow!