I’m sitting here in my Airstream, surrounded by feet of snow, Indigo Girls playing on the speakers, and the sun breaking through the clouds to bring some clear blue skies, working across from my husband as our rabbits dance in the snow. As the final hours of 2017 pass me by, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what this year has brought me, and what I’ve done with my time over the past 365 days.

I’m in the final process of deciding my guiding word (or possibly words) for 2018, and hope to share my 2018 vision here in the next few days. But before we go forward, we must look back.

Here’s a short summary of what I learned in 2017.

I Can Be My Own Best Asset & Worst Enemy

2017 was the year I launched a freelance career. I did what you’re not really supposed to do  – I didn’t have a side hustle that I nurtured for years, I didn’t grow slowly and expand my customer base out of existing relationships. I just quit my job and dove right in.

I had a few safety nets that allowed me to do this – from my husband’s salary (although that was an unknown when we started this journey), to the more stable income I receive from teaching yoga (also an unknown when I took the plunge), our savings built up intentionally to give ourselves this freedom, and applying skills I’ve honed over more than a decade in “normal” jobs – but even so, it was a bit of a jump into cold water.

But along the way, I’ve learned some important lessons about myself. I think, for me, the sudden shift was really the only way I could have transitioned to freelance effectively. Otherwise, it would have been pushed to the side as the lowest priority item. Instead, it’s my primary income, and my work to gain and keep clients, to write well and with impact, to nurture and grow and expand these relationships, is critical.

I continue to struggle with finding the right balance of time and work and unpaid work. Writing my novel draft always takes last priority, when it should probably take first. (More on this in the 2018 post).

I Have An Inaccurate Sense of Time

Call it my obliger-tendency, my excitement over new ideas, my desire to do it all, but I struggle to fit tasks into the actual number of hours in a day. Some of this is poor time management (hello, social media), but this is also a big area I’m looking to tackle in 2018.

This manifested in three major areas in 2017: I didn’t complete my reading challenges (more on this below), I made major progress but didn’t fully complete my first novel draft to my satisfaction, and I experienced a major shift in exercise patterns that I’m not fully satisfied with.

It’s Amazing To Finally Do Things You’ve Dreamed Of

Living in a tiny house. Living in a place I love. Building a new community of like-minded people. Recentering a significant part of my life on wellness, an area that’s a cornerstone of my values. Continuing to build skills and confidence in athletics, outdoor activities, and more. Nurturing my creative side and beginning to tell myself a different story when it comes to what I “can” and “can’t” do well (or at all.)

Despite some of the missteps along the way and lots of questions, this has been a year I won’t forget. It’s been the year of the great adventure, and I don’t regret it for a moment.

Reading Challenge – Incomplete

I’m always an ambitious reader, and early in 2017, I signed up for two reading challenges.

Then two big things happened – I had a major shift in my time and schedule that resulted in much less time for reading, paradoxically. And, I made the decision to rely on my Library almost exclusively, and not purchase many new books. Some of the reading challenge books were not available, others on a long waitlist, and others I simply walked away from in order to read other works.

So at the end of the year, I met my Goodreads challenge of reading 80 books.

Of these books, I read 5/12 selections for the first reading challenge, and 5/24 of the other list. Not so great.

But, on the upside, 33 of the 80 were taken out from the library, bought used, swapped, or gifted to me. I marked 14 as purchased new in 2017. The remaining 33 books were from my shelf or purchased in previous years. Pretty decent work on whittling away my TBR.

I think I’ll participate in a 2018 challenge or two, as this helps to guide my reading into areas I haven’t explored. 2017 was predominately marked by fiction with a few memoirs dropped in. 2018 I’d like to focus on more non-fiction and biography. Have a recommendation? I’d love to hear it!

Top Reads of 2017

So, after reading 80 books this year, what are my top recommendations?

They’re united by a somewhat common thread of female authors telling complex stories, often fantastical, and usually with high stakes. A few other patterns feature great minds (fictional or not) and challenging visions of our future.

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
by Leigh Bardugo

I’ve got a soft spot for fairytale retellings, and this is probably my favorite of all of Bardugo’s books. Brilliant and beautiful. The hardcover version with illustrations is absolutely the way to go here, so bypass the e-book and buy it hardcover or request it from your local library.

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)
by N.K. Jemisin

I wasn’t as taken by Jemisin’s earlier works as some, but she really shines in this brilliant start to an incredibly original trilogy. I haven’t read the third book yet but hope to soon.

A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles

I loved Rules of Civility, and Towles doesn’t disappoint in his second book. It’s so different, but so brilliantly written and is an utterly charming read. I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t recommend this book to, if they love a good story well told.

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

Very much a buzzy book this year, but absolutely worth the read. I think this book dealt with a range of difficult subjects intelligently and made me think of things from a different perspective than I otherwise might.

American War
by Omar El Akkad

Another well written book, with many phrases that will stick in your brain and make you pause. Perhaps it has a bit of an agenda, but I was able to see past that to a great story and some sobering thoughts. I think if you like the show Black Mirror, you’d enjoy this book.

The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes
by Lyndsay Faye

Faye is a brilliant writer and while I also loved her Jane Steele this year, this second effort of her take on Holmes was spot-on and delightful.

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)
by V.E. Schwab

Schwab can write no wrong. Get this trilogy, and read it. (start with book 1!) She is the author I most want to be when I grow up.

Elon Musk: Inventing the Future
by Ashlee Vance

A fascinating biography and loads of insight into one of our generation’s most interesting people. (In my opinion.)

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