Gratitude for another year well-lived

Our Christmas celebration unraveled when a couple family members tested positive for COVID. Everyone stayed at their perspective houses and we got together for about an hour over Zoom on Christmas Day. Thankfully, my daughter completed her isolation period 2 days before Christmas and I was able to bring her up here on Christmas Eve to spend a long weekend with us before she returned to work. Kurt wasn’t as lucky and won’t see his kids until sometime in the new year for a re-scheduled family celebration. 

I used to be one of those people who had to put Christmas behind me before I went back to work after the holiday break. As a result, I was often dismantling the tree on New Year’s Day.  Then in more recent years I relented, and the compromise was January 6th. This year, everything will stay up until we can pull our family together finally. Even if that means taking down the tree on Valentine’s Day (although I’m at least hoping not to go beyond January).

I’m seeing a lot of posts – blogs, social media – about how 2021 was just another crappy year, like 2020. Perhaps for some, but not for me. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, and it would have been much better if Christmas had been everything we hoped for or I had secured one of those higher paying jobs I set my sights on.  

I lost count of the number of job applications I submitted this year. I came in second in four searches, and there were countless others for which I made it to the final four and didn’t advance. The feedback from hiring managers had many similarities: it was a difficult decision, we hired someone with more experience fundraising for an organization like ours, we were looking for someone that better represents the population we serve, or my personal favorite, we need someone more familiar with the Chicago market (when I got my first fundraising job in New York City, no one cared that I had only worked in New Jersey prior and the experience was so vastly different, it might as well have been Chicago).

But I remain grateful. While I am insanely under-employed given my 25-years in the non-profit sector, and my experience in securing 6 and 7-figure major gifts and grants, I am actually enjoying the work I am doing for the Chicago Area Runners Association, and I like our new Executive Director (as much as I didn’t want to when he got the job). I continue to do my best work in advancing our cause, working with our charity partners, and managing our Team CARA charity runners. So professionally, I’m really not unhappy. 

I was also hoping to perform better in my marathon, but I had a nice weekend away with my daughter and at the very least got back to some consistent running and training after the pandemic derailed all of our plans for a year. I trained fairly consistently on the Chicago Lakefront all summer long and got back to in-person racing at two half marathons in September and October and then the marathon in November. 

Then of course there were the big events: in April my daughter celebrated her 21st birthday; Kurt and I got engaged in May and Kurt’s first grandchild was born about a week later;  in August we got married with all our kids present and in October, for the first time in over 20 months, we got back on an airplane to attend Kurt’s son and daughter-in-law’s long over-due wedding celebration in North Carolina. 

2021 will long be remembered as a year with many significant life events that will vastly overshadow whatever shortcomings the year held.  I keep reminding myself too that all of the wonderfully amazing events that did occur this year also seemed far out of reach in the not-so-distant past. It’s that thought that gives me hope, keeps me positive, and remaining grateful, knowing that everything falls into place in its own time.

Not a bad year. Not a bad year at all. Chicago Riverwalk. August 2021.

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