2018 Year in Review + Bonus Reflection Exercise
It’s the beginning of another year! Once again I’m baffled by how quickly time passes as I get older. But at the start of each year I always feel more hopeful, optimistic, and excited for what’s to come in the new year that lays ahead. Is everyone hoping to make this one even better than the last? I know I am! Before we look ahead, let’s take a moment to reflect on the year behind us.
I’ll share my recap of 2018, which was a year of abundance for me. Change and discomfort were constants, which led to accelerated growth. Creatively and personally, at 38 years old, last year was my most prolific year to date. While it ended on a high note, it didn’t start out that way.
I’m also sharing a reflection exercise that I facilitated at our She Hit Refresh one-year anniversary celebration in Madrid last November. I encourage you to take some time out of your week to sit down and reflect on the last 12 months so that you can move forward with more clarity.
My 2018 Year in Review
This isn’t working (January)
After spending six weeks in the U.S. for the holidays, I started 2018 on a high note after reconnecting with family and friends back home. I was also stoked about launching the She Hit Refresh blog. Unfortunately, it only took a few days in Madrid for reality to set back in and reawaken that gnawing sense of uncertainty and dispirited feeling that had taken over a few months prior.
I was in a funk after a short-lived romance quickly faded and was also feeling unhappy with my work. I was nine months into my first remote job, feeling so grateful for the opportunity to make the leap from a desk job to location independence. But long work-from-home days, winter weather, and a lack of socialization and mental stimulation were wearing on my optimism.
I started looking for better work opportunities that would challenge my new interest in social media marketing, but every application and interview led to a dead end. I realized that I may be missing out on career opportunities by being in Spain. My prospects in Spain were limited due to my legal status and the job market, so I knew I could find work that was more interesting, flexible, and better paid in the U.S.
Another problem was that after two years of living in Madrid, I still hadn’t exactly found my tribe. I had many acquaintances, but the extrovert in me deeply yearned for the types of friendships I had back home—meaningful relationships with people who inspire me and truly “get me.” At the end of the day, what’s the point of living in this wonderful city if you don’t have people to share it with? In January I made a mental note that I’d give it one more year to see if I could make Madrid work on my terms, and if not I would make a plan B.
Community is everything (February-May)
My mood slowly started to lighten in the coming months. I celebrated the first anniversary of my group, Madrid Blogger Network, Madrid’s largest community for bloggers and content creators. It was a meaningful accomplishment, and this community, along with a few other groups in the city, helped me find my tribe.
I resurrected my dating life and decided that 2018 would be the year of “yes.” I would be open to opportunities that came my way and actively make an effort to date. I was so focused on building my world when I moved to Madrid in 2015 that I didn’t prioritize, nor was I interested in, making time for dating. Plus, after getting burned in late 2017, I put the dating scene on pause.
March brought our second She Hit Refresh event in Madrid. The goal-setting session connected 20 inspiring women; it was a physical manifestation of the value that this community provides. It was refreshing, and validated the time and energy I spent on the Facebook group: creating meaningful and useful content and recruiting like-minded women to join.
I counted down the days until friends from Houston came to visit and revelled in experiencing Madrid with friends from home who were in Europe for the first time! In April I decided to take some time for myself for my 38th birthday and spent 12 days in Scotland on my own.
Afterwards I felt like celebrating with friends and threw a 90s-themed birthday party. Going through my rolodex—or rather, Facebook friend list—I realized that I had an abundance of incredible people in my life in Madrid. I remember looking around at my party at all the people who showed up and feeling so far from the start of year, so far from feeling like Madrid may not be where my people are.
I was starting to feel light and free, especially because I knew my last days of work at my current job were right around the corner. I had been mentally checked out for months and was in desperate need of a professional challenge. I left for another remote position, this time with a tech company in Silicon Valley, and gave myself a week and a half between jobs to enjoy myself.
I kicked off my mini-vacation dancing the night away to Max Cooper, spent the following day recovering, and then headed south for a solo beach trip along the coast of Spain. I used this opportunity to knock three places off my bucket list: Tarifa, Formentera, and Javea. I ended the trip with my first coliving experience at Sun and Co., the perfect place to start my new remote job.
Preparation meets opportunity (June-August)
It didn’t take long to realize that my new gig wasn’t the right match for my skills or interests, so six weeks in, with no back-up plan, I tucked my tail between my legs and gave them my notice. I shared my feelings of self-disappointment and professional “failure” in the She Hit Refresh group and was moved by the supportive comments and power of community. I tried to stay positive; I took the opportunity to hone my skills with a few online courses and taking my time to find the right position.
Without an income, I decided that financial uncertainty meant I needed to implement some austerity measures, i.e. downsizing. I moved out of my “palace” in the city center to a smaller apartment 40 minutes south—not ideal, but it suited my intention to focus and hustle for the next year.
It was almost time to head back to Texas for a month when I scored my first long term freelance gig! It was a part-time social media position in the health and wellness space and a much-needed relief from the job hunt anxiety. Luck was on my side, and just a few days into my U.S. trip I scored another freelance gig! And just like that I became a freelancer.
What was supposed to be a leisurely trip back home started with the passing of a friend and then turned into a stressful balancing act of remote work, multiple time zones, family, friends, and travel. It wasn’t the ideal time to take on two new clients and the pressure to stay on top of my work while also making time for everyone around me wasn’t sustainable, but I survived. After many months of professional dissatisfaction and uncertainty there was a sigh of relief—maybe things were finally falling into place.
Despite the stress, that trip was one of my best trips back home. I attended my uncle’s surprise 60th-birthday party, relived my youth at my 20-year high school reunion (best weekend of the year!), and connected with our stateside refreshers at the first-ever She Hit Refresh event in the U.S. Oh, and I drove three hours to go on a last-minute semi-blind date with a high school classmate. Hey, it was the year of “yes,” right?
Grind, hustle, and payoff (September-December)
I came back to Madrid with my pup in tow (I had left her with family three years ago), ready to get into a routine—but not before attending a blogger bootcamp at Sun and Co. in Javea and then hosting my cousin who came to visit. It wasn’t until late September when I hunkered down.
I purposely closed-up shop on my social life so I could focus on my work, She Hit Refresh, and paying off debt. I enjoyed bringing the best season of Madrid Blogger Network to my members and even made my debut as a presenter, giving a talk on “How to Build and Grow an Engaged Facebook Group.”
It was also around then that Facebook selected me to co-lead the Madrid chapter of their new initiative, Facebook Community Leadership Circles (CLC). The CLC’s purpose is to bring local community leaders together in-person to support each other and learn from one another. Part of our training included a two-day conference in Berlin at the Facebook office where the CLC chapter leaders—located in 97 cities around the world—connected to talk about the power of community and Facebook’s role in “bringing the world closer.”
In November we celebrated the one-year anniversary of She Hit Refresh and had a giveaway and meetup in Madrid to mark the milestone! I never imagined that a little idea to connect women like myself would turn into a thriving community of empowerment with members located in over 100 countries. We even got recognition on the Tinder blog…which leads me to…
Remember that semi-blind date I went on a few months earlier with a high school classmate? Well, we had a few more dates over the holidays, this time in Madrid. Phew, what a year!
If 2018 was a year of building: building my skills, career, Facebook groups, friendships, and opportunities; 2019 will focus on expanding on what I worked hard on to create.
Keep an eye out for the the She Hit Refresh podcast and our upcoming retreat! I’ll continue to focus on growing the community, host more in-person events, and find new ways to provide more value and better resources for our members to empower them to hit refresh.
My travel goals are to visit Vietnam and southern Italy this year. My language goal is to make space for Spanish. While I do have a high level, I didn’t progress at all in 2018 as it took a backseat to everything else. Lastly, I would like to focus on my finances, eliminate debt, increase my savings and set aside money towards investments.