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This is one of the most candid posts I’ve ever written. As the rational, practical-minded daughter of scientists, I can become extremely introspective at year’s end and am prone to assess the past in an unflinching way.

So what’s my verdict on 2012?

Well, it was a mix of Good and Bad, which I realize is how life usually goes. Although I’m a positive person by nature (one of those glass-half-full types), my year was kind of a doozy. Yes, things could have been a lot worse. A whole lot worse. But overall, it could have been a lot better too.

First, here’s the bona fide Good!

  • We bought our first house and made it a home. It was worth all the packing and moving our stuff, and even worth the longer commute.

I still love our 1,580 square feet of coziness.

  • My trip to San Francisco in June. Sure it was for work, and I only had one free day to play, but I am grateful for the opportunity. It was amazingly refreshing to get out of DC.

Public art installation near Union Square. I left a piece of my heart in San Francisco. (Who doesn’t love that city?)

  • I joined Twitter (@jenrocksfashion) which has led me to feel connected to the world in a new way.
  • I became more active in my college alumni association, speaking on panels, meeting current students and offering career advice. It’s a way for me to give back as well as be inspired and humbled by the next generation. They are dynamos!

Now for the Bad–with my efforts to put a positive spin on it in brackets:

  • Andrew had to have back surgery (a laminectomy).  [We have good insurance and live in a world-class city with excellent hospitals. Seven months later, his sciatic pain has subsided substantially. So I should probably file this under the Good category!]
  • Our health insurance currently costs a hefty arm and a leg (so to speak). [We’re grateful for the coverage.]
  • Mid-life crisis. (I’m gonna be purposely vague on this one but let’s just say it involves job insecurity, job loss, shaken confidence, soul searching. Having been unemployed for a full year after grad school, I have firsthand knowledge of the crushing feelings of helplessness and despair. If you haven’t been through it, you really have no idea.) [What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.]

We’re all works in progress, and sometimes progress is tough going.

  • Mind-numbingly expensive and ongoing dental work, much of which requires high out-of-pocket outlay. [With a little help from our families, it will be OK.]
  • Living on one non-profit salary for months. [At least it was one instead of none. And I have become a budgeting and spreadsheet ninja, tracking where every dollar goes.]

And lastly, here’s the Upcoming. These are just a few things off the top of my head that I’m looking forward to in 2013 (because anticipating the Good is actually beneficial to your health).

  • Mortgage-interest tax deduction: for the first time in what feels like an eternity, I may finally see a tax refund come April 15th! Hallelujah!
  • My office is relocating to a gleaming new building in March. (It’s actually a combo of new construction and adaptive reuse of the C&P Telephone Company warehouse.) I can’t wait to bust out of our crappy, dark, depressing digs.
  • A vacation: I’m not exactly sure where, when or how, but this girl needs an extended trip to somewhere far away and a temporary reprieve from taking “stay-cations.” (My excuse? New scenery and new experiences help strengthen the brain.)

After a 15-year absence, maybe I’ll see you again.

Final thoughts:

I’m never going to be a happy-go-lucky free spirit susceptible to flights of fancy (except when my J.Crew catalog arrives), but in 2013 I want to feel less like a frantic hamster on a perpetual wheel trying to hold everything together. It’s gonna be a challenge since several of the big-ticket Bad items having to do with health and personal finance will linger. How to achieve a more Zen (or Jen?) state is something to figure out (or maybe the saner strategy is just to embrace the suck). Because as my mentor once told me, “Making resolutions without a plan is a doomed endeavor.” People need concrete steps to get from Point A to Point B. It doesn’t suddenly happen by wishing or hoping, which is one reason why I consciously didn’t use the words “hopefully” or “try” in this post. (Those are inconsequential, wishy-washy terms like “nice.”)

One tip: I read the book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business” cover-to-cover during my six-hour flight from California. It’s a riveting examination of how and why habits form, and how to alter them–which may come in handy in trying to stick to New Year’s resolutions.

Here’s to a better and brighter 2013!