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What I Have Learned This Past Year

December 31, 2006

In late October of 2005, I went to a Halloween Party on Vashon Island. A friend from grad school lived on a farm out there. A friend and I took a ferry over, drove five miles in and spent the day carving pumpkins, chasing away spiders and eating farm grown vegetable soup. This random October day would lead me to six straight months of complete stress and anxiety.

When it became time to decide on a degree project and I looked randomly at the list of 70 different projects, I immediately became drawn to a small nonprofit called Vashon Youth and Family Services. They needed a student to examine the early learning and childcare needs on the Island and suggest solutions to improve the lives of the children. The idea of helping an Island community was fascinating and since I had a great time on the farm, I signed myself up.

Being 23, single and having grown up as an only child, I was a perfect candidate to discover the Island’s childcare needs. I spent six months interviewing parents, nannies, school officials and childcare owners to discover how I could help the poor children of Vashon Island. And in a brief 55-page document, I have all the answers. I quickly learned that the allure of a twenty-five minute ferry ride across the Puget Sound gets old really quick at $18 per trip. I think after the 175th revision of my degree project, I no longer cared about the children and only wanted to turn my project in.

In January and February, I spent most days driving to Olympia to lobby the legislature to give the graduate and professional students of UW more money in the supplemental budget. During session, Olympia is this weirdly lonely city. It is filled with suits walking around and people talking on their blackberries. I would spend time between meetings and hearings drinking coffee in the cafeteria and talking to the usual suspects of higher education. My “friends” became lobbyists and legislators. I testified on a few bills and if you search public records, you can hear the painful audio transcripts of my public testimony. The undergraduate UW lobbyist and I became good friends. And sometimes during hearings I would call him ennis and I whisper in his ear that I wish I knew how to quit him. It is always fun to be wildly inappropriate in our State’s capitol.

On September 4, 2006, I had my heart broken – it was Tully’s Girl’s last day. Zoe left me for the Black Angus. She was my barista for the entire time I went lived in Seattle. She knew my name, my drink, my schedule, my life and she even drew little hearts on my cup from time to time. She sent me more mixed signals than everyone else did and I never did quite figure her out. She frequently dyed her hair and I would always complement her. She was always flattered. After Zoe left, her entire staff quit. I still find that amazing. And what is even more weird about Zoe leaving is that when the new manager took over, Crystal, they completely changed the entire inside. They removed the side tables I always sat at, removed the bar where you could doctor your coffee, removed the bench seating and replaced it with leather chairs and changed most of the seating and layout around. So in addition to losing Zoe, my Tully’s was completely different. The only thing I still recognize about this Tully’s is the same customers that come in when I do. I guess we are all creatures of habit. I also thought it was quite poetic about the timing of Zoe quitting. I thought somehow it reflected the changes in my own life. Five days before Tully’s Girl left, I started my job at Washington Business Week. My life changed drastically and in turn, Tully’s changed drastically. I know it is coincidence but on some level, I think it is cosmically related.

During the summer of nick (the blissful time after grad school and before employment), I was planning a national conference for an organization I was involved with called NAGPS (aptly pronounced “nags”). While I was in florida at the previous national conference – I don’t know if it was because of the 80-degree temps in February or the humid Miami air but I stupidly signed the UW (me) up to host the next national conference in November. And as November approached, I became a wreck. Emails piled up in my gmail account, the ulcer pain increased in my stomach. Which I believe, was perfectly correlated.

This was a year of transitions for most of you. My high school prom date got married this past year. Congrats Lindsey. My best friend Brian is having a son. My good friends Mirah and Ben bought a new house and are having a child. And Katie and Ryan built their own house. Maybe someday I will leave the familiar university district to seek out a new neighborhood and new adventures.

I have written most of this year’s letter somewhat tongue in cheek. But in all seriousness, 2006 has been a great year for me. I had the opportunity to watch the sunrise from the Atlantic Ocean and watch it set over the Pacific. I saw first hand the Rockies and saw fireflies for the first time on the shores of the mighty Ohio. I had a couple first dates and a few disappointments. A few missed opportunities and a lot of laughs along the way. As I finish this annual letter, I am beginning to think about to whom I am going to send it to. And I realize that some of you, I have not seen you in person since your wedding or high school or college graduation or some other random event. But I guess that is life in its truest sense. Friendships weave back and forth along a timeline and you never know when they will cross again but you remain hopeful that they do. I hope this letter finds you all well. Remember to give to your favorite nonprofits – there are plenty of people in our communities who need help. And for more inane random ramblings, check out my blog at: http://www.geocities.com/nickoroni.

Remember to live life to the fullest, dream, wonder and explore because, you never know. To everyone, Happy New Year!

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