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TR: My 2019 Year in Review

It has been over a year since my last post (My 2018 year in review). There are many reasons for this. First, there is the simple logistical element of being too busy over this last year. Second, there is an element of lacking the emotional energy to complete blog posts for multiple personal reasons. Third, I initially perceived this last year of my life to have, quite frankly, been relatively boring compared to the adventure I was use to due to the need for a third foot surgery and completing my PhD dissertation (although upon reflection, I still had some pretty amazing opportunities!).

However, there is also a fourth element that has prevented me from writing. I am often left questioning the purpose of blog posts. I started my blog because I enjoy writing about my experiences, and I hope that some information provided can be of use for someone for logistics of a similar trip. But it can quickly appear to be something quite different than I intend, and social media can have a fine line between sharing and people intentionally or unintentionally "bragging" about their lives. This is particularly an issue with broad overviews of adventures enjoyed in a year as opposed to a full trip report of a specific location. However, I hope that at this stage, most people understand that the positive items displayed on social media are the highlights reel of someone's life, and often do not portray the full reality of people's lives.

Despite this internal debate, I have decided to start sharing again! Similar to last year, I will begin by sharing some highlights from 2019 and things to look forward to in 2020.

Highlights of 2019:

1. In June 2019, I successfully defended by PhD Dissertation. That's right, I am now Dr. Coco! *Sound the tiny celebration horns*. This journey took 6 years of my life with many ups and downs along the way. I am really grateful to have pushed through and completed this degree because at times, I was not so sure I could continue with it.

2. In December 2019, I moved away from the city and to the Slocan Valley where I can spend time with my dog and cat. I am much happier being away from the hustle and bustle of a city, and enjoying my beautiful mountain surroundings.

3. I have been extremely fortunate to have become a private contractor doing biology work in a way where I mostly stumble upon opportunities. This provides a flexible work schedule, and the opportunity to take time off to continue healing my brain and heart as needed.

These highlights are not as valuable as my insights in my 2018 blog... but hopefully my brain and heart get to a point where I can have more valuable thoughts again one day :)

Things to Look Forward to in 2020:

Revisiting my list from last year, I see that I accomplished number 1 (completing my PhD), but I struggled with points 2 (post-defense adventure) and 3 (being grateful for what I have). After my dissertation, I was riddled with injury after injury (repeated hemorrhagic ovarian cysts, herniated disc, and a third foot surgery after 9 months of being unable to wear shoes) which prevented me from going on the post-defense adventure that I have dreamed about. These issues, amongst additional personal life issues that arose, all made being grateful for what I had in life more difficult to accomplish, but I still made an effort :)

The things I look forward to in 2020 are:

1. See where life takes me in terms of work. I have been applying for many different types of jobs with the government and elsewhere, but I am also open to continuing to teach at universities and being a contracted biologist. It will be very interesting to see where my life takes me career-wise over the coming year!

2. See where like takes me in terms of location. I am currently loving living in the Kootenays and would love to remain there. However, work keeps trying to draw me back to Vancouver. I am also very open to moving to New Zealand for a while on a work visa. Let's see what happens!

3. Hopefully some relaxation and adventures. I have just returned from an amazing 2-week ski roadtrip with a fantastic friend, and I hope to have more adventures. Coming up, I will visit one of my best friends north of Kamloops, do the Wapta Ski Traverse with a group of rad women, and hopefully get back into climbing over the summer.

And now, a summary of adventures in 2019...

January to March

This year started off rough emotionally due to personal reasons thrown in with PhD completion stress. My response was to ski as many days and evenings as possible. I managed to successfully ski 37 days in the 2018-2019 ski season, with most days being January onwards! Eleven of these days were back country skiing and the remaining 26 were at resorts.

Many days at Cypress and Whistler.

I had some great day trips touring in the Coquihalla (e.g., Zoa) and at Gin Peak.

I also had an amazing weekend of ski touring at Keith's Hut on a girls trip.

On March 24th, we did a girls hike up Diez Vistas near Vancouver. This was a great day out. Unfortunately, it was the start of my foot issues. On this hike, I developed a large protrusion on the back of the foot that I previously had surgery on. It turned out to be calcaneous bursitis, and I was unable to wear shoes without immense pain for the subsequent 9 months until I had another foot surgery in October... more on that in a bit.

Despite not being able to wear normal shoes without pain, climbing shoes were substantially less painful. Once they are on, they are on and do not move nearly as much. Thus, on March 29th, I took a friend out to Lighthouse Park for a beautiful afternoon of climbing.

Now, fully warmed up for the climbing season (umm...), a friend and I went up Slab Alley into Butt Light on March 30th to kick off climbing season! We ran up Slab Alley, and it literally took me 10+ minutes to catch my breath before we continued up Boomstick Crack. That was the longest run out lead of my life... its ~25-30 meters between bolts on slab! Haha... fun times... I was sore for DAYS.

April to June

April and May were full of both skiing and climbing. Fantastic months! First weekend of April, I was able to utilize my free day at Revelstoke Ski Resort from my Cypress Silver Pass. It was fantastic!

I made a few work trips out to the beautiful Sidney Island, where I did my PhD research for 6 years. Spring is the best time to be there! And in May, I co-instructed a 3-week field course there once again, focusing on monitoring vegetative change over 6 years with reductions in deer densities.

One of my best friends and I also tried to get out climbing and/or skiing as much as possible during these months. We would often go out in the evening, climb that evening, ninja camp and then ski the next day.

During these months, I also made a visit to Slocan to visit my family (parents, cats, dog). I had a wonderful time cycling and climbing. The climbing on this trip was great because I accidentally lead a 10b (I thought it was a 10a), and it opened my eyes to what I can do.

Over May long weekend, I had a great combination of climbing at Electric Avenue and skiing at Whistler in fun clothes.

At the end of May, I drove across Washington in Cascades National park to venture back to Slocan, and then to Alberta to give a speech at the graduation of the high school I graduated from. And then one of my best friends took me on a hike for my birthday! We also went lake kayaking.

On my way back to Vancouver, I stopped in Slocan again and did an evening paddle across Slocan Lake with a friend. On the far side of the lake, we did a hike before paddling back.

The following week I defended my PhD dissertation. This went very well, but the following day during beach volleyball, my first hemorrhagic ovarian cyst burst and hemorrhaged for 4 days. The rest of June was me laying in bed on pain killers. Womp womp.

July to August

Things started picking back up in July. For July long weekend, two friends and I went climbing in Revelstoke and had a great time.

I enjoyed a great gentle hike in Lynn Valley with a friend, followed by another day at Lighthouse Park with a friend and her son.

I also had a day climbing in Squamish wearing costumes, and working on my trad lead head space.

Towards the end of July, I joined a friend in Revelstoke for some climbing before we went to Burn in The Forest. During this climbing trip, I suddenly had the courage to lead multiple 10bs. It felt great!

Unfortunately, while at Burn in the Forest, my ovarian cyst bust again. Back to convalescing in bed! Once that settled down, I returned to Slocan to enjoy some rest and relaxation... and cycling, paddling and climbing.

I started recovering from the ovarian cysts when I acquired a herniated disc while cycling to work (from pedalling... its dangerous, ok?). This put a further damper on things and my physical capabilities.

September to December

I spent much of my time in Slocan in September. This gave me a great opportunity to climb and push into my first 11a lead despite all the injuries, which was great! My dog fell 12 feet on to her head and nearly died, and that was a particularly awful experience. But she is still alive now and recovering! :)

I snuck in a very cold climbing day in Squamish and led a 10c I had been eyeing. The day before my surgery, I had a slightly warmer day of climbing in Squamish and had some fun leads in as well.

Towards the end of October, I had my foot surgery. They removed the bursa and the bone beneath it, which required partially detaching and re-attaching my Achilles tendon. This continues to take much longer than the 6-8 week recovery I was quoted, and my calf muscle is horrendously tiny again. But it is growing gradually and the pain killers they have given me make moving tolerable enough to slowly make progress! During the recovery, I went to Slocan for a week. I used the iwalk 2.0 instead of the knee scooter this time because I am often on uneven terrain.

In November, one of my best friends from Alberta and I spent a weekend in Victoria which was lovely.

The subsequent week, I had my convocation and my dog came to Vancouver to celebrate with me!

Then in December, I moved to Slocan, where it snowed several meters in my first 3 weeks there :)

Cat Times

I fostered 2 lovely kitties for VOKRA early in 2019, Ninja and Moony. They were unique and beautiful. Ninja was a particularly unique kitty.

Closing Remarks

Despite many injuries and much stress, there certainly were some good highlights in 2019. Creating blogs like this help me remember the things I should be grateful for, despite less ideal concurrent elements. I just want to add as a reminder once again that this is the highlights reel of my life, and that I make an effort to make time for the activities that provide me joy. So far, 2020 has been pretty wonderful! I look forward to seeing where life takes me, and what adventures await. I hope to be able to have a more positive outlook on many aspects of my life by the end of 2020 :)

Thanks for tuning in! I hope you have time to prioritize the activities and people who make you happy. Avoid taking friends for granted; respect them and communicate freely and regularly. Life is better with friends, and communication is key to maintaining healthy relationships. Cherish the time you have with the people you care about, because you never know when those times will be reduced or gone. I am so grateful for the friends who have remained close to me over the years. I am lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life, but I struggle with not having a sense of community. I am hoping to find my place in the world in 2020, full of wonderful, loyal friends who I can reciprocally care for :)

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