Marissa in Washington, D.C.

I can’t believe we’re already about to begin a new year. The feeling that time goes by faster each year – well, it’s true.

I came into 2016 with the goal of having a very purposeful year. What do I mean by purposeful? Well, it hit me this year that I am about to be 30. I didn’t think about it much when I had one, two, three years before hitting this milestone. Now it’s imminent: only two months away. And at the beginning of 2016, I knew I wanted go into 30 with an engine full of steam.

This year hasn’t been all roses, but it’s certainly been transformative as I think back on the growth that I wanted to make. I set out to do a specific set of things, and they are all in some stage of progress. My objectives were to:

  • Get into a sustainable workout regimen (me and the rest of the world)
  • Explore and build my creative talents through side projects
  • Continue to feed my curiosity to see and understand the world

Here’s how I’ve done in 2016.

Venice Walking Tour Dorsoduro

One of my favorites from Venice: kids playing soccer in the street.

Get into a sustainable workout regimen

You guys don’t know how hard it is for me to work out on a regular basis. I enjoy being active – hiking, playing sports, taking classes – but I loathe having to account for it every day.

Early last year I received a promotional flyer from a gym across the street advertising a free week of membership for non-members. I decided to check it out, and immediately loved it. I could take all the classes I had wanted to take (mostly yoga and barre) while not paying an arm and a leg for membership. I joined at the end of the free week, and have been taking classes regularly ever since. Part of the strategy that helped me succeed was giving myself permission to leave my office at a reasonable hour in order to make it to the classes.

As a result of these efforts, I feel stronger and healthier than I have at any other point in my 20s!

What to expect when hiking Old Rag Mountain

Explore and build my creative talents through side projects

I’ve always been torn between my love of business and strategy, and my strong artistic passions. I elected to take a career path in business, so my creative side doesn’t get exercised unless I nurture it outside of work.

I don’t know about all of you, but when I get home from work I like to veg out in front of the TV with a glass of wine.

And that’s what I did for a long time.

Early in the year, however, I discovered that I wasn’t feeling fulfilled when I didn’t have a way to express my creativity. At first, I thought I could get that out of my system by experimenting more with painting (a side hobby of mine since I was young). I did a bunch of abstract paintings, but I didn’t know what the end goal was. Plus, I have all these other interests that wanted to be explored: travel, writing, photography, and fashion, to name a few.

After some informal polls led to enthusiastic responses from friends and family, I decided to channel my energy into this blog. I soft-launched it in July and officially launched it at the beginning of August. I can’t tell you how fulfilling it has been to try new things, write about them, and share my photos and experiences with all of you. I feel like I finally have a way to channel my passions, and I couldn’t be happier! I’m still figuring everything out, but I’m pleased with the direction it’s taking.

Continue to feed my curiosity to see and understand the world

I’m not of the belief that all travel has to be life-changing and exotic. I travel frequently for my job and have the great fortune of getting to spend time with friends and family when I’m on the road. That said, I view travel differently than many: To me, travel is an opportunity to be immersed in different cultures and educated about people, customs and lifestyles. This doesn’t have to happen on every trip, but I have a goal of taking at least one such vacation each year.

It’s like getting a master’s degree in cultural understanding. And yes, there’s ample opportunity to learn things in my own country, too.

This year I was fortunate to travel to a few places I had never been: Puerto Rico, Paris, and Venice. All of my continental U.S. travels – with the exception of one night in Birmingham, Alabama – were to familiar places.

Dorado, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, a.k.a. heaven.

Out of all of my experiences this year, spending time in a French family setting in Lyon was a real treasure. Most of us travelers don’t have the option to experience that kind of full immersion on our trips. We laughed, ate, drank, and compared and contrasted our cultures mostly through gestures and broken conversation. It was such a wonderful learning experience, though my brain was fried by the end of the day. Communicating in a foreign language is hard!

A lunch in Lyon, France

The lunch we had that day was so fresh and delicious!

I have a couple exciting travel destinations up my sleeve for next year to further this goal. I’ll reveal them in my next post!

So, that’s my stock of 2016. Here are my key takeaways:

  • Being disciplined about how you spend your time can give you greater freedom to pursue your interests.
  • The things that will ultimately fulfill you may not always be the most obvious on the surface. Going from painting and photography to blogging wasn’t an obvious leap at the time, but now that I’m doing it, it seems to make total sense that I would channel my pursuits in this way, and connect with others in the process.
  • Seeking out the unexpected when traveling can lead to more meaningful and enriching experiences.

In the process of trying to be more purposeful with my choices and habits leading up to my 30th birthday, I’ve found that I’ve become more self-assured and comfortable in my own skin. Amazing how that happens when you set your mind to pursuing the life that you want.

Marissa in Washington, D.C.

Life is good! Photo credit: Seanie Blue |

Dress: Pink Rose (similar)
Turtleneck: Gap (similar)
Hat: The Hatter Company via Lou Lou Boutique (similar)
Boots: Target

Despite some real challenges this year – most notably, ending a long-term relationship – I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. I have an amazing network of family and friends who support me through all of life’s ups and downs, and that really is the greatest gift of all.

Tell me what you have learned and accomplished in 2016 in the comments – I would love to know! 

Check back in a few days to read about my goals for 2017. I look forward to all of you holding me accountable this year! In the meantime, may you have the happiest of holidays, and all of the hope and blessings that the New Year brings. Cheers! -Marissa

Photos of Marissa shot by Seanie Blue | website