Year in Review: 2016

Wow, what a freakin year. As I went through pictures this time around, I found an astonishing amount of goofy selfies and embarrassing snapchat screenshots of my friends, so the fact that I was able to pull as many “normal” pictures as I’ve got in here is nothing short of a miracle. As I was writing this blog post last year, I knew there’d be a lot to talk about… but I never imagined to have the year shake out like it did. Anyway, here’s 2016 in somewhere around 6,000 words. Stay with us.

Taking in an overlook in Tennessee


For the third time, I rang in the new year with my Spirit family. I’d still say this is probably the best party to date, because we didn’t have any unnecessary drama, and I got some chocolate milk out of the deal. Pretty sweet, and everyone at that gathering is most certainly included in the list of “my favorites of all-time,” so it was pretty easy to celebrate the end of a wonderful 2015, and prepare for whatever 2016 would bring. And as we’ll discuss, that’s a lot.

Family <(

Almost immediately following getting back to Chicago from the annual event in the Southeast, I re-packed my bags to head overseas for a couple weeks. One of the cool things about art school is that we have J-term — short for January term — which is basically an extended break. I think they do it because a lot of our students at Columbia are out-of-state, and January is typically one of the coldest months of the year, but it’s more likely to provide students time to work on their personal projects. In the past, I’ve spent my J-term working straight through, or job hunting. But this year, I applied almost on a whim (past deadline) for the Covering Europe: Ireland course, and by some luck got in. And boy, am I glad that I did. I took on the financial burden (after crunching a few scenarios through my budget, of course, and always making sure I’d still be able to march that summer), and opted for getting some credits out of the way early. Plus, something told me I needed to do that trip. I was still in the spin-out of dealing with some personal relationship fallouts, and not being around the radio department for a semester left me questioning all of my career-driven decisions to that point. So, I left the city behind, immersed myself in my art form (radio, duh), and finally saw a country I had been dreaming about since I watched P.S., I Love You in sixth grade. You can read more about my pre-trip feelings here.

Ireland’s trip essentials

Once getting over to Ireland, with a group of then-strangers, I felt like everything fell away. My phone lived on airplane mode and I wasn’t buried in technology or social media; I didn’t feel weighed down by the schedule I had come to live by of running from one job to the next; I was writing and experiencing new things every day; and there was always someone to hang out with, if I wanted company while exploring Dublin. Plus, I was of legal drinking age there. And let’s just say, Guinness makes for a pretty great first legal beverage — but only from the tap.

Enjoying a Guinness (the first!) above the city in the Sky Lounge at the Guinness storehouse

While in Europe, I also got to spend a weekend with two of my friends from Spirit in England. I had been wanting to visit London for almost as long as I can remember, so when I realized I could spend a few days in the city with people I love dearly, of course I leapt at the opportunity. Traveling alone is nothing new to me, but traveling alone in Europe was so different than traveling alone in the US. People aren’t as much of assholes, security lines move quicker, and it’s easy to have a conversation with a bartender (maybe that’s true in the US. Even though I’m of legal age here now, too, I still haven’t sprung for an adult beverage at the airport).

“AHHHH LONDON” snapchat

That short trip to the UK was nothing short of perfect. Orin and I got up early on Saturday to get a short run in, we had a “true English” breakfast (and I learned crumpets are really good!), and spent the day hitting up almost the entirety of tourist London. And it was sunny — something that it seems to be rare there. The next day was spent being the opposite of touristy, and we traveled out to Orin and Simi’s hometown of Northampton, where I had the opportunity to lead a color guard clinic for Liberty Drum & Bugle corps. Not many drum & bugle corps members have the chance to teach, much less overseas, so I couldn’t not take the opportunity. The kids were great, it was awesome to see them grow over a short period of time, and now a couple of them are even auditioning with Spirit this summer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the band world is so small, and so incredible, and I love it so much.

All smiles with Orin & Simi

The last day in the UK was spent traveling back into the city, getting some sushi from a conveyor belt-style restaurant, and then catching the bus back to Stansted to fly back to Dublin and spend another week living the dream. Much like the first half of the trip, it was amazing to have this time to have so many adventures, get close with people who although we go to the same school I probably never would have become friends with, and have the experience of “studying abroad” compacted into just a handful of days.

“Sláinte” on the final night
Some of my favorite ladies

All in all, the EuroTrip was the perfect way to start out the year. I was handed so many memories, felt socialized enough to carry me through what was sure to be an incredibly packed semester, and reignited my passion and love for writing and producing stories. I was ready to tackle whatever semester six would throw my way.

After a little bit of pre-semester work, of course. The day after I got back from Europe, my sick/jet-lagged self had to run the F3 Half Marathon. I had been dealing with a semi-injury while in Europe, so I hadn’t been running very much… but whatever happened worked, because I PR’ed by almost five minutes, and knocked the number down to 2:02:26. Unfortunately, although I’ve run the 13.1 distance more times than I can count on my own this year (and definitely got it done in sub-two hours), that still stands as my PR, since I took the year off from “racing,” due to scheduling and fiscal constraints.

Immediately after the race, I reunited with the new Executive Board of SGA for the SP16 semester, We spent the day getting our training, planning, and goal-setting done for the semester. We knew if that day held any indication as to what the next 16 weeks would bring, it was about to be one of the best semesters for the organization in awhile. And it sure was. Continue…


The second month of 2016 brought making up for the time in Europe and kicking off the semester with lots of work. It’s a common theme for the next few months, so here’s a couple highlights of the work:

CARA Staff at the Awards Banquet

First, the CARA awards banquet. Even though some other internship opportunities didn’t work out, I was beyond stoked to continue interning for CARA this semester. The non-profit had already taught me so much, and I was excited to continue working with the continuously inspiring, motivating, and supportive group of staffers that run the organization. And I was especially glad I could return after taking most of December and January off — most part-time jobs won’t let you do that, but thankfully, CARA did.

Senate love

Another highlight of work was SGA Senate training. Early in the semester this time around, we got our Senate set and taught them everything there is to know to be a successful senator representing groups of students and academic departments. Yet another group of tireless workers full of ideas in how to improve the college and student life, this also set us up to have the successful semester we did.

A completely flattering photo with the DGS staff

I wasn’t able to work the third job as much as I like to, but I was able to make the trek out to the suburbs a few times throughout the winter to teach at Downers Grove South. Luckily, the staff over at DGS is also full of wonderfully understanding people who knew I had a pretty full plate, and getting out in the winter is significantly more difficult than in the Fall, but they welcomed me back with open arms and a seat at the table in Panera every time I was able to travel out.

As far as academics go, I started the process of creating my own major around this time. It was finally approved in May, but I’m now an Interdisciplinary major in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship. It’s kind of like a dual-degree, but I selected which classes counted for credit towards the degree. Not bad for a Junior.

One of many nights on Skype (lots of work, and lots of laughs!)

Another semester-long project also picked up this month, and it wasn’t academic or had anything to do with any of the three jobs I was juggling. This one was completely volunteer-based, probably the most time-consuming, but also an absolute highlight of the year. I spent an average of three nights every week on Skype for the entirety of the semester working with five members of Spirit of Atlanta: the three drum majors, the horn sergeant, and one of the girls who would become one of my co-captains for the color guard. We came up with the concept of, designed, put in place, and maintained a fitness-based mentorship group program that mixed two incredibly important aspects of the pre-season of drum corps. First, getting to know the other members of the corps, and second, getting in shape for the season. I’m definitely not going to go into detail because this will be long enough already, but it was a ton of work. I’ve already said this too, but it’s so nice I have to say it twice — it was also the most fun I’ve had doing that much work on a volunteer-basis in so long. This project was so big, that I ended up getting another round-trip flight to Atlanta for cheap, and I spent one of the off-season hornline/percussion camps with the corps. Normally, I wouldn’t make the trip (even just to volunteer, no matter how much I wanted to or missed the f<(mily), but one of us had to get down there to help the drum majors/horn sergeant out in making sure the logistics of the plan were going smoothly. Plus, I had an audio project I needed to work on for the pending change-of-major, and I grabbed about 24 hours worth of tape over the weekend. More later, but I produced a short piece pretty quickly after the weekend. Check it out here.

Super cute candid shot with the boys of the project

Amidst school, three jobs, and the demanding side project for Spirit, I kept running. February also wasn’t as brutal weather-wise as others I’ve ran through. Even though I was about to wind up in physical therapy again, it felt nice to be able to make some tracks and keep up as best I could with my fitness.

The only tracks were mine in the fresh snowfall!

And I did get some fun in, too. My friends that I made in Ireland came through on a weekend that probably would have ben sad and depressing otherwise (i.e., Valentine’s), and we had a night full of reminiscing, laughs, and love.

Galentines with cake from Nader


The last show I’d attend as a *marked* 20-year-old

In true tune, March brought another month of work and a little bit of traveling. I kicked the month off with a show at the Bottom Lounge, visiting my buddies that make the Icelandic band Kaleo, who now reside in Austin, Texas. You can check out more about that show here.

SGA was still hard at work, the kids and staff of DGS were also always there for me when I needed to escape the city and “normal life” and immerse myself in the sport of the arts, and I was running when I could. This also took a dramatic increase towards the end of the month, because I was finally cleared from PT, and deemed “healthy” again!img_3328

The Power of PT!

The most note-worthy part of March was certainly spring break. My roommate Jessie and I kicked the week off by hosting our ex-roommate Sam for a a few days. I don’t have many people like this from the “real world,” but we were able to pick up right where we left off, and continued making crude and bad-humored jokes at a ramen place in Lincoln Park. Jessie and I traded a few exchanges in how nice it would be to live on the north side (at the time, we were still trekking up from Pilsen whenever we wanted to do anything). The rest of spring break was spent at home in Minnesota, since I had to get some wisdom teeth pulled, and I wasn’t sure if I would get to come back in after the summer at all. This trip also was the last time I would ever see our keeshond Sasha again, since we had to put her down before I moved in for the summer with Spirit in May.

Girly time at the ramen bar
One of the last moments with this lil doggo


“Find your place” Finals staff selfie

April kicked off with the wrap-up of the winter guard season. The Midwest CG Circuit Championship weekend was spent bouncing back-and-forth from Chicago/suburbs to Indiana on a mini school bus where Megan, Jessica, and I belted show tunes both ways, and ate more than our fair share of junk food.

“I’m a wet running rat” selfie

Since I had been finally cleared from PT, I also was able to pick up not only my mileage again, and increase the intensity of my workouts. Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to race again that season, I couldn’t help but scour websites for cheap entries on weekends I was free. I was hungry to set a PR, and even though nothing seemed to fit my budget or my calendar, I plugged away on the path determined to improve. My overall pace/mile got better around this time, and I learned how to fight through the rainy runs, too.

The last full week of April put all of the work I had been doing to the test — first came midweek, in the annual trip to Springfield, IL to lobby for students in higher education. This year, we were lobbying not only for the MAP (Monetary Award Program) grant, but also for the pending (at the time) SB2046 bill. It was another draining experience, but we had a lot of incredibly stimulating conversations and debates telling our state representatives why it’s imperative to fund MAP and pass SB2046. Or, y’know, at least set a budget for the state to open these conversations up again.

After returning from Springfield, I re-packed my bags to head back to Georgia for a camp/audition weekend! April camp is the last audition weekend for the color guard at Spirit of Atlanta, and it felt beyond amazing to be dancing and spinning with the people that are my family under the instruction that would carry us throughout the summer. More later.

Reviewing an across the floor – probably from Leah

And, on the very last day of the month, we had the student organizations recognition dinner. Basically, we got some free food and dressed up really nice to celebrate all of the hard work student leaders had done throughout the campus that academic year. I’ve never felt so humbled or proud to have put in so many hours of work than I did at that dinner, because our senators had not only accomplished a lot of work within our organization, but at other orgs across campus, too. It’s pretty cool to see your friends in a constant stream going up to get awards for doing awesome work — I imagine that’s how the Grammys or the Emmys or the Golden Globes or the Oscars feel to celebrities.

SP16 SGA Members in attendance of the Recognition Dinner


The final multitrack session of the 40 Years of Family documentary

May kicked off with the start of the post-production on my biggest audio project of the year, and a little bit of socializing of course. Christy and Erin, two of my friends from Ireland, came over and spent the second-to-last academic weekend having fun, reminiscing, and taking a ton of goofy photos. I’ve included the only one that’s actually kind of cute, but it was a night much-needed to blow some steam off before the last two insanely busy weeks of Junior year kicked it into high-gear.

Because what’s better than polaroid selfies?

First, the audio doc. Remember that trip I took in February down to Atlanta? I spent most of the semester combing through tape and working on pitching the story at the right angle, and it was finally approved by WCRX to be put together as a 30-minute documentary… ultimately, it became part of my practicum within the radio department, and serves as the project of my Interdisciplinary degree. I spent a weekend buried in my computer at the kitchen table, with sticky notes plastered all over the wall while I pieced this story together, and released the final product halfway through finals week. You can listen to that project here.

Manifest CG members squading up after the parade

This was also around the time one of the bigger SGA projects started to pick up, the Manifest color guard. Basically… I had gathered membership, ordered equipment, and taught that membership how to spin all in the course of the last two months of the semester, but the actual spinning didn’t start until those last two academic weeks (typical). In the end, I think we all had fun performing at the front of the parade down Wabash, and my parents even swung through to celebrate finishing the craziness that was Junior year. It was the perfect way to wrap up the academics, and look forward to the start of another journey with Spirit of Atlanta. After tying up some loose ends first, of course.

The first week of break brought some exciting news: I was “hired” by the independent online curation, Atwood magazine, as a contributing music writer! Even though I was about to leave civilization for the summer, they held my spot over the summer and I had two articles filed before I left for the south. Since then, I’ve written a few more articles — you can follow all of those shenanigans here.

The roomies outside our new home

In addition to starting with Atwood, the last week also held signing the lease for a new apartment. Thankfully, Jessie agreed to live with me for the fourth year in a row, and we also welcomed one of my grade school friends — Laura — into our company. We signed for a beautiful apartment in Chicago’s Lakeview/Wrigleyville neighborhood, and I’m so happy to say things are still going just as well as the first week together, and I’m so excited to spend the last semester of college in this wonderful home we’ve put together.

Last day in Chicago for the summer spent living it up with J-Bunny

Finally, finally, finally, it was time to fly out to begin the summer with Spirit for the third time. Since we moved in a week later than normal, I had decided to take the last week of freedom off work and stay with my best friend Katie in South Carolina. We got up to some shenanagins, like purchasing a build-a-bear, going hiking, and eating way too much processed food, but it was the perfect way to start the summer before the eventual ass-kicking with the summer diddle toot and twirl corps.

Selfie with the best friend and our little bear

Coming up: the summer that made literally all of my dreams come true.


2016 SOACG Leadership

I don’t even know how I could lead up into it, so I’ll just say it. I had long-ago given up any chance of spinning on a world class weapon line, and when I started drum corps, I never thought that I would be in a position of leadership. But both of those things changed thanks to Kevin Griner and the rest of the Spirit 2016 color guard staff. I was on both of the rifles lines, dance lines, and I served as captain with two of my favorite people. So right off the bat, it was an awesome summer full of growth and learning to believe in myself again.

“Theita Lei” aka, the Part 4 Weapons

June also held four of our six weeks of all-days (spring training). This time was so draining, and I think we all learned how to push past our limits (even those of us who have been through this process before), but we continued to strive for greatness even outside of rehearsal. A few times, a couple of us got up early to run a couple miles before PT and rehearsal. Honestly, that was probably the highlight of our first spring training site, was those couple early-morning runs we grabbed.

Drum Corps Running Club members killing it after a morning run

My birthday was the first milestone of the summer. We not only got up early to run, but it was also the first day that the second edition of the Spirit of Atlanta Whistling Club had our hype shorts — and the only time we got a picture over the summer as a group.

Whistling Club 2016

I could talk forever and ever about the things that happened over alldays, but in the end, all of these stories end the same way. We went back to rehearsal. So here’s just some pictures from June that bring immense joy into my heart — read more detail in the captions.

Selfie with Kevin Griner during a rain block
Eddie, our cymbal tech, on his last night during all-days (and after I had smacked myself in the face with a quad)
Abby, one of the people I look up to the most
Diamonds with Elephant Pants on history night
The day I hit my wall – almost literally – working on inversions, and I crashed head-first into the ground.
At one point in all-days you go numb to pain – this was mine. I probably shouldn’t have spun for a couple blocks, but we ended up just having a photoshoot with my bruised pinky during dinner instead.
The twins and I all matched on another Whistling Club Hype day
Some of the “squad” with a fire hydrant on our first free day of the 2016 season.


Another month of band. Once again, I’ll just post pictures and you can read the captions for each specific one — at least they’ll be in chronological order.

The “room squad” that legitimately got me through the back half of all-days. I’m convinced that those weeks spent sleeping in the drama room were not only the best of the year, but probably going to be some of the best of my life. I treasure and adore all of these people – such a special group.
My incredible and relentless seat partner and I on the 4th of July
The first preview show day at Luella! LOOK AT THOSE TWIRLS
Final preview show before leaving for tour! (Notice: how DEAD the grass on this field is?)
The hornline playing “Georgia On My Mind” to all of the audience at one of our ensemble rehearsals in Alabama.
Three of my best friends of the 2016 season – again, these guys got me through so much.
Selfies with Ken Jarp before a show in… Alabama (?)
When I did it right, the hair and make-up made me feel like a princess this year
A show night in Kentucky
Side pony Sunday hype in San Antonio with another one of the people I love so very, very much
“Practice how you perform” before the Opelika, AL show
KT and I on the day we got our 2016 Member deltas


The first half of August held the wrapping-up of tour. Once again, as above, I’ll share some photos/captions with momentous moments for your enjoyment.

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In Allentown, PA I FINALLY figure out how to actually field all of the deltas I was fielding (except my own, Philip did that for me).
Fire hydrant hype with Mickie – aka, the Georgia soloist in New York
Good performance action shots on rifle turned out to be my favorite
Final post-evening ensemble huddle of the season. So many emotions.
Banquet night with my best friend (and this super cute shot)

Anyway, the end of the season this time hit a little differently than before. Once again, I found I grew incredibly close with this group of people. But I also wasn’t ready to say goodbye to this show quite yet though. I loved performing Georgia more than I’ve loved performing any other show I’ve ever done — and this being my 10th performance season, I’ve got a couple under my belt. There was something about telling a love story that just struck a certain cord in me. Maybe it’s because that summer I experienced my own love story for the first time, and maybe it was that I got to perform in the front of the field on movement and weapon, but I knew that I couldn’t cut myself off from the activity yet. I didn’t participate in the age-out ceremony, and I told the guard staff and the corps director that I’d be back next summer.

The annual “body by drum corps” collage

The night of finals was spent saying a teary good-bye to my boyfriend at the time, and then in a mess of teary good-byes to everyone that was taking the bus back south, and drowning my sorrows with my first seat partner at Baseys, while reuniting with other band friends I hadn’t seen in over a year. Certainly a bittersweet evening. DCI Finals always seems to be that way. You’re ready to go back to the real world, where you can shower when you feel dirty, not wake up in pain from a deflated air mattress, and freely browse the internet without the sinking feeling of knowing you’re going to surpass your data limit… but you’re also not ready to say goodbye to the show you’ve spent the entire summer rehearsing, and the people who become your family in the blink of an eye. And this year, I had to say goodbye to my significant other and learn how to transition from seeing him every day, to being in a long-distance relationship.

That transition was made a little easier with my super-packed schedule of band over the next few weeks. I spent my first day and a half off tour moving into the new apartment and getting settled, then teaching at DGS once again, and the following week spent at home teaching (and writing the rest of the show for) my alma mater. What was cool about that week was that my sister is in the graduating class, so that group of kids I had taught almost everything to. I found myself writing work that I enjoyed spinning, and they were able to pick up at least most of it by the time I had to say goodbye on Friday afternoon. I’m always so proud of my kids, but that was something special. Even after four summers of drum corps, I had never felt as burnt out on color guard as I did after that week — but in the best way possible.

M’ladies with hats

Back to the city for the school year meant being back on the job hunt. Thankfully, some of that time was broken up with a short visit from Sam. Cue more crude humor, chocolate milk consumption, and discovering just how incredible of a cartoon We Bare Bears is. Just in case you’re wondering, I most identify with Griz. That’s all.

A stock “us” photo”


The start of senior year. (More on those feelings here).

Roomies ready to take on the *final* year of college

I’ll chalk it up to being in a long-distance relationship at the time, but I didn’t really do much this month besides bury myself in schoolwork, work the two jobs I managed to hold onto through the summer of absence, and lost in the job hunt for another part-time gig in the city. I did manage to get out one night before the school year started with some of the Ireland friends, though, and we had our fair share of memories made and laughs had — including getting back around 5am and having to find Christy’s phone between two buildings. We don’t need to get into that, though.

A surprise reuinion in an Irish bar with Ireland friends

Of course, the fair-weathered month filled my weekends up with band. I was able to get out to every competition this year except one, and it was a joy to get to spend a day every week with DGS. Once again, the staff provided tons of laughs and the kids were a source of inspiration when it came to pushing through difficult things.

Stock DGSCG staff photo

I also got to take in some pretty awesome live art this month. The one weekend I missed of band was due to seeing Wild Child at Lincoln Hall, and they put on a spectacular show as expected (which you can read more about here). A few weeks following that, I caught one of my favorites (Lake Street Dive) at the Chicago Theater, and the following day finally took in the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Music Box Theater with a couple friends from Ireland.  Not a bad way to round out the month that was both busy, yet fairly uneventful.


Another busy-but-not-notable month, October was exciting primarily because I started a new job with Fleet Feet Sports Chicago. But not without a quick weekend trip to Savannah, Georgia. Let me tell you, those southern sunsets are still just as sweet as their tea.

Sunset in Savannah

The week after the quick trip down south was followed with my first official shifts at Fleet Feet, which was also coincidentally marathon week. I spent the weekend split between working at the specialty running store, and DJ-ing the CARA Marathon VIP. It was awesome to spend a weekend celebrating the hard work put in by runners and being a minuscule part of their marathon experience. The involvement didn’t slow down after the marathon either, since we were doing medal engraving, and since I hadn’t been trained in fitting yet, I was in the back manning the information table for the engraving process. At one point, my ability to make dumb jokes got me a free bag of chips from one of the runners. Something about that moment let me know that all of the changes that had been happening in my personal life (i.e., the long-distance relationship had come to an end, I started questioning grad school and other career decisions I had made, and the reality of only having one more summer left to march hit me in the gut), I knew that Fleet Feet would both help me maintain some sanity and give me something semi-stable to hold onto as I made my way through the waters of a heartbreak and an early-life crisis. Especially with the pending events that were about to happen to the world.

The “Minnesota Hype Day”

First, a good thing, Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize for poetry. The folk singer is from Hibbing, Minnesota, which isn’t far from where I grew up, and therefore was a staple on the station that introduced me to my hopeful career. For those reasons, Robert Zimmerman will always hold a special place in my heart. Waking up one morning to hear that he finally won a prize of such prestige was pretty cool, and it turned out to be another day declared “Prince Day.” Definitely not a bad day to be Minnesotan — I celebrated by sporting a Minnesota music hat, and a purple t-shirt.

Mile 9.5 selfie at Wrigley

Around that same time, the Cubs advanced to the World Series. Living about a half mile from Wrigley Field usually made for frustrating rides home after band rehearsal/shows, but the week they were playing for the title was pretty cool. I incorporated a run past the field around game 4, and my roommate Jessie and I went down to watch the win of game 7 from outside a bar window just footsteps away from the field. That was something pretty surreal to be a part of, and I think my mom will be forever jealous of that, too.

The three bilnd mice

I wrapped the difficult month up on halloween weekend doing a “bar crawl” with my roommate from Ireland and her roommate from the semester in LA program. We went as the three blind mice, and needless to say, lost those massive ears pretty early on. But I got to wear running pants for the evening “out,” and it doesn’t get much better than that.


Teaching Scotty how to use Snapchat filters

October was difficult personally, but with the help of my friends I was able to prevail strong on the other side. November was a different story. I got a thorough ass-kicking in November, but there was some decently good highlights to boot. First, the final weekend of the 2016 Fall Marching band season took place in Indianapolis, IN for DGS. I got to watch the kiddos take the field at Lucas Oil, one of my favorite places to perform, and marvel at the growth they went through during that season. I’m still so incredibly proud and honored to be included in the staff of that program, and I really hope I’ll be able to get out this winter a few times to work and teach again. There’s just something about the marching arts that I can’t let go of yet.

The boozy treat during the election

As I’m sure you know, the election also took place this month. That was the first major ding in the real world — not to get political, but let’s just say that it was tough watching the results that night. I decided to indulge myself in a Not Your Father’s Vanilla Cream Ale float, and that was pretty sweet. (And yes, it’s also a highlight of the year).

I also got to spend a weekend back at home in Minnesota, with a combo trip to Duluth to see the Great Northern Radio Show take on the town of brewpubs and really great local music. I spent some time with friends I haven’t seen in about four years, so it was awesome to catch up for a little bit with the staff of GNRS, and those buddies. This bus ticket was booked in the wake of that break-up in October, but it was incredibly much-needed to go home for a short time before even more shit started to hit the fan.

GNRS takes Duluth

Some hiccups in my professional life have left me still feeling a little battered and questioning what exactly I’m going to do after graduation, but I got to forget about that for a little bit and drown my sorrows in laughs and love and more productivity the week of Thanksgiving. One of my best friends from Spirit, Hannah, was in town for the entire week. And every night of her stay (and the whole day on Thursday), we got to spend some quality time catching up and simply enjoying each other’s presence. It reminded me yet again how grateful I am for the Spirit of Atlanta family, and how difficult it would be to get through life without that constant, strong, reliable support system.


That weekend, my computer of slightly over three years also crapped out. I had to drop close to $2,000 on a new machine, and that was certainly not something I was prepared to do. I’m still licking my wounds, but on top of the already-battered Erika who felt a thorough ass-kicking in October and from missing out on some other opportunities, this felt like a dump of salt in the wound. I was now out of commission from getting schoolwork done (and way too close to finals week) for roughly ten days. Not only did the stress keep piling on, but it felt like there was nothing I could do about it.

Reminding myself for radio department decor that there’s still things to be thankful for

Luckily, one of my close alumni friends from Columbia had come through earlier in the year, and I found myself in a seat at a matinee showing of Hamilton when I was feeling particularly low. I’m constantly amazed at what music can do for you, because after that show, I felt a sense of peace that I hadn’t experienced in far too long. Somehow, I felt like everything would work out.


Through that month and a half-ish of difficult situations, I will never forget how incredible my support system was. My family would listen to me worry on the phone, my friends were there for me whenever I needed it, even my ex-boyfriend reminded me that he was on that list of “people who will be there for you,” and (whether they know it or not), both sets of my co-workers provided so many much-needed distractions and comedic reliefs every day. I’ve never been so happy to basically never have a day off.


After what felt like so many weeks of stress and hardships, I had never felt more ready or in-need of a weekend of band with the f<(mily. The first weekend of December brought another trip to Atlanta, this time, for the first audition weekend of my age-out summer. It was beyond incredible to return to the baby blue team, and spin under most of the same staff that was there to believe in us last summer. And in addition to the returning staff, it was beautiful to see so many returning members, too. Like I said, that baby blue family is one of the best parts of my life, without a doubt.

In addition to being so sore I could barely walk, getting back to Chicago on Monday brought a world of a headache, and two additional planes than expected. But, I made it back nonetheless, and the following weekend brought another long-awaited celebration of hard work and friendship: the return of Classy Christmas for the radio department student workers. My roommates agreed to letting us host it, and it was an event that still leaves my heart feeling full every time I think about it. A smashing success, if I do say so myself.

The work and celebrating doesn’t stop there: I was still working most weekends at Fleet Feet, but that also opened the door to more co-worker socialization situations. Including a bar crawl for the company, and a holiday party for the staff of Old Town.

The week following felt like coasting. I had gotten the new computer, finished up my final projects and papers and exams, and the only thing that remained of the semester was attending my last three classes — with my best friend, Katie Gulledge — and roommate Christmas. Another week of working, a trip back to Minnesota, and that just about does it up for the year.

I’ve been sporadically writing this post throughout the last week or so. Finals are done, my roommates both went their separate way for the Holidays, and as I tie the bow on this chapter of the year, I’m on a bus to the cities because my direct flight from Duluth to O’Hare was canceled, yet again, serving as the “part two” of the travel nightmares of 2016. Gotta love being in the north… but, I do plan on saying “get outta here” to 2016 the only way I know how: with some of that baby blue family on the outskirts of Atlanta.

It’s been a pretty eventful year, and it was certainly full of more learning experiences. Some things shook out the way I thought they would, some ended way too abruptly, but there’s been some hugely awesome things that I wouldn’t trade for anything else. Thanks for sticking with it for this massive post that’s well over 6,000 words.

On the docket for 2017 so far… finishing up the undergrad, certainly more working, probably some traveling sprinkled in where I can, marching my age-out summer, and running the Chicago Marathon. I think it’s going to be an exciting one — so I invite you to stay with us.

Here’s to more miles in 2017 than 2016 – maybe that’s why this year felt so strange…

Author: erikabunk

Raised in Northern Minnesota. BA in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship. Painfully average marathoner. Spends too much time on Spotify, in search of the best record store in the world, and dreams of returning to Reykjavík.

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