“Regarding 2015: I do not care to repeat it. It was a lot of hard work and struggle, but I can say that I am proud of the strides I made this year. My son became (gulp) an adult, I managed to pull off a 4.0, I became a published writer, grew Metro Wines’ beer department from three skus to nearly 100 and added keg sales, worked two full time jobs or was a full time student working full time, and landed my dream job. I have enjoyed the successes, make no mistake. I don’t have plans to slow down any time soon. I have sixteen goals for 2016, and I plan on rocking each of them.”
This was my Facebook status on December 31st, 2015. It was, indeed, a lot of work. In fact, the last three years had been very similar with one exception: there hadn’t been a light at the end of the tunnel. To use a yeast metaphor, I had been in lag phase for a really, really long time. The lag phase is when the yeasts outwardly appear to be dormant, but there is truly a lot of unappreciated work going on. They are taking up oxygen and creating new cells. To the naked eye, all we see is that there isn’t any fermentation happening yet. In other words, the payoff hasn’t started paying off. If 2015 was my lag phase, 2016 has been my exponential growth phase!
I resolved in 2012 that I would go back to school to learn a new skill. It was becoming more and more difficult to eke out an existence with my first career. The recession and technological advances had changed the face of my field along with many others, leaving a large swath of the population wondering, “Now what?” In 2012 my son was entering high school, and my hopes of saving for his college tuition were dwindling with each trip to the unemployment office. It took me a year to work up the nerve, chose a program, and get my ducks in a row to return to school after thirteen years of brain atrophy. I knew that at one point I had been a good student. I was also acutely aware that if you don’t use it, you lose it, and I had effectively lost it. I sat for my math and English placement test and flunked the math portion with such grandeur as to sentence myself to a year of math classes to relearn the basics. The English, however, I aced like a champ. Is anyone surprised by this? It was clear that the amount of work that lay before me meant that I would be graduating the same semester as my son would graduate high school, not a year or two before as I had hoped. Perfect.
I’m not sure that I can fully recount what it’s like to be a single mom, working full time, and going to school full time for three years on end. I didn’t even take summers off. I’m fortunate that my son was older and more self-sufficient while I pursued my studies. I see mothers of young children walking this same path, and I am dismayed at their perseverance. It’s daunting. I went to school and worked like my life depended on it, because it did. And not just my life. My son’s life depended on it, too. I can only imagine that this is a shared motivation with other parents that return to school.
On December 28th, 2015, I drove a moving van three hours from Asheville to an adorable three bedroom home in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It is my dream house. It goes with everything I own. The birds and squirrels and deer and rabbits play in the park-like backyard. There’s a nearby greenway, and I’m walking distance to the adorable downtown area. My son and parents helped me unload the furniture and possessions that friends had helped me load the day before. It was raining and muddy. I was exhausted. Two of the owners of Mystery Brewing came to help just in time to carry my largest and heaviest pieces of furniture into the house for me. As I drove the empty van back to the rental company, I started sobbing. I had worked so hard for this moment. At times I wondered if I would ever see it. Between work and final exams at school and the logistics of moving, I hadn’t really taken the time to let the gravity of the situation sink in.
As I wrote my resolutions for 2016 just a few days later, I couldn’t have known what was lying around the corner for me. I had just attained so many long term goals all at once, that I didn’t even know how to answer the inquiries from my friends about what I was shooting for next. I couldn’t have anticipated my boss would trust me to Adopt a Highway in the brewery’s name or that he would be handing me the reigns to host International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day at Mystery Brewing during the first quarter of my employment. This is an annual event that takes place on International Women’s Day, March 8th of each year, and raises money for The Pink Boots Society’s (PBS) scholarship fund to support professional development of women in the beer industry. I was only employed at Mystery a few weeks when I was given the task. We ended up hosting twenty women at our brewery that day. The result was “Field and Flower” a blueberry, lemongrass, and jasmine Belgian wit beer. The seven barrels (217 gallons) that we brewed sold out quickly. I couldn’t have been more proud to have it as my first commercial batch of beer and to have been able to share its creation with so many spectacular women.
Since then I have become more involved with PBS than I could have predicted was possible a year ago. I am currently in the midst of writing my first book that will benefit their scholarship fund so that more women can pursue and further their careers in the beer industry. I am working with other state and regional PBS leaders to organize and host the first ever all women’s beer festival, Biere de Femme, in Shelby, NC on March 11th, 2017. The North Carolina chapter of PBS has gone from meeting in small groups once a year for our annual brew day to holding quarterly meetings and social gatherings. In short, we are Brewing Up a Storm over here!
As proud as I am of these achievements, I am even more proud to have gotten to see my son graduate high school in the spring. Talk about the culmination of a lot of hard work! He and I both put a lot of effort into making that day a reality. There is a dichotomy that exists for parents. We try to enjoy each day with our children because everyone tells you how fleeting those moments really are. At the same time, though, some days don’t seem very different from the one before it. It’s like pressing the fast forward button and pause at once! It’s remarkable to finally be able to say that I am exactly who I wanted to be when I grew up. It’s exponentially more satisfying to say that my son is exactly who I hoped he would be at this age. He is my life’s work, and I couldn’t be more proud of the man he has turned out to be.
It’s rare that I write about myself. It’s uncomfortable for me. But knowing how rare these kinds of years are, I took a deep breath and decided to write about it. In part because I think it’s worth celebrating. I could do that on my own, though. Rather, I chose to document it publicly because we all have lag years. Sometimes we have lag decades. It seems like we’re getting nowhere or that our destination is just a moving target that we’ll never reach. 2016 has been one of those great reminders for me that hard work actually does pay off, big picture goals are reachable, and one step at a time will eventually get you where you’re headed. I hope you’ll push forward on your path. I hope that you look over shoulder at the year gone by and realize that there was a lot of unappreciated work happening even if you didn’t always notice it. I hope that you take time to celebrate the large and small strides. And if you are fortunate enough to have reached a mountain top in 2016, then I hope that you recognize how remarkable it is before you set your eyes on the next peak. I hope you impress yourself in 2017. Cheers!
To learn more about The Pink Boots Society visit https://www.pinkbootssociety.org/
To order tickets for the Biere de Femme Festival visit https://www.pinkbootssociety.org/events/#!event/2017/3/11/biere-de-femme-festival
To learn more about Mystery Brewing Company, visit www.mysterybrewing.com