The hardest yet sweetest year of my working professional life. The cutting loose and acceptance that some friendships were not meant to be; the redemption of other friendships; the renewal of relationships that I thought were long gone. My maternal grandfather's passing. My cousin getting hitched. Meeting my baby nephew for the first time.


"I mean this in the best way possible when I say this, Alice," he said. "You need to stop being the small-shop defcon hacker and start being a more elite, on-top-of-shit hacker. You need to start learning to ask for help."

I learn to ask for help. It was like loosening my grip on an identity I had been protecting for ages. And yet to my surprise, rather than condescension or unhelpful looks of sympathy, the help that came was ultimately truly helpful. My teammates made it clear that they wanted me to succeed. They wanted all of us to succeed, because our success meant mission success, which was why we all were here. On a personal level, it was a project of redemption.

It was freezing cold, but old man Late Winter refused to snow. I remember this because my fingers were frozen stiff as I circled in slow speed around the parking lot on a beat up trainer Honda Rebel. My instructor took pity on me and lent me his coat on both practice days. The other instructor shook her head at him in disgust.

I got an M2 on my license. A month later, I got my first bike, a Kawasaki Ninja. It was, in a word, life. I met some cool new folks while riding and learned the importance of feathering the clutch for the smoothest ride. And it gave me so much joy that even after a semi-serious accident (at 30mph) two months later, I was back on the bike after a week of bed rest. I loved it so much.

Only one who called me out on it was my doctor. "I live with depression, too, you know," he said as he stared me straight in the eye. "I know what it means to tempt fate." He could read me like a book. 💜

We traveled to Jersey to see my cousin get married to a great guy. And that was where I met my other cousin's baby boy for the first time. He's the boy of my cousin who is more like my twin sister, and in my eyes he could do no wrong. I fell in love. It also made me realize just how not ready I was to have children, given my current passions and job. In fact, it made me realize I may never have children, because I loved them so much I would understand the sacrifice it would take to raise my own, and objectively I was unwilling to make that sacrifice.

I stuffed my life with martial arts as much as possible, from taichi to krav to kali, pausing only for a trip with my husband to visit his home state's State Fair -- eight years after he first mentioned wanting to take me there. We celebrated our 8th anniversary. And so passed spring and summer. Life was full.

Couldn't get over my deep longing to be near the ocean, though. Most of last year was filled with nostalgia of that gigantic yellow moon watching over me as I dove below the powerful waves of Akumal and came up for air. I missed the roll of the ocean. I would only make it briefly for a quick trip in September to Outer Banks.

There were concerts, dinners with friends, fairs, drive-in theater movies, always more martial arts. We stayed in town for both Thanksgiving and the end-of-year holidays for the first time. We hosted a friendsgiving, where I finally successfully pulled off a five-course wine and food pairing for 10 diners, all from various different walks of my life. We hosted my sister for her annual winter break visit. I cherish living under the same roof with her whenever we can.

I did a seven-day black and white photo challenge and haven't been able to stop taking photos since.

day1 day2 day3 day4 day5 day6 day7

I started taking yoga classes in a serious way and pulled off a crow pose in my seventh class. WTF?! Yeah, I was shocked too, especially as I face-planted five seconds later.

And then, just as the year ended, I was given my first stripe in BJJ class -- no longer a virginal little BJJ kiddo. Like my teacher Effie said, I'm movin' up in the world.