2012: The Year of Possibility

It’s that time of the year again. A time when I reflect on the year that just passed and highlight some of the best and not-so-good parts. Mostly to help me to remember.

As some of you might know, I have chosen POSSIBILITY as my 2012 Word of the Year. And, just like my previous WOTYs, this one provided unexpected turns for me. Another testament to the power of that One Word.

As I recall moments under 12 themes for 2012, you’ll see how “Possibility” became part of my year.

Possibility: 2012

I. Milestone Moments

These are some of the really major things that happened for me personally and professionally in the year…

  • In mid-May, I returned to Start-up Life when I began my new business, Vervely. To me, this is probably one of the biggest changes of the year – and one that embodies “possibility” in many ways. Although I started the year off happily employed, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of asking myself: “What’s next?” When people asked me that question, I didn’t know what to say. And, that kind of spooked me. I always had a plan of some kind. Something I need to do or to accomplish. Cruising was never something I like. So, when I couldn’t answer that question in the job that I had, I knew something needed to change. I just wasn’t sure what. In an unexpected twist, I ended up having to leave that job – and becoming my own boss again. Although at the time, I still wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do. Strangely enough, one of the jokes that hubby and I shared when I was considering my next steps was getting a job at a place like Microsoft. Well, I didn’t quite get a job there, but the world of possibility landed me not one, but TWO long-term contracts with two different teams from Microsoft. Plus, I also ended up booking a couple of other projects with two other clients. That’s why within 6 months of operating my new business, I met and surpassed my first year goals. I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store for me and Vervely!
  •  Finally finished my second Masters’ degree! In-between juggling a full time job in the first part of the year, travelling overseas and interstate, domestic duties, and then setting up a new business, I finally managed to complete my second postgraduate degree. Yes, I now have three degrees: a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree from UST in the Philippines, a Master of Social Sciences (Applied Psychology) degree from the National University of Singapore, and now, a Master of Teaching (Primary/Special Education) from Flinders University here in Adelaide, Australia.  I have yet to graduate officially, but all the studying’s done. And, even though I told myself “A pass is all I need” to finish my remaining subjects, I'm pleased to say that I still ended up with decent marks. In fact, I believe I managed to maintain a Grade Point Average of approximately 6.5 (with 7 being the highest GPA). Please excuse my terrible happiness and pride.
  • Celebrating my 38th birthday in style! Well, okay, maybe not really that stylish. But, I have to say that even though I ended up celebrating my actual birthday away from my favourite people in the world (hubby and kids), I had the best birthday in a long long while. It was partly because I’ve finally done a fundraising event as part of my birthday celebrations. My first official fundraiser. And partly because I allowed myself to be happy on this day, instead of being all hung up about it. Yes, I celebrated my birthday in the streets of San Francisco – complete with a Mars bar “birthday cake” - with a bunch of strangers. And loved it. Plus, I got to hang out with some really cool folks in SF that week – and even spent time with my brother and his family in Ohio. Then, when I came home to my family, I had a surprise set of gifts from the hubby and kids, so I got to celebrate my special day all over again.
  • Becoming a property investor. This is something that hubby and I have considered for some time now, but have never really ventured into seriously until this year. Although we have entered the property market back in 2004, we did it primarily to own a home. Late this year, we have purchased a new apartment in the CBD, which has now been rented. Big move indeed.

II. Family Milestones

Not only did I celebrate my personal milestones, I also enjoyed the successes of my beloved family

  • The husband finished his PhD! Yep, I wasn’t the only one who finally saw the end of postgraduate studies this year. I am now married to Doctor Husband, who also received a special commendation for his doctorate thesis from Adelaide University (from Law School!). And, yes, this is also his second postgraduate degree, as he has finished a Master of Commercial Law degree a few years ago (from the UK). He also stayed as the coach of our son’s soccer team. Proof of something that I’ve known all along: Brainy boys ARE sexy. Brainy boys who love sport and family: Even better! 😉
  • The girl turned 5 this year, with a number of amazing milestones. She started school in July for a mid-year Reception start. By the end of two terms, she was reading at Level 18, writing, spelling, and doing maths. She was even invited to join “extension classes”. Her end-of-year report was great. She also continued swimming lessons the whole year, but decided to stop her dance and French lessons mid-year. She did, however, start Piano lessons in July and had her first recital in December. She also entered – and won – her first Oliphant Science Award. And yes, she finally allowed us to cut her hair short!
  • The boy turned 8 this year, and continues to do incredible stuff. Like doing really really well for his first NAPLAN tests. And doing well with most of his ICAS exams, and particularly well in Computing (he received a special medal for being a top scorer in his year, from all of South Australia and the Northern Territory). He continued Piano lessons and playing soccer for his club. He did swimming for most of the year but asked for a break during the last term. His film from last year was shown in an international film festival. He was also invited in Adelaide United’s mascot program, where he got to accompany a professional footy player to the pitch, and also play in a stadium during half time. The boy also attended a third Oliphant Science Award, winning his fifth prize in three years. Yes, there were some challenging moments too. In fact, this year was probably one of the most challenging times we’ve had with him so far. But, for the most part, he kept us happy and proud.

III. Travels

Unlike 2011, I didn’t spend most of my year in airports and hotels. Thankfully! Having said that, I still did get my fair share of seeing the world. And I am grateful for it.

  • Sydney. This is the place that I visited the most this year. First, early in January when hubby and I took the kids and the parents-in-laws to Sydney for the first time. It was a lovely trip! Returned to Sydney early in May for my previous workplace’s annual conference, where I was one of the main organisers and speakers. And again, in October as a guest of Microsoft Australia, attending the Windows 8 launch. And, I’m coming back again early in 2013, this time, to take my mom and sis there for the first time.
  • San Francisco and Ohio. This trip was my first big trip of the year overseas (Mar/Apr), which was primarily for attending NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco, where I was a speaker. It was my second year attending this incredible event, and I felt very lucky to have that opportunity. Apart from attending 12NTC and celebrating my birthday, I also decided to stay an extra few days in SF to travel around a little, and also to head to Ohio for the first time to see family.
  • New Zealand. This is, without a doubt, my Road Trip of the Year. The family and I visited Auckland, Christchurch, Fox Glacier, and Queenstown (plus places in-between) in June/July – and what a trip it was. It was all our first trip to NZ and we all loved it. I still can’t stop thinking and talking about this amazing place of Middle Earth beauty. The kids saw snow for the first time. We all experienced skiing for the first time (yes, the kids are SO much better at it, of course!). We got to spend some time with my good friend Christine and her lovely family in Christchurch. The kids filmed their award-winning multimedia entries for the Oliphant Awards. We walked/hiked, went swimming in hot pools in –2’C temperature, had an epic train ride, and more. Needless to say, it’s a trip that we will remember forever.
  • Local trips: We had another family trip to Clayton Bay (on our own as a family) and Narnu Farm (family + my mom and sis) this year. A repeat of last year’s great experiences. And, of course, some small day trips.

IV. Main Events

These are some of the events that I was a part of this year…

  • Return to Blogging. Even though I  haven’t blogged as much as I’d like to this year, I still consider 2012 as my return to blogging because I’ve finally started taking blogging more seriously again (outside of paid blogging work). And yes, it’s the year when I started attending blogging events again.
  • Attending Adelaide Beauty Bloggers Conference for the first time. Yep, this is a blogging event where I was just an attendee. What a rarity! And, I really really enjoyed it. Got to know some new Aussie products. And best of all: Met some new blogging friends locally!
  • Food blogging lives! Not only did I revive my food blogging this year, I also had the pleasure of being invited as a delegate and speaker at the 3rd Australian Food Blogging Conference, which was held here in Adelaide (in November) . It was so wonderful, I ended up dedicating two blog posts to this event here and here. Apart from the yummy treats, my favourite part is meeting new amazing bloggers.
  • More speaking gigs! Apart from the food blogging conference, NTC12 in San Francisco, and CU12 conference in Sydney, I have also presented at Collaborate to Innovate: Adelaide and did a number of webinars for my clients + Associations Forum.
  • Coaching Start-ups. For the first time, I also took part in StartUp Weekend Adelaide as one of the mentors. It was a great, enlightening experience that really fuelled my interest in taking part in the local StartUp scene.

V. Digital + Social Media Matters

  • Meeting 5,000+ followers mark on Twitter. This was a goal that I set for myself at the beginning of the year. Some time last year, I talked about the idea of getting to 10,000 followers. At the time, I only had 3,400+ followers and I went on an experimental journey to learn more about increasing followers. Learning what I have learned, I knew that I didn’t have the time and the energy to get to 10K followers (without paying for them!). But, I knew 5K was doable within the year. So, I set myself that goal, and I met it some time last month – with my personal account now closing in on 5,200. A 52.94% increase. I’m looking forward to seeing how this will continue to grow and to evolve.
  • Facebook continues to be my most engaged social platform. While I really love Twitter, I find that I still get the most engagement out of my Facebook contacts. Considering I only have around 960+ contacts there (yep, just added around 100 this year), I find that I have many more conversations on my posts through FB. Including 100+ birthday greetings. And, a majority of my donors for my fundraising event also seemed to be through my FB posts. You can see some of my 2012 moments through FB.
  • Growing social media presence. I’ve continued to grow my use of LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest this year, but I haven’t really put in that much time in to them. I’ve also maintained Google Plus, Flickr and Tumblr, but completely ignored MySpace and YouTube. The breakout social platforms for me this year are Storify and Yelp. I know they’ve been around longer, but I’ve only really explored it this year. Really enjoying its capabilities, even if I have a long “wish list” for them.
  • Apps Most Used (in no particular order): Evernote, HootSuite, Live.com/Outlook (breakout), SkyDrive, DropBox, Windows Live Writer, Kindle, iBooks, ArtRage, WordPress, Paper (new), iThoughtsHD, Skype, IE, Firefox, Safari, HoursTracker (new), HopAboard, and ABC iView.

VI. ShaiCoggins.com Highlights

  • Loving my readers from different parts of the world! Always. And, they’re from: United States (36.7%), Philippines (14.68%), Australia (9.48%), UK (7.88%), Canada (5.56%), Singapore (2.78%), India (2.76%) and Malaysia (1.82%).
  • Especially loving active, regular readers! I am grateful to all of you who link here, subscribe to the feed, and more. Extra love and thanks go to the Top Commenters of 2012: Kari, Connie, Christina, Mel, Mitch, Sasha, Celeste, and Joanna. Thank you all!
  • Notes from Shai. Yep, finally managed to set up this mailing last! Very much overdue. No issues out yet, so watch out for it in 2013 (and make sure you’re subscribed ;)).

VII. Best of Entertainment and More

As I’ve mentioned in Best Books of 2012, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of being able to read a lot this year. I’ve also gotten to watch a lot of movies and TV. And even played a few video games. So, even though I’ve had quite an active, productive year, I’ve also given myself a lot of down time and fun time. Yes, looking back on it now, 2012 is something that feels a lot more balanced.

  • My favourite movies of the year: This is a bit tough because I can’t remember them all. Offhand, I’d say: The Avengers, Hunger Games, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I also liked Les Miserables, but it’s a bit hard to love it because I kept comparing the movie experience to the theatre experience and it just comes up short. Oh, and for lighthearted fun, I unexpectedly ended up really enjoying Chalet Girl and I Don’t Know How She Does It.
  • My favourite TV shows of the year: Hands down, the best one, is Game of Thrones (Season 2). You knew I’d say that, right? I’m already really looking forward to Season 3. Some of my favourite TV fixations also include Merlin (Season 5), Gossip Girl (Season 6), and Once Upon a Time (Season 2). A new discovery (and guilty pleasure) for me this year is Hart of Dixie. I ended up catching up on all of Season 1 and now in the middle of Season 2.
  • Video Games Fun! This is the year that I played a bit more video games than I’ve ever had time for. Mostly, though, I used video games for fitness. My faves, of course, are: Zumba for the Wii (wish I had this on the Kinect instead) and Dance Central 1 for the Xbox Kinect. Also got a bit addicted to playing Wordament on Xbox for Windows 8-enabled Tablet PC. Yes, I’m a nerd.

VIII. Favourite New Gadgets

Some of my favourite new toys from 2012…

  • Sony VAIO Ultrabook 11 Duo. Yes, it’s my brand new Windows 8 Tablet PC that I have yet to blog about. It’s not perfect (got a horrid scratch on its screen already : (), but I’m really enjoying being back on Windows because of it.
  • Nikon D7000 DSLR. I still haven’t had the chance to give this brand new DSLR camera a proper whirl, as it’s only a few days old (part of my Christmas haul). But, I love, love, love it already.
  • Canon SX40 HS Superzoom Camera. Yes, this is another year where I’ve collected a good number of new cameras (the other time was in 2009). And, even though I pretty much ignored this camera for most of the year, I’ve ended up falling in love with it recently.
  • Nintendo 3DS XL. Nope, not mine. The kids received one each as one of their Christmas presents. They’ve been begging for a new DS for months now, and we managed to hold out until Christmas day. They love it, and I must say, from the few times I managed to get a play with them, I’m completely amazed by them. Finding the 3D technology quite incredible. And wowsers on the Augmented Reality games! Hope to share more on this later. I might get the kids to review them here. Heh.
  • The so-so iPad 3rd Gen. Bought myself the third generation iPad in May this year, when I had to return my iPad2 to work. And, while I continue to use it a lot (especially as an e-reader and notetaker), it has lost a bit of its charm on me. Partly because I’ve had loads of trouble with this iPad. Primarily, the issue of shutting down. A LOT.  It doesn’t help that it boots up soooo slowly whenever it crashes. Sometimes, it shuts down so much that I just can’t bear to use it. Unfortunately, my VAIO is a bit too big (and doesn’t have all the apps I need) to use in bed. Plus, Kindle Fire isn’t available in Australia. Otherwise, I would’ve been tempted to swap my iPad for a Kindle instead.
  • New kitchen gadgets! Yes, I managed to stock my kitchen with a few brand new gadgets this year, including: an ice cream maker, a breadmaker, a food processor, and a slow cooker. The ice cream maker has broken after a few batches of homemade ice cream, but the others are still being put to good use.

IX. Personal and Professional Development

Apart from finishing my postgraduate degree, reading plenty of books, and attending events, these are some other things that I’ve also done to improve my skills…

  • Completed a Leading and Managing People course from the Adelaide University. The first lot of a two-day professional development series I signed up for. This one was in March 2012.
  • Also completed a Coaching for Managers course from the Adelaide University. This is the second two-day professional development course. Also in March 2012.
  • Becoming a member of the South Australian Writers’ Centre and Oxfam Australia. I also signed up for a membership with Women on Boards.
  • Got interviewed twice for a couple of board membership roles in two national organisations. Even though I didn’t get the appointments, the whole board membership exploration was a great learning experience for me.
  • Officially explored the concept of mentorship. This is something that I’ve been meaning to write more about as well, but haven’t had the chance to do so. In any case, early this year, I received the privilege of being partly mentored by people I admire a lot. There were also a couple of informal mentors that came up in my life this year, who provided a lot of help as I was exploring my new career direction.

X. The Rough Times

Not everything turned out great this year. In fact, I’ve experienced one of the worst betrayals I’ve ever had. But, thankfully, one of my super powers is turning Bad Things in to Good Stuff, so that horrible experience gave me the opportunity to lead a better, more balanced life this year. And yes, in the great big scheme of things, these rough times aren’t really all that bad.

  • Getting hit by the Google bug. While my Twitter follower increased, my blog’s traffic has decreased this year. The first time I’ve seen a real decrease in this blog’s traffic. And yes, it all started around May, due to Google’s change in algorithm. ShaiCoggins.com has withstood all of Google’s previous changes, but this time, it has really affected the site. But, I’ve never been too bothered by my traffic before, and I’m not about to start now. In fact, if anything, I’m slowly figuring out ways to be less and less dependent on Google. That’s why I’ve also decreased my AdSense displays in this blog, with a view of completely removing it one day, as I’m seriously considering changing the way that I run ads around here.
  • Leaving my job at CU. It’s hard to find a job you love and one that suits you perfectly. So, when you find it, you think it’s something that might last forever. But, just like some experiences are only meant to last briefly (no matter how great they are) – so are some jobs only meant to be around for a certain time before you know that the best thing that can happen is to move on. I’m glad for my experience at CU, and it was difficult to leave. But, I am where I am now because I moved on. Another proof that tough times can always be turned around for good.
  • Some minor health issues. There had been no major dramas health-wise this year, thankfully. Sure, I still caught colds and the flu more than I’d care to. But, for the most part, things had been good . Not just for me, but also for the whole family. However, a couple of ongoing health-related issues were highlighted this year that I might finally need to address next year to improve some areas of my health.
  • Failure to deliver on a couple of goals. Out of 12 goals for 2012, I’ve managed to check off 10 things. Unfortunately, I slipped on a couple. One of these goals is: “Keeping a Daily Creative Practice.” And, even though I didn’t officially try for another 365 this year, I did look in to doing a 52 Weeks Project. And yes, I still didn’t get to finish. I’m slightly disappointed that I seem unable to carry through with this, but I also know that when it comes to these types of projects, it’s never a waste of time to attempt them. Even if I never get to complete them. I still learn and develop a lot during the process. Like doing my daily morning pages for 3 to 4 months straight this year. Or completing about 30+ self portraits for the 52 Weeks Project. It was still worth giving the projects a go. And yes, I’m planning some projects again in 2013.

XI. Creative Highlights

Creativity is part of my core, my essence… And yet, I find that I’m not giving myself enough time for it. So, I’d like to celebrate some minor victories that help to keep my creative juices flowing…

  • Started doodling and creating again. Not a heck of a lot, mind you. But, I’m still glad that I managed to find some time anyway. Especially happy with doing more digital doodles again.
  • Worked on a couple of novels early this year. Yes, I started off the year with working on the novel that I completed back in 2009 – but have yet to finish revising. Unfortunately, I got myself stuck again, so I stopped revisions. Hope to pick it up again some time. And yes, I also ended up starting 1 or 2 other stories. Nothing completed.
  • Getting back in to photography. As mentioned before, I’ve rekindled my love for creating photographic images again. Hence, the new cameras. I’ve done a handful of shoots this year that I ended up really liking. That includes this set of photos from our Narnu Farm 2012 trip (taken with my CASZ, my Canon superzoom).
  • Catching up in video making. One of the things I like doing is creating a collection of snaps and clips to capture moments for our family. I don’t get to do this often enough. This year, I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to create about 3 new video collections. A record indeed! I’m hoping that my video skills will also get used for my blog again next year. 😉

XII. Miscellaneous

Other things worth noting and remembering…

  • A special Valentine’s Day. It has been a long time since hubby and I enjoyed a Valentine’s Day celebration. And, this spontaneous one became quite a memorable treat.
  • Cut my hair short. ‘been a while since I’ve had a short hairdo, but I’m enjoying the change so far.
  • New specs. Got myself new ones this year, as my eyesight is progressively getting worse (see health-related rough times). Ergh.
  • Explored co-working this year. Something that I’ve always wanted to do ever since I’ve heard of the whole concept. In any case, I will evaluate this again some time.
  • Did the City to Bay with the family Even though I promised not to do it again, my kids' request to join them in this year's walkathon weakened my resolve. Thankfully, I only did the 6k walk, so it wasn't as painful.
  • Spending time with extended family. Early in the year, we still had my parents-in-law for the holidays. Later in the year, my mom and sister have come over for a holiday visit too. Great times indeed.

Do you do an annual review of your year? What are your highlights and challenges in 2012?

Now, here’s wishing us all an incredible new year!

About the Author Shai Coggins

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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