This Thankful Thursday post is going to be two-fold (and hopefully not too sentimental or self-involved).
Today I wrapped up my portion of regional meetings that I’ve done on a quarterly basis for almost three years now. In fact, my first week of work was spent traveling around for these meetings (but thankfully not presenting anything!), so it seems fitting that that’s how I’d spend my second to last week on the job.
I can still vividly remember my first night on the road that first week, wondering how I would cope with all the traveling I’d be doing on my own. Since that was something I’d never done before, I’m not exaggerating when I say I nearly had a panic attack thinking about it. (Turns out other people at restaurants feel more uncomfortable about me eating alone than I do, and up until a few months ago, many staff at hotels and the rental car company knew me by first name.)
I (naturally) did a lot of reflecting this week during my hours spent driving on the roads I’ve come to know so well in southern Missouri. Thankful doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, for all that I’ve learned and how far I’ve come (particularly in the land of acronyms and programs that I had absolutely no familiarity with prior to starting).
This week was also special because I got to present the big research project that Lindsay and I have worked on for the last eight months (and let me tell you, I’m really thankful that’s done!). I couldn’t help but laugh during the first meeting when, after I’d condensed 78 pages of information into a 20 minute summary, the only response was a wide-eyed “Holy cow.” My thoughts exactly. It was even more rewarding to hear someone during the fourth meeting respond with “You really do make data sexy.” It makes me feel like I’ve somewhat succeeded in getting people to see how important (and sexy!) data/research can be.
My growth and progress, however, wasn’t achieved alone. Far from it. I’ve had a supervisor who encouraged me to think outside the box and dive head first into great data analysis projects. I had a co-worker who became one of my best friends and proved to be my other half on countless reports and committees/workgroups. And I’ve got a handful of other supportive co-workers at the office who have fully embraced my analytical creativity, caffeine-induced productivity and occasional flare for dramatics.
I also can’t forget all the fabulous agencies and people I’ve worked with along the way who are making a huge impact on the clients they serve. No way could I do the work that they do on a daily basis (my heart would break too easily). The meaningful relationships I’ve built with these agencies far exceeded my expectations. While I was teaching them how sexy data can be, they were teaching me that data is more than just numbers — they’re people.
I’ll be honest that I didn’t see my career starting with homeless services. But now I wouldn’t trade that experience and knowledge for anything, especially given all the stereotypes and misconceptions that are out there regarding homelessness. Public health is my passion, but homelessness now has a special place in my heart.
It’s just another reminder that everything happens for a reason, and for that I’m immensely grateful.