9 Highlights from 2017

I will be the first to say that 2017 was an interesting year. I had some of the greatest experiences of my life, yet there were plenty of rough days, too. Although I am jumping into 2018 head first, I think it is important to reflect on your experiences, downfalls, feelings and triumphs. So, that is what I'm doing. Here are my "best nine" of 2017.

1. Becoming the president of my favorite club on campus. 

One of the biggest aspects of my 2017 college experience was being elected to represent the Purdue Collegiate Cattlemen's Association. I had been invested in the club since my first semester of freshmen year, and to be so quickly accepted to have a leadership role was very rewarding to me. We checked off a lot of bucket list items for the club and I made new connections with my peers. I can guarantee that my involvement and growth with PCCA will be one of the biggest things I look back on when I graduate in just a little over a year from now.

2.  Attending my second AgChat Collegiate Congress...at Monsanto!

When I look back at all the cool places I visited in 2017, another professional development travel item happens to be a conference visit to St. Lous, MO. It never occurred to me how awesome it was that I would be visiting the Monsanto headquarters until after I did. I am a huge sucker for conferences and networking, but to be able to see the inside of an infamous agriculture company was pretty darn cool.

3. Relaunching my brand and getting published. 

I guess as I reflect, 2017 was a very influential year for gaining experience in my field of study. In June of last year, I decided to sit down and relaunch my brand. I was unhappy and slightly embarrassed by my previous brand "That Girl Sheradan" and I thought about what my purpose was. My brainstorming resulted in the idea of Cattle & Coffee, and while I'm still working on the aesthetics of the brand a little bit, I am so much more confident in what my content represents -- myself, my education, my passions and an industry I wholeheartedly believe in.

Along with the new identity, I also had a few articles published elsewhere. One of which was an Odyssey Online article, but the Odyssey Facebook page chose to feature my piece for #NationalAgDay. It was an incredible feeling to see it pop up on my feed. And, more recently, I had a semester-long project published in a local online farm magazine. There are still many times I don't feel qualified or experienced enough to speak on behalf of agriculture, but I did become more confident with my content in 2017, and I think it will bring a lot of influence into 2018!

4. Visiting Utah twice in one year!

My first-ever visit to Utah is one that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I was finally able to visit Zion National Park, and it will continually be a place I seek to return to. I was absolutely stunned by the beautiful scenery that Utah -- and Arizona -- offered and traveling alongside Jake and his family is always an awesome thing. On a side note, taking control over my health and well-being is one of my focuses of 2018, and I believe that reminiscing on the physical and mental struggles along with the happiness I experienced while  hiking in Utah (Bryce Canyon kicked my butt!) will keep me motivated to strive for a place of well-being I am happy with.

My second visit to Utah actually took place in conference form and I was able to experience a different portion of the state, including Salt Lake City. While I did some exploring, I also gained an abundant amount of resources that will continue to influence my professional path and network. I really hope I can return to Ag Media Summit in 2018.

5. Marching for science. 

Before 2017, I had never felt compelled to participate in a local march. However, in 2017 there was a movement to protect science; to keep it accessible and true. I was a little nervous about attending my first march alone, but I found that the people were incredible and the atmosphere was serious yet fun. I stood outside in chilly weather to hear important messages and marched my way through the streets of downtown Indianapolis. While I am not aiming to become a scientist, I do aim to become an accurate communicator on behalf of science-based agricultural information, so it was an empowering experience to take part in a movement such as this one.

6. Getting my first tattoo. 

Oh boy, this one was an interesting event! I'd been pondering about a certain tattoo idea for nearly a year, and I was determined to get it while I was still twenty years old. So, while I was having an adventurous summer in D.C. (see number 9), I decided it was time to just do it. And that is exactly what happened. No design consultation, just a walk-in parlor with Pinterest photos and a chosen font. Next thing I knew, there I was leaving a building with new ink on my collarbone. I was super excited because the tattoo holds many different meanings for me, but I honestly had a lot of anxiety about it. And, get this, I hated the tattoo for a full two months after getting it. I couldn't see it the right way (it's backward for me in the mirror) and I was convinced that it looked awful. I have come to terms with it now, and I am happy I chose to get it, but next time around I think my process should be a little less speedy! We'll see, though.

7. Stepping in the show ring one more time. 

This one came as a random, but happy, surprise. Showing cattle was a massive part of my life in middle and high school. When my 4-H career came to a close, it was difficult for me to accept that I would no longer be showing calves. For the next year, I helped out a little bit, but it wasn't the same as having my own set of heifers and steers to work with. As my twenty-first birthday approached last year, it became uncomfortably obvious that I was running out of time to show in a junior show again. One of my awesome peers at Purdue brought a huge slice of excitement into my life when she told me I could show one of her family's calves at Hoosier Beef Congress, which happened to be the very first show I ever exhibited at. Stepping into the show ring one last time was truly a remarkable way to end 2017.

8. Taking a break in Gatlinburg!

Over my fall break, Jake and I headed down to Gatlinburg, TN to explore the Smokies, eat good food and relax. Short little breaks like this are honestly my favorite types of vacations because it's just enough time to rejuvenate and take a breath from real life, but it isn't long enough to put you into a vacation coma. We hiked the Rainbow Falls trail, which was actually kind of terrible, but there were plenty of life lessons discovered on that hike. Other than that, we meandered around downtown Gatlinburg and visited the Ripley's Aquarium. It was nice and I'll cherish the memory.

9. Becoming a D.C. area intern. 

Of all the 2017 highlights, this one takes the cake. I spent roughly three months exploring the DMV, rekindling relationships with family members and doing a ton of awesome things for my internship. Guys, I met Temple Grandin! I could have listed individual highlights for each specific thing I did over the summer -- like visiting the Smithsonian museums, going to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware and eating crabs for dinner -- but I figured I should just clump it all into one awesome reflection.

My time in D.C. offered incredible professional development opportunities, but it also gave me an amazing sense of what it's like to independently travel. Of course I still had family to show me the ropes, but ultimately I was able to branch outside of my shell. The entire experience held a lot of great things, and now I feel a little more prepared to take my next long-term adventure outside of the country! Stay tuned for that one.

Although 2017 clearly had a substantial amount of awesome experiences, I'm honestly ready to start my next chapter. Did you take time to reflect on your best highlights of 2017? Tell me about them in the comments below!


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