This year has been an incredible year for me. New opportunities to travel. New career paths. New directions for personal and professional growth. A new chapter in my life.

Over the past seven years, while working full time, I also worked on obtaining a master’s degree in Public Relations and Organizational Communications, as well as a graduate certificate in health communication, at Wayne State University.

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In some ways, I think I took the hard road with this process – taking one class a semester while I worked a full-time job. It took a lot of years to receive the graduate certificate and master’s degree but I also wanted to balance work, school and life.

I am grateful every day that I completed my graduate work. It gave me a sense of purpose and helped me discover that I’m able to rise to any challenge I may face.

Attending the graduation ceremony at WSU in May was amazing and exhilarating, with my family and loved ones sharing the day with me. And every day since that special day, I have been thankful for achieving that goal. It took an amazing amount of grit, determination and just plain hard work, day after day after day. Talk about feeling like you’re in a fox hole!

But what balancing work, school and life taught me was tremendous self-discipline, project management skills, keeping an eye on every minute of the day so that I could maximize my productivity – skills that translate both to the work world and to personal life too.

After achieving the goal of receiving my master’s degree, I worked towards and met another goal: traveling to Paris with my companion Rick. I told myself that if I finished my master’s degree, I would reward myself with a trip to the City of Light. And so, in mid September of this year, Rick and I traveled to France. It was everything I had anticipated and more. There is no city in the world like Paris!

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If I’ve learned anything over the last seven, eight, even 10 years, I know that true happiness isn’t achieved by buying the next new thing, having a fancy car, or anything else that might come about through conspicuous consumption. Happiness occurs when you set a difficult goal for yourself, work your ass off to achieve it, and then bask in the relief and glory of achieving that goal.

I’m not certain what my next big adventure will be – and for now, I don’t need to concoct another big adventure — but I look forward to coming up with new goals, working towards those goals, and feeling the pleasure of making my dreams come true.

One thing I know though — it’s going to be hard to top Paris!