2016: A year of challenges 

Whilst many will remember 2016 as a year of social and political unrest, I’d like to take some time to reflect on some of the good stuff that’s happened. These are my personal highlights:

1. Freelancing 

Starting up as a freelancer in 2016 has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve met some fantastic people, and worked with some truly inspirational small charities, all of whom make a huge impact. Highlights include consulting on a really exciting third sector start up; speaking at the Scottish Fundraising Conference (a really big moment for me, as a former employee of the Institute); and running my first ever half day workshop on digital fundraising: the first of many booked in for 2017.

2. Blogging 

I’ve wanted to start up a blog for around five years, but always made excuses. ‘I’m too busy’, I’d rationalise; ‘no one would ever read it anyway’. After writing a couple of guest blogs in Fundraising UK and for Third Force News, I decided to take the plunge: to pull my finger out, and actually set it up! As well as the numerous professional benefits, blogging has also given me some amazing opportunities: I’ve been invited to review events at the National Trust for Scotland and Edinburgh Zoo, to name a few.

3. Trying out new things 

Probably because of my mild Aspergers Syndrome, I can be guilty of being a little stuck in my ways at times. That’s why this year, I decided to really push myself, and promised that I’d do something that scared me whenever the opportunity arose. I hate heights, so for my wife’s birthday, I bought us tickets for Go Ape in Peebles. I was terrified, and at many points considered quitting – but I didn’t. I pushed on. Even when I had the option not to ride a 160 ft high zip slide, I took at deep breath, took the plunge, and even forced myself to keep my eyes open. And you know what? Part of me loved it! Check out the video below (not taken by me):

I’ve also been determined to spend more time outdoors, so I went mountain biking and camping for the first time ever, both of which I absolutely loved, and hope to do much more of in 2017.

I also hate rollercoasters and funfair rides, so whilst at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, I made myself ride the biggest, scariest ride there, appropriately named ‘The Demon’ (not the one in the picture below). I even went on it twice: just to prove that I could! The person next to me probably still suffers from tinnitus as a result of my screaming, mind…

I like to challenge myself physically, too, so this year, despite having chronic asthma, I’ve participated in my first ever couple of organised runs: the Edinburgh Marathon Relay, and the Edinburgh 10K, which I did solo. I’m now running a regular 10K route, and am currently training for my first half marathon in May. I also never in a million years thought I’d be able to cycle the uncompromising six mile route from Leith to the Royal Infirmary for work every day – yet nine months on, it’s my daily commute.

The point is, if you want to do something, do it. Always push yourself to try new things, and have new experiences. Because you know what? You may just surprise yourself. 

What have been your highlights of 2016? What have you challenged yourself with? Comment below! 

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