As I sit in my Chicago apartment, an official Startup Institute alumna, preparing for interviews for jobs I only dreamed about a couple months prior, I can’t help but to think about the year that got me here. What were some of the defining moments?

The most massive work project I’ve ever been involved with: Four years into my last job, I had dealt with a lot of tough challenges, but nothing to this degree. Never had I worked so hard (over 40 hours in a single weekend), or been responsible for so much (re-teaching hundreds of employees how to do their jobs in a new way). It completely changed my status and role in the company, and pushed the boundaries of what I thought I could do. But more importantly, this project led to..

An incredible new friendship: An initiative as intensive and stressful as this one had a lot of negative effects on my personal life. I missed parties and networking events, brunches and happy hours, but what I gained in return is the person responsible for getting me here to Chicago. A fellow team member who is now one of my best friends. My sounding board during the worst parts of the project, and my cheerleader when I questioned if a cross-country move was the right thing. Someone who wanted a new challenge in a new place and wasn’t afraid to jump with me – and now sleeps across the hall.

And the last is no surprise, Startup Institute: I think about some of the most inspiration people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting or listening to, and every single one of them has that moment in their lives when they took a huge risk and catapulted their success. I’m not sure how this journey will end up for me – I’ve eaten through more savings than I care to admit, and I’m juggling a million things trying to land the dream job I moved here for, but I think I’ll look back at this experience – as my moment. That time I did something lots of other people thought was crazy, met incredible people, acquired some amazing new skills, and found a career that I truly love.

2013, you’ve been a roller coaster ride the likes of which I never expected last January 1st. You were tough – on my mind and my body, you forced me to make some really hard decisions, but more importantly, you set the stage for what I think is going to be an incredible 2014. And I can’t wait to see what it brings.