Like many people I find the last day of the year an appropriate time to look back, take stock, and plan for the year ahead. Actually, I do that last part twice a year – I set and revise short, mid and long-term goals (across categories like career, health, education and finance) on January 1st and July 1st – not because I’m organised or driven but because it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

I have more than usual to be appreciative of this year, for 2012 has changed my life in untold ways. Immobilised by fear of driving from the age of eight, I now have a manual licence and (as of yesterday) my first car. After over two decades of full-time shift work (and almost fifteen years of combining that with part-time study) I’ve dropped my hours at work by more than half, to more rapidly complete my education – and reduced my income accordingly. That was made possible by my decision a few years ago to save for a home  – my deposit’s now less than half what it was, but that measurable wealth is more than countered by less tangible riches.

Not long ago my father, in a feat unseen by any of his surgical team, managed to rupture his spleen by vomiting – he lost around 75% of his circulating blood supply and would have died within half an hour had he not had surgery. It’s not the first time I’ve been family instead of clinician, but it was certainly one of the most touch-and-go experiences, and I thank all the staff at St Vincent’s Public, Melbourne. He’s practically back to baseline, and thus far my mother seems only to be getting fitter and stronger with age, and I appreciate their good health as much as I do my own.

All my siblings live overseas – for the first Christmas in many years one of them came home to visit, and the holiday is far more fun with small kids! As I type this, before leaving for night shift, I can feel the embraces of my 7-year-old niece and 5 (and a half!) year old nephew, who left for the airport with their parents about quarter of an hour ago. I don’t envy them the excitement of twenty-four hour’s journeying the London…

In March my other sister is coming to visit from Colorado, with her husband and my now-six-month-old nephew, who I’ve yet to meet. And while they’re here the latest edition, also a boy, is due – my brother and his wife live in DC, and I hope to see them when he’s six months old.

So as well as a healthy, happy, expanding family, I’m appreciative that I live in a time when waving family off isn’t the last I’ll ever see of them, which would have been the case only a century ago. And I am well aware of my privilege – I can not only afford to travel, I have secure employment and paid leave time.

Which brings me to the areas where my life has changed the most – my union affiliation and awareness.

I was somewhat politically active at school, peripherally involved with an anti-nuclear movement (that, because of internal dissent, split in two – and thus I learned early that consensus decision making’s fantastic as a theory but doesn’t work in groups bigger than two, let alone twenty.

Though I’ve been a member of the Australian Nursing Federation since I registered, and a workplace delegate (or job representative) shortly thereafter, my involvement was primarily confined to supporting EBA campaigns – not, I hasten to add, through any lack of commitment but because I’m inherently introverted and didn’t think I had anything much to offer.

A combination of circumstances altered than this time around, and I immersed myself in what would prove to be the longest, and surely most expensive, EBA campaign in our history. In the process I spent time with many of the ANF (Vic. branch) staff, beginning with my poor industrial organiser, who started work just as the campaign kicked off, and whose first introduction to me was when she called to say hi and caught me still a little delirious with atypical pneumonia – an hour later she managed to get me off the phone! Claire gets a lot of the credit for encouraging me to participate.

The more time I spent with the staff the more impressed I was by the qualities they shared – passion, commitment, intelligence, direction, kindness, clarity, action, strategy, motivation and integrity, from the Secretary and Assistant Secretaries through the Board, the professional and industrial staff, media and recruitment to the support staff. Their example gave me something to aim toward, and the idea of becoming part of something bigger than myself became increasingly important.

That determination has been honed by my first having the very great honour of not only being nominated for, but then (in a year where the field was crowded with brilliant work from vital nurses and midwives) being awarded the Hannah Sellers Job Rep of the Year award. The idea may be to recognise work already done, but I see it as an incentive to do better.

This honour was extended by my participation in the Anna Steward Memorial Project, a collaborative program run by Victorian Trades Hall Council to encourage women unionists toward elected positions. The two-week experience, which combines time at Trades Hall with placements at our unions, not only introduced me to some amazing women, and gave me invaluable insight into the roles of ANF (Vic. branch) staff, but expanded my awareness of the depth and breadth of the union movement itself (in Victoria, in Australia, and internationally) and ANF (Vic. and Federal).

In the past year my friendships have expanded exponentially – I’ve met nurses and midwives through the ANF (Vic. branch) EBA campaign that I hope to keep for life, and because of that campaign today I celebrate my 9th month (and 11,130th tweet) on Twitter, where I’ve made connections and friends that are no less real for their virtual presence. In a few cases I’ve also met with them in real life.

I’ve also discovered an amazing world of information through independent media – sites like Wixxyleaks, Independent Aus, and The Political Sword have helped me realise just how partisan much of the mainstream media is – as well as the writing of the contributors I’m informed by their links. Plus I’ve started my own web presence, though in the process abandoned a book review blog a friend and I ran for three or four years. Would than I had enough time to do everything I want to!

For those of you to whom the past twelve months has brought losses, pain, sorrow, bad news, tragedy, heart break and devastation in every unhappy combination : I hope 2013 is a better year ♥

2012 has been amazingly good to me on almost every front, and though some of that is due to my own work, much of it is due to my amazing good fortune. And almost none of it did I see coming. A year ago I had no idea that my long-term career goals would change, that my world and my mind would be so expanded, or even that my vague plan to one day drive would become reality. I can’t wait to see what the next twelve months has in store 🙂

I wish everyone a year filled with health, happiness, love, laughter, and wealth of the intangible kind. I also hope for gains in job security, reduced casualisation of the work force, faster closure of the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, a resolution of this ridiculous funding snafu in Victoria’s public health system, a satisfactory outcome for the Victorian teachers’ EBA, and (why not wish for the moon) a reversal of the wanton multi-state destruction of our TAFEs. See you in 2013!