Goals 2020 // Part II: A Year of Deliberate Doing

I promised myself I wouldn’t declare any grand resolutions, or sweeping changes to my habits or lifestyle for the new year and though that may appear to be exactly what I am doing here I assure you this is not nearly so rigid or strict a list.

What I set out here are intentions, hopes, and kind works I want to give to myself on this journey into the new decade. This is what I hope for my future self now knowing that she may come to hope for wholly different things when her time comes. I offer her wisdom knowing that her life is one I am ignorant of and that she will come to possess a knowledge beyond my own through her own experiences.

The only habit change I chose to make for 2020 is to decide mindfully how I want to spend my time by scheduling out my hours from day to day. My hope is to get more done by being consistent, by knowing what to do next, and by not allowing myself to get sucked into avoiding progress by mindlessly scrolling, binge-watching, or conveniently forgetting what kind of life it is I want to lead.

To that same effect I thought is only right to make a list not of things I must do, but of things I would like to do, experience, or accomplish in 2020. The list is flexible. I can and will add, delete, alter, and update it throughout 2020 as I complete items or change my mind. If I’m really on top of things each item checked off will have a corresponding post, perhaps each deleted item will too.

I did a lot in 2019 but there were a few weekends that went by and a few opportunities missed simply because I lost track of time and failed to plan ahead. This list is meant to be checked at least weekly and as often as every month. I can edit then and choose one or three things to begin planning for the next month or two to check off. I want to make sure I get the most out of the year and this time next year I will make my final updates, share my thoughts, and post a whole new list.


This year marks the beginning of a new decade and a new journey for all of us together. From here 2020 feels like it’s going to be a big year, or, I want it to be a big year. After getting married, traveling out of state for first time since I was a child, and making so many lovely memories with friends and family, I’m ready to step even further out of my comfort zone.

This year I will:

Create a schedule—for everything, every day!—and stick to it.

Get that promotion at work.

 Go camping just the two of us.

Travel to Texas for business and for pleasure

Visit family in California.

Go back to South Carolina.

Hike new trails this summer.

Rent a cabin for Christmas.

Get active. Return to running and basic body weight training.

Achieve remission, again!

Post regularly to Zen and Pi.

Pitch one publication a month. Bonus: Collect 100 rejections in 2020.

Read 30 books.

Complete the big home improvement projects.

Complete 7 massive online open courses.

Complete one lesson on Khan Academy and Duolingo daily.

See another play, a ballet, and an opera.

Pay off half of our debt.

Save a little more every month.

Give back a little of what’s left.

Get my driver’s license.

Buy a new car.

Get my library card again.

Start a private gratitude journal.

Start a sketchbook.

Attend a political protest event.

Volunteer for the Democratic Presidential Campaign.

Seek therapy.

This year I will do my best to give up control, to let others make mistakes, and to forgive people their weakness as I would want them to forgive me mine.

This year I will demand more from my relationships and give more of myself to my relationships too. I’ll make the time and put in the effort and when others make it clear that they wish to move on, I will let them go even if it hurts.

This year I will stop helping every body so damn much. I will stop helping others in ways that only serve to make me feel better rather than the ways they need me to help.

This year I will say “sorry” less often and I will never apologize for being, loving, and needing help, connection, and understanding. I will accept that not everyone will like me or even hold a positive opinion of me and know that that’s okay and not my fault or a reflection of my value as a person.

This year I will honor others. I will uplift people I see being overlooked. I will speak up for others being held down. I will remember that we go further if we go together.

This year I will get involved. I will become informed about my local politics, environment, and development. I will find a way to help.

This year I will not try to be someone new. I’m already the person I need to be, that I wanted to be but never saw before. I only have to let her be free.

2019 left me feeling supported, encouraged, strong, and full of love for myself. I am ready to work hard, to defend my boundaries, time, and needs, and to take my dreams seriously. I’m ready to go beyond a life that though it is beyond anything I used to think I could have or even deserved is far less than what is possible for me.


Featured image by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Goals 2020 // Part I: Spending My Life the Way I Spend My Days

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.”

— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Though 2019 was a phenomenal year, looking back, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in myself. Looking back, I see so much good but also see a lot of wasted time. I lost hours playing games on my phone, binge watching TV, an scrolling Facebook or Twitter when I got bored. These where hours I could have been learning something new, reading more books, writing something, making something, doing absolutely anything else that would have been more fulfilling. I spent my year the way I spent my days and there were more days spent living a life I didn’t want than I am comfortable with.

I’m a naturally anxious and avoidant person. It’s not the failure I’m afraid of, or even the success. I don’t like to try because trying means finding out so much about yourself and there are things I worry I will find out that go beyond success and failure. So, I spin my wheels. I do what feels like work but isn’t I talk a lot about what I want and dream about who I will be after. I avoid living the life I say I want by mimicking, by wasting time, by making excuses. I don’t want to do that anymore.

So, I’m taking a moment to acknowledge that going forward the same as I always have in past years will only get me the same results I have ended past years with. I would like to step into a new decade with better prospects. I would like to try something new and perhaps make a little more progress this time around the sun. I’d like to live a little more like I the person I want to be one day.

This year I have a plan, and that plan is just to make a plan. If you think it sounds too simple or small for a new year’s resolution, I would agree. I refuse to refer to it as such. It’s not a big goal, or grand lifestyle change, it’s only a one, tiny habit change. All I have to do is make a daily schedule. I don’t have to plan the year. I don’t have to plan my months or weeks. No, in 2020 I will focus solely on the day to day, the hour to hour, the minute, by minute, by minute. I’ll spend my life the way I want to by making sure each day contains all the life I want to live inside of it.

I’m starting with Google calendar and carving out blocks of time for everything from when I sleep, when I wake up, when I work out, when I get ready for work, when I can eat, read, write, and watch TV. I have time for my wife, my family, my pets and myself scheduled to the minute. I have time for podcasts, for social media, for journalling, for making art, and for simply sitting and thinking for a while. Each event has a reminder set for one hour before so I know what comes next and when it’s time to begin there are notes and to do list items so I know where to focus.

In the evenings I’ll look over my calendar to adjust the days ahead. I can add events, to-do items, and notes. I can add more time, move events around, or delete them entirely. Of course not everything can be included into every day. Some days there may be no reading or writing at all because I’ll be working, traveling, spending time with family, or with friends, or shopping, running errands, or I simply decided to do something else or nothing at all. The point is not to do anything in particular but to make a choice. This time next year when I look back on this one I will know that wherever I ended up, whatever I did or didn’t do and whether I chose to focus or to slip into mindlessness more often than not, I will at least know it was up to me.

I know the exercise won’t be easy. There is so little in life we have a choice about. Even by making a schedule there is really only a small fraction of the day I can call my own. My day job demands a lot from me. My friends and family need me. I have responsibilities and obligations. I have to eat and sleep and will power runs low when the body or the mind grow weary, stressed, or depressed. To make matters more difficult you have to fight every day to wrench what little focus you have left from companies trying to see you something or sell your time to someone else.

The TV is always on, the phone is always buzzing; the ads are always running; the world is always telling you to consume, to post, to scroll. Choosing how to spend your time is not an easy choice to make in that vast current. It is a daily battle between you and yourself, you and the expectations of others, you and the giant machine of capitalism and consumerism.

I know sometimes I will fail miserably but I all ask of myself is not to give up. Day by day means beginning again, and again, and again every morning. With practice I hope to perfect my priorities and hone my focus. I hope to figure out what works and what doesn’t, what I can do and what is expecting too much. I hope to learn too what I thought I wanted to do and what it turns out I really didn’t, what feels right and feels wrong, and, what I really want my life to look like.

This system may sound strict and devoid of surprise or serendipity but the alternative has been to leave myself at the whims, cravings, moods, and flawed memory. The alternative has been lost time and opportunity. The alternative has been a lot of fear and regret.

But with this system there is nothing anymore to fear. I don’t have to count up my successes and failures. I don’t have to do one thing or another. I don’t have to be ashamed, afraid, or avoidant. If I don’t want to do something, then I don’t have to. All I need to do is leave it off the schedule and let it go, but if I want to do it, no matter what it is, accomplishing it can be the easiest thing in the world. All I have to do is block out the time, sit down, and do the thing I told myself I would do. That is all the success I want for 2020.


Featured image by Elliott Engelmann on Unsplash

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I made the mistake of binge-watching the new season of You on Netflix last night and ending up crawling into bed after 3:00 this morning. For the past few weeks I’ve been waking up as early as 5:00 AM adding at least 2 hours to my day in which to write or clean. Today I didn’t get up until 9:30 AM. I lost over 4 hours and gained absolutely nothing. So much for starting the new year off on a focused and productive note.

Still, the day isn’t over yet. There isn’t a lot sitting on my to-do list and with a little focus and a few cups of coffee I am sure I can check it all off no problem. I can take a nap if I feel sluggish and I can begin again tomorrow too.

Today I’m finishing up a few New Year’s blog posts here and then moving over to Submittable to search for pitching opportunities. I’d really like to try for 2 or 3 rejections this month though 8 or 9 would keep me on track for 100 before the end of the year. I also found this tweet from @writersofcolor with dozens of calls for pitches.

I started a spreadsheet to list the essay and article titles and topics I want to write and another sheet that lists all the dream publications I’ve always wanted to write for. Yes, this year everything is going down on paper, getting added the calendar, going into a spreadsheet, and being laid out in black and white to be brought forth into reality from.

Currently // December 2019: Warmth for the Body and the Soul

“It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.” 

Sarah Kay

December for many is dull, dreary, and depressing. For others, it is the exact opposite, a time of brightness, warmth, happy memories and memory making. For me December typically falls into the former description. I’ve never liked the bitter temperatures or the snow storms of Colorado winters though I have lived here most of my life but this year I tried to find the good, or at least the usefulness of the season.

I still have not learned to love the weather but I see the value in all the rest. The brightness, the warmth, happy memories and memory making, they are tools to get us through the dull and dreary and depressing. We turn to family, food, giving and gifts. We turn on bright lights and turn out for parties, for feasts, for shopping, and for what little activity the winter has to offer. We seek warmth where we can and when it can’t be found for the body; we manufacture it for the soul.

And now winter is in full swing and the holidays are nearly over. Though the calendar confirms there is a long way to go still, our patience with the cold and clouds is already running thin and the more the month wanes the more we begin to question whether we will make it through these next months of sacrifice and suffering now that the lights, the feasts, and the giving and getting is done.

But the new month and the new year are not here yet. We have one more day to celebrate, to share, to reflect, to carry with us into the cold of January. December is a month of letting go and of hoping. We hope to become someone new, someone better, someone we always knew we truly were. I admit I’m not ready for such a chance this time around. A new decade of myself is too grand a thing to imagine so I’m resolving not to put my future self into a box or to dictate to her who I, in my ignorance, think she ought to be.

So for now, for today, I’m simply coming to terms with an end I thought would linger for a while but ended up passing by the same as the whole of the year that came before, far too fast. I did enjoy the end despite the stresses of the holidays and the resurfacing of old health issues and one thing I’ve learned is that our problems are reminders of our blessings and the problems I do have are better than the problems I could have. I’ve learned to find happiness under every obligation, frustration, and pain through gratitude, giving, and self-care.

And somewhere deep down, I think I’m looking forward to the new month, the start of a new year, and a brand new decade with enthusiasm and optimism. I have so little to regret and so much to look forward to, to experience, and to accomplish, but before I do, here is what I am currently…

Writing whatever pops into my head whenever I can. The content is not as important as the act right now. The point is to just write, write, write. I’m writing daily blog posts, personal essays, and flirting with prose poetry. I’m writing in pocket notebooks, in handmade journals, and the margins of books. I finishing neglected drafts, creating lists, and using any means and inspiration available. I’m writing as consistently as I can and my hope is that eventually I will begin to recognize a pattern, a purpose, and a message. I’m hoping, through hours and hours of all kinds of practice, it will get easier to WORK RELAX DON’T THINK as Ray Bradbury advises.

Making Cut out and blackout poems, still. I haven’t had the time or the courage for proper collage work but working with words has always been easier for me than working with images. It’s nice to take a creative break from pulling words out of my own head and to use the words of others for a while. It’s a small way to get my mind out of any ruts it might have dug and to think freely for a bit. I’ve found a lively collage community on Instagram too and that only makes me want to make and experiment more. I only wish I could find the same kind of community for my writing too.

Planning nothing at all. This isn’t 100% true. I’m planning each day, one by one, and that is all. Planning for anything longer term than that hasn’t really gotten me anywhere these past few years. Plans never work out and always go awry. I go awry. So, for 2020 I’m changing the way I spend my life by planning how I spend my days. I’m looking at life hour by hour and already I have found so much time that was slipping away unnoticed and unused. Of course, not every free hour can be given over to writing, nor should it be. There are hours for my loved ones, hours to read, hours to study, hours to eat, to walk, to rest, hours for art, for cleaning, for date nights, for shopping, and even hours for mindless TV too, but it’s all scheduled. Each thing must have its beginning and end.

Dreaming about a comic book again. A long time ago when I was a different, younger, more creatively ambitious version of myself I dreamed of creating an epic dystopian graphic novel but there is a steep learning curve to pen and ink and I was not dedicated or driven enough to put in the work. These past few months I’ve felt characters stirring inside of me and some are even beginning to gather into visible entities. I fear soon they may develop personalities and, worse still, desires! Maybe 2020 will be the year I begin to play with real art and storytelling?

Reading Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza. The book is short, I can tell already it will be slow going. It wasn’t a very good reading month. I only managed to finish one: The Plague by Albert Camus, a simple story of very big ideas about a town suddenly ravaged and isolated by a deadly plague. It was not a good reading month for me. I had hoped to end the year only 10 books behind schedule but it looks like I will miss even that goal by 2 books. That’s ok, I did better than the year before and I know that in 2020 I will do even better still. I am considering creating a list of books to read in advance but so often I find books at thrift stores or on impulse that it makes it hard to commit to any particular book, author, or genre.

Watching all things star wars. This month my wife and I re-watched every single star wars film in preparation for The Rise of Skywalker. (I love that she is so willing to indulge in my little obsessions with me.) The films are terrible but somehow I love them for their fault as much as despite them. I enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker though I do have some issues with the way the story was told and the big surprises revealed. I finished The Mandalorian on Disney+ and it was a breath of fresh air from the films. On Saturday mornings I’m re-watching the animated series Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels in preparation for the rumored returns and premiers of many more Star Wars shows and films to come.

Learning math again on Khan Academy, again, and Spanish on Duolingo, still, but not much more, for now. I haven’t used Khan Academy in a while. I realized quickly that though math isn’t harder for me to learn than any average person, math after a certain point is hard no matter who you are or what your aptitude. I would like to get back into it though and finish learning what I never got a chance to in school. Spanish is also getting harder and I am resolving now not to keep on doing the easy lessons but to move on to new words and harder grammar. My work on Coursera has been on hold mid-august when my work schedule grew more rigorous but things are beginning to settle down now. With this new year comes a new beginning and I have a plan to start again and all of my study and deep learning time will be strictly scheduled. No excuses.

Anticipating some big changes, opportunities, and projects in 2020. At my day job there is a quickly approaching opportunity for advancement and with it comes more freedom, more chances to learn and to grow, and a lot more responsibility too. I may be taking new classes and I am being sent on my first out-of-state conference trip. I have some big ideas about how to change the way we do things and the way we teach people too. At home my wife and I will tackle some big house projects, we’ll attend some big events, and we’re planning some big out-of-state trips for ourselves too. I’m terrified of all of it but I’m learning to be open to these changes, to be flexible, and to even be excited.

Reflecting on the past year. 2019 really was a good one. I got married. I got to travel. I got to spend time with my friends and I got to try some new ways of doing things at work. I feel different, but in a good way. It’s important that I take a moment to take stock of all the ways I have changed and how I hope to go on changing going forward. Right now I feel stronger, more secure in who I am. I feel more content with my life and more willing to try new things. I feel safer, smarter, and I have begun to realize my own power. Going forward I’d like to become even more fearless and bold. I’d like to learn how to be bored, to be silly, and to be a better role model. I want to become more me in all the ways that are possible.

Feeling not so good, to be honest. Around last Thanksgiving time my ulcerative colitis symptoms returned suddenly and severely after two years of blissful remission. Since then I’ve been put back on old medications and a high dose of steroids and I am still struggling to recapture remission. I’m improving and I have an amazing doctor but this disease can be debilitating, isolating, embarrassing. I have anxiety about leaving my home and I grow increasingly depressed by what I cannot do and by the burden I place on others. I’m frustrated by my body and angry that chance has chosen me to live with such a condition, and I have nowhere to direct any of it. I’m learning to cope with it but every day brings new challenges. Keeping my goals in focus helps. Resting when I need to helps. Helping others through online support groups helps. Knowing that eventually this will pass too, helps.

Fearing failure. I have so much to look forward to and so much more I want to do but I am afraid that none of it will come to fruition and, worse still, that it will be due to my own failure of talent or failure to try. I fear ending next year the same and this one and the year before this, exactly in the same position as I ended it, no healthier, no more fulfilled, no closer to my dreams. I fear that I will always be all talk, no action, no progress, nothing at all to show for all these hours spend working and writing. I fear staying ignorant, staying small, staying put. I fear that my fear of success and change is greater than my fear of failure. I fear that failure is who I am.

Hating the necessary social culling that comes with age. This year I lost friends I never thought I would, some by my choice, and some by theirs. It hurts and the urge to dig at the wound, to try to repair the relationship by blurring my boundaries and making concessions, and to know why, why, why is strong and painful but I know that such prodding will offer me no answers, no happiness, and none of what used to be. People come and go and that is okay. People will not always like me and that is okay. I will not always like others or my like may at anytime turn to dislike, and that is okay too. What isn’t okay anymore is the indifference, the unreciprocated efforts, and the hurt and I simply don’t have time anymore for what isn’t working. Though it’s painful to let go, it is unbearable to hold on.

Loving myself. Even though I am not my best self at the moment, I have to say that I am so proud of all I have experienced, accomplished, and fought through this year and every year. My sprit is strong. I am a good person. I don’t give up and I don’t give in. I do what is right. I help people. I have a big heart and a passionate curiosity. I still have a lot to improve but everyone does, the point is that I like me. I enjoy time with myself. I feel safe with myself. I no longer fear the strange thoughts and inner workings of my mind. This year I have made long strides in learning to self soothe, to advocate for myself, and to fight for my time, inner peace, and needs. I have learned not just to love myself, but how to show it too.

Needing to learn the art of leisure. I have plenty of time to myself throughout the day but I spend most of it doing the most mindless things just to fulfil a sense of purpose and worth. When I should be doing nothing I think about how much money I’m not making or how little I am contributing. When I do nothing I feel like I am nothing. I don’t think I even know how to do the things I love without feeling guilt and I certainly have no idea how to do nothing at all. I’m not sure doing nothing is even possible, for anyone, anymore! I’d love to try though and to be honest I think it’s something we all need not just as individuals but as a society. We have to find a way to value simply existing.

Hoping for another good year filled with love, friendship, health, warmth, and vibrant life. I’m hoping for everything and most of all for more hope. I’m already beginning this new year with more hope than I’ve ever beginning any other and It’s not just because this past year was so good but because I feel so much more ready for all the things life has to offer. I feel capable and deserving and that opened me up to the possibility of finding joy in the act of hoping alone. I feel protected from disappointment and from despair should my hopes come to nothing because I know I can simply hope for new things and feel hope’s joy whenever I choose.


So, yeah, all in all, December was not really a good month in itself but became one through the act of reflecting on a year that contained so much good. I suppose that is what Decembers really are. They are all the 12 months you lived before rolled into one by memory, good food, gift giving, and being with those who loved us through those months too. Perhaps Decembers are growing on me?

But what about you? How did you spend your holidays? Did you receive the gifts you wanted? Has looking back on the year given you a sense of accomplishment, happiness, or hope? Or have you avoided looking back out of regret or sorrow? What do you want for you in 2020?

Let me know in the comments.

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

— Dr. Seuss


The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love

Photo by Luke Hodde on Unsplash