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.
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.
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.
“Why, what’s the matter, That you have such a February face, So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”
― William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
New Year’s day might fall on January 1st, but February is when the year really begins. It’s when the shock of the calendar change wears off and the work can begin. It’s when the year begins to become itself, what it will be and not what we had hoped or wished it would be instead.
January was squandered while we recovered from the holidays but come February 1st, we all got a second chance to begin. All you needed was the courage and resolve to do so. But if you didn’t, those resolutions may feel long gone and failure may have firmly set in now that March has come. Some of those failures will have to be accepted. The time for do-overs has passed, but there is time yet to change, to adjust, to begin anew now, if you want.
For me, there have certainly been failures already. There is a lot I haven’t started yet and plenty I suppose I’ll never start now. At the same time, a few small steps were made and I’m exceedingly proud of what I’ve done and still resolve to do this year.
In fact, through March my plan is to keep on doing what I’ve been doing, only now I need to work on doing it a little more, and a little better, and with a little more courage.
But before I do, here is what I am currently…
Writing my journal entries, every day, but not much more if I’m honest. February was a bad writing month but not from lack of want. I just had too much else to do. Those daily journal entries may not be much, and they may not even be very good, but I am proud of myself for writing them. They’re better than nothing at all and they’re already beginning to add up. I am working on a real piece for Zen and Pi that I’m pretty excited about and I’m thinking again of writing a book.
Making the most of my time. I’m working on mastering the art of “deep work” but scheduling more than a couple of hours of creative focus at a time while working a split shift at my day job has been difficult. I’ve had to examine closely the ways I use social media and my phone in general and accept hard truths about the kind of work I want to be doing vs. the kind of “work” I have actually been doing. I’ve removed time-sucking apps from my home screen and replaced them with apps that rouse my brain cells, feed my curiosity, and inspire me to write more. I’ve started using timers and I’m learning to take my ambitions seriously. I’m making progress.
Planning a wedding! I’ve been planning my wedding for quite a long time now but this month I finally took the first concrete steps toward having a wedding. We have a ceremony site, a venue for our reception, and we settled on invitations and colors. We’re terrified and regretting the decision not to elope but we’re doing it and it’s going to be wonderful, and even if it isn’t wonderful, we’ll still be happy because we’ll be married which is all we really want, anyway.
Anticipating Springtime! It’s in February that I first start to feel the first hints of the change to come though I can’t tell from where the feeling comes. Nothing looks any different. The weather is still as cold and dreary as it was last month, but I no longer feel as though the frozen abyss will go on forever. I feel a slow vibration building beneath the leftover layers of snow and ice. I know soon something beautiful will grow there and I’m eager to meet it.
ReadingOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson. February was not as good of a reading month as January was and I think it’s because I read so much in January that I have slacked off. I think I burned myself out. Not only that, but those last few books were pretty easy and these two are really challenging me. I’m slowly finding my groove with Garcia, but Dickinson is testing me every step of the way.
Watching the third season of True Detective on HBO, the last season of Shameless on Showtime, oh, and The Umbrella Academy on Netflix, all three of which I highly recommend but besides that, I’m trying not to watch much else. TV has been taking up a lot of my evenings and I always feel guilty for wasting so much time. I’ll always watch my favorite shows, and even binge-watch the ones that interest me the most, but I won’t put on just anything to pass the time. All time is valuable and must be filled or used intentionally.
Feeling left behind. For the past few years many of my closest and most inspiring coworkers, people I consider friends, who motivated and encouraged me and who I tried my best to motivate and encourage too, have all been finding bigger and better opportunities while I have continued to go on doing what I have always done. I do like my job, and I am good at it too, but I long to find some big new opportunity too. I long to follow a dream and to be able to say to the world that I made it.
Fearing a lot less than I have in the past. I wouldn’t say I’m more confident but I’m certainly less concerned. I’m developing a “so what?” attitude. So what if it’s ugly? So what if I’m unworthy? So what if I fail, look stupid, or even get a little hurt? So what? I’ll move on and at least I’ll know. And, to be honest, at this point whatever it is I’m afraid will happen is no worse than to go on living life as someone who never even tried.
Reflecting on this Ezra Klein podcast in which he interviews Kate Manne, professor of philosophy at Cornell University, author of Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, and my new favorite person. Manne argues that we should define misogyny, not as something men feel, but something that women experience. This simple statement, this simple change in perspective is exactly what we need to take the fight against not just misogyny but racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and all other forms of discrimination and oppression. It’s the mind shift that people who participate in those systems need to take in order to move from a place of defensiveness into a place where they can acknowledge, accept, and change their behaviors without the people who experience discrimination and oppression having to expend any more emotional labor than they already have.
Needing more writerly friends. I’m shy by nature and paradoxically more so online. There are tons of writers and creatives I follow across quite a few social media accounts but I have no idea how to approach any of them. I don’t know how to start a conversation or how to add to one already happening. I’m star struck by them all and I don’t feel like I deserve the attention of the ones who bother to follow me back. I long for people in my life who are on the same journey as me and understand the difficulty and the importance of what I dream of one day doing.
Learning all about social norms and social change on Coursera. The course is offered by the University of Pennsylvania & UNICEF so, besides learning about expectations, sanctions, and choice, I’m also learning more about real-world practices, attitudes, and motives behind child marriage, female genital mutilation, and open defecation. I’m looking at my culture differently and adjusting my perspective not so much on some of these deplorable practices of other cultures but on the people who practice them. Human society is exceedingly complex, and harder to change than we imagine. I’m looking forward to beginning Social Norms, Social Change II next week and learning even more!
Hating the common workplace practice of putting more work on people who have shown excellence and enthusiasm simply because they can handle it, especially in workplaces where that added excellence and workload don’t translate into additional pay or benefits. In my experience, these uneven expectations often hurt women more than men, the latter often assuming that what is hard for them to do isn’t as hard for others. If you ever hear yourself saying someone else should do something rather than you because they “know more about it” or because they are “better at it” please stop for a moment and consider whether what you are doing is fair or right. Take a moment to consider that it is you who should do better, try harder, and live up to the expectation you have of this other person instead.
Loving love. Most people I know either hate Valentine’s day or they think it’s stupid. Many of my friends are single or they’re long-term couples who forego celebrating the season of love because they believe it’s a shallow expression of emotion and it conveys a superficial understand and what it means to spend your life with another person. But I—a hopeless and eternal romantic— cannot resist. Of course, romantic love between two (or more) people should be acknowledged, celebrated, and strengthened every day but I still love having one day a year to celebrate love not just with my partner alone but with couples all over the world, together.
Hoping for an opportunity to present itself soon. I need a break, a sign, a chance to take a leap. I need a little validation, something to show off, something to be proud of. I know opportunities like that don’t just drop into a person’s lap and I know if I want to go somewhere it’s me that has to do the moving, but still, wouldn’t it be grand to be one of the lucky ones? I’ll do the work, but I’ll go on hoping for a miracle too.
So, yeah, all in all, February was a good month. I got to go on a trip. I got to celebrate love with my love and a few friends who are in love too. I didn’t do as much as I’d hoped but I did a lot more than nothing. I’m proud, or at least I’m content, and I’m ready to move on, to leave February behind, and to greet March with enthusiasm and pride.
But what about you? How did February treat you? Did you celebrate love with a special someone? Are you as tired of winter as me?
The beginning of anything is always the longest part and 2019 is no exception. January has taken so long to conclude that the end managed to sneak up and surprise me. I almost forgot about February. I had begun to believe this month might never end and that my time would never run out.
I was lulled into laziness, I admit. Only half of my resolutions survived, though I expected as much and resolved in advance to renew them every month as needed. January ends with plenty of failures but none of the usual disappointment.
I’m choosing, on this last day of the first month of the year, to spend my energy contemplating the next. I’m looking for a new strategy, a new way forward. I’m talking myself up and back from the ledge. Do not give up, the future is still bright and full of possibility. There is so much left to do and plenty of time (though less than you might think) to do it in. There is still plenty of time left to change.
So, I’m moving forward and leaving January, and all it’s half starts and stresses, behind. February, a month of love, of self-love and self-starts, is finally here.
But first, here is what I am…
Writing much more but also less. I’m definitely writing more per day but my writing feels less substantial. I’m ok with this, for now. and hoping that quantity will lead to quality this second go around. I’m happy so far with my accidental commitment to posting daily. I never meant to start but once I did I couldn’t bring myself to break the chain. I’m going to keep it up, but I may tweak the format. I started this vlog with the intention of logging and storing my thoughts in the hopes that later I can pull a project or two out of the archives, so it makes sense to start using it as a sort of “topic journal” with revolving categories I post under in addition to the ordinary life updates.
As for Zen and Pi, it’s coming back I promise. I have so many ideas for it but lack the talent, knowledge, or courage to begin. Please don’t give up on me. It will happen, as soon as I can make it happen.
Making a new journal! Last year I completed a couple of small bookbinding projects one of which was a black Moleskine-style notebook with bright fuschia paper with alternating lined, plain, dot, grid, triangle, and hexagon ruling. Well, that journal is finally just about filled up and I’m ready to take what I learned from the last project and make a brand new one. I’m still planning and gathering supplies, so I’ve purchased a proper Moleskine to use until the new and improved DIY one is finished.
Planning the wedding, still. Progress has been made but we’re are in a serious time crunch now. I’m still excited for the big day, but it’s taking so long to plan that the magic has somewhat worn off. After the price tag shock, the hard choices about your guest list, and all the compromises you make on your vision for the day you begin to feel rather disillusioned. Soon, very soon, you are more stressed than excited and nothing you do feels like it’s for you anymore. I know I’ll feel differently when the big day comes, but right now I’m looking forward to it less and less.
Anticipating a very busy, and very exciting February. I can’t tell you all of the details yet but looking at my February calendar I get the feeling I’ll start climbing out of this winter depression I’ve been in since the New Year’s in no time. I’m going to get out with friends. I’m going to see the ballet. I’m going to take a trip. I’m going to enjoy some good food, and celebrate love, love, love!
Reading a lot! I finished six books in January, a new record for me. I’m currently on The Collected Poems of Emily Dickenson. I started a few days ago and I can already tell this one is going to take me a good long while. Her poems are short but I cannot read through them quickly. No, I’ve already been obsessively researching each and every poem and writing lengthy notes in the margins. So far, I’ve gotten through 12 poems out of…146. Which is why I am also reading Candide by the philosopher Voltaire. I needed a quick book to get through to keep my reading goals to track.
WatchingTrue Detective on HBO which has returned to the formula of their first season success, and Shameless on Showtime which is spiraling out of control as usual. I’m also watching a lot of mindless TV while I wait for the Spring premiers. I’m watching shows I’m barely even entertained by just to have something on. I watch them because I’m bored but I’m planning on watching a lot less for a while. All that boredom should be put to good use, don’t you think?
Feeling stressed and depressed, my usual state. It’s strange the way that happiness and hope can coexist quite comfortably alongside anxiety, frustration, and grief. I’m happy, but I’m sad a lot of the time too. I’m beyond tired and longing for something. A change I guess, but one I get to make on my terms. I want to finally start living a life that looks little more like the dreams in my head. I want to have some control and I want to be excited again.
Fearing our great collective uncertain future. More and more I have had to turn off and tune out the news, Every time things seem like they couldn’t get worse they do and these very big bad things begin to affect the very small and personal. The government shutdown, the shootings, climate change, Brexit, Venezuela, and the unofficial start to the 2020 Presidential election have me on edge and feeling angry, defenseless, and hopeless. I’m afraid that we are really seeing the beginning of the end of an era for America.
Reflecting on my resolutions, the ways I have failed and the ways I’d like to try again. There have been a few successes. I didn’t have one sip of alcohol all month and I cut my sugar intake drastically. I posted here every single night. I read 6 books toward my 30 book goal for the year. I did a lot but I didn’t start working out. I failed to write anything outside of this blog. I didn’t start any free courses, and I didn’t start drawing in my art journal. I’m not disappointed though. I know I have a lot of things I want to do and only so many hours in a day. But I do want to do more and that takes looking at what is working, what isn’t working, and finding creative ways to change.
Needing courage, always courage. The courage to look foolish. The courage to learn. The courage to fail and the courage to stand up to myself most of all. I’m distracted and tired, but I’m also lying to myself. I know deep down it’s all just a coping mechanism to avoid the things I am afraid of. I need the courage to tell myself to focus, to write, even when there is nothing to say. The words will come if I am strong and brave, I have to believe that.
Learning Spanish, still, and getting better and better all the time. I cannot sing the praises of the Duolingo app loud or long enough. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and while I don’t expect to become fluent from a free phone app, I have noticed that I am grasping the basics well and retaining and recalling more and more words. I’m hoping to attempt a short book in Spanish by the end of the year.
Hating the taboo of hate. I’ve been thinking a lot about people’s reaction to my hatred of things, ideas, values, certain norms and structures of society, events, and people. I’m told that hatred is too strong of an emotion. The word shocks and disgusts. Hatred, it seems, is no longer an acceptable feeling and has become a forbidden word. People tell me that they “do not hate anyone or anything”. They tell me I should not, could not, hate anyone or anything either. I may dislike. I may disapprove. I may not understand, but I may not, apparently, hate. I’m not here to encourage hate. I only know that I feel it, naturally, and I am not about to dismiss or deny it on the word of others.
Loving a whole lot of little things. When a lot of very big things—both worldly and personally—start going wrong we can become overwhelmed. We can become blinded by our stress, and anxiety, and grief and we can forget that there is happiness and good all around us too. But if you take a moment and do the math you may find that all those very little good things equal or outweigh all that very big bad.
For example, I love the way my friends ask me every day how I am. I love that I get to work with kids who always make me smile even when I don’t want to. I love the blonde vanilla latte at Starbucks, books that make me cry, perfectly ripe pears, and eating at least one vegetarian meal every week. I love how happy my dog is to see me when I get home and the way my cat meows and taps me politely to ask for pets. I love phone calls from my mom, my little sister asking me for advice, and the way my brother’s baby looks just like him. I love cooking dinner with my girlfriend at the end of the day, and how after all this time we still stay up too late because there is so much we want to say. I love how lucky I am, how rich I have become in all the ways a person can love. I love my life. I love how suddenly the big bad things don’t seem so big or bad.
Hoping that we, as a country, as the United States of America, can continue to weather this President and his ignorant and divisive rhetoric. I hope that everyone out there is coping well and that we can all just hang on a little longer. We’ve passed the halfway point and we’ve elected enough Democrats that there is some small check on his power. Not as much as I’d like, but we’re in a better place than we were a year ago and in two years I hope we’ll be in a better place, a place built on truth and compassion.
So, yeah, all in all, this January was a good beginning. I don’t want to think of the month as an isolated time frame that has begun and ended but rather a part of something much larger and in that light, I can let it go with satisfaction. I can move past all the “what if’s” to “what now”?
But what about you? How are your resolutions holding up? How is your city —and your mental state—faring through the cold? Where will you go from here while there is still so much time left to change?
Let me know in the comments.
“January. It was all things. And it was one thing, like a solid door. Its cold sealed the city in a gray capsule. January was moments, and January was a year. January rained the moments down, and froze them in her memory: […] Every human action seemed to yield a magic. January was a two-faced month, jangling like jester’s bells, crackling like snow crust, pure as any beginning, grim as an old man, mysteriously familiar yet unknown, like a word one can almost but not quite define.”