(Better) Realized: Resolving

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The weather has been gloomy lately, and occasionally I can feel it creep into my mood. Rainy days are my jam, but an endless stream of gray for weeks on end can adversely affect even the most devoted homebody after a while. On the more woebegone days I up my Vitamin D intake and research apps like Headspace (already downloaded but yet to be used), Mindfulness Daily, and 10% Happier: Meditation for Skeptics (have you read the book? It's on my short list.). Even IG seems to want to cheer me up: when I scroll through my feed I routinely get an ad for a happiness app. Have I been using the melancholy filters more often lately?

January is a funky month. The frenzy and anticipation of the holidays is over in a hot second. The decorations are packed away and the gifts have found their place on a shelf or in a dresser drawer. Just a mere month ago we were wishing for a white Christmas, now we are begging for spring. Yet it's all these things that make gloomy January days the perfect time for reflection. What's working and what isn't? What makes you happy and what doesn't? There's nothing like sitting around the house with a case of ennui to make you realize just what it is you want out of the coming year, and life in general.

Last January, in an attempt to organize my restless intentions, I made some goals for 2015. None of them lofty, like learning to fly, but they were items taken from my bucket list or tasks I think about doing or things I've wanted to do but never got around to doing. I've never been a proponent of New Year's resolutions because they often don't strike me as too terribly self-loving, but I think going into a new year with intention is important.

Over the past several years I've started to stretch myself socially, creatively, and intellectually, and lists have really helped in that regard. They also help me navigate difficult periods that have the potential to rob me of a healthy perspective. (This job is awful! Why did I want to go into medicine?!) Breaking a big lifelong goal into bite-sized accomplishments helps tremendously in my case, and often prevents that What am I doing with my life? downward spiral. (i.e. Shadow a PA, take the GREs, start application essay, etc as opposed to just "Get into to PA school.")

I'll admit I didn't accomplish every task I set out to do last year. (Ten burpees a day = fail.) On the other hand, I learned and tackled things that were never even put to paper. Looking back on my goals, written just 12 months ago, can prove quite insightful. It gives me a glimpse into where my head was compared to where it is now, what I was hoping would happen, and what I wanted from life at that moment. It's an interesting practice to ask myself How do last year's goals match up with those I have today?. I'm a terrible journal-keeper, but lists I can do. Here are a few examples of how this year measured up:

Read 12 books this year, at least three of them classics // I read fifteen books and have 30 pages left of my third classic, Wuthering Heights. (My work schedule was crazy in addition to the holidays, so I'm giving myself a break on this one.) This was by far my favorite goal and the first I've ever followed through on for a whole year. I'm going to write a post listing the books I read and my current reading queue next week.

Take the GREs // I didn't take them! I don't know why I'm struggling so much to set up a study schedule and get it done already. If I had to guess, I'd say it's fear-based procrastination. When you want something bad enough, the fear of failure can be paralyzing. (Needless to say Procrastinate Less is a goal that carries over from year to year.) The next application period for my chosen grad school begins in April, so early spring is the deadline for taking the exam. I worked with my coworkers to establish more regular shifts starting this month, so my work schedule should lend itself to hitting the books better than the past 6 months have. Last week I signed up for Magoosh, which has a 2-3 month curriculum that will allow me to prep in time for my spring test-taking goal. I also downloaded all of their apps and an additional math prep app which will allow me to study on my work breaks, in the school pickup lane, etc.

Walk at least 10k steps 5 days/week  // Mostly. I started 2015 walking quite a bit, but once I went back to work I didn't make the time on my days off.  That being said, I joined my hospital's employee health program, got a Fitbit Charge HR, and started counting my steps and floors climbed. (I average 15,500 steps in a single shift which works out to roughly 10k/day in the average week.) I brown bag my lunch 99% of the time, cut WAY back on my sugar intake last month, and had a complete blood panel run so I know how my numbers add up. I seldom wear the Fitbit on my days off, but my iPhone counts my steps and flights as well. Overall my step count has improved drastically, as have my eating habits. I attribute a lot of this to the inherent schedule brought about by returning to work full time.

Meet people // This wasn't exactly a goal in 2016, but Put Yourself Out There is always an item on my list. I went back to work, which put me out there in a big way. In smaller ways, I took a kokedama workshop in October and a wreath-making class in December which exposed me to new people. For fun I took a social media/phone photography online course during my staycation earlier this month and met some fellow bloggers and instagrammers. I already have a short list of classes I want to take in the coming months.

Learn one new word a week // I always have ongoing goals regarding learning. I think I was drawn to this particular goal because the GREs have a hefty verbal reasoning section. I kept a pad of paper on my nightstand to jot down unfamiliar words in the course of reading, but I didn't get around to looking them all up. (The Scarlett Letter has a great vocabulary.) Still, 2015 was an awesome educational year: a new job meant learning all kinds of new skills, relearning old ones, and becoming familiar with a plethora of acronyms and medical terms. The nurses and doctors I work with are amazing at sharing their knowledge and letting me observe and assist with procedures. Outside of work I taught myself to embroider (a hobby I've come to enjoy very much), and acquired a number of new skills when it comes to plant husbandry.  I'm currently enrolled in an ECG class which is teaching me to read heart rhythms which is a great skill in healthcare + looks amazing on my applications. There is an advanced ECG class when this one is done which I'm already looking into.

This year I'm carrying over my reading and GRE goals as well as the following new and/or improved goals:

// Apply to grad school. (The time has finally come! Yay!) 
// Take more classes for creative + personal fulfillment.
// Learn new recipes. I want to add more mainstays to my dinner repertoire, eat for health and satiety, and organize + experiment with family recipes that were handed down to me after my grandmother's passing last fall. I order a recipe box to stow and protect her and my great-grandmother's beautiful handwritten recipe cards.
// Travel domestically and abroad. The time is now: no more waiting for the "perfect" opportunity or financial situation. Though Mario and I are fairly well traveled, I want Kiddo to see more of the world and mark places off our must-visit list.
// Blog regularly. Writing is an important creative outlet for me, and a way to document my journey, so it is integral that I not let life get in the way of posting on here more often.
// Learn to play the guitar. "Learn an instrument" has been on my bucket list since childhood, and 2016 is the year to do it.

An important part of making and keeping goals, for me, is writing them down. I have numerous lists going on a mini yellow legal pad at any given time, but for broader accomplishments is was important to have a devoted place to refer to these and other goals that come up throughout the year. A place to go back and reflect. Tools to facilitate regular reflection are also key. Below are some of my favorite go-tos when it comes to making and keeping my short- and long-term goals:

Mi Goals Hardcover Diary // I stumbled upon this planner in late 2014 and ordered their 2015 diary. It is hands-down the perfect planner for me. The first part of the book is devoted to goals with sections for the what/why/when/hows of the goal and plenty of room for brainstorming. I kept a list of all the books I read last year under the To-Do section and loved seeing my progress throughout the months. I pre-ordered the 2016 version so I wouldn't risk not having it again. This will be my planner from now until forever. (Please don't ever stop making them!) They also make softcover versions and several different mini notebooks like Bucket List and Get Shit Done. (I have one of each and have also gifted them to friends.) Their books are also great for planning and organizing blog posts if you're into that sort of thing.

The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration // I picked this up from a local shop and was instantly smitten with the idea. With lists like your favorite characters from books and movies and the favorite places you've been, it's a way to reflect on the happy things that often get pushed to the wayside. It's divided into four seasons and features beautiful photos and illustrations. It has offered me a moment in my week to sit and write without obligation while pondering life's joys. (The author also established the hashtag #52ListsProject so you can share photos and connect with others who are doing it, too.)

Papermate Flair Felt Tip Pens // I'm a lefty which means fast-drying ink is a must, lest I smear my  whole page of writing. These are my favorite pens in the whole wide world. They make me want to write things by hand. If they ever decide to discontinue them I'll be like Elaine Benes and her contraceptive sponges.

Why You're So Awesome // I spied this tiny book at Paper Source a couple months ago and thought it the perfect keepsake for Kiddo. Motherhood is an emotional minefield: the frustration and guilt can often feel overwhelming. I liked that this book offers the chance to document the funny things Jared says and does while focusing on his strengths and the awesome qualities that make him the quirky human being he is. I hope someday in the future he'll pick this up and come to understand just how much I love his guts.

101 Joys Make a Rainbow: A Gratitude Journal // This book is so darling I initially bought it on impulse. Realizing I had plenty of journals of my own, I gifted it to my sister and her kiddos for Christmas. Every time you write down something you're grateful for, you fold the page which eventually forms a rainbow sculpture. I just adore the whole concept.

Here's to a beautiful and productive 2016. 
Something tells me this is going to be a good year.

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