My Aspiration In Life (& in 2015)

When I was a kid, my mom would sit us down shortly after New Year's and have us write down our New Year's resolutions. Goal making is important, especially when you're young, but at the time it always felt really silly, like a chore or something. Last year, I started working up my resolutions in a Wendy's while I was charging my phone on my way back from Texas. I had the time and the momentum, and it felt right.

This year, I've had moments where I felt really inspired to be better, to be more in control, to be less lazy, to take on big things like starting my own business, but I never put any of those feelings into concrete resolutions. So I thought a lot this end-of-year about whether I wanted to make resolutions for 2015...I've talked here before about not needing to wait until the New Year to do whatever I felt I needed to do...and what, really, a resolution is.

It seems to me, resolutions are these little goals that point us toward the person we want to become. Healthier, thinner, better read, better educated, more positive, more aware, more social, more independent...whatever it may be. When we add it all up, I think we want to be all of these things because we think it will make us happy.

So, this year I'm taking a cue from Beyonce, as you do, and making my aspiration in life to be happy. Instead of setting specific goals, or resolutions, that I think would help bring me to a better place of happiness, I want to focus on the end goal itself. This year, I want to ask myself, always, will this make me happy? And if the answer is year, do it, and if it's not, don't. Because really, it's hard to predict on one day what will make me happy in three, six, nine months. Those posts shift. And that's okay. That's not something to beat myself up about at the end of the year. That's just the nature of the thing.

I've thought about this a lot in the last week, and this is a harder question to answer than it might seem. There is the question of instant gratification vs. long term happiness. There is happiness by proxy vs. direct happiness. Sometimes, the things you most think will make you happy are the most disappointing of all. And, when it comes down to it, you and I cannot see the future, so we can't really know how we will feel, we can only make an educated guess.

I know that I cannot always be happy, and that every emotion is valuable. I do not expect to be blissfully happy for every moment of 2015. I know that even with this goal in mind, I will still be sad and lonely and irritated and angry and every other emotion at different times. I cannot dismiss these feelings, and I never would, even if I could. But I think that by being more mindful, and more persistently aware of this overarching goal, and less stuck in these small checkbox goals, that's the way to move forward. This is not to say that checking small goals off of lists is a bad thing. I love checking things off more than the average person. But these things are not the measure of a life. Happiness, in this vein of thought, is less an emotion and more a state-of-being, a rosy tinge at the edge of the picture.

We all make tiny bad decisions every day. We watch another episode on Netflix and are late getting ready for work. We don't do the dishes and then the mess stresses us out. We don't take the time to exercise or meditate and then we feel on edge all day. We spend too much money on groceries, and spent too little quality time with the people who are important to us. We don't do these things on purpose; they just happen. I want to be more mindful. I want to make the choice that will ultimately make me happier. I want to make this choice a 90/100 times a day. I want to make it 100/100 times a day, but let's be more realistic.

I want to be debt-free, and I want to travel, and I want to be a better friend, and I want to dance more, and I want to laugh more, and I want to eat more vegetables and I want to single handedly keep the postal service going and I want so many other things, but mostly, I want to be happy. I think that would be the best me of all.

Here's to being happy in 2015. Maybe you, too, will take up this "resolution."

Yours Truly, Jen

2014, Year End Review

I have always admired people who are so aware of time, who can say what year a style was big or a genre of music was really popular or a movie came out. Not a decade, not a time from, but that year, maybe even the month. Maybe, they can even tell you what other memorable things happened around that time. Those people always seem so grounded to me, so situated, so aware of what's going on, and I want to be more like them. I want to be always aware of my journey, too, so I'm starting a (hopefully) annual tradition: the year end review. 2014 was a big, scary, lonely, important year for me. Looking back, here are some of the events that stick out to me:

Spring Semester
-Headed back to Virginia after a long visit to Texas
-Andy and I broke up (read more about that here and here) & felt super supported by all of my friends
-Started my last semester of my graduate program
-Focused on self care, including joining up with a health-focused support group on Facebook and so much journaling
-Lots of snow in Virginia!
-Visited my older sister and nephew in Ohio
-Taught and loved teaching creative writing
-Had brief obsessions with writing magnet poetry and playing Device 6 on my phone
-Got on OK Cupid
-Babysat for two awesome families
-Found a bathing suit I felt good in
-Apartment and job hunted
-Discovered blogilates (which I still love) and started a semi-regular running schedule
-Started some new writing projects
-Finished and revised (and revised, and revised) and finished and defended my thesis
-Graduated and hosted a rad graduation party

-Started a garden with a friend
-Started working at the jewelry store
-Moved out on my own
-Kept a running schedule with a couple of running partners
-Went on some dates
-Befriended the most awesome coworkers ever
-Helped some of my dearest Blacksburg friends get ready to move to Boston
-Read some good books
-Got my first library card since childhood
-Finally invested in some new glasses
-Wrote some out-of-character for me fiction
-Learned a new software program and did some major edits on an engineer friend's dissertation (maybe this will come in handy some day?)

-Made myself lots of awesome food for my birthday week
-Got used to the cats (that I'm watching right now while my friends get settled in Boston)
-Took over the store's social media
-Shopped the shelters for the perfect dog
-Adopted Olive
-Listened to so many great audiobooks
-Kept in touch more regularly with my mom than usual, which was really nice
-Replaced running with dog walking for the colder weather
-Went through a 6 week puppy training class with Olive
-Did Sunday yoga for six weeks (my first time ever doing yoga!) and absolutely loved it
-Got addicted to Serial along with everyone else
-Chopped off my hair (& absolutely loving it)
-Hosted two of my sisters and my nephew for Thanksgiving
-Survived working in retail through the winter holiday season
-Sent a birthday card and a Christmas card to my dad, who I haven't spoken to in years. Feels like it's time to take a step in some kind of direction
-Sent out holiday cards (and thank you cards for gifts received) to family members. Hoping next year to step it up and send out to more people
-Hosted my mom and brother for late Christmas/New Year's

In 2014, I made some hard choices. I was sad/lonely a lot more than I would like to admit. Self love and self acceptance was really important for me, as well as self forgiveness. I made strides toward some resolutions at some times, and totally dropped the ball on others. It was a funky year, a year for learning and for self reflection.

Do you ever do a year end review, privately or publicly? How did your year stack up?

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. Tune in Wednesday for my 2015 resolutions and Friday for my thoughts on the future.