I had thought, in reflection, that I would come to find some of my faults this past year to address them. Instead, I found none. Rather, I focused on the highlights–and the highlights certainly were not my faults, but what came between them. Needless to say, I’ll need a post all its own to speak of how I hope to improve myself this year.
It used to be (and in fact still is) that at the end of NaNoWriMo, the people at the Office of Letters and Light host a Year of Big, Fun, Scary Things (or something like that) to carry people from one NaNoWriMo to the next. People would post their goals for the New Year and then, having shared them with the world, would magically be more inclined to complete them before the November following.
I tried that. I most of the time forgot it. I all the time failed it.
But this? My blog? Much harder to forget about–and hopefully, through sharing my hopes for this year here, I’ll be more likely to keep to my goals than ever before. After all, I’ll have countless readers egging me forward every step of the way.
Do notice my use of the word “goals,” not “resolutions”? A resolution is a determination, a proposed solution to a problem, but a goal is an end, a terminal point, an achievement toward which effort is placed. To make resolutions is to equate the past with a problem–to say that we were flawed, but now we have a way to mend ourselves. This reasoning is absurd. Surely I made mistakes last year, surely there were places I could have been better, but I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t a problem seeking a solution. I was a person trying my best. To think any way else is itself problematic, wouldn’t you think? On the other hand, to set goals for myself not only acknowledges that there are areas in life that I’m deficient, but also asserts and reminds me that to reach these ends, I’ll have to work for them.
So goals are better than resolutions. One step done.
I’ve tried many times in the past to make New Year’s resolutions and New Year’s goals, but not all my methods have led to great and varied successes. I’ve learned, however, that larger goals that can be broken down into smaller goals are more likely to be met, and a smaller number of more important goals are the most indicative of future success. For this reason, I shall keep myself restrained to five long-term goals for the year, and no more than that.
Goal #1: Become a More Committed Friend
Last year: People probably look at this goal and laugh. I mean, if you know me now, you probably think I’m a great friend. But the truth is, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re one of my newer friends, my local friends that through proximity it’s easy to remain close and committed to. For years I’ve listed “be a better friend” as a goal, and it’s always gotten me nowhere. I have so many friends! I feel honored to know I have so many people in the world who care for me, whom I care so much for in turn. But I’m far too neglectful of some of my best friends–those friends that are friends not because of shared activities and shared classes, but because of shared strands of our souls that have become intertwined through fate and destiny. These friends I’ve treated horribly: These friends I have let fall behind my day-to-day responsibilities, leaving them in silence for months and months at a time. Sometimes for even years at a time. “They’ll understand,” I tell myself, “they know I’m busy.” And they do understand. And that just makes me hurt more that I’m so poorly committed to some of the best people in my life.
This year: I’ll have no more of that. I can’t wave my hands and have all my responsibilities vanish. I wish…but it’d only be wishing, and wishing is wasteful if I’ve ever learned anything. But I can make time for my friends. Even if I can only set aside enough time to email them just once a month, that’d still be twelve times as good to some of them as I’ve been in the past. And I can do other things, too, like jump on IM for a few moments when I’m doing nothing else and see how they’re doing. We can comment back and forth on Facebook. We can send postcards if that works. Anything, in the end, will make me feel like a better friend.
For now, however, my goal is simply to speak to each of them at least once a month. There’s only five people who my heart truly misses, and for these five people, once a month is truly the least I can justly give them.
Goal #2: Continue to Do My Best in School
Last year: Yes, I kept my 4.0 the whole year long, but it was wretched work. I was constantly stressed. I was often behind in my work. And I can’t recall a single semester that I actually felt calm going into the last week of classes. True, I might have all but killed myself to do as well as I’ve done, but it’s certainly been at much mental cost, and that itself means I’m not doing something to the best of my ability. Good work shouldn’t be the result of poor habits and ill health.
This year: I want to continue doing as well as I have been so far. I know I might not be able to keep my 4.0 with the classes I’ve got coming up, and I need to brace myself and come to terms with that very real possibility (I know I’m a perfectionist, but I have to understand no one is perfect, and I have to learn to live understanding that, too). Nonetheless, I still want to strive to do the best I can in everything I do academically. However, all this effort has to be tempered with time to relax and keep myself healthy. If that means a letter grade less, I’ll have to settle for that. More than likely it’ll make it easier for me to learn better, I hope.
As I enter this new and challenging semester in less than a week, my goal is to stay committed to my work, but not to let myself become overwhelmed by it and not to let myself lose sleep when, surely, that’ll be what I’ll need most.
Goal #3: Learn to Drive
Last year: This is another one of those goals I’ve been saying for years but really haven’t been putting much effort into achieving. By now, this is only embarrassing that I’m twenty-one and still can’t drive. There’s a lot of things I could say about driving, and maybe one day I will, just to get them all out and hopefully get past them, but the truth is, I really haven’t put as much trying into learning to drive as I should have, and could have. Understandably, with only one car, it wouldn’t do us much good even if I could drive, but since at some point we will have another car, I really do need to get to driving as soon as possible.
This year: This year I am going to learn to drive. There’s no more “next year” for this one. It’s time. I’ve waited long enough. I’ve put it off long enough. I can’t quite say how I’ll get to this goal right now, I can’t quite say much in one way or another when I’ll have the time to actually get out there and drive (or even where I’d do it!), but this is the end of the line.
This year I am going to learn to drive.
Goal #4: Actively Stay in Shape
Last year: I was in great shape last year! After the summer before last, when I was in Israel going hiking and swimming and walking all around the country more than once a week for almost two months, I began to get really fit. Then in the spring when I had weight training, I gained more muscle and looked better than I ever have. But in the summer I was lazy. And in the fall I didn’t work out as much as I could have. And after Thanksgiving, well, all bets were off. I ate too much, I slept too little, and I certainly didn’t stay active enough to burn off all the calories I was sucking up doing nothing. Trust me, though, after having been in such good shape already, I know just how uncomfortable it is to be out of shape, and that’s a feeling I quickly want to get rid of.
This year: Exercising releases endorphins and also increases blood flow to the brain. Both of these will help combat stress and keep me in good working order to stay academically as accomplished as I hope to be, so this perhaps is the sibling goal to number two up there. Nonetheless, I want to get back in shape this year–and I want to stay in shape this year. That means eating better, too. It means making sure I pack lunch for school and that I don’t end up eating out or snacking snacking snacking whenever I’m hungry. It also means drinking more, which I really need to get back into doing, too. Last spring I made it a point to get a drink from every water fountain I passed. Then in the fall, all the ones I passed most were awful and feeling as rushed as I always felt, I never felt like I had time to go out of the way for a drink. That’s something I want to get back into.
My goal to start off this one is twofold: On the one hand, I need to drink more water and eat less candy. On the other hand, I have to try to work out a couple times a week, even if it’s just doing a few crunches and some push-ups. They can do a lot for you, when you do ’em right, and after taking a weight training class, I have no excuse to do ’em wrong.
Goal #5: Make More Time to Do What I Love Most
(And if it isn’t strikingly obvious what that is, it’s Reading and Writing.)
Last year: I did write a lot last year. And I did read a lot last year. Unfortunately, most of my reading was forced into a small period of a couple weeks during the summer and a couple weeks at the end after school was out. And yet–reading relaxes me! Reading inspires me and re-energizes me. Why shouldn’t I make time to read more often? Why should I deprive myself of that love which I’ve garnered for so long? Writing was much the same: Yes, I did write a lot last year. In fact, I wrote a tremendous amount last year, between my blog and NaNoWriMo and all the stories I wrote here. Unfortunately, no matter how much I write here, what fulfills me most is writing in my journal and writing fiction, and it seemed like half the time I wasn’t current in my journal and the other half of the time I was putting aside my responsibilities to write stories, each of them rushed and breathless.
This year: I’ve already got a lot planned to keep me committed to these goals. As far as reading goes, I’m for the third year in a row participating in a Reader’s Challenge–and this year it’s extreme, that is, instead of reading a set number of books like the last two years, you have to read books to complete challenges, like a book for each of your initials or books representing eight countries around the world. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? As far as writing goes, I’m participating in WordPress’s PostAWeek, and I’m also keeping up with my regular serials, including Story Sundays, which I hope will give me incentive to set aside time each week to write a short story or do a writing exercise to keep me mentally in shape. After all, writing, even more than reading, makes my mind make sense–and that, that is something I need. Trust me. As far as my journal goes, I’m down for abridgment. My problem is that I get hung up in the small details, when I need to let myself see the big picture sometimes. First and foremost, I need to recap November and December, and then I can keep up with this year more easily.
I think I need not even say it at this point, but to start me off, my goal is to keep writing and keep reading like I have been, making sure I’m making the time I deserve to do what I love most. November shouldn’t be the only time I treat myself to writing happily and the end of the year shouldn’t be the only time I finish a book.
So here goes. Five goals. One year.
And this year, well, I think I’m going to make it.