A Long Way Forward and Back

Five years ago today I started blogging. Years before that, I had kept an online journal and routinely participated in other similar activities. It’s been a pleasure, an honor, and an adventure making it this far–and I hope always to be on this journey with you.

The truth is, however, that I began this journey for myself: It is a path I love to follow, not for those who join me on it, but for the sights and experiences it gives me. It is my hope, indeed it is my dream, that as I move through this life–living life first and foremost for myself–that my passions, especially those passions that I’m able to share, may enrich the lives of others as their passions have enriched mine–how Tolkien’s passion for Middle Earth, Einstein’s passion for scientific inquiry, and Milk’s passion for social change have all shaped my life and the lives of others.

And I hope, along this path we all share, I may glimpse your passions as well.

Many years ago, I mentioned how I have a strong distaste for New Year’s “resolutions”: a resolution means there’s something to fix, it comes from a mindset that presupposes we are currently broken, a mindset that predisposes each of us for failure. Instead I prefer making New Year’s “goals”–because goals are place markers on our path to our own actualization, points that if not achieved, can be reevaluated and improved, points that even if not achieved, can still spell growth if we make any progress at all. With resolutions, either there is a true fix or utter failure. With goals, there is growth and forgiveness.

And a year ago today, I spoke about making SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound–the recipe, I’ve learned, for creating both long- and short-term goals that can actually be achieved. At the same time, I outlined my goals for 2014 and sporadically posted here about my progress–though I’ve not done so since May.

What can I say? It’s been a busy year.

(But, what can I say, isn’t it always?)

I haven’t taken time yet to decide which areas of my life I’m going to focus on this coming year–and, trust me, it’s going to be a turbulent year, filled with more uncertainty than opening the morning paper and turning to the obituaries–but before I can look toward the year ahead, I must pay my final respects to the year we’ve just left behind.

And so, if you’ll indulge my selfishness a few moments longer (for it reflects my passions, my shared experiences, and I hope–together–we may learn something from both my successes and my failures), I hope you’ll join me as I look back through the pages of 2014 one last time.

Self-care was the theme of my first goal–and I wanted to make myself healthier in mind, body, and spirit. This year I was generally able to exercise at least three times a week on average, and I’ve also made my eating habits healthier by starting meals with salads before moving onto other items. I still eat more excessively sugary foods than I should, but I don’t drink sodas (unless I’m mixing it with alcohol) and that by itself is a great habit–otherwise, it’s water or on rare occasions, juice. I’m not in “perfect shape” (because I could never appear on a magazine cover), but I’m comfortable with my body, and although I do know I could look better, I still feel healthy and I understand the time commitment to look like a model isn’t worth the sacrifice it would require in regards to where I currently put my time to better uses.

Mentally, spiritually, emotionally–I’m not sure where one ends and the others begin, but I’ve worked to keep myself less stressed than in the past. By cutting back on material possessions, I’ve found myself freed from many worries–by holding onto only those things I love most, my physical world is less cluttered and so my internal world reflects that. I’ve begun listening to guided meditations to help sleep when I need to, I’ve worked harder to maintain rejuvenating friendships and eliminate harmful ones, and I’ve tried my best to accept both the ups and the downs that come with living. I’ve rejected the notion that I can journal everyday and given up on the idea that I need to: in an ideal world, doing so would be perfect, but this is not an ideal world, and so long as I commit to journalling periodically, I fulfill my need to “clear my RAM” and keep my mind fresh and open.

My second goal this year was to maintain an active writing presence in my life, and in many ways I succeeded: I was able to take poetry and literature classes this year that kept my writing and reading, and I not only participated in Camp NaNo for the first time, but I also won (and then completed NaNoWriMo for my ninth consecutive year). However, I haven’t dedicated sufficient time to editing my work to actually be able to post it on Silent Soliloquy (although I do have bigger plans to come this year), and as my school/work/life schedule became demanding, my output here ebbed and flowed–and when I wrote riveting, moving posts that questioned the fabric of society, my courage cracked and I failed to hit “publish.” I pledge to be braver this coming year, to share what I’m feeling, to grow both through speaking out and through making mistakes with what I say–how else can I learn to change the world if I’m not willing to fall a few times along the way?

Finally, I wanted to focus explicitly on my academic achievements–and not only was I able to graduate from the Equal Opportunity Institute, I was able to become and EOI Scholar (to complete an additional year of workshops for further recognition), I became an Alternative Service Break team leader, president of our GLBT Community Alliance, and even increased my cumulative GPA–it’s not a 4.0, but it’s as close as I’ve come to returning there since I first lost it two years ago. Not only that, I’ve discovered my academic and career passions–and I’m taking concrete steps to achieve them, not only applying for an accelerated master’s in mathematics program that’ll enable me to teach at a community college in the future, but also applying for Teach for America so I can not only gain experience as a teacher, but help inspire children and serve those in need–further passions I’ve come to find are pillars in my life, both academically and personally.

Not to mention, it’s quite likely I’ll have a research paper published this coming year. We’ll see if it gets there, and I’ll share it here if I do. It’ll take some work, but it’ll be worth it.

So, what can I say, did I achieve my goals? Did I fail?

I can honestly answer neither question.

Nothing was completely successful, nor was anything an absolute failure. I didn’t always exercise enough; I often ate too much. I only read/wrote because I was required to do so for class; will I be able to sustain these activities when class/work/life gets in the way? I haven’t finished the compilation of writings, poetry, and pictures I intend to send to the people who supported my trip to Alaska this past March; I haven’t finished my mathematics independent study, even though it was initially due the end of the summer, despite having been given an extension to keep working on it.

But as I said, with goals, there is no such thing as absolute failure: If I miss the mark, I reevaluate and try again. If I fall, I get back up. If I lose my balance, I take a moment to recover. If I get lost, I find myself. Life is a constant expression of tension: to breathe, we must first exhale–to dream, we must first close our eyes. Perhaps to succeed, we must first fail. Perhaps to fly, we must first fall.

No matter my success or lack thereof, today I am content. I am happy where I stand, I’m pleased with where I’ve come from, and I’m hopeful for where I’m going.

Maybe that’s enough.

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