December seemed to have rolled around quicker than usual this year. The past 12 months have been such a blur of experience. Learning, growing, changing, moving, challenging, questioning…the past 11 months have been full of curiosity, focus, and uncertainty. I’m sure I would have felt similar as a student in a master’s program anywhere, but I think being in rural Ireland has added an additional element to my confrontations with the unfamiliar. These situations of challenge and sometimes unease have led me to moments of growth and change.
Today, I am re-examining my New Year’s Resolutions shared in a blog post from last January. They were:
Read at least one leisure book each month
Enter and complete an athletic race.
Set concrete monthly goals for my studio practice.
Have a bedtime.
Improve my understanding of geography.
Be more conscious of my budget and finances.
Show gratitude regularly.
Some of these resolutions, I’ve resolved, others I’ve realized may be a longer-than-one-year process. My inner-perfectionist wants to claim that I accomplished all of my goals, tied them up with a bow, and BAM there you go 2018….but the realist in me accepts the incomplete. I am okay that I get to carry some of my resolutions over to the next year, next 5 years, and indefinite future.
Since January, I’ve made more time for pleasure reading. It’s now an important part of my nightly routine and as a result I’ve been able to manage more than one book a month. Some have influenced my art practice, others helped me connect with my spirituality, a few were just really sweet stories, but all of them reminded me of my LOVE for reading. Below is my 2018 reading list, I’m currently reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and am hoping to fit in one or two more before the new year.
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Yoga: Discipline of Freedom by Patanjali, translated by Barbara Stoler Miller
No Place I’d Rather Be by Cathy Lamb
Love Does by Bob Goff
Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling by Selene Yeager
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
Being Mortal by Atul Gwande
Interaction of Color by Josef Albers
Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter
Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
I have proudly competed in several running races this year, all of which set new personal records. A 5KM race in Gort, a 5 mile in Lahinch, and a half marathon through the hills around Ballyvaughan. It was a wonderful way to put my training to the test and I loved getting to run with others. In addition to the running, I cycled in four sportives ranging from 80 kilometers to 135 kilometers in distance. The buzz I feel after finishing a race or sportive is unlike any other. I am so grateful for the camaraderie and overall joy running and cycling bring to my life.
Setting concrete monthly goals for my studio practice somewhat worked. I make a list of things I want to achieve in the studio in my calendar for each month, but I more readily set specific weekly or daily goals and readjust as I go along. Since my art practice is ever-shifting (like many of our lives), it makes more sense to set shorter-term goals.
Having a bedtime…LOL. This New Year’s Resolution is a great theory, but it’s much harder to follow in practice. I am more conscious of listening to my body and allowing myself to go to sleep when I need to. Having a specific time each night at this stage of my life is unrealistic, especially when I am working until 11:30 PM or later. I love living each day with a sense of purpose from the moment I wake up until I close my eyes in the evening and as long as I am getting sufficient sleep, I don’t mind failing at keeping a strict bedtime.
I haven’t learned all of the countries in the world and where they are located…yet! This goal seemed incredibly manageable and I am most embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t able to complete it, but I failed to prioritize it. I quiz myself frequently and I confidently know over 60% of the 195 countries in the world and their locations. I will keep working at it!
A greater consciousness of my budget and finances is something that will also be a work in progress. I have learned a little bit more about investing this year and make it a monthly ritual to work on my investment strategies. I enjoy the sense of future control this ritual gives me. I live fairly frugally which is easy to do in Ballyvaughan, but I don’t keep perfect track of every expense and bit of income. I am grateful that I haven’t been in the position where tracking all money movement is necessary. I save, I make monthly donations to my favorite non-profits, I pay my rent and insurance on time, and I treat myself to a night out every once in a while. Right now, this level of consciousness is enough.
The final resolution I listed was expressing gratitude regularly through handwritten notes. I have kept up with this goal and it has encouraged me to write more than just one note a week. I encourage anyone and everyone to start writing letters or choose to write them more often. Writing is a wonderful way to bring your inner thoughts into the world. Sharing a written note with another person expands the goodness of those thoughts.…it’s a beautiful gesture that I don’t want our world to lose in the age of technology.
Though I have learned many things throughout this year, one important thing that I’ve learned is feeling like I “should have” done something differently, more, less, better, or not at all is an ineffective construct for a happy life. Life is a process of learning from the experiences we have. There is no right or wrong, better or worse, when it comes to ways of spending time (as long as you aren’t causing harm to other people or things). A mindset conscious of the process and how it’s influencing YOU as an individual is far more important than focusing on what society claims we “should do” with our unique capabilities.
A few weeks ago, one of the undergraduates at the college for this semester told me with playful criticism: “Your worth is not a measure of your productivity.” It’s a message I certainly needed to hear. Many of us need that message, particularly around the holiday season when it feels important to live each day non-stop. Between shopping, attending holiday parties, cooking for company, working enough to “justify a break”, keeping up with health, and cramming every bit of your year’s to-do list in before the New Year…the last bit of the year can easily exhaust even the most natural busy-bees of the world. I am looking forward to making the most of the month ahead, without pushing myself overboard. I hope you are too. Be kind to yourself. A year is both long and short, as is life, but the moments are all the same. Spend yours the way you desire and know that YOU get to determine what is enough.