Happy New Year! 2020 was something, wasn’t it? Like any other year, it was filled with ups and downs, and hopefully lessons we can all carry into the year ahead. Though the first of the new year is an arbitrary date, I try to take advantage of its psychological power and leverage the date to begin building momentum.
The year 2020 was a strange one. I spent 80% of the year working from home, cancelled three vacations, became reacquainted with an ancient pair of sweatpants, wore down-filled booties 24/7, ditched the morning alarm, experienced withdrawals from my favorite Indian buffet, went months without seeing anyone other than my boyfriend, and got a little too excited to go on a car ride to the post office drop box. It was a year I followed the news obsessively for two months as the pandemic began unfolding before quitting cold turkey in May. 2020 was a year of political tension and widespread suffering, as well as a chance for many to replace their evening commute with family time. In 2020, I became “auntie” to a little girl I likely won’t meet for many more month. It was a year of despondency and hope, of disappointment in humanity and a stronger desire than ever to be the change I wish to see in the world. It was a year of fear and preparedness, of unrelenting heat and a strengthen commitment to leave the desert. And it was a year in which, on a random day in late-June, my health plateau ended and my feet landed squarely on the next step up.
Each year, I choose a word to serve as my theme for the next twelve months. My theme for 2020 was REPLENISH. I felt as if I had been running on empty for years and this was an opportunity to slow down, fill my reserves, and prepare myself do expand beyond more survival. The word signaled self-care, gentleness, and forgiveness. All I asked of myself was to listen to my body and follow its guide. The expectations were low, so I do feel that I was able to replenish my mental, physical, and emotional energy. Whether for better or for worse, the pandemic supported my annual theme. I now feel prepared to tackle the coming year with a graceful ferocity.
The word I’ve chosen as my theme for 2021 is CLARITY. After a year of re-energizing my body, I feel ready to go beyond mere survival and to truly thrive in all areas of life. I strive to feel healthy, successful in my career, satisfied in my relationships, and financially secure. I believe that a theme of clarity will help guide me towards what I need and help me rediscover my passions and my path.
I’m not much a fan of new years resolutions, as the phrase implies one’s current state of affairs is unsatisfactory and drastic change is the only path to happiness. Instead, I choose to set up a basic framework or system. In my mind, setting up habits or loose objectives is an acknowledgement of where I am now, a clear definition of where I wish to go, and a tentative plan of how to get there. It feels far more empowering than a resolution.
That being said, we were all set adrift on a boat with no anchors in 2020 and will likely continue our uncertain journey into 2021. I believe that identifying the key landmarks I may encounter, as well as the resources necessary to craft makeshift anchors will allow for tangible achievements and an overall sense of accomplishment. 2020 was a blur of a year. I want 2021 to mean something more. Here’s are my targets and objectives for the year to come.
New Year’s Resolutions: 2021
Health & Wellness
- Don’t die. Valid, relevant, humorous, but also a reminder that life is not something to be taken for granted. I have lung damage and mitochondrial dysfunction, both of which make me susceptible to COVID-19, and I have an severe allergy to a component in the mRNA vaccines. The caution will continue into 2021, while keeping up the playful self-deprecation because it helps keep the worrying at bay.
- Move my body daily. This could mean going on a walk, attending a yoga class when it’s safe to do so, or doing yard work. I feel good when I move and it’s become too easy to plant my rear in a chair and stay put for eight hours. I would love to take up weight-lifting again if my body is game.
- Prioritize sleep. I need a minimum of nine hours of sleep to function. I want to continue to prioritize sleep hygiene over all else. This means saying “no” to many things but, similar to financial investing, I’m “paying myself first,” I believe that I will thank myself for it in the future.
- Continue to eat healthfully. Continue to eat 100% locally-grown, organic produce and pasture-raised/wild-caught animal proteins. Aim for a colorful plate at each meal. Incorporate lots of spices. Continue to work with the dietician to optimize my supplement stack for my body’s unique needs and discovered toxicities.
Personal & Professional Development
- Read (or re-read) at least 24 books. New books I’m excited to read include: Kotov Syndrome (Tim Baughman), Storyworthy (Matthew Dicks), On Writing (Stephen King), The Design of Everyday Things (Don Norman). Books I would like to re-read include: Something Missing (Matthew Dicks), How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (Scott Adams), 2666 (Roberto Bolano), Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott). I am open to any and all recommendations!
- Do Homework for Life. This an exercise that involves identifying the moment that sets any one day apart from the rest, and then writing it down. I’ve started and stopped the habit several times, but I’m committing to a daily practice.
- Continued learning. Nearly a decade ago, I won a lifetime subscription to Skillshare and I don’t use it much; I have purchased courses on Udemy; I live up the street from a library; and I have access to a community college with great teachers. I want to continue learning. This generic idea may narrow over the course of the year, but I want to come out of 2021 more knowledgeable and skilled.
- Select two behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog. I stole this idea from author Matthew Dicks because I find it so intriguing. There are many behaviors I really don’t understand, so think it may be interesting to spend a few days in someone else’s shoes. I don’t binge-watch shows, watch the news, stay up-to-date on “wokeness” guidelines, obsess about Disney as an adult, or care about the opinions of others, but I can’t think of any behaviors I strongly oppose at the moment, so I’ll need to brainstorm.
- Complete Yoga Teacher Training. For over six years, I’ve been one practicum away from certification due to valley fever/chronic fatigue. For the first time in years, I don’t feel like a brain-dead zombie with stiff, dehydrated jerky for limbs. Even if I don’t teach studio classes, it will feel great to finally check this off my list.
- Receive a promotion and boost my salary by +10% in 2021. Work has admittedly been a challenge with my fatigue, so I’ve perhaps not put in the effort I would like, but I’m hoping I can go above and beyond in 2021.
- Work on identifying my purpose of ideal career path. I want to spent this year being curious, exploring my interests, and allowing myself to tumble down random rabbit holes. No pressure, just permission to lean into whatever might strike my fancy. I think that ergonomics and human factors engineering are a great blend of my skills and interests, but won’t necessarily offer a good ROI in terms of graduate school cost versus average salary.
- Achieve net worth of $200,000 by the end of 2021. If the stock market mirrors 2020, this will be feasible through my investment vehicles. Otherwise, I hope the moderately aggressive goal will motivate me to save more or brainstorm additional income streams. Achieving this goal would represent a +$72,000 increase over my current net worth.
- Save 45% of my net income. I saved 34% of my net income in 2020, but another 34% went to medical expenses (ugh!) so I’m hoping to reduce medical costs this year. The doctors and treatments that I have found to be helpful are not covered by insurance and are quite expensive. Improving my health will always be worth the monetary costs, but I’m hoping this year is a bit kinder to my wallet.
- Remain debt-free. Our student loans, home and cars are paid off thanks to extreme frugality and we carry no personal debt. It’s our intention to remain debt-free through 2021.
- Start down payment savings account. My $20,000 in emergency savings will cover 8-12 months of expenses, so I want to allocate any additional savings to future goals.
- Writing. I hope to consistently post on the blog because I have so much fun with it, especially when it’s purely what I feel like writing (as opposed to a structured plan). I would love to take writing or storytelling class, dive into poetry, and consider participating in NaNoWriMo again. I have always loved the craft of writing, but fell out of the habit while during the time my brain felt like a combination of smog and peanut butter. I now have moments of sharpness and clarity, and plan to take full advantage.
- Sewing. I was obsessed with sewing as a child and have gradually been dipping my toes back in since 2018, and drove into the deep end in 2020. I am excited to make more gifts for others and to build myself a curated wardrobe of me-made clothing. I want to learn some new techniques and play with new fabrics. I also want to take both my machines in for maintenance servicing because the annual tasks hasn’t happened in at least two decades.
- Fermentation. This is a hobby I’ve been playing with for about four years. I’ve made lots of kombucha, kimchi and dill pickles, but would love to explore more flavors and types of fermentation.
- Try at least 12 new recipes. All but three meals (total!) in 2020 were cooked at home, and I loved it. We tried several new recipes, half of which were amazing and the other half of which did not kill us. I can’t wait to try more. What are your favorite recipes or cookbooks?
- Canning. We bought a pressure canner in 2019 “so we can practice and become skilled now, before transitioning to our future rural life on the homestead.” While I’m itching to leave the city, I’m lukewarm to canning, but open to giving it a go in 2021. My better half brings it up every time we go to the farmer’s market, which drives me nuts but is also adorably endearing.
- Gardening. I’ve been gardening since I was a kid and absolutely love it. We upgraded our patio garden setup earlier late last year and I’m looking forward to playing around with new plants in the space. I’m crossing my fingers that the self-watering cedar wood planters help our plant babies survive the brutal Phoenix summers.
- Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month. I want to hold myself accountable, and you can too. In a year of uncertainty, I want to acknowledge progress and celebrate small victories.
Family, Friends & Strangers
- Write 50 letters in 2021. The plan is to write a letter (paper, envelope, and stamp) once per week to friends, family, and anyone else who is deserving of praise, gratitude, recognition, or the like. It’s a way of making a day a little brighter for another person.
- Call a family member at least once per week. I’m not on social media and I’m not socially-motivated, so I sometimes forget to reach out to the people I care about. I want to make an effort to connect, especially in the midst of the current chaos and uncertainty.
- Surprise my boyfriend at least six times in 2021. With pandemic life, things can get monotonous, so I like the idea of intentionally injecting some novelty. Some preliminary ideas are trekking to the local park while he is out to hang a tacky I love you poster along our nightly walk…and I guess that’s it for now.
- Celebrate eight years with my best friend. My boyfriend and I will celebrate eight years together in October in a creek-side cabin, where we will go on hikes and work on a new jigsaw puzzle (as has been our tradition for the last six years). I need to think of a unique and special gift, also.
- Invent a new word. I would like to make up a brilliant new word to describe someone you have: a) been with forever, b) intend to be with forever, and c) have no legal ties to. Boyfriend is too juvenile and short-term, partner feels to stuffy, and future husband (though true) sounds too presumptuous. I’m legitimately going to work on this one. Or a nickname.
- Take more photos and start an album. Across seven years, my boyfriend and I have maybe ten pictures of us together since neither of us use social media or are keen on self-portraits. It would be fun to start capturing more of our fun memories–just for us!
- Read to my niece at least six times. A friend recently gave birth to her first child. I want to be a positive influence. A someone who has zero experience with kids, my first inclination is to read to her (when it’s safe to see people in person). She is surely too young to understand, but it still feels so important.
- Reconnect with friends I’ve lost touch with while ill. I have been a complete hermit for the last three years because I simply haven’t had the bandwidth to keep up with relationships. In the coming year, I hope to reach out to old friends, apologize for my absence, and try to reforge a connection.
- Meet new people. Sign up for classes, attend meetup groups, approaching interesting strangers, chat with fellow bloggers via blog comments, or invite an acquaintances over for games or a meal. I haven’t met anyone new in several years and it would be fun.
- Practice kindness. There are so many people suffering quietly and so many more that act unnecessarily cruel. I have also been a naturally kind and dependable person, but I was to make an extra effort to identify opportunities to give more generously, listen more attentively, try to understand someone else’s position, and to act with kindness when it would be easier to walk away.
Home & Household
- Mold remediation. We had a major leak three years ago, which taught me a lesson in HOA politics and presented a persistent mold problem. In March of 2020, testing confirmed the presence of toxic black mold and allergenic green mold throughout our home, but we haven’t felt comfortable inviting anyone in to remedy. My respiratory symptoms have been awful lately, so we need to bring in the remediation team and identify what is salvageable; a professional “scrape-away” project will cost $6,000, whereas replacing the damaged bathroom vanity and affected kitchen cabinets will run about $20,000.
- Hang up all the artwork we have lying around. I’m a perfectionist and my hubby is a trained fine artist. He wants me to select where to hang things, which I worry I might violate the rules of art. This is the year, I hang shit up where it makes me happy, color theory and placement be damned.
- Have the custom sketch on the back of Rainbow Sunset professionally scanned and printed. I bought my boyfriend a piece of artwork he has been coveting since before we met. I purchased it for our seven-year anniversary and requested a custom sketch by the artist on the back. It’s stunning, so we’re going to get that framed too.
- Buy a fireproof safe for sentimental items. We have two small safes for our important documents, but we both have kept special birthday cards, postcards and trinkets from loved ones for 30+ years and would be devastated to lose these things.
- Reassess our emergency preparedness. My boyfriend has been prepping since long before I met him. Before we even learned about COVID, we had a six-month supply of freeze-dried soup, shelf-stable almond milk, and the ever-elusive toilet paper, as well as two huge tubs of medical supplies and devices. Earlier this year, there was a huge riot a few block from our home, after which we replaced our plastic fire extinguishers with three commercial grade models. I want to identify any other gaps in our prep. I want to get my ham radio license, purchase a shot gun, and volunteer with CERT (community emergency response team).
- Clean out my closet and get rid of anything I don’t love. It seems that I will be working from home indefinitely, so this would be a good time to de-clutter. In the past, I bought things because they were on sale, I wanted more variety, or I believe there was a type of item missing from my wardrobe. My tastes are simply and consistent, so it’s time to stick to what I know like and get rid of the rest. Ideally, I can find an organization or individual that would be especially appreciative.
- Save money for a down payment. We own a condo outright, but would love to be able to rent out our current home, purchase or build our dream home with a 20% down payment, and allow our current home to appreciate in value as the area continues to boom.
- Prepare to start a family. On my dating profile, I selected maybe one day on the “do you want kids section?” Over seven years later and with the recent birth of our adoptive niece (who we have yet to meet), we’re leaning towards yes. As early- and late-30-somethings, we need to start considering the health, financial and lifestyle requirements to support that possibility.
- Think about the overall vision for my life. Where so I hope to be 5, 10, and 50 years from now? I want to create a concrete plan or a vision board with milestones that I can revisit. I realized many small dreams using planning and visualization, but the fatigued killed that habit for me. In 2021, I want to start from scratch and sketch out my ideal life.
I would love to hear what some of your goals are for the new year! Feel free to share them in the comments