Happy New Year, my dear friends! I hope you all had wonderful holidays and that you’ve come out of the season energized and rejuvenated, like I have. I know the holidays can be a bit on the stressful side, with all the traveling and crowds and having to pick out presents that (you hope) people will love, and finding the time to bake cookies and wrap gifts and attend family parties. And of course there’s the stress of drinking too much and eating too much and not exercising enough. But regardless of all that, I absolutely love this time of year!
I’m not a Christian, but my family celebrates Christmas, and it’s always felt so incredibly magical, thanks to the wild imaginations of my goofy parents. When we were growing up, there would always be carrot shavings outside on Christmas day (because the reindeer stopped for a snack, obviously), or notes from Santa about the milk and cookies, or reindeer tracks in the snow outside the back door. One year, there was even a video of my mom kissing Santa, only to have my dad show up and chase him out the door. What tricksters!! Now, it’s just such a nice time to relax and allow my mom to stuff us full of food (which, believe me, she loves to do) and spend time with family, but it still always has that hint of magic. I get to see my old buddies Pineosaurus and Banana Dog, I always make a point to do a reading of a kid’s Christmas story on Christmas Eve for my family, and my siblings and I still compete to see who can find the Christmas pickle on Christmas morning, for a small monetary prize, bragging rights, and a year of good luck. I have found the pickle a total of one time in my entire life (and it was not this year), but it makes no difference, because next year could be the year!
I’m also lucky enough to truly like my family, so spending time with them is a great treat. Over the week I was home, I beat my dad in a bunch of games (hehe), got to play tennis (because it was 60-plus degrees on Christmas Eve!), took Shamrock (my brother Bryan’s beagle, who I absolutely adore) on numerous hikes and got to spend time with a bunch of family members. Truthfully, I was not in a hurry to leave, despite the gloomy weather (I saw the sun a total of one day the entire seven days I was home). Western New York is really a great vacation destination, if you ask me.
That being said, for the first time in a long time, I was excited to pull back into DC yesterday. The site of the Washington Monument actually gave me chills! I have been feeling so incredibly optimistic about this coming year, and after debating for months and months whether to stay or go, it felt right that I was here to usher in 2016. My friend Kelsey, who is going through a similar journey to my own, and I went on a long walk today, and she mentioned that a writer/ adventurer that she follows recently wrote something about the quote “wherever you go, there you are.” He said that he has friends who constantly move to new cities and can’t find contentedness where they are, because they are trying to run from themselves rather than the places they lived. I LOVE moving new places. I love meeting new people, learning about new cultures, trying new foods and learning the terrain of a new place. However, I think this anecdote does apply to me.
No matter where I go, I can’t outrun myself, and despite the distractions that come with learning about a new place and creating a new life, I at some point always end up alone with myself, having to come face to face with my failures and ghosts. I don’t necessarily think DC is the perfect place for me. It’s way too expensive, a bit uptight and farther than I would like from nature. But there are also some incredible things about this city. It’s extremely walkable, pretty green for a large city, it hosts numerous major environmental non-profits (super relevant to me), has a large and diverse young professional population, has a pretty great (if sometimes unreliable) public transportation system and has all sorts of attractions for young professionals like workout studios galore, nightlife, a theater scene, great restaurants, social sports leagues and plenty of things to do. Even if this city isn’t a perfect fit for me, I should be able to find happiness here, at least for as long as it makes sense for me to stay. My big picture goal for the upcoming year is to continue to try and figure out what it is I need to make me content and happy and to stop putting blame on my location for my problems when they are more likely internal.
I know that a lot of people think it’s a bit campy to make New Year’s resolutions. After all, you can better yourself any time, not just on January 1. But to me, that’s exactly why I like making New Year’s resolutions. There’s never a bad time to focus on yourself and reach for better health and more happiness. New Year’s is a just a good time to remember that we should be doing these things anyway. My aunt Kay gave me a really sweet gift for Christmas. It’s a necklace that says “be happy” and the box that it came in gives a John Lennon quote that I think is extremely relevant here. It says, “When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
So, since I know you’re dying to know, these are my short-term goals and New Year’s resolutions for 2016!
New Year’s Resolutions:
- Visit at least two new national parks this year. My dad and I have been talking about going out to Sequoia National Park together this year, which is a dream of his, so I’m really hoping that happens. Other than that, I’m extremely interested in checking out Zion and Yosemite and doing some serious hiking!
- Keep up with this blog. It’s been extremely therapeutic for me the past few months, and you have no idea how much I appreciate the support that you all have given me in reading it and sharing your thoughts! Please keep engaging with me!
- Keep trying new things and working on myself. Some specific ideas I have are to try:
- To learn to crochet (this is something my mom has been working on and she got me interested).
- Rock climbing. It’s something I have always been interested in but never took the time to do, so I think the time is now.
- New types of yoga (today, I tried yin yoga). The small taste I have had of yoga is telling me this is something I should be doing. It’s athletic, relaxing and forces me to focus on myself and my experiences and emotions. I feel a strong pull to keep exploring this.
- To get back into Rosetta Stone Spanish.
- Improv comedy (I start a beginner’s class on Monday!).
- Try to get back into running, if my back problems will allow it.
- Remember to give my time and energy to friends and family. It’s easy to get absorbed in my own life and bogged down with work and responsibilities, but I have some truly amazing people in my life, and I want to make more time for them.
- Creative Living. I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert right now (the author of Eat, Pray, Love) and it’s all about this concept. It’s about following your dreams and being a creator, not just a consumer, and really taking the reins on your own life, rather than waiting around for things to happen to you. One example she gives is about her dad and how he had a dream to own a farm. So he bought one and moved the family to it and began raising goats. He didn’t quit his job, but became a farmer anyway. My parents are very much like this. Just this year, they started raising honeybees and harvesting honey. That’s exactly the kind of existence I want to have and the kind of person I want to be.
- Cook at home more. Do more meal planning and spend less money eating out.
- Put money into savings.
- Backpack more this year. Last year, I did two awesome trips: one in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the other in Olympic National Park in Washington. So that means this year I must do at least three trips!
- Visit the Shenandoah National Park at least once in January and once in February. I’m heading out to do Old Rag with a couple of friends tomorrow!
- Lose the excess weight that I have picked up since my back problems began. It’s nothing major, but I think doing so will be a good indicator that I’m leading the healthy life that I should be, now that exercise is more doable for me.
- Get into a lap swimming routine in the mornings before work. My gym near work closed, so lunchtime swimming is no longer an option for me. This is going to be a struggle because I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, but I credit swimming with making huge strides in the healing of my back, so it’s not something I can let fall by the wayside.
- Dry January. No booze for this girl for the month of January! That doesn’t mean you have to stop inviting me to social occasions though, of course. I just won’t be as drunk as you. I want to start out the year focusing on the right things and the right way to live, and I can’t do that if I’m hungover.
I think I got everything! What are your New Year’s goals, my friends? And how do you plan to stick to them?