Monday, December 30, 2013

My 2013 List, or How I Somehow Managed To Keep My Resolutions

On December 31st, 2012, I found myself unpacking my life into a tiny apartment after yet another move, feeling uprooted and scarred and very much ready for a new beginning. I had ended a relationship less than a month earlier, was pretty much broke, and had been homeless and living with family for three weeks over Christmas and while I tried to find a new place to live and divide up several years' worth of cohabitation with my ex. It was New Year's Eve, and I spent it at home, by myself, unpacking and organizing and ruminating on what I hoped the next year would bring.

Before this year, I had never stuck to a single New Years resolution. Not that I've made that many, but I've never had the wherewithal to follow through or keep up with what I had resolved to do. By this point in my life, I've realized that it is pointless for me to make goals which are phrased in the "I will do ___________ every day/week/month" format. I will be enthusiastic and keep up with whatever it is for approximately two weeks, and then fall off the wagon.

2013 was different. This time I put my "resolutions" in the form of one-time activities to do at some point in the course of the year. In between sorting clothes and organizing kitchen cabinets late in the evening on New Years Eve, I cleared off a corner of my kitchen table, cut the flap off of one of my moving boxes (I couldn't find any paper at the time), dug out my multi-colored Sharpies, thought about all the things I'd been wanting to do but had been putting off (in many cases, for years), and came up with this:

(Photo clearly taken some time into the year, starting to check things off)

I've been referring to this as my 2013 Bucket List. To keep myself accountable to this list, I put it up on the wall in my living room, where it is visible for me and all visitors to see. And, for the first time, my goals for the year happened.

Portland State University, in June.

Granted, earning my MPH was kind of a gimme since I was already well on my way, but it still feels like an enormous accomplishment. And, as one of my MPH classmates pointed out, "Do Yoga (lots!)" is not a measurable objective, and thus, unsurprisingly, is the only one I didn't fully complete. But considering that I did yoga regularly for the first few months of the year I'm not going to chalk it up as a total failure.

2013 is the year when I fully comprehended the fact that if you really want to do something, you can. This was a year of making things happen, and it feels fantastic. It seems to me that 90% of the time, it is just my brain that stands between me and a particular accomplishment. Things I thought I never could do are just that: things I thought I never could do. In the space of a mere 12 months, I went from thinking, "Well, I could never do _________ " to realizing that doing _________ is totally feasible and just takes a little courage and maybe some creative planning. This opens up the entire world of possibilities, and takes away all the negativity I used to have around goals that seemed wildly unrealistic.

 Snack break while backpacking with Bill in the Three Sisters Wilderness in August.

Without intending to sound cocky, I'm incredibly proud of myself for achieving all the activities I set out to do this year. And, let's be frank here, as good as it feels to have other people be proud of you for something, being proud of yourself feels even better. After years of shying away from potentially fun activities because they seemed "too wild" or "too immature" or some such hogwash, this year I really went for it. After making many promises and never keeping them, this year I followed through. This was the year that I promised a friend I would come visit her in San Francisco, and made sure it actually happened. This was the year I made a split-second decision to take a solo trip to Canada, and had a complete and utter blast exploring a new city by myself. This was the year I rode my bike more than ever before, and felt healthier and happier than I had in ages. This was the year I challenged myself with more advanced knitting and sewing projects, and began to really understand what I love about photography.

Baby pants!

 Baby vest!

Using Bill and his bike to experiment with panned motion shots for my photography class in October.

Other great things happened in my life during 2013, but these are the ones that happened because I took control of them in a way I never thought possible. It wasn't just because they were on a list on my wall, although certainly that helped. I don't know why exactly, and I don't think it comes from any particular inner strength or something; somehow I just had to get very real with myself about what I needed from life, in a way I hadn't ever done before. Part of that meant ending a toxic relationship; once I realized I could survive the pain of that, I felt able to challenge myself by pursuing the other things that intimidated me. 

Victoria, BC, on Labor Day weekend.

Suffice it to say, at the end of 2013, I am a very different person from the one I was at the close of 2012. Just shy of another New Year's Eve, I am counting my blessings, feeling grateful for what has been probably the best year of my adult life to date, and am working on my new list of challenges for myself in 2014.