Chapter 4 – New Year Resolutions?

The three New Year resolutions I kept

I suppose I’m technically a month late with this post, but if you’re keeping up with your resolutions this might be very timely (and congrats- you’re on week six, there’s no stopping you!). Guess what? I’m keeping up with mine. For a third year in a row. And it’s giving me no issues at all.

Prior to 2015, I made roughly the same resolution every year- to lose weight/ get thin. This had issues, both from a body confidence perspective since I made the resolution I actually needed or not, as well as an achievability perspective. We all know that goals need to be specific and detailed right? Like: I won’t eat desert or I’ll lose a pound a week. And from a goal making perspective that obviously makes sense- putting together my tenure folder seems overwhelming. Breaking your goals down into small tasks (e.g. update the departmental service list and put it in the service folder) makes it much more doable. Obviously, this means I can rephrase that old resolution: “eat an apple a day and be on my merry way”… but in 2015 I wanted more.

In the last 4 months of 2014 I dropped around 20 lbs and was on the path to wellness, so suddenly this resolution seemed generic and worthless. Clearly I could get my ass in gear sans arbitrary date. This allowed me to focus on what I actually want, and what I want to change (because, let’s face it, deciding to do the same thing every Jan 1st brings no sense of “new” to the new year). I decided to try to LET THINGS GO. I used to get really hung up and obsessive about the smallest of things and I didn’t like that. It’s no fun to get home from work just to obsess about work. It’s no fun to ruin your Saturday by being in a foul mood because the line at the grocery store is long (not normal long, but 10 people deep, and the person in the front has 7 coupons and is paying using a complicated combo of only pennies and checks).

I did what I do to start every project- research. Through my research I found out that letting go is a practice which requires conscious mindfulness. So I practiced- starting with the small things like the aforementioned grocery store queue or someone cutting me off in traffic. Using a helpful mantra: “Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I’m peace” I could focus inward and not feel the need to get wrapped up in thing that don’t matter. Three months in, I felt confident enough to bring my skills to the workplace and practice with difficult colleagues or arrogant students. Obviously, the higher the stakes the harder the process, but also, the better the reward. A change happened in my life where I really was able to let things go and there is nothing anybody could offer me that is worth trading this for. Around that summer I decided to double down and practice joy on top of letting things go. In addition to inner peace, I must have been exerting an outer peace, because fall of that year people began asking me if I was a Buddhist. The shift in attitude, focus on practice and achievement through discipline made me ask: What else can I do?

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Okay, maybe don’t breathe in…right now…

January 2016 I wanted something fun. I decided to say “yes” to adventure and see what happens. That very same month I led a group of 14 students in an alternative break trip to Omaha, Nebraska to work with Habitat for Humanity. It was the first time I was the main driver for a 17 hour road-trip, but no better way to test your driving skills as driving through white-out snow conditions in Ohio… as they say…on second thought that’s probably not the best test of your driving skills. This trip also tested my introverted self, since I’m typically not one to spend a week with strangers. But the experience was very rewarding and a great kick-off to the year of adventure

Then I went to China. With strangers. For free. (and no, I was not part of some weird trafficking scam). I had the opportunity to apply for a faculty development opportunity, and while I was the only junior faculty on the trip, I did get awarded the travel funds. This was crazy, fun and exhausting- a perfect adventure!

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Follow this up by summer- Mr.Sweetspot had a job offer from the summer theatre I work for, and we really wanted to take it. But we needed to take our fur babies- the Sweetspot clan has 3 dogs. If you’ve ever attempted to rent a place with three dogs for 6 weeks only… well, it’s essentially impossible. But then again, it depends on your definition of a place. We found a campground with RV’s available and moved right in. It was awesome! We really explored micro-homing, which is something we’re both interested in, we had bonfires every night, canoed on weekends and even hosted my brother for a few days. This prepared us very well for an upcoming adventure-she said cryptically ;).

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To close off the fun- the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Live in New York City. We braved the crowds and general madness and got to see Charlie Brown and all the others while chatting with strangers from the UK (cute couple, they didn’t even know it was Thanksgiving just happened to be in town). It was fun and surprisingly chill. If you’re considering going, I highly recommend it (and contrary to popular opinion you don’t have to arrive at 5 am to have fun.

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So what’s new for 2017? After the success of the last 2 years I questioned whether I needed another resolution. Then, observing some behavior in myself I did not appreciate I came up with “Dare to dream”. I tend to be pragmatic, and focus on the possible negative or neutral outcomes of a situation. While I still think it’s important to consider all factors whilst making decisions, with dreams and goals I now visualize the outcome I want. We will see how it turns out.

Have you made any amazing resolutions? What works for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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