Occasionally, it occurs to me that I'm probably keeping myself busy focusing on the wrong things and that's why I feel the way I do around New Year's every year. I always fall into a very well-defined trap, especially professionally. I start feeling like the best way to gain the sense of accomplishment and well being I want most is to focus on earning more money. Money -- at least in theory -- buys you choices, freedom, and wiggle room. I feel like people need more of those things in order to feel happier and to have more time to pursue their real dreams and goals. However, the process of earning money takes up the lion's share of your time and energy, so ironically you never actually get what you were after in the first place.
That's totally what happened to me this year. I wanted to earn more money so that I could afford more and I did that. I was able to pay my bills more easily, as well as pay for a lot of things that my loved ones and I needed. However, I didn't accomplish any of the things that were the most important to me. I wanted to try to reclaim my creativity at least a little bit this year and produce at least two or three pieces I felt were good enough to send out to some publications I have my eye on. I also wanted to get off the computer at least somewhat regularly, get out more, eat out more, go to more local events, and make some memories.
I did none of this and it was largely because I spent most of my time inside working. When I wasn't actually working, I was too tired and drained to even consider going to the beach on the weekends or sitting down to flesh out a killer short story to send to The New Yorker for consideration. Yeah, I had the money to do pretty much anything I wanted. However, I had none of the energy or enthusiasm required... and very little of the time and freedom. Hell, I actually even had a hard time keeping up with FarmVille this past year and that's definitely a first.
I'm not a big one for New Year's resolutions by any means. I think they're kind of dumb. However, I do kind of like to pause and reflect around this time of year. Unfortunately, that usually turns into a huge self-flagellation session throughout which I berate myself for not being more successful yet and not having stumbled upon my big break yet despite having worked really hard. However, I suppose even that forces me to examine what's working and what's not as far as my life goes.
It's always been difficult for me to set goals and work toward them. I tend to come at things via the back roads because it's easier for me to identify what I don't want and what isn't working than the other way around. I suppose I hope that via process of elimination I'll eventually hit on something that feels like a fit. I don't have concrete answers for people when they ask me definitively what I want to do with my life or where exactly I'd like to end up -- a huge part of my problem, most likely.
This year, maybe I'll try making a list of definitive things I would like to accomplish. Most of it's little stuff, but a lot of it is stuff that I think will help lead to some of the bigger changes in direction I'm hoping for going forward into the future.
- Write and submit at least one item to a publication on my short list of "places I'd like to see my writing someday". Some of these are just blogs and websites I follow. Others are magazines or bigger journals. Note that this goal no longer says "get published in thus-and-so magazine". At this point, I'd consider finishing and submitting a piece anywhere to be a very positive accomplishment.
- Do at least a couple of things to update my looks and wardrobe -- especially the wardrobe. Not having enough clothes I feel comfortable being out and about in is definitely making it tougher to accomplish the "get out more" thing.
- Work less. I think that one of the biggest mistakes I made this past year was letting money become my priority again. As a result, I focused mostly on getting hired for more projects and not necessarily on finding clients who were willing to pay me better for the amount of work I was already doing... or who were willing to allow me the freedom I was after when I became a freelancer in the first place.
- Read more -- at least one mid-sized book every two weeks. One of the things that's made me the saddest about feeling overworked has been the fact that I rarely to never read anymore. Reading used to be one of my biggest pleasures in life and definitely one of my staples. I used to burn through at least a book or two a week. Right now I'm still chipping away at Fifty Shades of Grey months after I started it for the LULZ. The shame -- it burns.
- Get more sleep. Most people seem to want to exercise more or lose weight. I honestly give no fucks about anything like that. I'm not unhappy with my weight and I know that I'm not ready to brush up on my fitness regime yet. What I do need is more sleep every night and probably a little extra on the weekends. It's amazing how big a difference even a couple of extra hours makes for me.
- Learn more. I'm a self-proclaimed nerd. I love, love, love learning for its own sake and I haven't done a whole lot of that this past year. I want that to change. I'm not saying I need to learn a new language, or pick up a completely new skill, or anything. Even making more time to watch documentaries on Netflix or read actual, informative content online would suffice.
- Be nicer to myself. If you don't know me quite intimately, I guarantee you have no idea how mercilessly I beat myself up for not accomplishing enough and not making better, bigger, and faster progress in life. Outwardly, I have a very easy-going attitude about a lot of things, but inwardly I have a lot of auto-abusive dialogue going on pretty much all the time. That said, I'm really my own worst obstacle when it comes to achieving the things I want to because deep down it's hard for me to feel like I really deserve to have more fun or enjoy my life more.
Those are really the only things I hope I achieve this year. I want to be happier, more relaxed, and more creative, so I'm looking to lay some bricks for a path that I hope will get me there. I've even put this stuff down in writing this time (and posted it in my public blog, no less), so now I have something to refer to into the future when I've completely forgotten about writing this and find myself slipping back into old patterns that clearly don't work.