Saturday, December 29, 2012

On Obstacles and Goals for 2013

Wow, I can't believe that yet another year has been and gone. This realization never seems to get easier to deal with for some reason. I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but I always tend to look back on the year in review, feel like I didn't accomplish very much, and wonder where the hell all the time went. How could I have been as busy as I was -- and really, I'm always busy -- yet not feel like I made any real progress?

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.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Holiday Thus Far

Rain on the My Bedroom Window
It's finally winter and I don't know where the year goes... at all. I seem to remember a day when life seemed to crawl at an intolerably slow pace -- especially through December as I waited for Christmas to get here -- but now it seems as if it flies by so quickly, it's unbelievable. How can Christmas and Christmas Eve be only a week away??

I love this time of year... but up until recent years, that had little to do with the coming of the holidays. I love cold weather. I love rain and snow (when I actually lived places where it was possible). I love the flavors, smells, and atmosphere associated with the holiday season. I love feeling like I really have "permission" to do some of my favorite things in this world, namely eat and relax at home. The rest of the year, I tend to feel obligated by some unknown force to go out more, do more, accomplish more, and be different. I like the winter because there's none of that required. It's fine and even preferable to make merry and take things slowly enough to appreciate what you've already earned, as opposed to focus on relentlessly earning more.

This year, I'm thrilled to actually have a little extra time to enjoy the things about my life that are actually going right. I recently got rid of a difficult client who was taking up all of my time and fully expected to continue doing so over Christmas and New Year's. With them out of the picture, I've had time to reconnect with some of my more reasonable clients, as well as with my fiancé and my friends. That's been really wonderful. I've been thoroughly enjoying my holiday as a result.

........

This year, we're not really doing presents again, much like last year. I'm so over that shit anyway for so many reasons. I don't have a nice living space of my own to decorate the way I please. I have nowhere to go that requires me to wear fancy clothes or have lots of outfits to choose from. I don't really need objects to enjoy the things I love anymore either. Seriously, I enjoy most (if not all) of my music, movies, and television through subscription-based services like Spotify, Netflix, or Hulu these days so I no longer collect CDs or DVDs. Between my Kindle and the free ebook sites packed with classics online, I don't really buy books anymore either.

Instead of worrying about that junk, I gave a nice chunk of money to charity this year. A lot of people say that giving money to charity makes them feel good, but I really sincerely mean it when I say that. I used to give every year, but haven't been able to afford it in quite a while. This year, I donated enough to buy needy people a ridiculous number of meals and I smile every time I think about it. In fact, I'd even say that this is the first year in a while that I feel like I did Christmas the "right" way. As a food lover, I can't think of anything that makes me feel better than having enough to eat and enjoying a good meal at the end of the day. I wanted to give that gift to other people who would appreciate it this year.

Speaking of food and full bellies at holiday time, we might roast a white Peking duck this year and come up with some interesting Asian sides for a change. I'm looking forward to that.