For many years, I stuck to strict goals. I called them resolutions but they were SMART goals and I tracked my adherence to those goals religiously. I didn’t use apps or fancy journaling. I just counted. And at the end of every month, I would take victory lap. (see victory laps recorded in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018).
Hindsight is always 2020. What I needed then was some structure at a time when I felt displaced. I was finishing my graduate degree, changing my professional goals, and pushing through some complicated personal hurdles. I was raising little humans and felt no sense of control. Those goals, that ability to show progress towards something, it was what I needed.
But last year, I looked back and knew I was in a holding pattern. Life was no less unpredictable. Tackling the day to day goals felt easy, almost rote. But those bigger ideas, bigger goals, I had no way to break them down. So for 2019, I said, fuck it. I’ll do the stuff I do (exercise, give blood, read) but I need latitude to explore these bigger goals. As I discovered last year, no one year is all one thing.
After I published reflections on 2018, 2019 took a right turn. I was offered an incredible professional opportunity–the kind you don’t say no to even though you know it will change everything about your life. Doing even the little everyday things became a huge challenge. The job–leading research in a state agency focused on early childhood–has been a thrill and a challenge. And every day for nearly all of 2019, I have felt like I am drowning. One day someone asked me about work and as I started to say, “I’m drinking from a fire hose” they said, “Still swimming in the deep end?”
“Both,” I replied without hesitation. Drinking from a fire hose while treading water.
So I bagged the goals. All I could do was eat, sleep, exercise and be present for my family. I couldn’t read or cook or plan. I almost never wrote. I was cognitively spent every day and I felt like I had nothing left. And I felt like I had no right to complain because this opportunity was too good.
The sea parted eventually. I didn’t feel like I was always drowning. I found the ground, put my feet on the floor. I didn’t find my way back to feeling like myself without further displacement. I quit my gym of four years at the start of the summer, forced myself to find something different where I felt equal parts challenged and inspired. I bought some new cookbooks. I picked up a few books I’d been putting off. I started reading with my girls, paying closer attention to things. I had dropped out of everything and thank goodness I had a partner who was willing to pick up pieces.
So with the advent of the new year (plus one month), I can see clearly now. I’m energized at the thought of not only a new year but a new decade unfolding. Looking back at the last ten years, we have maneuvered tectonic shifts in our lives. We became parents, I earned my doctorate, I changed jobs a few times, we bought a new house, we buried family members, we explored and traveled.
The next decade is mysterious. Our children will keep growing. They may even leave the nest. We will turn 50. We will negotiate a new phase of life. Work marches on. The possibilities are blinding.
So before we get there, I’m looking in the rearview (as always) to see what 2019 was. Then I’ll look ahead to see what 2020 will be.
Last year, I made a list. I’ve made notations below for myself.
- Turn my NaNoWriMo words into something real. During NaNoWriMo, I wrote more. I have ideas. But these words are still words.
- Buy the podcast equipment. I picked out equipment. I promised myself equipment for my birthday and Hannukah. But I am prioritizing it this year.
- Pilot one of 2-3 podcast ideas. No progress on podcasting in 2019. I have some things gelling now, though.
- Re-do the girls’ bedrooms. Huzzah! We repainted their rooms, added some furniture and some decor.
- Finish off our office. Still in progress. We have some designs and we cleared out furniture. 2020 will be the year of the home office.
- Find a meaningful way to volunteer regularly. I did some minimal volunteer work but did not find a regular opportunity yet. I contributed to political campaigns, donated blood six times (!) and participated in Jewish Federation menstrual justice events. There is room for more.
- Get outside as often as possible. Summer was the opportunity for me to get outdoors. I started talking long walks for exercise. Winter is cold.
- Spend time with my family as often as I can. The key to this one is not doing the dishes right away. So I started not doing the dishes right away and reading with the girls. The snuggling time has been wonderful.
A few victories in 2019:
- I found a new gym. I LOVE their model. I feel inspired and supported and challenged. I miss my old 5:30 buddies but I have found some new ones, too.
- We had an amazing adventure on Block Island where we biked and read and slept.
- I discovered Downton Abbey. It is magical and wonderful and the perfect antidote to stressful work days.
- I bought some new cookbooks and got some inspiration in the kitchen–and the girls are super into cooking now.
- I hiked up a mountain again.
I don’t have big goals for 2020. I just don’t. I don’t want to get in my own way. I have good habits and routines and I learned in 2019 that I can disrupt those and I’ll find my way back. I just want more of everything. More kitchen time with my girls, more walks, more dinner parties with friends, more time with family. More of the little things.