Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Here's to 2014...

"Tonight I will raise my glass to a year gone, full of unexpected and often wonderful changes, with a handful of good friends, in a gorgeous city that will be my home again soon enough. I’ll greet 2013 with smiles, laughter and, of course, dancing - ready for all that I couldn’t possibly imagine in the year to come."

This is what I wrote on the eve of 2013 as I donned my red dress, downed champagne and dove head first with a few of my closest friends into one of my wildest New Year's Eves since the second or third year of college. I predicted everything with such accuracy - the smiles, the laughter, the dancing - but above all, that which I couldn't possibly guess would happen.

During that same night I would flirt with rejection, only to discover the start of a friendship and romance I could not have begun to imagine for myself. That same week I would suffer the unexpected and utterly devastating first rejection of my career when I was told "no" to six months of research, only to be inspired by an even more meaningful project a month later. The year that followed, I would lose a contract after four year, I would be hired and fired to a new job within a week, and struggle to find work that mattered for months. I would struggle financially, with my health, with friends and family, with relationships past and present, and with the demons of my depression. But I would also gain unexpected friends who brought me joy and comfort, unexpected work that challenged me and helped me grow, and a deeper understanding of my strengths and weaknesses.

Entering 2013 with reckless abandon, I had no idea what was in store, but I was ready for whatever came my way. Good or bad, I was gonna go for it.

And I did...

That's exactly what I am taking with me into 2014. I want to take every challenge head on, I want to treasure rejection for the lessons it teaches me, and I want to see each risk as an opportunity that I am brave enough to take. It's this attitude that I am most proud of as I reflect on my 2013 and all that I've gained - a loving and caring partner, a job that motivates and inspires me, and a more complete understanding of myself as I grow, continue to make mistakes, and learn.

When pinpointing the things I want to change and accomplish in 2014, I realize that I need to narrow my focus from the big picture - what I am often so fond of looking at - to the little things. My biggest struggle in this last year has been the day to day. There is so much I want to do, so much I feel I should do, so much I am aware I need to do, that I become ridiculously overwhelmed and I end up doing nothing.

I've spent a lot of time making plans, making back up plans, making to do lists, etc. etc. I spend far too much thinking about plans and how to accomplish what it is I want to accomplish that I never accomplish it. I've spent hundreds and hundreds of hours planning out my day to be the most productive it can possibly be - then looking at the list and not doing a damned thing on it. I have to admit, I'm one of those people who says, "I'll start tomorrow" or "I'll do it next week" or "It's best to start these things on a Sunday" or "I couldn't possibly start something like this at 8:00 at night." Even now, I spend my commute home writing short to do lists for my evening with all the to dos I expect from myself - then find myself incapable of meeting a single one of those expectations.

It is exhausting!

The worst thing about this behavior is that it contributes to my self-guilt, self-shaming, and, to be completely honest, my depression. I make these outlandish plans or these simple to do lists and, when I can barely check off one or two items on the list, I end up dissapointed and beating myself up. Let me tell you, it's not a good way to treat yourself.

So, I'm giving up crazy, outlandish plans for 2014 and I'm giving into the day to day.

Interestingly, I made this decision AFTER I made my 2014 bucket list (located here). The thing is, when I sat down and reconsidered the items on my bucket list, I realized I don't need a big plan to accomplish them - I just need to do them. I want to learn French, so I'll study French. I want to go to Puerto Rico with my Dad, so as soon as I have the money for the ticket, I'll request the time off and buy the ticket. I want to finish my Masters, so I'll sit down, make myself write and see how far I get each day.

Then I thought about the rest of what makes up my life and I wondered how I would manage the day to day without planning everything out, as I usually do. I realized I don't really need some master plan to be successful in the other areas of my life either... I don't need a plan to love and respect my boyfriend, I just have to do it - be grateful, be caring, be patient, and love. I don't need a plan to do my job well, I just need to do it - in fact, its generally the kind of job that requires a whole lot of flexibility and creativity at the click of the send button in my e-mail. I don't need a plan to become a better friend or daughter, I just need to do it - call, text, write and skype.

And aren't those the things that matter, the things everyone hopes to improve on and makes resolutions about? Caring more, loving more, working harder?  It seems everyone wants to accomplish these things, but it really doesn't take much to make it happen.

I guess, to put it simply, the lesson I learned from 2013 and want to implement in 2014 is... just do it.

(Here's looking at you Sifu - or Nike, who I think stole their slogan from Sifu)

So, just doing what I know I need to do to be the best person I can be is my first major resolution of 2014. When my alarm goes off at 5 am, I am going to get out of bed. If I feel like writing, I'll write. When it comes to my thesis, I'll make myself write. If I feel like doing yoga, I'll do yoga. No more - "I should but I'll start tomorrow" or "I'll have time later" - I'm just going to do it.

To accompany that, and I must say it fits quite perfectly, my second resolution is to love myself more (or better?).

Although 2013 was a year of come backs and risks that paid off, it was also, I realize, a year of self-depreciation.

Many of the things that have helped me to gain confidence in my mid-twenties were taken away or out of easy reach, including incredibly supportive friends, rock climbing and outdoor adventuring, jobs (although I did get that back), financial security, modeling, and - hard to admit - some unbelievably unhealthy crutches that I didn't realize I had depended on.

I talk down to myself a lot. I tell myself I'm gaining too much weight, no longer as pretty as I once was, that if I am not pretty others won't value me. I tell myself I can't make new friends on my own, I'm too odd, too awkward, not funny enough, not easygoing enough. I tell myself I am no good at my job, that others are better, that I don't belong there, that it's crazy that I got it. I tell myself I'm lazy, that I don't do enough for others, that I don't do enough at all.

This is not how I would motivate my friends. This is not how I would inspire my students. This is certainly not how I would talk to anyone I love. Yet, I've used this kind of talk to motivate myself  and "improve" for a long time.

Luckily, I've had two very important people in my life who've helped me realize that I speak this way about myself, but more importantly, that it is not fair, kind or a right. The first is my boyfriend, who wouldn't dream of ever speaking to me the way I do, and won't tolerate anyone else speaking to me that way - even if it is myself. The second, is actually a group of people who I'll refer to as a unit, the women who I've come to know and love (my sister, my thesis advisor, my climbing friends, my family) who continue to help me realize this about myself through the work they do, the conversations they have, the things they write and read, and the news they share.

I think I'm through with talking down to myself. It's exhausting and depressing and it didn't help me meet the three main goals I had for 2013 - financial security, understanding and command of my health, and my masters. In fact, the breakthroughs I did make towards these goals were only after I started ignoring my own self-depreciation and listening to the positivity of the other people in my life.

That's it. Just do it. Love myself. That's all I want for myself in 2014.

2013 was an incredible year. From driving across the country (twice!) to moving to a city I'd never visited, I experienced some huge changes and accomplished a lot I can be proud of. Just reflecting on it - and all that I've learned - now makes me thrilled about all the unexpected adventures and experiences I'm sure to have in 2014.

So here's to charging full speed ahead, ready to do whatever it takes and make the best of whatever comes my way. Here's to really loving myself, and in turn, being able to give more of myself, love more wholly, and succeed in ways I may not have been able to before. Here's to 2014!