2018 New Year's Intentions & Reflections on 2017
Welcome! A year ago, I looked back on my 2016 resolutions only to find that while I had not checked off all the resolutions by the end of the year, I had achieved something bigger and more general. Something better than expected.
Going into 2017, I decided to follow this idea of setting general intentions rather than resolutions of specific things I wanted to do. I moved to San Francisco in the Fall of 2015 and it had taken nearly a year to settle in, find my place in the city, and feel somewhat grounded. However, I had not taken the opportunity to actually explore and enjoy all of the reasons why I moved to California in the first place. By the end of 2016, I had started a new job that provided more financial stability, more work-life balance, better structure, and a more supportive work environment. Going into 2017, I was able to set my intention for the year.
I wanted to live a life worth writing about.
I set my overarching broad intention in technology stone by setting up this site. Then it was left dormant. I spent 2017 living, but never found the time to sit down and write about it.
In 2018, I'm starting to write.
I formerly had a cooking blog, Woodenspoonfuls, where I documented all of the dishes I loved creating for myself and friends but it never did feel quite right. As much as love to help people feel more empowered in the kitchen, I am an intuitive cook and recipe testing was not really my thing. Writing posts became a chore on my to do list. What I did love was the writing - I always have. So, I pivoted. Shutting down that site was the last step of leaving what did not serve me behind to embark on the real life I always wanted to live - for myself.
Beneath the umbrella of living a life worth writing about were to feel more calm about my finances, travel more (even if it was just road trips, day trips or weekend getaways), plan an event as I had back in NYC, meet new people and "get into life in SF," and try to get back on the dating scene and find a partner. Being general about my intentions allowed me to try on different strategies and keep an open mind about my methods without feeling like I had failed anything. For example, I had made my 2016 resolutions so specific - a bucket list, if you will, that when I did not take a specific road trip I was stressed out. Why? I'm a box checker and not checking that box left me anxious. Compare that with my 2017 intentions - any road trip, any day trip, any weekend adventure was fulfilling an intention to explore more of my new home state. I could not lose as long as I made an effort to get out there and adventure.
Some of my friends have asked me to describe more about what it means to find an intention instead of a resolution or goal. I encourage you to think beyond "things" or behaviors you want to change and increase your scope to a broader vision for your new life. Most people fall off the wagon before the end of the first month for many reasons because we haven't created the habits required to suddenly change on a dime no matter how committed we are to the cause. Common NYE resolutions include drinking less alcohol (or cutting it out for January), going to the gym every day, losing 10lbs, or cutting out sugar/carbs/cheese - all in an effort to be more healthy. Your friends may not want to cut out alcohol, the second work gets stressful you may not make it to the gym a few nights a week, or that piece of cake looks far too tasty to resist when you're tired. I believe setting a general intention proves to be more successful because it's not married to any goal so there is less risk of falling off the wagon, and you will actually change your habits. Try instead to be more thoughtful about the foods you consume and how they make you feel. I guarantee you won't feel so bad when you drink a few glasses of wine on January 23rd because your girlfriends wanted to hang out - you'll just think, "that didn't make me feel so great and today my workout is a bit sluggish" rather than "game over. I blew my resolution."
As I reflect on last year's intention, I want to share with you some of my "successes" for 2017.
First, and most important, I fell in love with my best friend in the most true and literal ways. At the end of February 2017, Jon and I started dating. We met on a plane between our home states of New Jersey back to San Francisco nine months prior. He was heading back from a wedding, and I from a funeral. He was actually hungover, I was emotionally hungover. I had planned to spend the entire flight listening to music and reading, but ended up in a six hour conversation in the bulkhead with my seat mate. At the end of the flight, he walked me to the baggage claim and asked for my number. We talked every day for nine months remaining the best of friends, but with a little help from tequila and a good friend who relocated to LA, we found ourselves closing out the weekend as more than how we started it. That was the best road trip of 2017.
On a personal note, I put my credit card in a drawer - a never ending source of anxiety for me as "payment in full bill day" approached and did not take it out the entire year. Having a variable bill every month on a fixed budget while still trying to play "catch up" from a cross country move with little financial support for relocation from my previous company in the most expensive US city was not bringing a sense of calm to me. So, I eliminated it and used my debit card exclusively. I created a budget, tracked my expenses for six months and made some adjustments. The rest, I let go. I've never enjoyed my vacations more than I did last year, knowing there was no american express card to pay at the end of the following month. This tactic is not for everyone and I, by no means, am a financial expert. This strategy simply brought me peace of mind so I could enjoy the rest of my life... and live it.
I planned an event in March with some amazing women for a foundation that remains close to my heart. I traveled to Austin, Dallas, LA (multiple times), Palm Springs, Florida, Hawaii, and went skiing in Tahoe. I watched Jon complete the Malibu Triathlon, spent time with my friend's baby in LA which means the world to me, met new people through the instagram dog community, spent day trips in Napa and the Anderson Valley, supported my friends (near and far) on their own new ventures, spent more time with my dog, took a weekend trip to Healdsburg, camped (ok, it was glamping) for the first time, hiked, ran the SF half marathon, visited museums, hosted out of town guests and explored the city with them, and deepened my friendships with people I had met at the end of 2016. I did that and so much more. So much more.
I can honestly write that at the close of 2017, I fulfilled my intentions. But something happened at the tail end of last year that made me decide on my focus for 2018.
I should not have been surprised, but was completely caught off guard by what happened in August 2017. I started to grow very antsy. It was noticeable. First to Jon, then to me. Career inertia was starting to wear on me. There's only so much "live life to its' fullest" you can do on the weekend before you start evaluating how you spend your working days. As an introvert, I was getting lost in my head. It's really easy to keep emotional implosion to yourself when you're single- as I had been in advance of my move to California, but it is impossible to contain it when you're in a relationship with your best friend. I have never followed my own heart in my career for my own sake and allowed external sources to force certain decisions for me. The more I lived a life of purpose and found happiness, the more it became evident that my job did not at all align with what I feel I was truly meant to do and that feeling of unfulfilled purpose very quickly started to haunt me. And as wonderful of a revelation that is to make, it doesn't really get you any further than that unless you take action. I am not a person who sits with problems. I prefer to devise a plan, move forward, carve out a path and go for it. I could not find my way out of this situation without help so I hired a life/career coach. That was the first step of my plan.
The real work began in September and it has been the single hardest thing I've ever emotionally progressed through since I left medical school in 2008. And I am no where near out of the woods on this one. For the first time in my adult life, I have the opportunity to really choose my career path with intention and I've placed an incredibly tight timeline on it because the truth is, I'm tired of waiting.
However, the end of 2017 left me spent.
I realized in a recent trip back home for the holidays that I miss the energy of New York City, the place where I was born and spent much of my adult life. Trying to create that every day within myself without it surrounding me has been exhausting. I am sensitive to external energy, both good and bad, and without it I've had to create it on my own. It's like learning a new skill from scratch with no manual and fumbling in the dark. I have no other way to describe it. I also got sick twice in a month and have not been able to go to the gym. That whole Elle Woods line about happy people and endorphins - those are some true words.
So while I continued to fulfill the intentions I set for the year and fully committed to living a life worth writing about 100% of the time, I fell apart at the end of December. Burnt out. Sick. Stressed. Anxious. A mess.
As we both endured and recovered from being sick this week, Jon and I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time reflecting and realized something needed to change. This was the hardest weekend of my relationship with him and one of the most emotionally draining days in recent memory. He held up a proverbial mirror and forced me to face what I was doing to myself, to him, to everything around me since September. While I was focused so intently on making a major life change to truly live a life worth writing about this and every other year, I was so wrapped up in my own head, worried and anxious, that I was not at all present. I was going through the motions. I could barely remember the conversations we had (and I remember everything- blessing and a curse). I was forgetting things. I lost my motivation. I had no concentration. I was impatient. I was always cranky. I was barely sleeping. I was not showing up. Everything was falling apart.
Good news: I have 100% control over stopping it.
I realized very quickly that it's as important to be present and enjoy each moment as it is to live the life worth writing about. My fear about the future was limiting my ability to enjoy the present.
There I found my intention for 2018: to write about the life I'm choosing to live.
But unlike last year, where I kept a number of intentions underlying one, I only have one this year. There's no point in pursuing anything if it does not make you truly happy. So I made a choice. Because you always have a choice.
Here it is: I choose happiness.
No matter what happens in 2018, I want the decisions I make to lead with happiness. The opportunities I choose, the paths I follow, and the discussions I have will be positive and done with an open mind and heart. I have a stack of wonderful books to read, brightly colored journals, and a new planner. I have a long to do list of action items to move my career pivot forward with my coach. I have more adventures to go on just in the first quarter of this year. I plan to explore and reacquaint myself with my own creativity more than ever before. I plan to continue my daily gratitude journal, do more yoga, get more regular massages and take better self care, and meditate longer. Classes, workshops, online courses, 1:1 conversations, youtube videos and more will all be part of my priority to follow joy. There are no specifics here, only guides. Last, I will only follow positive social media accounts - friend or otherwise - that are uplifting and positive. We all know the world is spinning out of control- I don't need an hourly reminder about it on Facebook.
I am extremely grateful for the support I've received through coaching, from my family and friends, and most of all from Jon. He's the single greatest thing to have happened to me on United :)
And I'm committed to continue writing regularly. Sharing is a big fear of mine I need to overcome and my heart is telling me that if I overcome that fear then the other side is going to be pretty amazing.
I encourage you to anchor your own intention for this year to January 2018 or join me on writing about your best life and choosing happiness every step along the way. Cheers! + here's to an amazing ride in 2018. I can't wait to see and hear what all of us do.