Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in Review and Plans for 2017

[insert canned remark about falling repeatedly off the face of the earth, to return annually with little fanfare at Mom's behest]

2016 Highlight Reel
I know I'll get mad shit for saying as much, but 2016 was by and large a pretty good year for me. In March, I got me a full-time, salaried job, as an editor, from home, with benefits. Who says miracles aren't a thing? I blame my prolonged absence from the writing scene on the fact that I now spend 40 hours a week cleaning up other people's word vomit. For all its tribulations, it's the most perfectly suited job for my present goals and lifestyle, and I'm elated to have found and kept it.

In September, I got the chance to throw some generous PTO time at a trip to New England with a couple girlfriends, which was an unprecedented blast. My goals were no drama and no bad food, and both were met and exceeded. It turned out to be a bigger financial hit than I expected, but I'm very glad I went.

A couple weeks after my return, a three-week-old orphaned kitten fell almost literally into my lap. The original plan was that I would foster her, but she's become a member of the family. My boys and I love her, and she's proven that not every blessing is planned and not every surprise is a pain.

The last couple months, by contrast, have been a period of chaos borne of overwhelm. My environment reflected my head space, or vice versa, and I found myself being clumsy and careless as I espoused the notion that imperfection is chaos, and chaos is failure. I got in a stupid accident in November that totaled my car, and my health was literally in the shitter for a good couple weeks. All signs pointed eerily to the fact that I needed to slow down and stay in. I'm still putting some pieces back together, but I'm by and large recovered.

2016 Goals and How I Did
I hesitate to use the term "resolution" anymore principally because I know myself, and resolve is not among my virtues. I entered 2016 with lofty goals. I would not say I failed in these pursuits so much as revised them and took better stock of my changed priorities.

Home and Household
Let's be honest: I was on a hardcore crunchy kick this time last year, and my goals reflected that. However, with the new job came a different lifestyle and set of priorities. While I have kept up with making a lot of my own body and cleaning products, I did not go nearly as granola as I'd intended. Believe it or not, cloth hankies are a pain to deal with and not as effective for us mucilaginously gifted types. I did my best to keep up with recycling, but it's become a pain in the ass. As I don't have pickup in my condo complex, nor a garage, I have been hording bags of recycling in my car because the one free recycling drop in town is always full. Not exactly practical. I don't home-make every single thing anymore because not everything I've tried has proven effective or economical. I still experiment, but with reduced fervor. I didn't get overly far on the self-sufficiency front, but that's because I realized refusing competent help out of pride is just stupid. I can't know everything to take care of myself instantly, but I can pick up tips and skills with a little help from competent friends.

It's been a good and bad year socially. While I bowed out of my two major social groups (modeling and D&D), I've been spending a lot more regular one-on-one time with the most important people in my life. I could have gone out more, but the trade-off was worth it.

Work and Money
While I've got a slightly better handle on my regular expenses than previously and have realized I'm not independently wealthy enough to splurge on organic food that resulted in no appreciable difference in my health, I needed to do better with budgeting than I did. I'm terrible at making myself slightly less comfortable and forgoing impulse buys in order to build up savings. As a result, unexpected expenses have put me in debt. Not proud of it, but it's the slap in the face I needed to tighten up. As for work, I'd say I've been performing well in the eyes of my employer but could be more efficient behind the scenes. There are days when the work-from-home stereotype is alive and well, and I fritter away valuable work time being distracted.

I spent months upon months experimenting with supplements and doctors' trips to arrive at a dead end in recovering from my ever-accumulating chronic issues. Repeated fruitless, expensive visits to doctors have put me off modern medicine for anything that won't kill me. The supplement experimentation didn't hurt, but it didn't solve anything. I did pretty well with diet and exercise over the summer, but I've lately used cold weather and malaise as an excuse to eat comfort food and sit around.

My One Resolution for 2017
If there's one thing 2016 taught me, it's to know myself and be forthright about it to myself and others. I know better now than to make a tedious litany of what I want to do this year, invariably fail, and give up trying. Instead, I'm going to take a simple step which I believe will beget organic growth in multiple facets of my life: be efficient in my responsibilities. I've realized that I have a bad habit of overwhelming myself with impossibly long lists of things that need to get done and repeatedly putting things off. This results in a feeling of never being fully caught-up. By extension, I am always "sort of working," and leisure activities and interruptions become impositions and sources of angst. I feel drained by other people's company and mad at myself in equal measure because I'm failing to budget my time wisely.

My plan, which I will commence as soon as I post this, is to take realistic stock of all my daily and weekly tasks and responsibilities, and assign regular dates and times to them. For instance, Thursday after work is always errands and grocery shopping, and Sunday is always meal prep. Sundry chores like floors and bathrooms will be assigned specific dates and one-hour time slots, and all will get Google calendar entries with reminders.

My hypothesis is that, if I'm not constantly figuring out what to do next, I will accomplish more in less time. I can knock out my chores for the day within an hour after work and have my evenings and weekends free to tackle new things, which I will plan out as they come. I won't feel put off by last-minute plans and can be present with people because I'll know my own affairs are in order. I can pick up new or old hobbies without second-guessing whether it's the best use of my time. Hell, I can even watch TV and movies without feeling like I need to fold laundry at the same time. I'll be the master of my own domain, and I think my confidence and willingness to grow will improve as a result. Stripped of the front of being perpetually "too busy," I'll have no choice but to try new things, be honest when I don't want to, and otherwise explore and fill this newfound "spare time" by broadening myself.

If this year is to have a theme, it's competence begetting confidence, or commanding respect versus demanding it. It's time to stop making excuses to myself and others, get on top of my shit, and get out of my comfort zone. I'll have nothing to sweep under the rug if the floors are always done on Friday.