Only 4 more days remain of 2018. Looking back, this year has been full of ups and downs in both my professional and personal lives, as well as lessons that I suppose only comes with experience. An important one being: I learned not to expect satisfaction from my job because that’s not my company’s #1 priority. Rather, it’s up to me to create my happiness.
For me, happiness involves performing everyday acts consistently. I’m reminded of a quote by Margaret Thatcher:
Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.
The “habits” that have served me well include: reading, kickboxing, cooking, yoga, writing, self-care, hanging out with friends and family, and training myself to be more positive. But most importantly, setting goals and developing my career as an artist have been key. I consider my greatest accomplishment of 2018 to be the poetry exhibition. Here, then, are my goals for 2019.
- Finish that manuscript. About 10-12 more solid pages should do it. I’ve already appointed a close friend Jeff to hold me to this.
- Save at least $10,000. Personal finance is always a concern for me, a millennial who has been working in the severely exploitative media industry for 3 years in NYC.
- Eat more vegetables. One reason behind the vegetable deficit in my diet is that I just don’t know enough ways to cook vegetables. So after years of hearing friends rave about the Instant Pot, I’m buying two, one for my mother and me. My goal is to eat at least 2 cups of vegetables a day. And, conversely, eat less red meat.
- Read 30 books. My friend Diana and I started a “Book Accountability Chart” that records the books we read. We set a target of 20 books for 2018, and we both achieved that. Next year, the target will be 30.
- Feed your mind. Watch less Netflix and Youtube. Listen to more podcasts or audiobooks.
- Travel. One U.S. location (most likely, Bloomington, Indiana to see friends) and one international destination (Toulouse, France, to see another friend).
- Publish more. Submit to more publications that I care about, such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, and LitHub.
- Learn to code.
- Learn business fundamentals. I started an online course, and will start investing.
- Ignore the naysayers, gravitate towards the people you want to be. If my professional life in 2018 has taught me anything, it’s knowing and guarding your own mind fiercely enough so you don’t waste your time with ignorant and negative people. Sometimes noise really is just noise.
- Try new hobbies. Don’t expect anything from your company or anyone at work.
- Don’t let my current job define me.
- Network more. Reach out to 10 contacts per month, offering to meet for coffee, and attend 2 networking meetings. And, of course, pay it forward.
- Don’t settle.
As I write this, an image of my former roommate’s tattoo keeps recurring. Back in 2015, when Dara and I met in a tiny shithole of an apartment in East Harlem, dealing with a nightmare of a girl-landlord, we reflected on the period of transition we’d each just embarked. Her: A Californian who drove cross-country to pursue her career goal of living in the Big Apple. Me: A Long Islander who quit academia the year before and who’d accepted her first job to make it in the “real world.”
Dara had tattoos to commemorate major periods of transitions in her life. For her big move to NYC, she’d decided on an arrow. “Why an arrow?” I asked, as she showed it to me, the skin on her forearm still puffy and pink. “It’s means moving forward. No looking back,” she replied.
Three years have passed since then. Three years I’d like to redo, three years replete with growing pains that I wonder were necessary or came at too great a cost. At certain moments of despair, I’ve replayed and scrutinized past decisions — perhaps to an unhealthy degree — in an effort to try to make sense of my messy life. Why am I working here? Should I have finished my Ph.D. in English? Why did I even major in English? But it’s all wishful thinking at this point, and I’m beyond the self-help books and Pinterest boards of motivational quotes.
Moving forward is the only way out. And, as the last stanza of Mark Strand’s powerful “Keeping Things Whole” suggests, moving forward is a reason for living, in and of itself.
Keeping Things Whole
By Mark StrandIn a fieldI am the absenceof field.This isalways the case.Wherever I amI am what is missing.When I walkI part the airand alwaysthe air moves into fill the spaceswhere my body’s been.We all have reasonsfor moving.I moveto keep things whole.