Several years ago I came across a blog post about a writer who did an annual report of his life from the year before and used that to make goals for the upcoming year. I found the guy a bit boorish and his approach to travel pretentious, but as the wick of 2016 burned to the end, I kept thinking more and more about an end-of-year report. I found the man’s blog again (still don’t like him) and decided to do a rough version of my own this year.
To do this, I made several buckets – writing, health, giving/activism, career, relationship, friendships, experiences/travel, spirituality and money. I picked these collections because they are the most significant areas in my life and where many of my goals lie.
First, I looked what went well, and to be honest, I was surprised. For example, my intentions for 2016 were to write and to run, and with a knee injury I didn’t do much running. My original goal was to run the Twin Cities Marathon, a day before my 32nd birthday. As most of you know, that didn’t happen and instead I was plagued with knee issues most of the year. However, when I listed what I did accomplish in running, it was more than I had anticipated. In the health category, I noted that I ran three 5 Ks, which isn’t a marathon but something to be proud of when my running wasn’t consistent. I also bought a bike (a goal of mine since I moved to Chicago two and half years ago), started swimming again and joined a gym.
My writing accomplishments were also greater than I expected. My goal had been to publish three pieces this year, which I did on Elite Daily (one, two and three). I also told a few stories on stage, for three separate shows, and wrote a blog post that was featured on Peace Corps’ international blog. I started attending a writing group and began a new blog. Also, I wrote an entire fiction novel, two drafts even.
The biggest change of the year, which wasn’t planned, was getting a new job. I really didn’t have intentions of leaving my job at Peace Corps – I was on the second year of my five-year contract – but I had been thinking long and hard about a career change (more on this at another time). A former colleague encouraged me to apply to a communications job in the city, which I didn’t get, but then I had an updated resume and started checking job sites daily. One of those jobs wanted me and, in August, I took a position at a national non-profit. It was hard to leave Peace Corps, it still is hard – Peace Corps, as I’ve written, is in my blood, it’s part of how I see myself in the world – but my time there had run its course. I was ready to remove myself from the agency and my new job offers me a greater growth potential. It was the right next step.
Other wonderful things happened this year, too – I traveled to new places in the U.S., joined the Expanding Lives executive board, moved in with my partner and saw Hamilton.
After I took stock of all the good things, I looked at what didn’t go well. Obviously, running, and I didn’t take as many chances with my writing as I wish I would have. The glaring weakness of this year, though, was friendships. It’s not that there were explosive breakups, and I had some really meaningful moments with friends this year, but I often got caught up in the anxiety of “Tuesday doesn’t work, how about Thursday” or “I haven’t seen that person in three months, I must have done something to anger her the last time we talked.” Friendships are necessary to happiness; you don’t need a significant other or strong relationships with blood relatives, they say, but you do need friends. Yet, our friends tend to get whatever time we have left after family, work, errands and whatever other balls we are juggling. Next year I want to make a concerted effort to not let frivolous worry and insecurity seep so far deep into my friendships.
The list of what didn’t go wrong was not as long as the list of things that went well, which was the entire point of this exercise. My starting point is less behind than I think, and I get to embrace 2017 and all of my goals knowing that whatever downfalls I had the year before I am on the right track.
Most late Decembers I take stock of the year by noting what I must improve upon in the next year, but this year I am more hopeful. This quasi-annual report sets the foundation for me to do so (which I will at some point in the next month or so) but it also allows me to spread out all the things I have to be grateful for and pick them up one by one. Then I understand that my starting point is less behind than I think in the day-to-day.
The hardest part of being sober: I spent the week with E’s family and there wasn’t any temptation to drink; I may have even gone a day not thinking about alcohol. The truest test will likely come on the 31st, but I have enough of a support system that I am not to worried.
The best part of being sober: Waking up with a clear mind the next day.