2021

I think after 2020 we all might be a little hesitant to make big plans or resolutions for 2021. But life has a funny way of working out and moving along even when it seems like everything is falling apart.

For example, my “30 day challenge” resolution ideas for 2020 included going on a walk outside every day for a month, paint every day for a month, and cook a meal every week for a month…and without me even trying, those goals all still kind of happened for me by accident. I went on more family hikes than usual in the summer due to outside activities being the only safe way to spend some time together, and in December I dogsat for 3 weeks, taking the dogs out on 20 minute walks every day. So that’s an accidental month’s worth of daily walks. From September-November, I was part of a huge mural installation, so even though we weren’t painting every day, and even though it wasn’t me painting little detailed personal things for fun, a few months’ worth of painting for hours 2-4 days a week technically more than fulfills that goal. And lastly, while I was dogsitting this December, I got into the habit of cooking myself a few simple meals (mostly eggs or pasta…but we’ll count it because it got me a little more comfortable with the idea of cooking daily stuff and not as a big event) so I think that somewhat qualifies for the weekly cooking goal also.

So, is this a win for believing in manifesting/the law of attraction? I think so. 😉 I really do believe that the act of putting a concrete goal into your mind, the act of writing it down and telling yourself it is something you want to achieve, something you believe that you can do, will eventually make it a reality for you. Heck, I had even been more vocal about wanting to paint a mural someday this past year, and the opportunity fell right into my lap! It was truly amazing. It’s not magic, it’s maybe a little bit fate or chance, or it’s prayers being answered. However you want to look at it, I think a little blind faith is really practical in life, even if you don’t notice how many pieces fell apart only for the right ones to fall together until you look at it in hindsight.

In 2021, I don’t really want many “resolutions,” I just want one overarching goal: be more present. Don’t let unlimited possibilities and trying to look too far ahead overwhelm you. Don’t try to have it all figured out before you take the next step. Just take one day at a time. One day is never too overwhelming to face, it will be over in a matter of hours. It’s good to have long term goals and short term goals, but sometimes you really need to ask yourself what you need to do just today to bring you one step closer in what you think is the right direction. 2020 was full of days that blurred together into months of similarity, and I want 2021 to be filled with more individual days and more present moments. I don’t want to wonder how other people find time to sip tea and journal and be early to things and take walks every day, I want to find that kind of presence and space in my own life before it’s too late. It’s something that I’ve been striving for for years, but that I finally have tasted in small bursts. It’s finally within my reach. 2021 will be a year of growth, but slow growth. Steady, intentional steps.

Here are my few small, hopeful goals:

Read 12 books this year. I don’t think I’ve read even 4 whole books in a year in a while. But I used to devour books as a child and as a teen, and heck, if I watched 196 movies last year while also finishing college, I think I can manage 12 books in a year, I’m not saying they have to be long or heavy content. I just might have to cut out a few movie nights this year to make room. 🙂 I actually technically finished one already, though I had read over half of it in 2019…but hey, I’m counting it! Haha, follow along at my new Goodreads account if you want to see what I’m reading.

Get a decent job. This is a little scary to type because it’s like…whoa. The rest of my life starts now. My career starts now. And I fully acknowledge that I am extremely privileged that getting a job isn’t a survival situation for me, that my parents like having me living at home for the time being, and I am in a position of currently having very minimal expenses. So while I have the luxury of having more options than someone in a more urgent position, and I have a college degree…it’s also a tumultuous time in the world, so I’ll have to see what I can get and where I can hopefully feel valuable. I’ve never been the kind of person who is concerned with establishing a “career” either, I’m kind of expecting to do a few different things in my life, but that adds another level of uncertainty to approaching where to start.

This also connects to a conversation I had with my best friend on New Year’s…we are introverts and homebodies by nature, and we feel that while the pandemic and stay-at-home orders were more tolerable for us than for more social-natured people, we also feel that it has made us regress a bit as far as social skills and comfort zones. Champagne problems, perhaps, but they are still real obstacles to overcome. Part of why I want to focus on being more present this year is because I really am overwhelmed at the idea of jumping back into the “real world” and interacting with people every day for a job, because it’s going to be a bigger and stranger transition now after this past year. I know it will be 10x harder for me to put myself out there and adjust after months of being cozy and safe at home most days than it would have been in 2019 when I was used to a much more busy and social schedule, but of course a lot of jobs are also more open to work-from-home setups now, not that I necessarily prefer that. Just getting started is often the hardest part. We’ll see.

Make better art. Last year, I made a fair amount of decent art, but I don’t feel like I progressed amazingly. I still feel that my art is often too “childish” for my own tastes, even though that’s my own personal criticism, and even though children’s art is my goal…I like art that can appeal to all ages, rather than art that is made for children specifically, you know? I want to build better technique, go back to basics a bit and hone my skills, work on my weaknesses, refine my color palettes. Have the patience and perseverance to tackle bigger projects rather than just simple little one-off drawings.

Propose that mural. Like I mentioned before, I had to come up with my own mural design and a fully drawn-up proposal with timeline and budget for my mural class final project. My instructor was actually very encouraging about my particular proposal because it is very approachable and realistic, and I also received similarly encouraging feedback from some people that work in beautification and neighborhood development for the city after my instructor recently shared our final proposals with them. So really, now it’s on me to ask the owners of the building about making my mural happen. Again, I’ve been in my comfort zone too much this past year, so I even hesitated to type this out as a goal because getting in contact with the business owner, and the process of making it happen if they say yes, feels very intimidating right now. But manifestation and all that…I know I’ll kick myself if I never put this into motion when I have it all ready to go.

Embrace a little weirdness. I think every year I shed a few more iotas of insecurity. I’d like to embrace my love of weirdness a little more this year, especially creativity-wise. I get so jazzed seeing illustrations of made-up creatures or reading oddball/surreal stories, etc. etc. and I know the weird-factor is what my art is missing sometimes that keeps it from feeling right to me. It’s almost like I see something really out there and think, whoa, we’re allowed to do stuff like this? As if there are some kind of unwritten rules I’ve been trapping myself within. I don’t know how I’ll find my own slightly strange stride, but I know I’ve been trying to be “normal” for the last decade to my detriment. I don’t want to suppress my natural personality in an effort to be “normal”…it’s just not me. 🙂 (the Creative Pep Talk podcast is a huge motivation for embracing one’s true self, weirdness and all, and I so appreciate everything Andy J. Pizza puts out, including the fact that he goes by Andy J. Pizza.)

So, I know specificity is important in making achievable goals, and half of these are more on the vague side. But to me, these feel specific in ways that only I can define for myself, in ways I can’t really put into concise words, or maybe that I just don’t want to try to explain, if that makes any sense at all. If anything, 2021 is going to be the year of embracing the unpredictability of life, because 2020 taught us all that lesson that our plans are never set in stone. I don’t want my plans to be set in stone anyway, I much prefer when things evolve naturally. 2021 is for being present, and growing slowly.

2020 in review

What a year guys, am I right…hah. I have to laugh looking back at my 2020 resolutions post I wrote last January…it was an optimistic little list of potential “30-day challenges” to follow throughout the year, and needless to say that barely lasted two months before I, like everyone else, began to struggle with motivation to even get through day to day life. I even wondered if I would have enough to write about to make a reflection post for this year, but then I realized that I absolutely do. Even in the strangest year in recent memory, there are some bright spots and some accomplishments that I’m really proud of.

like…I graduated college!!

It definitely looks different than my 2019, where I got to travel a lot, act in a musical, be in a wedding, interview one of my favorite working illustrators in person, help plan/design flyers for a charity Halloween party…all those things that you can’t really do during a pandemic. It’s almost like I somehow knew what was coming and really packed a bunch into the previous year, which was lucky I suppose, because in a way I didn’t mind a slower year following up all of that.

But while I have been lucky in so many ways, and (knock on wood) have not even had COVID, I don’t want to only talk about the bright spots without acknowledging that this year was a big struggle, even for someone like me who had it relatively easy. I graduated college on December 13th, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish, right up to the last day of finals practically. But I did, and it still seems almost too good to be true that somehow, while I’ve already taken longer than the “typical” 4 years, I managed to finish in 2020 during a pandemic when my motivation was taking major hits from all the subconscious stresses of everything going on. I definitely had some other low-motivation years in recent memory, but this year was hard for reasons outside of myself. So, let’s do a quick recap.

January-February: started to become an early bird with an 8am class I didn’t hate, kept up a reading habit every night before bed
March: lockdowns hit, classes switched to online, started a Letterboxd account to track my movie-watching
April: celebrated a quarantine birthday/turned 24, interviewed another of my favorite illustrators through video chat for my senior project
May: passed all my classes (even managed to ace a couple) even though I had gotten behind after the sudden total switch to online in mid-March
June: realized my Graphic Design minor was needlessly dragging me down and made the decision to pivot to an Interdisciplinary Art minor, which would make use of some old transfer credits I had floating in limbo, and lighten my last semester
July: housesat/dogsat for two weeks, Taylor Swift surprise-released Folklore, lost my (great) Aunt Marge to cancer, lots of family hikes outside in the summer

Clockwise from top left: Aunt Marge with her daughter (my godmother), her in the middle with friends in 1952, with her sister (my Aunt MaryAnn) almost 30 years later (though she barely looked like she aged from that photo up to this year!), her on the far left with friends (don’t know the context with the giant Schenley whiskey bottle, but they look like a fun group).
I’m so glad I recorded my Aunt Marge telling some stories with her siblings (she’s the oldest, my grandfather is the middle child, Aunt Maryann is the youngest) last year on the 4th of July…because who knew 2019 would be our last July 4th all together. I really miss her already.

August: got my wisdom teeth out, found out my last minor required class overlapped timeslots with my last major requirement, so long story short I was serendipitously allowed to sign up for a special new mural-painting class as a substitution
September-October: started work on largescale collaborative public mural! A dream of mine
November: Finished mural! designed a solo mural proposal for a local business
December: Graduated college!! Taylor Swift surprise-released Evermore, housesat/dogsat again (a different family) for 3 weeks over the holidays

taken on one of our last work days, November 9th

So let’s talk about this mural…it was my literal and figurative bright spot in 2020 (besides, yes, the two surprise Taylor Swift albums which I had to note because they were truly morale boosters also), and the physical work involved was ideal in a year where it was really hard for me to focus on mentally-taxing work for any stretch of time. The ability to show up to an outdoor class, keep socially distanced/wear masks, paint for hours at a time, and get college credit for it, was truly life-saving these past few months. I was definitely one of the stay late/volunteer for odd jobs people in the class because it felt so good to be able to throw myself into the work to the point of physical exhaustion. The instructor/orchestrator of the project, Dragana, might honestly rank as the best professor I’ve had over the years. She handled the class and the project with such energy, grace, flexibility yet firmness, and empathy, she is just one of those people with very evident emotional intelligence.

Abstracting landmarks, concepts and memories, designing the imagery, assigning numbers to colors, then color coding each section (and still changing our minds as we painted) was definitely a tough mental workout though
Projecting and tracing our sketch
I’m the one standing on the middle of the scaffolding in this pic

I’m very proud to have been a part of this project, where we were able to collaboratively design, transfer, and hand-paint a gigantic mural that the community can enjoy for years, adding color and subtle abstractions of nostalgic local memories and proud history gathered from Youngstown natives to a very industrial corridor of the city. While I had a senior research project I had to design and conduct using interviews for my Media Communication major, I consider this mural the true final project to end my college career (though for this class I also had to design my own, much smaller mural proposal for a local business that with any luck may come to life in the future).

Here I am again on our last work day finishing up the logo section honoring all the businesses that helped us bring this project to life.

It feels very fitting that we completed this mural in 2020. It represents community, working together, supporting each other, celebrating our town’s trials and history, connecting past, present and future, bringing color and brightness to a neglected spot on a fairly busy road. I can’t even count how many people honked enthusiastically or shouted words of appreciation and encouragement to us as they drove past the wall while we worked the past few months. The donations of funds, supplies, and services, and support from the city and local businesses that allowed it to happen. The fun, long days working (with an accidentally all-women class of artists!), laughing and chatting and putting the radio on, climbing ladders and moving scaffolding and freshman volunteers showing up to help where this was maybe one of the few in-person activities they’ve been able to participate in their first semester. And now we’ve left our own bright spot to last years and inspire more similar projects to come. (All photos in this post are my own, except those with me in them, which I borrowed from our mural website)

From bare wall…to color explosion 🙂

2021, let’s see if we can all work together to make you a brighter year ahead.

On finding (and owning) your creative style

Developing your own style is often the biggest challenge of any creative endeavor. We all have an inherent natural style, but usually it’s not quite what you want it to be, or what it could be, without a lot of work. I’m still in the process of developing my style, and I’ve been drawing and making art since I could first hold a crayon, so it’s been a solid 22 years for me and I still feel a bit lost half the time. This blog turns 3 years old today, so even after three years of “official” development, I’m really just getting started.

While I haven’t always been concerned with developing my style, I was definitely always experimenting with it, even from a very young age. I have drawings from age two or three where my mom or dad had drawn something for me, like ducks in the park, and I had attempted to mimic their drawing. I loved drawing the cartoons I watched on TV, from Powerpuff Girls to Pokemon. I drew a lot of Pokemon. Inherently, my drawings were unique to my hand, but I was initially copying a lot of other people’s art to learn, and just because I liked it. In third grade, I borrowed the Ms. Pac-Man ghosts (Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Sue, for the uncultured) for easy-to-replicate characters in my comic strip drawings. I eventually developed characters of my own invention after lots of practice creating pages after pages of comics in my free time at school, figuring out what I liked, what I found funny, and what I could easily draw frame-after-frame without fully resorting to stick figures.

3rd-grader humor…

In middle school, I would fill up a notebook of what I imagined the characters to look like from my favorite book series at the time (Redwall, so lots of anthropomorphic woodland creatures) and I would draw my Neopets in a more stylized and customized way based on what I imagined their personalities to be. In high school, I often doodled ballerinas and 1960s-inspired florals and patterns. As my interests changed, my inspirations changed, and I would draw my own iterations of whatever I was paying most attention to. I wasn’t trying consciously to develop anything, just imitating what I liked for fun, bits and pieces of my interests slowly integrating into my own art creations.

a page of doodles from the week before I graduated high school

Style isn’t really a conscious thing, for the most part. You can maybe describe your personal style and tastes in a handful of words, but there is so much more “why” to it all than you may even realize. You might love the color apple green because it’s the color of the walls at your aunt & uncle’s old house on a hill with the smell of spring and Easter dinner in the air when you were younger, feeling so at home surrounded by family, and you kind of forget about all that and just know it’s one of those colors that just feels right to you. Or maybe a character in a movie you saw ten years ago wore a really cool outfit that subconsciously influenced what you like to wear. Or you read a certain picture book over and over when you were young, so the art style in it is very appealing to you. You may be conscious of more recent or memorable influences that you can visualize and describe, like the tip of the iceberg, but your actual style is made up of immeasurable life experiences like the examples I mentioned, extending far deeper below the surface.

So, whatever you make as a creative will unavoidably have an imprint of your own experiences and tastes. Krista of @hername_ismud posted a wonderful discussion of this in her instagram stories a while ago that stuck with me (in her highlights under “create vs copy”). She mentioned that it is often hard and uncomfortable work to get to know yourself, to find your creative voice, but it is extremely valuable to do and crucial if you are trying to contribute something new to the world. I love one thing she said especially, that you have to “invite yourself into your work.” You need to allow your unique experiences and gifts to shine through in what you make. She mentioned that while you can look at Pinterest for inspiration and copy other artists’ styles for fun and to learn some things, at a certain point, imitating the work of another just becomes detrimental to your own progress if your aim is to grow as an artist. You won’t find your own voice by borrowing others’ ideas, which likely cost them years of experience, failures, and effort. At the very least, you should give proper credit to your influences if you’re going to use their hard work as a shortcut.

This is a constant discussion in the artist community online, where art is so easily circulated now that some artists find that their work is being stolen and sold by overseas businesses, or even popular companies and big brands. Originality seems to be harder than ever now that we are all bombarded by pretty designs all over our social media, but in a way, it is more valuable than ever for those same reasons. I love Pinterest, but I have also needed to majorly shift how I use it as I begin to really try to uncover and shape my own style. I still pin illustrations and art and design that I admire, but I try to pin more photos of things and places and people and a variety of art mediums in order to find more unconventional and indirect inspiration, and when I do really want to emulate a certain illustrator’s style, I try to only borrow elements of it, mixed with other elements and styles, in order to make it my own.

I really like that Krista also mentioned she keeps a written notebook as an alternative to saving direct inspiration images, so that she can jot down ideas from things she sees and therefore already begin to separate them from the source and allow more room for interpretation and creativity. I really think there is major value in doing very present and physical activities as an artist, such as taking walks or flipping through old books, to find more unique inspiration. My graphic design professors have made a point in the past to assign us to check out any book from a section of our choice at the library, because it’s easy to forget there’s a ton of things out there that don’t even exist on the internet. I found a few super interesting old books on painting and design that were somewhat outdated but all the more inspiring for it, because it wasn’t something I would find online.

For as much as I was obsessed with books growing up, I have really drifted away from physical books in recent years, but I’m itching to get back to tangible sources like that. I was in this vintage shop in Boulder City last year that had some great Matisse and Calder and Degas lithographs, and this big selection of vinyl records that were so fun to flip through just because of the amazing old cover art, just random compilations of Tchaikovsky or Chopin, or some musicians I’ve never heard of, with the coolest cover designs. That’s the kind of inspiration that lights me up, not the same trendy design I’ve seen pop up in my Pinterest feed 10 times over the last year. But that’s the beauty of it, (and why I’m beginning to miss travelling this year, even just a day trip to a nearby city) some things you can’t find on the internet. Some inspiration has to be found 27 records deep in a dusty, disorganized pile you’re flipping through while simultaneously trying to keep it from toppling over in the back of an antiques store that you ducked into on a whim to escape the heat.

I keep seeing talk about “finding your style” everywhere lately, and it has been on my own mind for a while, so I wanted to write out some of my thoughts. It’s one of those topics that a lot of people seem to struggle with in the current age along with procrastination and indecisiveness, which I happen to think are all directly tied to the endless bombardment of over-stimulation that we’re all faced with as soon as we open up a social media app or the internet. Having just spent two weeks dogsitting a couple of golden retrievers at a house with a lovely front porch and back patio tucked at the end of a street by some woods, I spent more time just sitting outside and enjoying fresh air and solitude than I have in a long, long time. And I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. In fact, I started to wonder why I had endless to-do lists when all of a sudden it felt like I could count my priorities on one hand. I may have even had some major breakthrough realizations about my own artistic style that I’ll discuss in another post soon. I think honing your “style” is one of those processes that never ends, and while I look forward to evolving, refining, and finding more consistency, I also know that I am an admirer of many differing things, so my personal style will probably always be fairly eclectic and experimental. I just have to make peace with the process.

Twenty-four

I’m going to be honest, this birthday is one that I wasn’t all that excited for. For one, I’ve really enjoyed being 23, and I think I’ve made a lot of wonderful memories in the last year. For another, it’s a strange time to be celebrating a birthday at the moment, not that I’ve ever minded a low-key day…let me pick the treat and the movie and I’m set. And for a third reason, 24 is the first age that makes me feel unironically a bit old…like, I’m supposed to be a real adult now, and I still feel more half-kid, half-adult. I guess I’m just easing into my quarter-life crisis. 🙂

Also, this birthday is a bit of a strange milestone for me. When my cousin passed away from cancer at age 24 on April 19th, 2017, I had a bit of a personal awakening, as you do when someone close to you passes earlier than expected. Not that anyone is ever ready to die at a young age, but I looked to him, a person I had always seen as a role model throughout my life, and to me he seemed spiritually in the right place. I had just turned 21, and I thought to myself, could I face death at 24? And honestly, I felt very far from being able to be at peace with death. I realized that I wasn’t living my life with my heart in the right place, that I had a bunch of small hangups and fears and insecurities and bad habits that had gradually developed over my teen years and kept me from maintaining the right priorities. I had been doing a lot of surface-level personal work over recent years, but I hadn’t been addressing anything too deeply. So I resolved to work harder at not letting myself get in my own way so much.

In some ways I feel like I haven’t changed much at all over my lifetime. In others, I feel like I’ve completely transformed over the years, especially the last three. I don’t know which is closer to the truth, but I’ll accept the middle ground, that I’ve been growing and learning the best I can. And to be honest, I feel more spiritually at peace than I ever have before. So, in a way, I can now answer that I could more readily face death at 24. Do I want to? Absolutely not, there are so many, many things I still want to do in life. My heart aches for the life that young souls gone too soon could have lived, the people they could have impacted. But often, young loss has a massive impact of its own, and for the gift of true spiritual introspection, I am grateful. I wouldn’t be who I am today at 24 without my cousin’s life (the same could be said for many other loved ones), but also without his loss.

I was watching part of LOTR: Return of the King as it was airing on tv the other day. There was a scene that stuck out, that I hadn’t really noticed before, Gandalf and Pippin talking before the assault on Minis Tirith. Upon a little digging, I discovered that the dialogue was unique to the film but based on pieces from the book. At any rate, it resonated with me:

Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.

Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?

Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

Pippin: Well, that isn’t so bad.

Gandalf: No. No, it isn’t.

I didn’t really expect to spend my 24th birthday blog post talking about death, but honestly it’s just what’s been on my mind the past few months, even before all this stuff we have going on in the world at the moment. It’s just a more somber sort of birthday all around. And it’s of my opinion that we all should attempt to make peace with death the best we can, because it’s a path we all must take at some point. I forget where I heard this recently, but someone pointed out that when He was faced with His crucifixion, Jesus feared death, but He was not terrified of it, and I think that’s an important distinction. Jesus showed His humanity in that moment, because as a human, it is perfectly natural to fear death. However, because Jesus died for us, we do not need to live in terror of it, because it is not the end. We can make peace with our physical mortality, if only we endeavor to keep our spirits healthy.

So, I went into today with the lowest of expectations. I would do some schoolwork, take ballet class via livestream, watch a movie to end the evening. I would turn 24. Well, today ended up surprising me in the best of ways. I’m lucky that I have plenty of family and friends that take the time to text, call, or send a card, so I always feel loved on my birthday. But this might strangely be my favorite birthday in recent memory because of how low my expectations were. I received some really sweet messages, even from a few people I haven’t talked to recently. My Godmother called and we talked on the phone for 45 minutes, my other Godmother/aunt dropped by to leave me a little gift and chat from a distance on the porch, my best friend dropped off a super sweet surprise gift just after, I got some very thoughtful cards in the mail. Altogether, I feel so loved I could burst.

My soul needed this, truly. I was filled up by my loved ones today even from a distance, and now I feel so much more prepared to celebrate the Resurrection this Sunday, on the 3rd anniversary of my cousin’s loss no less, despite the sadness of not being able to gather with my family and my church family. My sense of hope in these times is being repeatedly tested and renewed in more ways than I can express. Who knew a “quarantine birthday” would be one for the memories, for all the loveliest reasons and not negative ones?

Valleys

I know everyone has said a variation of this already, but January always feels like two months in one. It even seems to swallow up the first week of February, because I feel like every year I blink on Groundhog Day and suddenly it’s Valentine’s Day. And the older I get, the more I just seem to always make small talk about time flying and the weather. It’s so cliche but it’s like adults can’t refrain ourselves from talking about this stuff…I even kind of enjoy exchanging obvious comments on the temperature with friends and strangers alike. I also always seem to open up my blog posts with small-talky stuff like this, I’m just realizing. Haha, someone stop me! But it’s somewhat relevant, I promise.

Today I wanted to talk about those almost universal valleys of life. Like February. I like February, I really do. There’s stuff I like about every month of the year. But I do find that there are certain times of year where I slide down a hill into a deep valley, and February definitely feels like one of those. The days blur together and life feels like it’s shrouded in fog. And then one day in March my head clears the mist and I’m halfway up the next hill and climbing out of the clouds without hardly being able to tell that I was moving forward for the past month. And I know it’s not just me, because it’s all I hear this time of year, people talking about the late winter/pre-spring slump that hits many of us.

I will say that I think I’m learning how to better handle these predictably recurring valleys, so that they seem shallower in recent years. I’m noticing the patterns. I’ve realized that I do value simple routines and creature comforts built into my daily life, but after too much of the same, I get complacent, and I backslide a little. I always try to have little things to look forward to, but these slumpy times of year I do tend to get a bit tired of everything. I get tired of constant homework, mounting projects, the usual thing for lunch, going to ballet class two days in a row. I let go of productive side pursuits. I watch five youtube videos or play the same six songs on the piano over and over as procrastination instead of taking a productive break to draw something or plan out the next steps of a project I know that I need to tackle.

So…about my 30-day challenges so far? January went fine. I genuinely appreciate that January always feels long, it’s a nice head start to ease into the new year. I finished a book I had been reading on and off for a while, and picked up a new fun read as a mini-reward and to continue the habit (that’s a tip if you decide to reward yourself for a goal…make the reward something that compliments the outcome, not contradicts it). I’ll be honest, I nixed my 20-minute initial requirement, because I decided the more important part was just reading every night, not the length of time. Sometimes I would just read a couple pages and turn out the light. My bedtime routine did not magically transform into a screen-free hour of zen, but even if it was only 5-10 minutes, it felt good to not have my phone be the last thing I looked at before going to sleep. I also switched from music to podcasts on my daily commutes to and from campus, and I actually really enjoy my 8am class days for the most part.

But we’re really here to talk about February. This month started with good intentions. At first I kind of carried over the reading habit, but then I tried transitioning to the 10 minutes of prayer/meditation I had planned. I had a few days with more intentional prayer than I had done in a while, a few days where I really needed it. But like I said, February is often a slump month for me, and I slid into that foggy valley before I even realized it. And I always really need more prayer and true moments of stillness in my life. But this month I just failed at committing to it. And that’s okay.

Do I think my month would have gone better if I had successfully committed to this habit? Of course. That’s why I wanted to do it. But I’m getting gradually better at owning up to failures, big or tiny, and embracing the lessons from them. I know there are a lot of things I could have done better this month. I let my time management slide, did things more last minute, made excuses for myself, and allowed more laziness and distraction. But I also tried to give myself grace this month, because I recognized that I needed it a little more than I did last month. In the past, I would have continued to procrastinate and spiral in a domino effect over guilt of getting behind, but now, I let the past be past and try to focus on just getting back on top of things in the present. I always want to be striving to do better, but continually succeeding in anything is a hard expectation to sustain.

With these 30-day challenges, I wanted to embrace the inherent fresh-start of each new month, and I also wanted to embrace the inevitable failures that would come with my dozen mini-resolutions this year. I’m still thinking over what I want to commit to in March, but I’m hoping I can harness some post-slump motivation to climb up the next hill and be in a good place at the top for April. Every day is a new chance to start again. And hey, it’s Leap Day, so we even got a special bonus chance this year. 😉

2020

Welcome to the roaring 2020’s, a new year and a whole new decade!

Since I haven’t officially recapped my 2019 resolutions, let’s start with an overview:

  1. Go back to pointe class (✔) – not only did I get refitted for pointe shoes and go back to pointe class for the first time in 5 years starting in June/July, that pair of shoes is officially about dead and I have been rehearsing weekly since that time for a pointe choreography piece that will be put on sometime next spring. After performing in West Side Story in Jan/Feb and now this, I’m very excited to be back to the studio and stage with dance, and feeling in many ways even better than my high school self even though at that time I was in ballet class 5 days a week! I also love rehearsing and being in class with all dancers around my age or older…we aren’t flexible little teenagers anymore with nothing better to do, we devote our precious time and effort to it for the discipline, passion, and love of it.
  2. Digital decluttering (still in progress) – this one is going to have to be carried over into another year, but I have been making progress with organizing and purging my digital photos and other files. It’s a lot to tackle!
  3. Try rock climbing (✔) – already covered this in my birthday resolution check-in, but I checked this one off pretty early in the year! Unfortunately after spring semester I lost touch with my climbing buddies, but maybe I’ll get back to bouldering again sometime in 2020.
  4. Less screen time/more creative time (✔?) this one was kind of vague and hard to gauge. I definitely feel like I was able to really tap into my creativity the past year, especially involving my academics. I felt good about (and got positive feedback on) my graphic design projects this fall semester, designed posters for some of my communication class events, and made some fun personal illustrations too. I spent more time outside in the summer by keeping an activity journal, and made sure to go on walks outside at least an hour total per week (not a huge thing, but for me, whose daily activities/hobbies are mostly indoor things, it really helped to set activity goals and keep track of what I did daily. I could do a post about this if like 2 people are interested, haha, let me know). I also feel like I stepped away from social media more this year, so this is just one of those ongoing goals to keep in mind.
  5. Draw a lot more often (half success) – so I started with “draw every day” which was not a realistic goal for me this year, and revised it in my birthday post to doing the 100 day challenge, which I am doing…very slowly. Haha. I definitely feel like I have drawn a lot more this past year, digitally at least with having an ipad/Procreate, but I’m on #13 of the #lml100daysofillustratedpics that I set out to do…so maybe I shouldn’t have been so lax about it not being an “everyday” thing… which brings me to my 2020 resolutions!

I decided for my 2020 resolutions, I wanted to focus on little things that I’ve brushed aside in the past as “I can see this being beneficial, but it seems like it could be difficult to stick to and I’m skeptical it won’t make that much of a difference in my life.” I want these resolutions to be somewhat flexible in what I have to do, but pretty rigid in that I have to do them consistently. They will be structured like Matt D’Avella 30-day challenges (linked his youtube channel there, definitely a good one to check out). So, each month, I will choose something different to focus on for the entire month, and I won’t be planning them all out ahead of time.

For January, I decided I will read something printed for 20 mins before going to sleep each night, not anything on a screen. I think I have a pretty healthy relationship with my phone and social media. But, I do really miss reading actual print books because I choose my phone or the internet over them nine times out of ten nowadays, just because there’s more options at my fingertips with a screen, not even just social media. I feel that I have a pretty normal attention span, probably better than many of my peers, but I do feel that urge to switch to something else when concentrating on one thing for a long time. I want to try to reclaim more of that ability to focus longer. So, I’m trying to establish better bedtime habits to start the year by kicking myself off of overstimulating technology for a bit before sleep, and making space for reading books again.

As for other resolutions/challenges, I think for February, I’d like to pray or meditate before bed for 10 minutes a day. It’s not enough time to be too intimidating, but my spiritual life needs a little more devotion on my end and 10 solid minutes is enough that it will be something I need to do intentionally and not passively. I’m hoping that by the end of two months of different mindful bedtime habits, I’ll have a new and healthier routine established (did I mention I have an 8am class this semester…).

For March, I’d tentatively like to do 3 at-home yoga practices per week. These can be relatively short, just a bit of stretching, sun salutations, or planks, and will be in addition to the yoga/ballet classes I already attend. For someone who is yoga teacher certified, I really don’t have much of a personal practice of doing yoga alone in my home. I love classes and I’m lucky to have a great studio with great people close to home where I have accountability and where I’m pushed beyond what I would consider my limits in fulfilling ways. I want to test myself to practice more at home just for the practice of it.

That’s as much as I will plan out for now, and I’ll be sure to check in with the results of my challenges, either after the month is over, or for sure in my next birthday post in April. Other ideas that I will hopefully implement in other parts of the year:

  • keep a daily journal in French for a month (maybe for April?)
  • draw in a sketchbook every day for a month (May?)
  • write a mini fun poem every day for a month (June?)
  • go on a walk outside every day for a month (July?)
  • paint every day for a month (August?)
  • Read the Bible every day for a month (maybe I’ll choose a book of it to focus on, like Psalms)
  • cook a meal every week for a month (I live with my parents so this isn’t something I do hardly ever, I’m more of a baker but would love to be a better cook)
  • write a short story every day for a month (like a tiny story, maybe a paragraph or two)

That’s almost an idea for every month, but depending on how these go I might decide to just repeat a challenge, if I feel like it would be helpful to do it twice, or come up with something else entirely if it strikes me. I’d say a few of these are somewhat ambitious, all of them will be challenging to do consistently, but none of them are huge or unrealistic, especially if the timing is right, which is why I want to pick the challenge each month based on what I think will work best with my life and daily schedule.

Ultimately, I came up with these challenges as practical ways to get closer to personal goals of mine or help me grow various skills, or things that would feel really fulfilling when looking back after a month of consistently doing them. I really feel that consistency is the key to anything, and I struggle with consistency because I often try to do too many things at once. In a way, 2020 will be a year of trying to find more consistency in my life through manageable, separate monthly focuses.

Twenty-three

Here we are at another birthday…I turned 23 today! I don’t think I’m the only one who does this, but I tend to get ahead of myself when it gets closer to a new birthday and I’ve basically been considering myself a 23-year-old in my head for the past couple months. My friend and I were talking the other day about how people tend to say on their birthday that they’re looking forward to their 23rd year or whatever, when in actuality, turning 23 means you have just completed your 23rd year and you’re really beginning your 24th year. Haha, it’s just a technicality but it’s a bit of a pet peeve that I was happy someone else shared. And I guess it’s a way to illustrate my point that age is something that sort of changes every day, not all at once on one day a year. At least that’s how I like to think of it, that getting older isn’t this big surprise that pounces on you, but rather a gradual, constant process of letting go of one age and moving toward the next. But I do really like birthdays.

Last year for my birthday post on the blog, I did a little new years resolutions check-in, which works well for me since my birthday falls a third of the way into the year. Ok, whoa, saying that feels weird, how is 2019 already 1/3 through? I don’t think I ever actually realized my birthday is literally 1/3 of the way into the year until I typed that just now lol. Anyway, I also had another kind of silly realization a few days ago when thinking back on my 2019 resolutions and watching this video on youtube from Aileen of Lavendaire. Yearly goals are great, but I realized some goals make much more sense to break down into sections, or a month or 3 months at a time, like the “draw every day” one. I mean, I do draw a lot, and I intended my resolutions to have some flexibility, but literally drawing something every single day for 365 days is a huge goal that I didn’t actually think all the way through, haha. Duh. So needless to say, I haven’t quite kept to that one religiously! This blog is about my efforts in mindful and intentional living, but you can see how there are so many layers to mindfulness that it’s still super easy to mindlessly set an intention, like this one that was unrealistic for my current self.

So with these recent reflections I have also had some fresh ideas on how to reintegrate some of my goals in a more realistic and concrete way. To start with the drawing example, I was reminded on instagram recently about the #100daychallenge, which is where you draw/create something basically every day for 100 days following a theme of your choosing (or if you miss days here and there, you at least have a goal of making it to 100 eventually). So, because I am constantly gathering inspiration online and love saving photos and pinning things on pinterest as reference for future art/drawings, I decided to do #100daysofillustratedphotos! Probably over the summer months, I will try to choose 100 photos I’ve pinned or taken myself, and illustrate each one to practice drawing from reference and stylistically interpreting real things.

As for my other goals, I still have to work on the digital decluttering, I have so far just looked through a lot of old photos and condensed some folders recently so I have a better idea of what I have. That’s just something that takes time. Another one that hasn’t gone as planned is going back to pointe class. With West Side Story being pushed into the new year and taking a lot of classes this semester, not to mention leaving the country for a week in March, my ballet class attendance has been pretty disrupted, plus I still need to get refitted for pointe shoes and get a new pair as it has been almost 5 years. So I’m okay with not rushing this one, as I need to be able to commit to it fully when I do get back into it.

The last goal I want to refine a bit is the “one hour a day of no screen time/creativity without screens.” This isn’t as much of a goal as it is sort of habit-building, because like I said in the resolutions post, I’m obviously not using screens 24/7, and it’s hard to implement a solid hour of creativity at once depending on the day. I realized that I’ve been craving more outdoors time lately and that getting outside and being creative kind of go hand-in-hand for me. So I’m tentatively keeping the original goal and leaving it somewhat vague, but I’m going to add that I want to try to more consciously get outside and get some fresh air and quiet time a little bit every day or most days as part of it.

Lastly, the one goal I have actually already completed is to try rock climbing, and it went exactly as I’d hoped! I showed up to a beginner climbing class at my university at the end of January, had fun, made some new friends, and just tried out a new bouldering gym with them last week that recently opened up nearby. I really love climbing (more specifically I learned that I prefer bouldering, which is shorter heights without a harness) and I’m so happy I made this a goal because it pushed me to just do it and not put it off! I’m looking forward to going more often and getting better at it.

In the youtube video I mentioned/linked above, Aileen offers some helpful journaling prompts, beginning with reflecting by asking yourself, “what are the lessons I’ve learned in the past 3 months?” I really like this, because when I think back on the year as a whole, it’s kind of a blur, but I’ve done and learned so much just in the last few months. I wrote a post on what I learned from being in West Side Story, I wrote about traveling out of the country for the first time to visit Paris, and there are many other little things I haven’t even mentioned. Such as that for an assignment for my Interviewing class, I emailed one of my favorite current artists, Dinara Mirtalipova, who happens to live somewhat close to me, and asked if I could interview her, and she graciously agreed. (!!) Talking with her in a coffee shop for an hour, even though I felt like I was pretty awkward because my brain was in nervous autopilot, was such an awesome experience. Just to be able to ask her questions and gain a lot of helpful insight into the career I want to pursue, especially with her experiences being exactly the sort of things I’d love to do in my own career. It was one of those experiences where the idea popped into my head and I knew it wouldn’t hurt to ask, and it meant so much to me that she said yes (and I got an A on that assignment, haha).

I like to write these occasional reflection posts and talk candidly about my goals because it really helps me to see more clearly what I have accomplished, what I need to work on, and when I need to readjust my goals or methods. Plus, I hope that reading me ramble about this stuff is somewhat helpful, to see the imperfections in another person’s journey, but also to see that things are achievable if you just start trying, if you just plant the seed. My name means “green shoot” or “blooming” and I feel like I’m always just trying to sprout ideas and to grow and bloom in different ways and encourage others to do the same. I just love growth and flowers and new beginnings. I’m a lot more fearless than I ever used to be, and sometimes growing up feels more free than being a kid, because you finally learn enough to know you’ll never not have a lot to learn still. I liked being twenty-two, but I think I’m going to like being twenty-three even more.

2019

Last year I wrote a post on my specific resolutions for 2018, and it was the first time I had made concrete goals in a long time. I always have ideas and goals and lists of personal projects I want to work on, but I used to accomplish these sorts of things more on whims and never really with much planning. Last year, however, my list of resolutions turned out to be fairly effective and now I’m firmly on the bandwagon of detailed goal-setting.

Let’s start with a recap, shall we? In 2018

I did not read more books, and I was online a lot. I listened to a ton of podcasts, watched lots of YouTube, and read a fair bit of online articles, as I like to do. Am I disappointed? Honestly, not terribly. I learned a lot from these resources last year and enjoyed it. I grew up reading a ton of books, and lately I just wasn’t ever in the mood to sit with long-form pieces of written material. I also grew up consuming almost entirely fiction and fantasy, and this past year I consumed almost entirely non-fiction. I do want to get back to reading the occasional book in 2019, but I’m okay with “failing” this resolution because it turned out I had other priorities this past year.

I developed sort of conversational level abilities in French! I spent the first part of the year using my Duolingo app daily, which did a decent job of building up my vocabulary, but then I had the opportunity to take Intermediate French in the fall semester to fulfill my language credit requirements. The classroom environment was exactly what I needed to take my French to the next level, as I was forced to practice conversing and listening comprehension in the oral portion of each exam, as well as in class four days a week. I really enjoyed it and I’m going to miss having that level of practice. I’m starting up daily Duolingo again at least to keep my skills fresh as I prep to go to Paris for a week in March! My abilities are still pretty basic, but we’ll see how much I get to put them to the test…

I went back to ballet class consistently! There were definitely weeks here and there that I missed, but for the most part I tried to get to one to two ballet classes per week all year, and it’s been great! My technique is stronger in some areas than it used to be, and weaker in others, but overall I honestly feel like a better dancer than ever.

I did not declutter my digital life or illustrate a book, though I did start the digital decluttering process and continued practicing and sharing random illustrations all year. Not exactly successes, but those goals are big to begin with, so it’s not a total loss, either.

Lastly, for my bonus goals, I did not practice ukulele hardly at all and I didn’t do any real cooking or recipe testing, but I will say my mom has made some good homemade soups and vegetable roasts this year, hah. As far as buying only 12 or less new clothing items, I ended up somewhat keeping that goal! I did accumulate some new clothing and stopped keeping track, but I think the number is low enough that it could be considered a success, since most of the items were replacing old basics or purchased secondhand. I was way more conscious of things I bought this year overall and extremely thoughtful about each purchase.

Now, my resolutions for 2019! This year, I want to:

1. Go back to pointe class

Now that I’ve gotten my body back into the swing of regular ballet classes, and at the prodding of my classmates and teacher, I’m feeling ready to go back to pointe as well. I’m going to start slow, because I don’t really know how my feet will respond after 4 years out of pointe shoes, but I’m excited. While it can be painful, it can also feel like floating…there’s nothing quite like dancing on your toes.

2. Digital decluttering!

This one is carried over from last year. I did a little bit of photo organizing and purging, and started some folder systems, but this year I want to really get it done. I want to go through all my old digital photos and files, organize them, purge things ruthlessly, back them up properly to my hard drive AND to a good cloud storage option (probably google photos? could use recommendations) and also improve my online security by signing up for a password manager and starting to change all my passwords. It would be ideal to work on this now in the wintertime as well, since it’s a solid curled-up-inside-on-the-couch activity.

3. Try rock climbing

I really think this would be an activity I’d enjoy, good cross training for yoga arm balances, and I have access to a climbing wall through my school. I’m a pretty low-energy person by nature, so I need exercise and activities that are fun and/or group settings for accountability (like yoga and ballet). This fits the bill, plus it wouldn’t hurt if I met some new people at my school as well, so I’m going to try to sign up for a beginner lesson and give climbing a try this year.

4. Less screen time, more creative time

Ok, last year my “read more books, be online less” and “illustrate a picture book” goals (as well as the bonus “improve ukulele skills”) didn’t happen, at all. So, this year I have a better idea. Often it’s more effective to create very specific goals, but in a few cases, I think being more vague can be beneficial. My creativity would benefit from more screen time boundaries, so this year my new goal is to come up with a way to force myself to do something creative every day. For my purposes, maybe an hour a day of no screens allowed, sort of like a pomodoro technique for doing something creative. It’s not like I’m on my phone or computer 24/7, but usually one or both are right next to me while I’m doing something else, and it would help to purposely make those distractions not an option for a bit each day.

I hesitate to schedule when that hour should be, as I feel like it should be somewhat flexible, but I’m going to make a concentrated effort to ban myself from too much mindless scrolling on electronic devices. After spending a couple months rehearsing West Side Story in practically all of my free time, I definitely haven’t had time to fill with pointless activities, and I haven’t missed it. Any time I feel the urge to bounce around between different social media just for something to do is probably a good time to put the hour into effect and try to mindfully switch to something else, whether playing an instrument, drawing, painting, sewing, writing, reading, or even experimenting with something new, like recording a “podcast” just to practice speaking and get some thoughts out.

5. Draw every day

To go with the last one, I really think practicing drawing a little bit every day would be an extremely beneficial and long overdue habit to establish. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just drawing something each day that’s not specifically meant to be shared online or with anyone necessarily, would make me a much better artist by the end of the year.

That’s it! I could probably name another goal or three if I wanted to, but I think these five cover a lot as far as personal motivation goes. I’m anticipating 2019 to be a busy year, so I’d rather keep it clear and simple and see what happens. I had this post mostly written 2 weeks ago but like I mentioned I’ve been in West Side Story rehearsals seemingly nonstop, haha, so it took me a while to actually wrap this up and hit publish. New years resolutions don’t really officially start until February anyway, right?? 😉

Have you thought about what you want to accomplish this year?

Twenty-two

Today is my birthday! My first birthday with this blog, I guess that’s a small milestone of some sort? It’s funny how once you’re past twenty-one, all those momentous years of coming-of-age have pretty much happened and now it’s just a slow roll approaching thirty. Not to be cynical, because I’m very much a fan of birthdays and I think every year feels momentous in a way, but I do tend to have a moment every birthday where I wrestle with my emotions and expectations. Every holiday comes with excitement and the desire to spend the day in a joyful and meaningful way, but a birthday is like a private little holiday just for you, with no guarantee of time off or the participation of others.

Maybe you can relate to these odd feelings. I’m not the type to seek attention, so while I definitely appreciate being appreciated, I find that I enjoy this new kind of birthday that comes with being an adult, the kind where it falls on a Monday and you have your regular obligations and you just sort of go on with your life, though maybe everyone is extra nice to you for the day. 🙂 I always end up feeling super loved, which I’m grateful for, and I really enjoy just seeing that pretty little date everywhere…4/16. My own special significant set of numbers. I do love April as a whole, though, because I happen to have quite a few family members that share this month of birth, so it’s a string of happy little significant calendar dates.

Something that has hit me in the last year or two is not to get so hung up on individual dates, though. Sure, you may have those days on the calendar that make you feel like you have to do something exciting or feel a certain way, but they come and go like any other day, so why not try to value every day instead of stressing over the ones that “should” be important? For me, having a pet oddly helps with that mindset. As far as my little rabbit is concerned, holidays are no different from any other day (except maybe they’re worse because we leave him all alone while we’re extra busy celebrating!) Benjamin Bun doesn’t care that it’s my birthday, he just wants more head pets and playtime like always, and honestly, that’s a really grounding concept to me. We humans over-complicate our lives and could benefit from some reminders of simple living from our small furry friends. Anyway, you know me, I could go on. Another day, another analysis of what lessons I can apply to find more peace in my life.

I do want to check in briefly regarding my resolutions, because technically a birthday is like your own personal New Year’s Day, so it seems like a good time to allow myself another reset. 🙂 I will say I’m doing pretty well with my personal goals so far! I have a streak of over 100 days of practicing French using my Duolingo app, I’ve been attending ballet class again regularly and improving steadily, and I’ve only bought one article of clothing this year (with a gift card for my birthday), so that spending fast turned out to be way easier that I expected. The ones I need to work on more: being online less, digital decluttering, and actually attempting to illustrate a story. I’ve slowly started going through my hard drive of photos but I haven’t devoted much time to it; as for the illustrating, I’ve done enough miscellaneous practice and need to start working on a concrete project and give myself some deadlines. And to be honest, being online less has not happened at all, I’ve been pretty horrible lately about being glued to my computer for the majority of my spare time, I really need to change that.

So, twenty-two is my new lucky number. I really do think every new year is my new favorite age and I hope I keep up that mindset, because it must mean that I’m learning and getting better, little by little.

 

Resolutions

We’re a couple weeks into the new year and I’m already plotting all the things I want to accomplish and trying to find ways to manage my time better going forward. Adjusting to a new year always feels a bit odd…it doesn’t really feel weird that it’s 2018, but it feels weird that 2016 is now not last year, but the year before, and 2015 is now three years ago…does that make sense? It seems like it’s not as hard to adjust to a new year so much as it is to adjust to being farther removed from years past.

I usually don’t make specific resolutions; the past few years I’ve found it more helpful to focus on a specific word for the year such as “simplify” or “unplug” to motivate me to cut down on distractions and be more mindful of how I live in general. This year however, I was pretty quick to write down some resolutions that came to me without really thinking, so I figured having these more concrete goals would be helpful for a change.

1. Read more books/be online less

I am the type of person who loves to learn…often to a detrimental point. It is very easy for me to spend hours on the internet reading blogs, articles, watching youtube videos…and because I mostly read and consume information that is actually sort of informative and helpful and inspiring (not just random clickbait) sometimes I get a false sense of productivity. In reality, the internet makes information so easy to access that it’s easy to forget that we don’t need all this information. I don’t need to read about why tardigrades can survive uninhabitable conditions or watch a video on how algorithms learn. These things are interesting, and I think learning about a variety of things is extremely beneficial, but ultimately those things have nothing to do with my current career path and I could be focusing my time better on things that do. Plus, we have a lot of books assigned for yoga teacher training that I had better get a move on… 🙂

2. Become (sort of) conversational in French

Okay, so I didn’t want to just say “improve my French” because that’s not a very concrete or challenging goal, but I must put a heavy asterisk on this resolution and clarify that I probably won’t be anywhere near fluent by the end of the year. I just want to be able to read/write and speak/understand at a solid elementary level, and I know that will involve various methods of intentional practice. I took three years of French in high school and while my ability to conjugate all those irregular verbs kind of went out the window in the years following, I have kept enough exposure to French in my life that I haven’t lost everything. Plus, I dusted off my duolingo app and have kept up daily practice for the last two months, so I can finally at least understand the instagram captions of the few french-speaking accounts I follow without hitting the “translate” button 9 times out of 10. That’s something!

3. Go back to ballet class!

I’ve been focused on yoga lately, but my yoga teacher has also resumed teaching ballet, and I haven’t attended a ballet class in probably over a year now. I definitely miss it, so there’s no more excuses, time to get back to class!

4. Declutter my digital life

I’ve basically run out of physical things to organize after my minimalism kick these past few years, but now I’m starting to feel the weight of all those years of photos on my hard drive…it’s not going to be fun, but this year I need to really purge a lot of unnecessary files and reorganize my digital photos into a system that can work for years to come. (and improve how I backup everything as well!)

5. Illustrate a book

I’m anticipating this one to be the hardest and take the longest of all my goals. If you missed it, the main reason I started this blog was for creative practice toward my future goal of writing/illustrating children’s books. I actually have already written a few things in recent years, but I want to experiment with different illustration styles to pair with my writing. This goal is more about the doing than the end product, but it’s time to really start to bring those images in my head to life. (Keep in mind, by book here I mean a basic picture book, nothing long or complicated.)

Bonus/tentative goals:

I have a few more things that I’d love to work on but aren’t priorities for this year:

-improve my ukulele skills: I got a ukulele for Christmas 2014 and I really have not made much progress since. My limited skills on the ukulele make it much less fun to play than the piano (which I practice almost daily) so I’d like to try to practice more this year.

-have a go-to lunch or dinner recipe that is simple and healthy: I do plenty of baking here and there but not any real cooking, so in an effort to stop eating the same canned vegetable soup every other day, I’d like to settle on an easy recipe or two to diversify my options.

-buy only 12 or less new clothing items this year: This is probably going to be more of a challenge than it seems, but I think just making the extra effort to be mindful of my unnecessary purchases will be great. I definitely have enough clothes, so trying to limit my purchases to an average of one new item a month will be a good exercise in gratitude.

Sorry that got a bit wordy, I’m excited to make some progress on these things this year in addition to completing yoga teacher training in the summer and getting closer to graduating college! What are your priorities this year?