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?