January 4, 2011

Ringing in the New Year: Nostalgia and Aspirations

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential.
~ Ellen Goodman

It completely stuns me that 2010 is already over -- the year flew by incredibly fast. It certainly had its share of ups and downs (with a few weird knock-you-upside-down loops thrown in for good measure), but I think it's actually fair to say it has been the best yet. I don't typically make new year's resolutions -- I'd rather grumble to myself when my favorite treadmill is always taken in January and chuckle when, come February, I'm back to being the only one at the gym. But this year I did want to document some of the best parts of 2010 and make a few.... well, let's call them loose goals for the year ahead.

10 Best Moments of 2010:

10. the final advisory meeting for my psych research project: This spring, to finish up the credits for my psychology minor, I completed an independent research project for which I read upwards of 40 articles and wrote a paper. Not exactly a thesis, but still a whole lot of work. By accident, I ended up with a topic that I was able to study from both a psychological and a legal perspective, perfectly combining the minor with my government major for some incredibly intriguing reading. I was also lucky enough to have a faculty advisor who supported this dual approach to the subject and allowed me a lot of freedom, which was exciting but also a little scary -- I had no idea what she would think of the (very long) end result. The paper took me months to research, write and edit, but in the end those late nights payed off: my advisor loved it and said that she actually learned from my work!
9. starting this blog: Even though it's still very much an infant and has a grand total of 0 people reading (except maybe Dan, when he remembers), getting this little blog off the ground was a major step. I've been reading blogs for years and wanting to start my own for almost as long, so I may have had a little private celebration after finally hitting the "publish" button on my first post. It's a little scary to be putting myself out there for anyone (or, as the case may be, no one) to see, but I'm also loving the chance to write about my life!
8. finishing my first 5k: After several months of hibernation last winter, during which I darkened the doorway of the gym maybe twice, the warmth of spring enticed me to start running again. It was pretty rough in the beginning, but with a persistence fairly uncharacteristic of me, I stuck with it. After a month or so, each run was a little bit easier... so I signed up for a 5k in my college town, telling myself that even if I had to walk most of it, I'd at least feel accomplished for getting up that early on a Saturday. I was extremely anxious and wanted to stop running soooo many times over that 3.14 miles, but I made it to the finish line in just under 30 minutes. It was an awesome feeling, and even though at the time I celebrated by promptly going back to bed, I've channeled the exciting energy quite a few times since then when I'm struggling to make it through that last mile.
7. family dinner before graduation: Since my parents divorced when I was in middle school, they have been (luckily) civil and polite but rarely spend more than a few moments in the same room. I was a little nervous about spending the entire graduation weekend with my mom, my dad, and my stepmom -- as much as I love each one of them, Dan and I prepared ourselves for a whole lot of awkward. It was really important to me, however, that I get one dinner with everyone together, so the night before graduation we all piled into one car (oooh the uncomfortable silences) and headed to a fantastic restaurant. Thankfully, with a glass of wine in hand and a plate of scallops in front of me, the night turned out to be fun and drama-free. The conversation was remarkably easy and we all laughed a lot and genuinely enjoyed our evening. I am so lucky to have parents who, even if they aren't still married, were willing to ignore their history and make the night really special.
6. bringing Toby home: I never thought I'd be a cat person -- I was always more comfortable around dogs and tended to that think most cats were an amalgam of teeth and claws better left alone. Although Dan and I are pretty sure that Toby IS actually part dog (he follows us around and cuddles like only a puppy can), he gets cuter each and every day and is rapidly gaining ground toward changing my mind in this matter. In only a month, the little furball has snuggled his way into our hearts.... now if only he'd stop circling and lie down already!
5. picking up the keys to our first apartment: Simply put: I was finally moving out of my mother's house. For good. And moving in with the best roomie ever: Dan. I'm pretty sure I frightened the office manager with my giddy smile.
4. finding two new best friends: I've had a lot of good friends in my life, but I never had a best friend -- a together-since-childhood, knows-all-my-secrets, her-family-is-my-second-family type friend. Instead, I had several good friendships which all lasted a few years and then slowly and naturally grew apart. College was no exception, and I drifted between groups for my first few years, until I pledged the co-ed social/honors fraternity and discovered the best "greek" experience possible, my own place on campus, and two of the most amazing best friends I could ever ask for. Even though I had actually met M my freshman year, we were reunited in the same pledge class and became quick friends. During the fall of my senior year, I met A as a pledge and knew immediately that I wanted her as a little. She and I are almost frighteningly similar and I'm pretty sure that we may share a brain. Even though I met these two ladies late in my college years, they were by far the best part of my college experience. They are truly the best friends I've ever had -- supportive, fun and down-to-earth girls who always get me and never let me down. The three of us had so much fun and made so many memories my senior year, and I am sad that I don't get to see them every day now. 
3. starting my new job: I spent a great deal of time and energy last spring worrying about what I was going to do with my life for the next few years. I knew I wanted to go to law school, but I also knew that I needed to take a year or two off to get some experience, regroup, and store up a good reserve of sleep before I embarked upon 3 years of hell. I knew that waiting tables for two years wouldn't exactly sparkle on my applications, but after applying for job after job.... after job.... after job and never getting so much as a courtesy rejection call, I started to get a little bit frustrated. Dads seem to have a talent for recognizing when their daughters need help, though, and when mine told me there was a job opening at his bank, I was desperate enough to know that I couldn't turn it down because it wasn't exactly my area of interest. I thank my lucky stars that I was mature enough to suck up my doubts, put on my heels, and show up the next day to meet with human resources. I never could have guessed how much I'd love this job, the people I work with, and... well... the paychecks aren't so bad either. It's not permanent, but being able to lie down at night and sleep instead of worrying about the next year or two is all I can ask for now.
2. graduating from college: It is still, more than 7 months later, unreal to me that I have a college degree. I worked my butt off for 4 whole years for that little piece of paper (written in Latin, no less -- just like my grandfather's), and I am incredibly proud of it. Walking up the steps of one of the oldest buildings in our country's history to accept my diploma was one of the most incredible things I've ever experienced.
1. engagement: The story of my engagement -- a fantastic but very lengthy tale -- is a story for another post, but suffice it to say that this was absolutely the best moment of my year -- if not my life. I am so lucky to be engaged to marry my best friend, my high school sweetheart, and my hero. I can't wait to get married!!!

11 Goals for 2011:

1. finish unpacking & decorating our apartment: Yes, there may still be a few lingering boxes. Yes, I feel pretty bad about that since we moved in almost 3 months ago. Yes, starting a full time job is totally an excuse, or at least it's the one I'm using. Yes, this needs to get done. Pronto.
2. learn lots of yummy new recipes and cook more often: While I am a damn good baker, if I may say so myself, my basic cooking skills leave a little a lot to be desired. There are a very few dishes that I make pretty well, but beyond these staples my time in the kitchen is typically a long series of errors with barely edible results. Ironically, though, I LOVE cooking (although I'd always rather be baking), so my goal this year is to try lots of new things, expand my repertoire, and not burn down the apartment in the process.
3. save money: It's true, I love to shop. Clothes, shoes, books, anything found at Target (well, maybe not anything)... I'm a sucker for a good sale. This year, though, I have to keep in mind that there are much better things worth saving for (yes, even better than another pair of heels): a wedding, a honeymoon, even a house sometime in the future. Not a bad trade-off for limiting the number of Starbucks trips every week.
4. continue running: It's not always fun and there are so many days that I'd much rather hide under the covers and nap with the cat, but I know that I have to keep at it to stay in good shape -- the weight won't lose itself. I hope to sign up for (and complete!) a few more races this year to keep me on track (literally).
5. keep up with this blog: So far, updating this little thing every few days has been pretty easy, but I'm always worried that I will run out of things to write about. Maybe this goal should actually be "have an interesting life for the next year."
6. keep it together through Dan leaving and make the deployment as easy as possible for him: This is probably the most challenging goal of the whole list. It's a little bit hard to get excited about this year when I realize that I'll be spending more than half of it alone, while Dan is training and then deployed. It's going to be really tough on both of us, but I know that we are strong enough to make it through just about anything. Hopefully I can hang in there, keep everything at home together, and find time to put together a few fantastic care packages for my love when he's a world away.
7. ace the LSATs and plan for the future: #1 project during the deployment. 'Nuf said.
8. watch more movies: #2 project during the deployment. Not very ambitious, but let's face it, I resolve to do this every year. My netflix queue is about 16 miles long, and I'm thinking lots of lonely nights curled up with the kitty and a good glass of wine will fix that little issue.
9. spend lots of time with friends: It's hard to be several cities away from most of my friends, but especially with Dan gone I know that they are going to be an amazing, essential support network for me. So many have already told me that I can come visit anytime, and I know that this year I have to force myself to be social when I'm feeling down and make a huge effort to spend lots of time with people I love.
10. get more sleep: Fairly self-explanatory. I usually get by on 4-5 hours a night and try to make up for it on the weekends, which makes getting me up early a hard job for even the jaws of life. I'm pretty sure I'd be a much happier person on 6-7 hours a night. Which leads me to my final goal for 2011....
11. BE HAPPY: Even when life is not perfect. Even when things go wrong. Even when work sucks. Even when things break. Even when my fiance is far away and I am alone. Even when I want to hide from everyone in the world, even the cat. Even when I don't think that it will get better. Making myself happy is a skill that I'm going to have to perfect over the next year, like or it not. I'm looking forward to getting damn good at it, and having an amazing year, no matter what life brings!



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