It's a new year which means everyone is talking and writing about their New Year's resolutions. I like New Year's resolutions. I know many people get annoyed when other people set goals around this generally arbitrary time...but nevertheless I say motivation is a positive thing even if it is somewhat senseless. If a new year makes people feel like they have a new start, more power to them.
I've never been one to create New Year's resolutions. I think because in 7th grade my New Year's resolution was to get a 6-pack and that has basically been my New Year's resolution ever since. No, I have never achieved my 6-pack and the beer I'm drinking while writing this probably isn't helping.
I'm going to be honest and let the world know that the second half of last year wasn't easy. Work got harder than it had ever been. More rewarding, yes, but more difficult. A lot of the anxieties I experienced early on in college came rushing back to me. I felt like I couldn't manage my time properly, and any free time I managed to find was spent worrying about the upcoming week or the amount of freelance work I was struggling to complete. I'd say that things started to get better towards the end of the year, and having a winter break was very refreshing, but I'm still trying to understand what was working for me last year and on the flipside, what caused me to have so many breakdowns.
I thought looking back and noting some of my successes would help me move in a positive direction this year. From there, I thought I could make some sound goals for this upcoming year that allow me to push myself without causing a mental breakdown.
2014: What I'm Proud Of
1. Making health a Priority
I've always made exercising a priority, but last year I decided I actually wanted to see a change. I started focusing on my diet and cutting down on my liquor intake. I've realized exercising is something I need to de-stress and feel satisfied with my day and therefore I don't dread it like I used to. The more I cook I realize that there are tasty, healthy alternatives to the unhealthy foods I love and home-cooking does not need to always be looked at as a 2nd best to take-out.
2. Successfully managing my finances
I was fortunate to have a good enough job to make large payments on my student loans this year, but I attribute a lot of my success to carefully watching my finances and making good financial choices. With simple planning and some careful spending (without hating my life), I was able to pay off the entirety of my student loans this year by myself. I really can't believe it. I didn't make any major purchases this year, and I put a good majority of each paycheck into savings, which then went towards paying off my loans. Sometimes this involved being annoyingly stingy (which some of my friends tease me for) but most of it just required me to treat my savings like a locked account and to devote a chunk of each paycheck to that.
3. Staying at a job that challenges me
Like I said, last year brought about a lot of challenges with my job. I can't look back at this year and not be proud of how much I've grown at a company that challenges and supports me every single day. A lot of times this past year I wanted to give up or break down but I didn't. Actually… I broke down A LOT. But I never walked out and I got a lot better at asking for help. Sometimes I wish I worked at a place where I could go and do simple work, and leave and not worry about it at night. But when I really think about it, I would be bored out of my mind. Not to mention, there's no way I would've learned as much as I have in such a short period of time if I were somewhere else.
4. Trying new creative things
I've always loved going to the thrift store, but my new favorite hobby is to buy frames and artifacts from the thrift store and to paint, decorate, or organize them. Doing this has helped me realize my increasing love for interior design. I never expected to devote so much free time to decorating my space as well as researching other beautiful spaces. I've found that I am able to merge my love for graphic and interior design by creating posters and other art that I can incorporate into my interior decorating. I've also bought new pens and sketchbooks to improve my hand-lettering skills.
5. Spending lots of time with family
This is as straight-forward as it gets. I moved in with my brother this year which has been awesome. I found a great boyfriend who’s down to spend as much time with my crazy family (and his) as I am. My family keeps me grounded and keeps me laughing, especially when I’m completely overwhelmed with work. When I’m with them there is no judgment so I can feel completely comfortable.
Rather than set new, specific goals for this upcoming year, such as losing 10 pounds, traveling to 3 new cities, etc. I want to take what I did well from this past year and set high-level, realistic goals that are mostly based around positive influences on my mental health.
2015: What I Hope For
1. Continue to make health a priority
I want to continue to look at health holistically and focus on a good balance of healthy eating, exercise, and solid nights of sleep. I didn’t do this all of last year, and I’ve gotten better and better as I do it more, so I simply want to stay on the path that I’m already on.
2. Don't obsess over health or goals in general
The only problem with adjusting my lifestyle is the way I get obsessed with goals (that’s specifically why I’m trying to keep these goals for 2015 at a high level). There will be times I want a beer (like now) or 10 (whoops) and there will be days I need to skip my workout to catch up on work. I tell myself this all the time but when it actually happens I get extremely anxious and down on myself. It’s a sick spiral and I want to avoid that as much as possible. I want to focus on the big picture, and if I have a bad diet day or a day where I need to sit on the couch and watch movies- that doesn’t mean my healthy trajectory is completely off.
3. Continue to manage my finances successfully
I’ve been told that when you pay off your student loans, the money still finds a way to disappear. I want the fact that I paid off my loans to be stress off my shoulders. On the other hand, I still want to buildup my savings even if I don’t have a huge purchase or loan to pay off at the end of the year. I still plan to set aside hefty portions of my paycheck. Hopefully with a little more financial freedom I can buy my friends or family dinner now and again… give back for the many years of being outrageously stingy around them :)
4. Feel OK saying no
This is something I’ve struggled with for years. I’m a people pleaser which often means saying yes to more plans or work than I am mentally capable of juggling. Especially with more than a year of experience under my belt I need to realize that saying no to a $50 business card project for my aunt’s friend’s friend is TOTALLY FINE. Letting a producer know that I am incapable of taking on another ASAP project at work is for the good of me and the project. We always find someone to help. This isn’t just work related either. As I’ve started living a healthier lifestyle, I’ve realized a lot of my old habits (such as bar hopping all day on a Sunday) are what feed my anxieties. To live the healthy life (both physically and mentally) that I want to live, it’s probably going to mean saying no more often to my friends when they want to do things like that.
5. Don't be so hard on myself
This ties directly to number 2. I’m a total perfectionist and I will work myself to death to achieve goals. I’m crazy so when I start to get close to achieving a goal, I have a tendency to push myself even further. If I finish my work early one night for example, I’ll start to “get ahead” on my work for the next night. When things don’t go exactly the way I had plan, I start to blame myself and dig for reasons why it didn’t end up exactly as I expected. I have a mental battle with myself nearly every day at work, telling myself I’m too inexperienced or unintelligent to be working with the people that I am. My goal for this year is to remind myself that I’m working where I am at such a young age for a reason. They had no obligation to hire me- they did it because they liked what I did and they trusted me to handle the work and handle it well. If I get overwhelmed or something doesn’t go the way I am hoping, there are ways to get help and learn from mistakes. There is no reason to tear myself apart. I want to have more confidence in my talents.
6. Try new creative things that just make me happy
As I said, I started a lot of new creative projects in 2014. The problem is the trap of number 5- a lot of my creative projects turned from hobbies into obligations. I start a fun sketch and I immediately start thinking about when I need to have it done, how I can turn it into a bigger project, how I can distribute it, etc. That is the moment it turns from something fun into just another thing I’ve got to get done on my never-ending list. For a good chunk of last year I forgot why I even do what I do. I remember being completely stressed with work and my boyfriend asked what I would want to be doing if I had some more free time. I couldn’t recall what a relaxing hobby was for me, because all of my relaxing hobbies had turned into regimental tasks. This year I want to try new creative things (and hey, some non-creative things if it interests me) that I’m doing for the sole purpose of enjoyment.
This sums up how I need to handle the majority of the stressors I dealt with in 2014. When things get overwhelming, I need to step back, take a breath, and recognize that not getting something done, having a lazy day, eating a donut or drinking a beer- none of these scenarios are the end of the world. Not hitting a deadline at work, as horrible as this sounds to me, is OK as long as I handle it appropriately. As long as I ask for help and learn from the situation everything will be fine. I am going to get overwhelmed this year, I am still going to be hard on myself, but all I can hope for is that this year is a little bit less stressful than the last. There are certain positives that come from my perfectionism but I don’t want it to define or take over me.
If you’re reading this I hope you can relate to some of the struggles I’ve had in the past year and look forward to the next year with me as well- but this post is more for me. When I’m stressed, I can turn to the best people in my life to calm me down but ultimately, it always comes back to talking myself down. I hope this post acts as a reminder of the things I believe and want for myself when I’m not in the middle of a mental breakdown. I look forward to a successful, yet manageable year of creative endeavors!