2020: The Year of Back to Basics

Truth telling time, I struggled in trying to visualize this year’s theme and I’ve been wrestling with how to frame it for more than a month. A lot of my previous yearly themes have been about achievement and “leveling up,” but in trying to think about what I wanted to accomplish in 2020, what I really want to do in the coming year is to come back down to earth and ground myself.

I 100% attribute this to recent conversations with friends (and a doctor) about what has actually happened in my life over the several years: a faith collapse, career changes, international immigration, health issues…every single year in recent memory has had some kind of dramatic and deeply changing set of events in it. Some of these have been very empowering and good, some have been the most humbling and painful experiences of my life.

It’s a strange thing, and not very au courant to admit, but achievement isn’t as high on my list this year as much as centering on what I already know is good for me. My aspirations are…oddly basic.

Money Basics

I wrote a bit about this in my wrap up post, but I want to build on the financial progress of last year. I’ve spent years breaking bad money habits and building better ones, and this is the year I plan to see them (literal) pay off. I’ve given myself some measurable goals around savings and shopping, to recap:

  1. Achieve my first “fuck off fund” goal and have three months of living expenses set aside permanently
  2. Pay off our largest credit card in full
  3. Begin investing properly and proactively instead of allowing my work conditions to manage it for me – this means consolidating my historic pension information and opening a portfolio
  4. I’m going to try and only purchase 20 personal items in 2020. This doesn’t necessarily include basic items like replacing socks or everyday toiletries, but it will include all purchases made strictly by me, for me, based on wants rather than needs.

And the way I’m going to achieve a lot of the above is by “going back to basics.” I’m going to prioritize cooking food rather than buying it (something that I did way too much of this year and which adds up scarily quickly). I’m going to continue my “no buy/low buy” challenges for personal shopping and blog transparently about what I do purchase this year to hold myself accountable.

Ultimately, the most basic thing of all, I want to begin saving up to purchase property. I’m officially moving into my “mid 30s” this year and I’m tired of having no net worth. While I have no illusions that we can save enough for any kind of deposit or down payment in a single year, I do know that having a “big goal” to work towards helps me maintain a vision and make lots of smaller, everyday choices that add up. Part of my transparency will include broad updates about our savings milestones and debt repayment, with this big ambition in mind. By the end of 2020, I want to be able to visualize and work towards a definite path towards property ownership.


Relationship Basics

This year I’m going to focus much more on cultivating my existing relationships, as well as trying to build new ones. A dark side of depression and anxiety is how self-centered and self-focused it makes you–you often are so trapped in your own head and experience that you lose the ability to see outside yourself. It’s a trait I’ve observed in loved ones who have struggled with mental health challenges and unfortunately, it’s something I’ve noticed in myself over the last couple of years. God bless my friends who have not just tolerated this extended period of selfishness, but actively helped me navigate it and are helping me out of it through good counsel and sheer love. In 2020 I plan on spending time and money to connect with friends and loved ones better. In addition to being a better friend to those I already have, I want to try and cultivate some new friendships. I don’t really have a “tribe” here in the UK, not even after years of living here, and that’s something I need to change.

I’ve also noted how my partnership has been affected by mutual career ambitions and time commitments. While this has often resulted in some really spectacular support in both directions, 2019 was a rough year for us both work-wise and it led to a lot of disconnection. It’s been good to talk this through as part of our year end wrap up, and identify the ways we want to challenge our defaults in 2020, including travel and work/life changes.

It’s a myth that good relationships of all stripes don’t take effort – the best ones usually are a result of the right kind of effort: love, empathy, support, and prioritization. And there is nothing more important in my life than the friends and loved ones who make it worth living. My behavior and choices this year are going to actively reflect that.


Basic Bitch…

Finally, and the most “basic” and shallow goal of all, I want to lose weight. I’m not about to frame this as a “health” challenge or anything else that’s particularly woke…it’s purely for vanity and self-esteem. I’ve struggled with my weight for a long time and, with the benefit of therapy, anti anxiety drugs, and hindsight, I can see how many other issues related to money and health have gotten tied up in body issues. FOR YEARS. It’s cliche and annoying…but it’s my reality.

2020 seems like it may be a more low-key year, but that may not be a bad thing.

4 thoughts on “2020: The Year of Back to Basics”

  1. I like of all these!

    I, too, tend to underestimate how goddamn TIRED I am in the past few years with health and work issues for me and for Jose, endless and useless battles with my father (still?!) and just the grind of freelance life in a place where everyone has pulled up their ladders…very little help from anyone now.

    The friendship piece is huge. I hope to get across this fall and catch up with you face to face. I finally, after many lonely years here, made a new friend in fall 2018 at, of all places, radiation clinic. She is glam and has great style and is a very kind person…and we would never have crossed paths (she has 2 teens and a very $$$$$ life) but like me is both glam and frugal — and also able to be active about getting together. That has helped a lot.

    1. I’m so excited to catch up with you in person (hopefully!) this year. You and Jose are such dear friends to both of us and being able to travel with you is a joy.

      We’ve chatted about this a bit but I think you’ve hit on something very important in your comment which I hadn’t thought all the way through before. That sense of pulling up the ladders is EVERYWHERE. There is no sense of camaraderie or cohesion, at least in the spaces/industries/arenas in which I feel most invested. Meanwhile on the “other side,” I see many people in lockstep against those issues. Or at least I perceive it, who knows what the reality is. There’s a lot of good journalism and science on the sense of isolation we all seem to be feeling as a culture and I have to imagine it makes everything much more emotionally arduous to feel that it’s you against the world. Whether or not it’s true in reality, that sensation seems to be everywhere I look. I’ve certainly felt it! And I think I’m starting to have a bit more understanding for those who have decided to huddle together in groups for perceived tribe and support, even if I think they are choosing bad ones.

      1. I REALLY hope we will get to the UK…having some major fiscal issues (we should Skype soon.)

        I am sorry to hear that you feel this as well. I really see it within my world of journalism where 99% of my life is conducted online — because ONLY through referrals does my best work arrive…and (I am as well, I admit) people are loath to spill the goodies.

        I am super generous in this regard with people I know, like and trust…but there are a few complicating issues…I belong to a dozen online writers’ groups, some with thousands (literally) of “freelance writers”…whose work or skills or ethics I have NO idea about. NO way am I just going to hand over my hard-won and carefully nurtured editorial contacts to a stranger….and, worse, there is now the EXPECTATION that because we’re all “writers” this is fair game and I am a meanie if I don’t.

        So that’s a problem. I will appear unkind and ungenerous — in front of that large audience — when I’ve given a lot of hours to mentoring a few people (like you) who I admire and who absolutely get its value, and do not take it for granted.

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