Tag: 2017

Editing

“Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Letters

I don’t always do a good job of remembering resolutions, but I have to say, picking a “theme” for this year has been a remarkable success. My mindset around a lot of life elements has taken a turn for the healthier and I’m in a more balanced place than I’ve been in years. I really believe that this has come from some purposeful editing of my life. I’ve gotten much better at saying no, worked hard to remove or improve things that contributed to my stress and anxiety problems, and become a lot more intentional about my money and consumption choices. It’s been a very successful project, and I’m already thinking towards how I want to frame 2018.

“Less but better” doesn’t have a uniform definition for me. For instance, we are currently living in our largest and most expensive home to date, but on the other hand, after 10 years of marriage and most of those spent in cheap digs, the decision to rent a nice apartment was a considered one. We are also furnishing it ourselves, meaning we are spending money, but we are taking that process slowly and very judiciously. Our home is still far less furnished than I would like…but we have chosen every piece in it together because we loved it, and not because it was the cheapest option on Craigslist. I love the idea of editing a home, carefully selecting what I put in it and not rushing to fill empty space just because I have it.

Stress levels: all time low. This time last year my nails were chewed to the quick.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I’m actually working more but in a better way. Going back to freelance and contracting has been a great decision. I have not only opened a lot of doors and opportunities, but I have finally discovered a balance between work and identity: what I do vs. who I am. This has not always been the case with me, as I tend to throw myself into things like causes, projects, and roles wholeheartedly, allowing the lines between them and myself to blur. Surprisingly, given the nature of freelance and contract work and how it can divide your attention, I’ve found that because I’ve been able to choose my work, I’ve therefore been able to choose (i.e. edit) how I direct my energy. This has also helped me train my brain to better separate work from my personal life and I’m more aggressive about holidays and an overall work/life balance. In other words, I may be working more, but my stress levels are lower than they’ve been in years.

Let’s talk stuff, generally. I had a whole month long blog project dedicated to my closet and bathroom shelf this year, and I continue to be really happy with where it’s at. I’ve actually shopped and bought less this year than I have probably since my early 20s. Granted what I have bought has tended to be more expensive, but I’ve been fascinated to physically feel the urgency and desire to buy things fade as the year has gone on. There’s plenty of reporting out there to suggest that brain chemistry can be affected by purchasing, and I wonder if I’ve been able to ween myself off an internal drug I didn’t realize I was on. I’ve been slowly editing my closet down and I now think I own less clothing than I did when we first moved to London on an item-for-item basis. What I do own, I wear more and I love more. The same goes with beauty; I’ve been focused on using what I already own instead of craving new makeup and skincare items. I’m actually in the midst of a shopping freeze (my second this year) in an effort to actually use up cosmetics and potions before I allow myself even to replace beloved items. I’ve done a few edits of my shelf throughout the year and donated or gifted a few items that I didn’t use enough to justify keeping. Maybe it’s a welcome byproduct of getting older and more self-confident, but I’ve never been more pleased with the woman in the mirror.

When it comes to food and overall health, I haven’t done as well as I would have wished. We are eating out less (yay, us!) but ordering in more (kind of defeats the purpose, C….). We have periods of focus on health, but other periods of intense laziness. One thing I’ve realized is how much I require a routine in order to stay committed to food, exercise, and wellbeing goals. I am not a natural health bunny, I do no default to healthiness–I default to deep friend potatoes and Netflix and am self-aware enough to acknowledge this. It turns out that once I’m in a routine, I am pretty good at maintaining it but if something knocks me off course (two straight weeks of houseguests for instance, or a particularly uneven month at work), I fall well and truly off the wagon and it takes herculean effort to climb back aboard. I haven’t figured out quite how to overcome this yet, but I suspect the solution will lie in editing out things that I use as excuses or distractions.

This has been a much better year than 2016 for me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about 2018 at the moment. It’s a good place to be.

Money Lessons (and Others Learned) from 2016

“We become aware of the void as we fill it.”
― Antonio Porchia

Full disclaimer, this post is going to come across somewhat grim at times, but stick with me here. 2016 was one of our biggest earning years ever, but it also had some decent setbacks in it as well and reflecting over some lessons learned, I’m realizing why financial planning and accountability were such an important topic for me to focus on at the start of the new year: I’m starting to plan bigger.

For a long time the goals we were working towards had a specific timeline and time frame–graduating high school, graduating university, getting a first job, etc.. Our biggest goals were moving to London and start careers there, which we’ve done and are proud of, but even that was achievable in a specific (relatively short) time. Nothing on the future list is really short term any more. We’re thinking about the next thirty to forty years of our working lives, the pros and cons of buying property, whether or not we’re going to try to have kids, if we want to retire in this country or somewhere else…the big stuff.

Even though most people are already working on their Big Plans in some way, 2017 feels like a year where we’re starting to be much more intentional about it. And therefore, some of the biggest lessons learned from last year have been…

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Sh*t happens. From our landlady deciding to sell our relatively cheap apartment to deaths in the family, financial curveballs were thrown. We’re fortunate that we’re young, able to work, willing to work hard, and making enough to cope with hiccups. But being able to cope is not the same thing as assuming from the outset that hiccups and curveballs are coming and being prepared.

Sometimes hard work doesn’t pay off and sometimes plans fall through. Not to throw shade on parents, teachers, and any number of self-help gurus, but I no longer believe in the simple, “work hard and everything will work out” line. Not that this means I’m allowed to throw in any towels, the onus is still very much on me to put my all into everything I choose to do. But what I’ve learned is that sometimes, no matter how much work you put into something, it simply will not go the way you want. Projects fail, jobs don’t work out the way you hoped, people disappoint you, freelance gigs fall through, pitches die on the slushpile.

Related to this point, setbacks and failures are not critical. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m getting older and more wise, or just more practical, but failing at things no longer affects me the way it did in my school years and early 20s. Time was that a rejected pitch would sucker punch my confidence in a bad way. These days with experience and the wisdom of veteran friends, I know that an ignored pitch is not a crisis so much as a typical Tuesday.

That being said, what working hard and working through those typical Tuesdays does ensure is that opportunities keep coming. And even though some of those opportunities end in the slushpile, lots and lots and lots of other don’t! The successes come intermixed, not unadulterated.

Being busy is not being successful. If you are working round the clock and not any better off for it (in terms of your paycheck, health, balance, ambition, or growth) then what you’re experiencing is not success. It’s a quick route to burnout, which is no good because…

There typically is no big payoff, life just goes on. One of the most interesting aspects of the adult world for me was that it doesn’t stop. There is no summer vacation or end of term, there is no finish line or final project. There is no break until retirement, and for my generation even that is up in the air. Meaning that financial plans, career aspirations, skill development, and goals need to have a longer term view than they used to. See opening paragraph.

Being able to afford an indulgent night out with friends, a good apartment, the ability to go visit family in a crisis…those are small, everyday, but important victories that matter and mean we’re mostly on the right track.

Discussion time in the comments. What big lessons, financial or otherwise, did you take out of last year?

Quick Poll: Do You Have Resolutions This Year?

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ”
― Anaïs Nin

Minions, a query. Are you doing New Year’s Resolutions? I’m seeing an interesting micro trend in my various media feeds about people purposefully declining to do them this year. Generally this has to do with positive attitude about not wanting to set goals by the calendar, committing to growth whatever the season, and so forth. All of which I heartily endorse, for the record.

As someone who’s decided on a theme rather than specific resolutions (mostly because I already have a pretty extensive list of To Dos I’m working through and I thought more would provide a touch of unnecessary overwhelm), I’m wondering if the idea of committing to new goals on January 1st is losing a bit of its pop culture luster. Is fear of the stereotypical fall off rate providing determent? Are people just tired from last year and resolving to go easier on themselves (Man Repeller queries that here)? Or is the aforementioned positivity and all the overall wellness trends in our zeitgeist genuinely providing a better way to look at goal setting than affixing it to a specific date?

Lend me your thoughts, or observations from the field!

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My family dog clearly has resolved to live her best life in 2017 and is already making headway by doing as little as canine-ly possible. 

Highlight Reel

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”
– Benjamin Franklin

I am on record as being one of the many who believes that 2016 was rough and occasionally worthy of the moniker “dumpster fire.” But looking back, there were some amazing personal highs that I wanted to revisit in looking forward to 2017. It’s going to be a big year, but it also is going to have some big shoes to fill. What were some of your highlights of 2016? Let’s have a victory-sharing and mutual pat-on-the-back session to get the new year rolling!

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Reckon I earned a few of these this year.

We went to New York City to see X.

We also went to Spain for the first time.

We also spent several long weekends with unbelievably charming friends and hosts.

Jeff got me tickets to Beyonce’s Formation World Tour.

I turned 30.

I wrote some of my most personal posts in nearly a decade of blogging. I actually didn’t write nearly as much as I should have or wanted to this year for a variety of reasons, but I’m already making headway on rectifying that moving forward.