This past year, I thought I'd try to deepen my spirituality in some way, like reading the bible, going to church, mediating, learning more about yoga, learning about Confucianism or Buddhism... And then I did none of those things. Or rather, I tried all of those things, but none felt right. Not even church felt right anymore. I prayed sometimes, and sometimes that felt right. Other times, prayer felt like nothing more than run-on trains of thought. What was I looking for when I hoped to deepen my spirituality? Peace, hope, acceptance, stillness, clarity, direction, gratitude, connection with something outside myself...

One's religion is whatever allows you to latch on to the fiber of humanity and the universe--the fiber that stretches over eons, connecting every being, matter, and energy that is, ever was, and ever will be. It's what lifts you, what brings you to your knees, what connects you, what turns you inward, what brings you pause, is your flow.

Writing, music, and running are my religion. What's yours?


-Run regularly
-Don't think how long the run is first thing after waking up, etc; focus on putting on the running clothes, then having breakfast, then brushing teeth, etc. Then go!
-Take it easy if that's what you need to do. Jog if can't run, walk if you can't jog, etc.
-Don't push and push just because you got that runner's high. Just run the set amount that you had set out to do, rest, recover, and reserve your energy for the next run.
-Pick one "limit" (a set distance, a set time, a set speed, etc.) and stick to it, whatever it takes. Congratulate yourself for meeting that goal regardless of how long it took you/how far you got/etc.

Cheers, 2015. Cheers, 2016.

Another year ending, another one beginning. It's one of my favorite times for reflection (the other time being my birthday).

In the past years, I did well in remembering my goal throughout the year, sticking to it, and then reporting back come November or December--
2009: "New Decade Resolutions
2010: "NDR" progress check  
2012: Goals | Reflection 
2013: Goals | Reflection 
2014: Reflection
Today, December 30th, 2015, I can hardly remember if I had even made any goals for this year. Luckily, I stumbled upon this buried post I had saved as a draft (now published): Here comes 2015. This year, I was uninspired in January to make NYR. I felt like I was still swimming, drowning, in over my head with two previous personal goals I had made: don't quit my job and ChillTFO. I made those goals going into the 2014-2015 school year, so by mid-school year (Dec 2014/Jan 2015), I just didn't have it in me to set any new ambitious goals for 2015. So, rather than make New Year's Resolutions, I took a page out of my sister's book. She makes a Things I'm Looking Forward To list and a Things to Keep in Mind list. Her latter list includes something like "Practice Patience" or "Trust in God" or something nice like that... at any rate, my little list still came out kind of goal-like, even though I abandoned ship on those goals ("strive for a minimalist lifestyle" and "deepen my spirituality") by June.

That summer, I revised; these became my new goals (progress checks made today, in parentheses):

-Save $10,000 by end of January (check--surpassed that goal one month early AND maxed out my IRA contribution for 2015)
-Go somewhere epic for Thanksgiving (check--NOLA was all that and more)
-Exercise weekly. At least twice a week! (there were a couple of weeks here and there that I slacked off, but I did alright)
-prepare for marathon!!! (Technically, even buying a pair of shoes counts as preparing for a marathon. Luckily, I did slightly more than just that. Slightly. Either way, Oakland Running Festival 2016, here I come!)

Now 2015 is over. What happened? Did I make any progress in life? I mean, I guess I did a good job of sticking to it; it's my first time repeating a school year as a full-time classroom teacher (in the States) and I'm feeling the positive effects of "just try to do it all over again, this time maybe slightly better". I grew a lot, but I still feel like the same me from 2014. I'm not doing anything new, but I'm better at what I do. I'm a little more me, but mostly unchanged. And there the year went, say bye bye. 2015 is coming to a close, extremely un-climactic-ly.

If there's one lesson I learned in the past year or two, it's the value of routine and slow progress. My mom likes to say that there are two types of people in the world: goal-oriented and process-oriented. She says I'm a goal-oriented person (hence all the NYRs). On the other hand, Brian seems to me to be a process-oritented person; he enjoys working out every day for the sake of that routine more so than hitting target fitness goals periodically.

This past year, I plodded along routinely. I didn't have my eyes on any prize; I focused on getting enough sleep every night, settling into a routine at work, going to yoga on Wednesdays, and going on long runs on weekends. When anything broke my routine, I said 'oh well' and just tried it again the next week. I didn't track my progress, I didn't ask anything more of myself than I had already been doing; I just kept going.

Maybe through that process, I grew. Maybe I became a better teacher, more fit, more sane, or more healthy; I can't be sure.

Family and friends tell me, though, that I'm the happiest they've ever seen me.

And that actually means a lot to me. For too long, I had let my little demons of failure follow me about wherever I went--being told I wasn't smart; nearly failing out of college; many job rejections; quitting my job; settling for terrible jobs; caving under or even hiding from stress and pressure. This year, those evil little voices started to fade out as I focused on making a routine of being healthy, showing up for work, trying really hard, and then not ruminating over my day as I went to bed at 9pm that night. During spring, summer, fall, and winter vacation I did nearly no work (zero work turned out to be impossible, but nearly zero is good, too) and thoroughly enjoyed each and every vacation--from aurora borealis-chasing, to Andes mountains-climbing, to New Orleans soul food and jazz-gorging, to sweet, sweet, Hawaii life-enjoying.

I suppose I have grown in some way. I'm more content with life and with myself. That's something. A big something. So thanks, 2015.

Now, onward--2016.

Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2016
-spring break adventures with Gia and Catie
-more camping trips
-finishing BTSA
-crossing the finish line at the Oakland Running Festival (checking off finishing marathon #3 after having trained for 4 marathons)
-being married
-seeing Iceland with close friends and family <3
-crossing the wedding (namely, paying for the wedding) off the pesky to-do list
-my sisters' career advancements
-fall break and winter break 2016

Things to Keep in Mind in 2016
-Don't let work consume you; actively seek out a good work-life balance
-Make time to reflect and recharge
-Make music

and finally, my NYR 2015:
-Tell the story of the Many Lives of Carmen.  This story has been sitting on my hard drive and in my email (but mostly in my head) for 2 or 3 years now. The characters exist, the beginning has been written, the last page has been written, all the middle pages are in my head--now to just get it on paper. Publishing doesn't matter to me; neither does readership. All I know is that this story has been simmering in my brain for some time now and it needs to come out.

Cheers, 2015.
Cheers, 2016.