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So long 2018

2018 ended fairly similar to how it started: not the way I had envisioned. Of course, this time it was alone on my couch instead of asleep too early on a friend’s bedroom floor, but you get the picture. Actually, not what I’d envisioned sums up the whole year pretty well.

The last year has included some of my most treasured memories and proudest achievements — getting engaged to the person I love more than anything, moving out and starting my first full-time job, surprising my little sister for her 10th birthday and my family for Christmas, my first tattoo, a phenomenal trip to Europe, getting my writing accepted for publication, and so many wonderful moments with loved ones.

But I have to be honest. Between those gems, the rest of the year has felt like a slog and sometimes worse. Not that I ever expect life to be easy, but this year was the most difficult one I’ve been through, period. It both dragged on and raced past, and was always ready to dole out another hit as soon as I got back up (sometimes before). The stuff that happened a year or even 6 months ago feels as blurry as things that happened several years ago.

Some of it I don’t care to remember. Some of it will never leave. Some of it is far from over. It has been a constant struggle to stay tender-hearted enough to avoid apathy or resignation, and to stay strong enough that every new thing life sends my way isn’t completely overwhelming.

Still, there’s a lot to be thankful for. I’ve learned and grown and have been incredibly fortunate in a lot of regards. But if all the things that have happened in the last year — good and bad — have one collective lesson to offer, it’s this: There will always be pain and there will always be beauty, and all you can control is how you respond to them. The world is a wonderful, meaningful, screwed up place. People are capable of unfathomable good and unimaginable malice. Life doesn’t stop or slow down, no matter how much to want it to — whether it’s to savor the moment or catch a break.

Very little is constant. Love, hope, and faith are — but you have to nurture them. I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions, and there’s no way to know what a new year will bring. But whatever does come, I’m hoping to respond to the good things more readily and not let the challenges drag me down. I changed a lot in the last year, and it’s hard to say how much of it was growth. This year I’m hoping to grow more instead of just reacting.

What lesson do you want to bring into the new year? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and here’s to adulting in the new year!

Setting goals you won’t hate yourself for

Happy New Year’s Eve! As much as I enjoy the holiday, and am grateful that I get to spend it with family and friends, there’s one part about it I really don’t care for: New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think I’ve made one in years, because for me (and quite a lot of other people) it’s just a nice little goal that never gets fulfilled.

For me, that meant I simply stopped making resolutions. Instead, if there’s something in my life that I want to change, I change it as soon as I’m able. And then if I mess it up and stop following through, the easy excuse isn’t to wait until the next New Year. Amidst all the other changes this year, I didn’t have a ton of goals that I worked on, but starting to exercise consistently was one that I am really glad I’ve stuck with. At some point last year, I decided I wanted to go to more concerts, and I ended up going to seven in less than a year.

If you’re into New Year’s resolutions, more power to you. There’s no reason to knock them if you can keep them. But there are also other ways to approach goal-setting. So if you’re iffy on making a resolution this year, but have something you want to change, these are some of the tips I’ve found most useful:

  • Have multiple reasons to motivate you. When I started exercising consistently, the main motivation was to reduce my asthma symptoms. But the additional benefits are getting in shape and building strength; so when one of those reasons doesn’t feel like enough, the other gets me to put my shoes on and get going.
  • If you slip up, that isn’t the end. I haven’t exercised the last two weeks (oops), but the first week I was traveling, and last week I was both working long hours and sick. This week, I’m going to pick it back up and keep going. As much as it’s a bit of a bummer, breaking a streak doesn’t mean your goal is out the window.
  • Goals that stretch you are good, but don’t set ones you can’t reach. Because goals are centered on change, they should push you a bit outside your comfort zone. But if you set goals that are too lofty, you won’t reach them, and then it will be harder to stick with a new goal.
  • If a goal isn’t working, adjust it. If you set a goal and find that it was too much or something doesn’t fit well with your schedule or needs, don’t feel bad changing the goal. It needs to be something that can reasonably work for you. (Note: This should not become an excuse to adjust because you haven’t kept up; make changes for circumstances, not laziness.)
  • On that note, you can always move the finish line. If you set a goal and reach it, or are making progress more quickly than you had anticipated, don’t be afraid to adjust your goal to something bigger. Maybe it takes you longer to reach your new goal, but earning a new goal is an accomplishment to be proud of.
  • Set rewards for reaching (or even sticking with) a goal. If your goal is to eat healthier, maybe set up a small treat for the end of every week or two that you keep with it. The treat also doesn’t have to be relief from the goal — if you’re eating healthier, your treat can be dessert or it can be taking yourself to a movie.

Because I’ve got so many changes coming up, I’m not sure I’ll be setting new goals for a little while, but I’m excited to keep pushing toward progress on the goals I have set. How do you keep up with goals? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and have a happy New Year!