This is probably going to sound incredibly selfish, but I kind of feel like 2012 was a year for me. That's not to say it was all about me, me, me (I swear I'm not that vain.. nor am I that interesting), but it is to say that I somehow managed to unearth a new version of myself this year, one that I'm pretty content with.
I've discovered that one thing I find true value and contentment in is personal growth and evolution. So many Decembers, though, I have looked back upon the year gone by and thought "Why didn't I find the time to do XYZ..." Not this year, though. This year, more so than any other year, I feel as though I'm a better, more authentic version of myself now than when the year began in January. I didn't accomplish everything on my mental list, but I think the difference is that this year I was purposeful. This year I was all about action. I always say the first step to self-improvement is self-awareness, but change can't happen unless you take steps to do something. I made this year about doing something.
There are a few things that happened at the end of 2011 that I feel fueled this intentional pursuit of growth - the realization that my personal goals were sometimes taking a backseat to my relationship, the relief of ending a job where I often felt drained of my creativity (admittedly partly my fault), and the beginning of a new work life that afforded me constant challenges and new levels of flexibility. It didn't all start on January 1, either. It took me a while to break my habit of procrastination and to silence that voice in my head that kept saying "I'll work on that later." I started to really feel compelled when I started reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and from then on, it was GAME ON.
Regardless of the catalyst, I'm happy that I was able to take small steps throughout the year to improve different aspects of my life. Here's a quick recap of my tiny personal accomplishments this year. My hope is that it encourages some of you out there to take a look back at the things you've accomplished in terms of growth - no matter how small the changes may be - or that it maybe inspires you to make 2013 your very own year for you.
// My 2012 Improvements //
This goal was less about needing to have blog posts up and more about sticking to something (as you know, following through is not my strong suit.) Back in April, I realized I was neglecting this little place of mine and I knew if I didn't learn to make the time, December would creep up on me and I'd regret not documenting more of the year. I gave myself the challenge of writing something every day for two weeks in the hopes that I would prove to myself that the time existed - I just had to make writing a priority. The challenge worked because from that point on I went from averaging 2-3 posts a month to about 10. Suddenly I felt inspired all the time and ideas would come to me from anywhere and everywhere. As a result, I feel that I've been able to grow my audience of readers - you guys - and I now have a fabulous archive from the year to look back on and learn from. As an unexpected bonus, taking the time to reflect on my life more often and share my thoughts/feelings with you all I feel has contributed significantly to my happiness level.
I've never been a big reader. However, realizing that I spend a majority of my days consuming A LOT of relatively short-form content (articles, blog posts, status updates, tweets, etc.) I felt this nagging urge to delve into something deeper. Movies and TV provide both relaxation and entertainment for me, but books have allowed me to engage my imagination in a different way. I've also found that they help me wind down before bed and give me that feeling of tiredness that helps me fall asleep more quickly (as opposed to Netflix on my iPad which has the opposite effect of making me want to stay up until 3am.) I was skeptical about whether I could keep it up, but I managed to read six whole books, both fiction and nonfiction, which for me was a pretty big improvement from a whopping zero. In case you're interested, here's my list: The Happiness Project, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Where We Belong, Gone Girl, Safe Haven, and Proof of Heaven.
Make more stuff.
For a blog about crafting, this place was pretty lacking in the crafts department for the first part of the year. Luckily, when Jason and I decided to turn our guest bedroom into a studio/craft room, it ignited a new found sense of inspiration and gave me a place to make it happen. I started purposefully (there's that word again) setting aside time on the weekends to make things, and it definitely helped. People always asks where I find the time to do so many projects and my answer is simple: I make the time. Even though opening up an Etsy shop was a big goal I had for the end of the year and I didn't manage to make that happen, I did manage to take the necessary steps to head in that direction so I'm not disappointed in the least. It just makes me want it that much more in 2013!
Do things NOW.
Oh, this was a big one. I'm the QUEEN of procrastination. I was always the little kid who waited until the day of the field trip to give her parents the permission slip, or who always put things off for longer than thought humanly possible. And it caused me immeasurable amounts of anxiety and a feeling of being burdened and overwhelmed all the time. I resolved to make 2012 the first year of doing things NOW. Did I do a 180 and accomplish everything right when it needed to be done? Oh heck no. But I got better. I made lists and voice recording reminders and used TeuxDeux and made piles of mail with huge colorful stickies that said "PAY ME" or "CALL SO AND SO." Thankfully I feel like I'm finally on track when it comes to all those stupid adult things we all have to deal with - whether it's getting the oil changed or paying a medical bill.
Confront my finances.
Speaking of paying bills, I feel like finances are just one of those things that each person has to come to terms with in order to be an adult. For years I managed to operate with a sort of "mental" budget which left me always in the dark about how much money I really had. For the first time this year I managed to put a budget together, and actually stick to it. Each month I managed to put money away for taxes (something I was not used to since I've always worked for a corporation and not as a contractor), and with that I kept track of write-offs, credit limits, loan repayment, the whole nine yards. Jason and I were also able to come to a solid agreement on what each of us would contribute monetarily, which is inevitable when you're living with a significant other and sharing so many expenses. Although my unforeseen medical expenses put a hamper on my repayment plan for my credit card, I now feel much more in control of my finances and I'm confident that next year I'll be able to pay them off. Finances can be an incredibly scary thing to tackle, especially if you're in debt, but knowing exactly what you have to work with (both in terms of income and in terms of debt) is really important if I want to sleep soundly at night.
Become more healthful.
My cooking skills have come a long, long way in a year. (Still, if I'm being honest, that's not really saying much.) I'm happy to say that the majority of meals I now know how to make are primarily pretty healthful. When Jason decided to embark upon his 90-day fitness challenge back in May, I had no idea just how drastically our lives and habits would change. I learned how to make things like spaghetti squash, kale chips, turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, cauliflower, and the list goes on. I'm proud to say that majority of what we eat now is fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. I also learned how much I'm capable of in terms of lifting weights and becoming stronger - something I'm hoping to get back into in 2013 (hello holiday laziness.) I dabbled in yoga, cut out diet soda (seriously I've had probably less than five total since May!) and learned to drink a lot more water. Ironically, my ongoing struggle with my mysterious skin condition also forced me to reassess my eating habits after we went off our strict 90-day challenge menu, and in 2013 I'll most likely try to eliminate gluten from my diet entirely, a choice I feel will help me live a more healthy life. The biggest take away here is that despite what individual tactics or healthy practices I'm engaging in at any given time, overall my health is now a valued part of my lifestyle and hopefully will remain top-of-mind for the rest of my life.
So there you have it. That's my personal evolution this year in a nutshell. I hope it wasn't too self-indulgent for you guys out there, but again, I like to think of this place as a forum for self-reflection as much as self-expression.
I hope all of you have a fabulous and safe new year, and let's kick off 2013 right. Feel free to share any of your accomplishments in the comments below, or any areas you're hoping to improve upon in the upcoming year!
Thank you for accompanying me this year on my journey. You guys are awesome!