4 Things I’m Focusing on in 2018

hot yogaI’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. In fact, a couple of years ago when I noticed that many of my sentences about my life began with “if only…” and “when X happens, I’ll be happier,” I made a life-changing decision to stop wishing my life away and live in the present. Instead of waiting for the “perfect conditions” or hoping I would find the “perfect job,” I made sure to appreciate what I had and make more time for the things I loved. Gradually, I adopted a more regular work-out routine; I  read more books on a regular basis; I cooked more at home; I prioritized getting together with friends (sometimes at the expense of sleep) & visiting family regularly; I bought more tickets for cultural events like the ballet, Broadway shows, and friends’ comedy shows. As a result, I’ve found that my life feels more balanced even amidst a hectic schedule.

While I don’t make specific resolutions for the new year like participate in Dry January, or eliminate carbohydrates from my diet, I like to re-center myself at the beginning of each new year. Last night, I took a hot yoga class for the first time in a long time. I used to do yoga regularly, but when I switched gyms a long time ago,  I never got back into the routine. There are a lot of yoga-esque moves incorporated into the barre classes I often take, so thankfully I wasn’t as rusty as I thought I would be!

During last night’s practice, our teacher had us participate in a mala, which is much different than the traditional vinyasa yoga classes I’ve taken. A mala commemorates the changing seasons and is usually done in conjunction with the solstice. In a full mala, participants do 108 sun salutations in 4 rounds with each round dedicated to a different purpose. Last night, we did about a half mala or close to 56 sun salutations.

After the practice, while lying sweaty in corpse pose, I thought about the four rounds of dedications we’d done and how I would like to focus more on these things in the coming year. So, here are the four things I’m focusing on in 2018:

  1. Myself–It’s weird to think about one’s self especially when so often we feel selfish if we celebrate our selves. Have you ever taken the time to thank yourself? Or congratulate yourself on overcoming adversity. This year, I will focus on remaining kind to myself mentally and physically (more sleep!).
  2. My loved ones- My loved ones are often at the forefront of my mind, but in 2018, I would like to focusing on showing my gratitude through acts of service (my love language).
  3. My challenges/challengers- This dedication came at the most challenging part of the practice and I found it empowering to think about my adversaries while doing more chaturangas (aka the yoga push-up/low plank) than I’d ever done in my life and sweating profusely onto the mat and floor (sorry, yoga studio). I love a good physical challenge, but this year I focus on being more grateful for the other challenges I face in life instead of wishing they would disappear. Challenges help me solidify my beliefs and motivate me to fight for the change I wish to see.
  4. All beings- I make it a point to be polite and kind to those I encounter in my every day life and since I live in New York City, I encounter a lot of people on a daily basis. However, in 2018, I would like to focus on being a stronger advocate for marginalized voices and actively work to amplify those voices.

These things certainly aren’t new and are already on my mind, but this year, I’d like to deepen my commitment to them. What are you focusing on in the coming year?

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2017 In Review: My Year In Books

CaptureIn a year marked by tragedy—both personal and political—I turned to books, as usual, for solace, answers, escape, and laughter. I had set out to read 20 books in 2017 (I’d forgotten about this goal until I recently logged into my Goodreads account) and ended up reading only eight books. Better luck next year! Despite the many challenges of 2017, I found lots of pleasure in the books I read this year, and so I present to you (in hopes that you might enjoy a few, too) my year in books, in chronological order:

1. South and West: From A Notebook by Joan Didion

Only Joan Didion can publish excerpts from her notes and captivate an audience. As a fan of Joan Didion, I greatly appreciated this book. Written in 1970 after a month trip to the South without a specific story in mind, Didion’s notes offer a unique outsider’s perspective on life in the South and the reader can see through her observations how the mostly unchanged South has influenced our current political climate.

2. No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Naht Hahn

I purchased this book shortly after my mom’s passing in order to start to grapple with grief (which as many of you know is a lifelong journey). Many of the ideas in this book resonated with me–particularly the idea that one shouldn’t try to push away suffering in order to find happiness; both have to peacefully coexist. Hahn also talked about the idea that we often let “les petites miseres” of life cause us more suffering than its worth. I’m pretty new to meditating (as in, I’ve done it a handful of times), but the mantras at the end of the book providing helpful centering exercises.

3. A Farm Dies Once A Year: A Memoir by Arlo Crawford

I’d come across this title on a list of promising nonfiction to read in 2014. I’d picked up the book in 2014 at a time when I relate to the narrator-a young 30-something who was questioning his purpose in life and searching for meaning. Also like the narrator, I fantasized about simplifying my life and moving to a farm to live and work of the land (instead I opted to return to the field of teaching). I finally read this book it in its entirety this year when I decided I was going to rotate fiction and nonfiction. I found that by now, I no longer could relate to the narrator and the story felt a little trite, the narrator a little whiny, and the idea of showing up to one’s parents’ farm to live and work for a year and then move a little too classic millennial for my tastes.

4. Moonglow by Michael Chabon

This book was given to me last Christmas by my mom and it turned out to be the last book she would ever give me, so this book has a lot of sentimental value to me in addition to it being a beautifully-written and intriguing story. We’d first heard of the book a couple summers ago while watching a segment on PBS Newshour where Michael Chabon spoke about his process for writing Moonglow, which is billed as a “faux-memoir novel,” and we were intrigued. The story takes place in 1989 while the narrator’s grandfather is on his deathbed. While on medication, he tells the narrator stories about his life, which is also interspersed with the narrator’s memories of his childhood. The novel plays with the conventions of fiction and memoir and I was pleased to hear Michael Chabon read from Moonglow and talk about his process this past fall at the 92 Street Y. I even waited in line and had the copy of the book my mom had given me autographed.

 

5-8 The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

     5. My Brilliant Friend

     6. The Story of a New Name 

     7. Those Who Leave, and Those Who Stay 

    8. The Story of the Lost Child 

I ended the year by reading the Neapolitan Novels. This was a delightful adventure that I recommend to anyone who loves coming-of-age tales that last over four thick novels. The story chronicles the life of Elena Greco and her lifelong friendship with Lila from elementary school until the present. The first novel is set against the backdrop of 1950s Naples, in a poor neighborhood where few residents go to school beyond elementary school, and the novels that follow trace Elena’s life through the decades amidst varying political changes and struggles of the time and relationships with family, friends, lovers, neighbors. One of the blurbs on the front cover of the first novel summarizes these novels best, “Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are.”

There is also some mystery surrounding the actual identity of Elena Ferrante,  the author’s pen name, which adds an even more exciting buzz to these already intriguing novels.

That’s all for 2017! I’m looking forward to reading more in 2018 (hoping to hit 20) and of course I’m looking for your suggestions! Here’s to another great year in books!

A Year End Reflection

futuredreams
Goal setting, 1994-style.

The end of a year inevitably brings reflections, varying top 10 lists of the year’s best and worst in every category imaginable, pop culture trivia games, and the ritual taking stock in your life followed by setting goals for the new year that beg to be broken by February.

Instead of coming up with some deep end-of-the-year reflection, I thought I’d share a different kind of end-of-the year reflection; one I wrote in the sixth grade. I came across this recently in a box of my things that I’ve haven’t sifted through in over a decade. I found this piece in a composition book that was passed from grade to grade that was meant to be an exemplar of the work we had done that year. Though I was only twelve when I wrote this it resonates for some reason at the close of another year. (Author’s note: the names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

Sixth Grade-The Final Year In Elementary School 

The year has been good to me. I entered sixth grade on August 29th, 1994. It was hot and I sat down in a group with Tara, Andrea, and Ellen. I remember thinking that the room was unfamiliar. I stared at the walls, seeing what was on them.

I had trouble making friends because people had changed. I then began to hang out with Leidy, Rachel, and Anna in about October.

By November, Andrea started to hang out with us. We all did a play in December for a wonderful party (Christmas) our class had. It was the beginning of our wonderful friendships that we have kept this year.

We got first grade buddies who are wonderful. My first grade buddy is Amelia and she is a wonderful little girl. She is kind and very cute. She has character.

Andrea and I had become closer friends throughout the year. Best friends in fact. We’ve had our share of hardships, but we’re still best friends.

Now the year is coming to an end (or close) and there is nothing left to learn. Our teacher keeps on saying that the class will never be together anymore. I used to just not listen to that but now I’m sad. Very sad. I could even cry. I might later, but not now. I say I want to leave Atwater, but the truth is, I don’t want to. I’m finally going to close the doors on Atwater, on my elementary years.

compositionbook
The assignment, which never made sense to me until I became a teacher.

Hello Endorphins, My Old Friends

I used to work out all the time. And compete in races. (And dye my hair blond.)
I used to work out all the time. And compete in races. (And dye my hair blond.)

In keeping with my positive outlook for 2014, I’ve made a concerted effort to work out more. (Read: at all). Last week, I did two kickboxing classes and an aquacycling class. This week, I have big dreams of doing yoga and finding some crazy, cool new cardio class to try out. Though I’ve come up with many excuses, both clever and lame, as to why I can’t get into a good workout routine in the past couple of years, there really is no reason why I shouldn’t be working out at least three times a week. I’m not a lazy person and I used to be an athlete!

College swimming!
College swimming!

Speaking of being an athlete, while home for Christmas, I came across an old college swimming schedule that I had pasted to my dorm room wall (what can I say, I love mementos). In addition to the five two-and-a-half hour evening practices we had, there were three mandatory morning practices at 6am. Missing those AM practices was not an option. In fact, once I slept in just to see what would happen and you better believe my swim coach called me up and yelled into my answering machine until I got out of bed and over to the pool.  You see, I used to be incredibly physically active! Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine what working out 8-9 times a week would feel like.

Getting pumped up to swim at a swim meet in 2005.
Getting pumped up to swim at a swim meet in 2005.

I truly miss the days of swimming all the time and it wasn’t until I got back into the gym the other day for an old-fashioned ass-whooping (thanks Anne and Melissa), that I realize what I truly miss and crave is the release of endorphins. I love that natural high that comes when you push your body to its limits and then out of nowhere, you find the strength for just a couple more reps or to sprint across that finish line. Thanks, endorphins!

There are so many benefits to working out regularly and I was certainly reminded of that last week. It was the release of those endorphins that put me in an overall better mood despite the ridiculously cold temperatures brought on by the polar vortex.

The moral of the story is work out. There’s no excuse. Quit whining. Get off the couch and get that endorphin high. You’ll be glad you did.

To Making New Year’s Resolutions, Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving, and Spreading the Love on Valentine’s Day!

NYE champagne toastAs I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. I firmly believe you can make positive life changes on any old day. If you want to eat healthier, then start with your next meal! If you want to drink less, order a seltzer and cranberry juice the next time you’re out with friends. As the adage goes (and no folks, Gandhi did not say this), be the change you wish to see in the world. Don’t wait until January 1st. It only takes a week or so for a new habit to become a routine. Personally, I prefer to start new routines on Mondays, but that’s just me.

While I don’t make formal resolutions, I do like to make crazy lists. The other day, I found myself writing down a bunch of things I’d like to focus on this new year. I guess you’d call it resolutions. Here’s what I scribbled down in my planner as unpacked from my Christmas vacation:

My "resolutions."
My “resolutions.”
Inside the Guggenheim.
Inside the Guggenheim.

The list has a lot of standard items like work out, clean, read, etc. However, two items really take precedence here as far as I’m concerned: going to the museum and getting off my phone. I live seven avenues from museum row and I’ve haven’t set foot inside the Met since 1990. (In my defense, it was closed the day I ventured over there). I’m so close to so many cultural gems and there’s no excuse to ignore them! Secondly, I need to beat my iPhone to smithereens with a sledgehammer  take some time to unplug from my phone. But, Instagram! Anyone that knows me knows my phone is always within arm’s reach and it’s getting to be a bit ridiculous. Even I’m annoyed. Baby steps!

Facebook status
Haters gonna hate.

I was having a conversation with a friend at work the other day about how many people in our Facebook feeds like to kindly remind us that we shouldn’t wait for New Year’s to make change, for Thanksgiving Day to give thanks, and for Valentine’s Day to express love. He pointed out, if that’s what you need to put a little positivity out there, then so be it! I couldn’t agree more. Just like some people need conversation starters to talk to people who intimidate them, others need the boost of the holidays to give thanks, share their love, and make resolutions.

So instead of hating on New Year’s resolutions, as I may or may not have done in years past, I fully support all of your goals for 2014! Who cares if you made them on January 1st (or in my case December 28th)? Let’s just make some positive changes in 2014 and spread the love!

I’ll see you at the museum.

A New Year Brings New Things

I’ve never been one for making New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve always operated under the notion that if you want to make a change, then make it already. You don’t need to wait for a new year to begin in order to make positive life changes (or any life changes for that matter). In fact, I prefer to make life changes whenever I feel so inclined. If that happens around the time of a new year, then it is only a matter of coincidence.

While I’ve never really made formal New Year’s Resolutions, I have often made lists titled “Things I Must Do.” These lists functioned as big ideas that when completed would contribute to my overall quality of life. Tasks such as “be outside,” “go to new restaurants,” get my driver’s license,” “buy good photography to hang up,” “watch classic ’80s films, “read poetry suggested by my professor,” “buy a Mates of State album” were all examples of things that I felt compelled to do in order to bring myself to the next level of awesomeness -at-life.

Now that it is 2012 and many things still remain on my “Things I Must Do” list, I’ve opted for a slightly different approach at accomplishing these “big idea tasks.” Instead of debating back and forth and spending hours agonizing over  what to do next, I’ve simply picked something I’ve always wanted to do and made that my number one priority. For me, that something is moving to New York City. So instead of talking about taking action, I took action and will be moving there next month.  Though this change coincides a little with the start of a new year, the passing of another year has only signified to me that I don’t want any more time to pass without making a move.

So, here’s to 2012! I hope that before the year’s end, you can accomplish some of your “big idea tasks.” Whenever you feel so inclined, of course.