Hi folks, and happy new year!
I hope that your New Year’s Eve celebrations were memorable and festive and that your New Year’s Day was one spent relaxing, realigning, and preparing yourself for another 52 weeks of discovery, adventure, connection, joy, and triumph.
As promised (albeit somewhat late—let’s blame that on the festive New Year’s Eve celebration), I’ve written up the last five “themes” I’m carrying with me into the new year. Unlike resolutions, these themes are a bit more conceptual than your average goal—and rather than holding me to a strict standard, these concepts are meant to serve as guiding principles to help me navigate the next twelve months with self-compassion, thoughtfulness, and grace.
So, without further ado…
Here Are My Final 5 Themes for 2019:
6. Prioritize psychological wellness and remember self-care in the face of emotional peril. As life has proven to me time and time again—and as the state of the world has become more precarious than it has been in my adult life—I am beginning to understand that staying psychologically “well” in the face of life’s seemingly endless litany of challenges is not something to taken for granted. It’s work.
In 2019, I want to commit myself to take good care of my mental health. This means taking actual vacations rather than letting myself be tethered to work of some kind or the other every day of my life, expressing my feelings rather than withholding them (admittedly one of my worst habits), keeping track of my mental state and understanding how it relates to my patterns of behavior, and actively inviting experiences into my life that help me to manage my emotional well-being.
As we find ourselves barraged by troubling information and powerful stressors, it is critically important that we engage in practices—like meditation, exercise, attending therapy (for those who have access to it), leaning on our social networks, and finding creative outlets—that help us to protect our cognitive energy and diminish persistent symptoms of panic, depression or whatever other maladies crop up in our lives. No two people’s ideal psychological wellness routines are likely to be the same, so if you choose to engage this theme, I’d simply recommend that you take at least an hour out of each day to find what works best for you.
7. Make money to build a life, not just to spend it. I am a lot of things, but thrifty isn’t one of them. While I do try to save, I’ve always been of the mind that I would rather use my money to enjoy life’s myriad pleasures and invest in things and experiences that enrich the story of my life. In particular, I find it difficult to say no to good food, exciting travels, and a dazzling new piece to add to my continuously expanding wardrobe; I also love investing in self-improvement courses, good books, and services that make my life easier so I can spend more time doing what I love and less time chewing my way through tedium.
That said, as I grow older and find my responsibility to my family, my community, and my future growing, I understand the importance of making sure I have all of the resources I need in order to support myself, to give back to my community and to see myself well-served by the fruits of my life’s many labors. As I’ve spent over a decade growing my intellectual and business competencies, it is of critical importance to me that I now parlay those competencies not simply into having cash for my favorite things—which will always be non-negotiable—and instead into smart investments which will, with any luck, protect my well-being and that of my loved ones should lean times be upon us.
For that reason, in 2019, I am committing myself to carefully watching and carefully prioritizing my budget—using artificial intelligence tools like Charlie (which I highly recommend to all working young people) and the advice of good friends, my parents, and financial advisors—for the purpose of building a cash-based nest-egg. Next, I will be re-evaluating my present budget to take cash out of unimportant ventures so that I can instead invest in experiences or services likely to secure meaningful financial returns; in particular, I’m interested in investing in services that help me grow my consulting, content development, research, and strategy businesses.
This is also the year I’d like to make my dream of independent homeownership come true. For that reason, I commit myself to set cash aside to put a down payment on a home by this time next year. To get my ass into gear toward that end, I’ve started talking to realtors and having conversations with my own family about how I can best go about making this happen.
8. Get excited about uncertainty! When I moved to New York City to start my master’s degree nearly three years ago, I had never been there before. I didn’t know where I was going to live, how I was going to feed myself, or, really, anything about where I was going except that Queens, the location of my university and hometown of some of my favorite musicians, was at the time hailed as an extremely diverse “upcoming place” that everybody would someday want to be. Sad over what I would be leaving behind, but eager to discover what I might someday become as a result of this adventure, I flew my two best friends out with me so that we could hold on just a little bit longer… and after a short trip, I said goodbye to them for the first of many times as I stood on the platform at 169th Street on a hot summer day, watching them board the subway bound for JFK and holding back tears because I didn’t want to show up to my first day on campus a crying mess.
Since then, a lot has happened in my life. I quickly earned that master’s degree I mentioned, completed Doctoral coursework, traveled all around the country and the world, gave talks at conferences, embarked on large-scale research projects, served incredible clients in the technology, travel, government, and healthcare sectors, walked in New York Fashion Week. All wonderful things.
Unfortunately, terrible things happened, too. I dealt with a sexual assault and its aftermath in a city where I knew only a handful of other people, nearly dropped out of my doctoral program, developed tumors and saw my mild heart condition become abruptly more severe, had to navigate the nightmare zone that is the American healthcare system, had my heart broken (a few times—not exactly an unexpected thing for someone as sentimental as I can be). Through all of that, I did my best to remain strong, and to be productive regardless of whatever chaos was transpiring in my life.
Going through these experiences taught me to be more thoughtful and compassionate toward others—and I never lost that optimism that has characterized my adventurous streak and willingness to embark on new ventures or take on big challenges. Unfortunately, they also left me with profound anxiety that caused me to shrink away from the world; in the months that followed my assault and subsequent (presumably unrelated) development of other health complications (including the tumors, which had a profoundly negative impact on my self-confidence), I stopped socializing, leaned strictly into my work, and became scarce in the lives of people that I loved in favor of hiding out at my apartment, where nothing bad could happen to me.
Slowly, I’ve gotten out of that funk, but I know that I am not at all the person I was before all of this happened. I can live with that.
What I will not live with, any longer, is letting the question of “what if”—the fear of impending disaster—hold me hostage. In 2019, I want to look at uncertainty, for better or worse, as an opportunity and not a variable to be terrified of. It will take some work, but I want to stop fearing possibilities and start creating them.
9. Eat, drink, and rest like you love yourself. In a recipe published by the New York Times, writer and cook Regina Schrambling once stated that “abstemiousness is not an option when you’re feeling low”.
While I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that particular take on consumption—I have never really been an overly-indulgent eater and prefer to observe my friend’s mother’s advice: that you shouldn’t just start eating or drinking freely when things go wrong—I do want to lean more meaningfully into life’s chief comforts in 2019: mainly food and rest, but more mindfully than I ever had. I also want to cut out more of what doesn’t serve me, namely drinking alcohol, which while I quite like it, has probably been more damaging to my well-being, focus and productivity than I would like to admit.
To that end, in 2019, I am committing myself to cooking more—learning at least 52 recipes, one for every week of the year. I am also committing myself to getting more rest—sleeping for at least eight hours a day, rather than the three-to-five hours I’ve been getting these last few years and, not coincidentally, I’ve no doubt that a decreased focus on enjoying the treasures of the night life will help to accomplish like that. Goodbye 40-proof. Hello, 40 winks!
10. Take time to reflect on and celebrate all that you learn, share and do. 2018 was a marathon year. Between completing doctoral coursework, a number of day-job and freelance accomplishments, completing one album and one EP, doing volunteer work, and traveling all around the country, I accomplished a lot—and rarely took a moment to savor any of it. Rather, I just hustled from one task to the next, focused so much on getting through the challenges of each day.
While this fast-paced manner of living helped me to get a lot done, I often found myself feeling psychically overextended and on the verge of burnout. More often than I’d like, I would ask myself what the point of all of my hard work was, and whether or not I should give up and find an easier way to live my life—even if such a life would probably be deeply unsatisfying to me in the end.
While I probably won’t be making any changes to my workload any time soon, I think I can take more time out of my day to meditate on my gratitude for the many opportunities in my life—and to appreciate, in context, what my accomplishments mean in the grander scheme of my life. That may help me to keep on forging along my life path with enthusiasm… and so, this year, that’s precisely what I’m going to do.
Well, that was a bit long-winded, but this concludes my list of themes I’m taking with me into the new year. I’m hoping that these guiding thoughts and principles will help me to live a happier, healthier, more productive and fulfilling life—and I’m going to make sure to reread this as the year unfolds to keep up with my progress.