Why I Keep My Resolutions + Goals for 2018

winter pic

There’s no denying that New Year’s Resolutions come from a great place.

The idea is to learn from last year’s mistakes, set some real goals, and finally get our lives together.

Yeah, we’ve heard that one before. Why is it that these goals always seem to fall through, and we end up halfway through January swearing that next year will be our year?

For the past three years, I’ve begun every 12-month cycle of the Gregorian calendar with a set of goals, and I can honestly say I haven’t fallen short of them yet.

Here are the secrets I use to stay resolute, along with my own goals for 2018.

Keep Goals Fluid

This is my biggest tip. So many people fall into a cycle of failure because they set rigid – and often unrealistic – goals. Instead of judging your success based on how many items you check off your list, consider the true meaning behind each resolution.

For example, one of my 2017 goals was to achieve mid-level fluency in Spanish. I thought this would help propel me in my career, but it turned out that destiny had some surprises in store. I realized instead that my efforts were better spent perfecting my writing.

Did I achieve my original goal by December 2017? Nope. But I realized the true meaning behind it wasn’t mastery of a language, it was career advancement. And that I did achieve.

Just Do One the First Year

What? Only one resolution? Most people could write a novella with theirs! But as history shows, most of these never get accomplished.

My very first New Year’s Resolution was in 2015 when I dedicated myself to – go ahead and laugh – getting a bigger booty. I was tired of looking like a deflated pancake in jeans, and my current workout routine wasn’t cutting it. I reached out to one of my best friends who had a lot of experience with bodybuilding, and thus began a fitness journey that continues to this day. What started as a simple booty quest transformed my entire body, mind, and life.

So, choose one thing you really want to do, and see it through to the finish. Trust me, it feels much better to fully realize one goal than to half-accomplish 10.

Goals for 2018

I’ll share with you here a few of my goals for 2018. The short/long/fun-goal paradigm was inspired by fellow blogger Meredith Tolleson over at The Southern Source. Try it – it’s much more fun than making a boring old list.

  • Short-term goal. This one can be accomplished in a few months. Mine is to take Jacob and myself on a culturally-rich vacation to a place we’ve never visited before. It’s time to get creative and vacay outside of the box!
  • Fun goal. This goal is something silly or fun you’ve always wanted to do, but never put the energy into. For me, this is taking a wine-tasting course to learn how to truly appreciate a fine bottle of wine (whenever I get my hands on one).
  • Long-term goal. I’m really excited about this one. It’s something that may take most of the year, even a bit longer. My goal is to become professionally certified in French-to-English translation. It’ll be a lot of work, but I look forward to the challenge and the huge reward at the end. I’ve already begun studying to take the DALF C1 (Advanced French Diploma) in March as the first step, so wish me bonne chance.

Now Take the Time to Analyze

I’ll admit, it took me a few days of self-lecturing before I sat down and defined my goals. It’s crazy how adverse our brains can be to actually thinking. But it’s so liberating once you do. All kinds of ideas, opinions, and inspirations come out of a good think session.

If you haven’t had one in a while, take a walk, a shower, a drive – whatever gets you inside your head, and figure out how to make 2018 the year for you.

How to Recycle in Birmingham, AL

Recycle in Birmingham

I used to think I was great at recycling.

Every time I found a triangle-adorned bin, I’d toss in whatever plastic cup I was holding, smiling like I’d just single-handedly re-frozen the ice caps.

It wasn’t until I moved into my new apartment in downtown Birmingham that I started asking questions. While I’m thankful to have on-site recycling, I noticed that there wasn’t much instruction for use.

Normally, if something had an arrowed triangle, into the bin it would go. I’m sad to admit that I’ve committed more recycling sins than saves. After some research,  I realized that my recycling faux-pas weren’t just futile – they could be contaminating the very products I’m trying to recover.

Here’s the right way to recycle in Birmingham.

What’s Definitely Okay to Recycle

The most important thing to know about recycling is this – triangle does not equal recycle. It simply tells you what type of material you’re dealing with. The City of Birmingham regularly accepts the following materials:

  • Plastics 1 & 2. This is the number inside of the triangle. These are generally milk jugs, soda bottles, detergent containers, and other jugs/bottles. Keep the lid on and rinse out any residue.
  • Aluminum cans. Beer and soda cans make up most of this category. Make sure to rinse.
  • Steel/tin cans. Think: canned vegetables and beans. Rinse and recycle.
  • Cardboard. Break down boxes first to make them easier to collect.
  • Paper. This includes junk mail, office paper, magazines, newspaper, and cereal/prepackaged food boxes.

What Not to Recycle

  • Glass. It’s not currently part of the ‘ham’s pickup program.
  • Food-soiled material. If you can’t get it clean, the residue could contaminate the entire batch.
  • Plastic bags. I admit – I did it for years. But one of these can clog up an entire facility.
  • Plastics 3 and up. Even if you think you know, always check the number on plastics.
  • Styrofoam. Even when it is accepted, it’s usually too soiled with food residue to be used. Egg cartons are the exception.

Where You Might Be Able to Recycle

Don’t get sad if you’ve got a lot of the non-recyclables from above. I kind of fibbed. You actually can recycle most of these, you’ve just got to take them to one of these drop-off locations.

Figuring out how to recycle in Birmingham can be a challenge if you don’t know the rules. Luckily, the materials here are accepted regularly, so you’ll know when it’s okay to use the blue bin, and when you should just toss it.

MORE ADULTING TIPS: How to Get Free iPhone Insurance

Post-College Confession

Five Augusts ago, 18-year-old me checked my University of Alabama move-in email one last time, assuring myself that, in the morning, college was finally happening. 8 a.m. would be here soon, so I slipped into my childhood bed and pulled the twin-size comforter snugly under my chin. I gazed upward at the decade-old constellation of sticky, luminescent stars still affixed to my bedroom ceiling. After tonight, I thought, my life will change forever.

Four years later, there I lay once again, staring up at the makeshift vision board I had taped above my college apartment bed. My cat, Leo, shuffled around in one of the myriad boxes I had piled about the room. Tomorrow, I’d pack up my decrepit Honda and make for a new, post-college life away from Tuscaloosa. For the second time in my short span of existence, everything was about to change. Only this time, I wasn’t so sure what would be waiting for me. I knew the gravity of the moment wouldn’t hit until later, but I knew this was it.

College was over.

College GraduationNow, one year into full-fledged adulting, I can safely say that I’m not only surviving, but thriving in a world devoid of $2 double-wells and XXL tees. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Class vs. Cube

One of the biggest adjustments of post-college life has been acclimating to the 8–5 groove.

Boy, how I miss those 2-hour gaps between classes. Breaking an hour for lunch isn’t quite the same as reading Voltaire on the Quad until astronomy starts.

Apart from learning time management, I had to remind myself not to expect results in my new career instantly. In college, it took years to reach the professional milestones, achievements, and reputation that I graduated with. The workplace is no different. You’re essentially a freshman all over again. Learning to stand out and make a name for yourself at work, just like in college, is a surefire way to start the climb up. Only this time, it’s done over coffee, not keg stands.

Looking 4 Friends

I remember feeling a bit lost when I first moved to Birmingham. I was out of my comfort zone, I didn’t know many people, and I couldn’t even get to the gas station without pulling up the GPS.

That’s a sharp contrast from the easygoing flow of college.

In reality, it’s not hard to make friends post-college, but it is different. Being surrounded by 20,000 people your age (plus having a constant margarita buzz) makes collegiate friend-finding oh so easy. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t instantly assemble a squad in your new city. Building relationships takes more time and effort outside of college.

Since moving, I’ve grown closer with old friends and acquaintances, and made new besties through work and mutual friends. Just like the newbies in the dorm, sometimes it takes a little prodding to get to know some of the coolest people. You never know who you’ll meet until you try.

Finding Yourself

I had never understood the concept of “finding yourself.”

I’ve already picked out my major, I thought. What else is there to decide?

Up until now, our standards of success and progress have been outlined for us: Graduate in 4 years, make an A on this paper, get 3 internships and make it look bomb on LinkedIn. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that no longer having that road map feels a little weird.

It’s not as easy as logging into DegreeWorks and checking your class completion bar anymore. You have to learn to set your own goals and aspirations, and create your own metrics by which you judge yourself.

Yeah, yeah, it’s easier said than done. And that’s where I believe the “finding yourself” thing comes into play. We’re young, we’re free, we’ve finally got (a smidgen of) our own money. Don’t waste your after-work time veg’d out on Netflix. Try sometime new, start a blog, plan a trip you’ve always wanted to take. After 22 years, it’s finally up to you to draw the plan.

How to Not Be Poor

Money was such a trivial thing in college. You didn’t really need it to get by. There were meal plans and Dining Dollars for food, and rent money came from that sweetheart Sallie Mae. I can remember cleaning out my car for the sheer prospect of finding enough stray bills and coins to pay cover for the night.

In the grown-up world, that first paycheck – while glorious – is dangerous.

Wow! I remember thinking. I’ve never seen so many digits in my bank account!

What I failed to remember with that first paycheck is that it had to fund a lot more than my weekend gallivanting. Soon, I was cursing my frivolous card swipes and vowed to take control of my poverty-inducing spending habits.

I devised a system that has worked well so far.

I added up the total amount of my monthly bills. I then halved that amount to coincide with my twice-monthly pay schedule. Every payday, that amount auto-transfers from my checking to savings. I’ll later go back and return the money when I sit down to pay bills, but it helps tremendously by giving me an instant picture of how much expendable income I’m working with.

There are lots of different apps and methods for tracking and managing spending, but this one has worked best for me.

No matter how rich you feel on payday, just remember – if you ball like a rock star this week, you’ll play Lord of Leftovers next week.

 

These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned in my first year out of college. If you’re in the same spot, just know that it’s not as scary as it sometimes seems. You’ll acclimate, and you might just find that some of your best adventures are yet to arrive.

Stop And Color The Roses

Cats in Paris coloring book

I sat with one foot tucked behind the other, shifting occasionally to accommodate Leo’s oscillating nap poses. It was pleasant in the shade of the balcony, the warm breeze catching my bangs as I drank in the fourth day of summer. I selected a page from Cats in Paris and began coloring. The rhythmic motion, both mindless and utterly engaging, melted away my stress from the week. I looked up to notice the façade of the towering Liberty National building across the way, its cool white brick dyed an amber glow from the setting sun, lending a serendipitous beauty to the contrasting cerulean sky. I glanced back down, took a sip from my still steaming mug of mint green tea, and returned to my sketch.

For me, these moments of pure relaxation come far too scarcely. It is both a blessing and a curse that I have learned to live with, my constant drive to accomplish something. That drive has pushed me to learn, do, and achieve some of my proudest feats. Yet, I find myself crippled sometimes by its pressure. Perhaps it stems from a fear of not living life to the fullest, of looking back ten years from now and seeing nothing but a inane montage of motions. To live fully, I feel you must infuse purpose into everything that you do. Without it, you’re just killing time.

Some of my favorite pastimes include browsing bookstores, stealing away to write, and going for strolls outdoors. Yet when I look at how I spend my days, I admit that I rarely indulge in any of the above. Sure, I may give each a few moments of time here and there, but dedicating an entire afternoon to one? Preposterous. But what a hypocrite I am! These are all things for which I have true conviction, yet I fail to see them as worthy uses of my precious time.

What I’ve realized today is that it’s okay to take a pause. You shouldn’t feel guilty for it. I believe it is better for the heart, head, and soul to spend some time enjoying yourself than it is to fill your day with endless tasks for fear of being unproductive. That’s something I do, and I know that it’s mostly to hide from myself. I don’t want to calm down, to be forced to process the events and emotions of my day. I get high off the commotion, the always-on attitude I cultivate. But with every high, there comes a crash.

By writing this, I hope to remind myself of this simple truth for when I inevitably forget it. And maybe, it will remind you too.