Friday, 31 December 2010

New years reflection: Where are you going, where have you been?

Yes, I'm one of those people who love, love, loves goal-setting. That's why the week between Christmas and New Years gives me such a rush. The tree and lights and nutcrackers are still out from the holiday build-up, but there's this calm that abounds before the new year starts. Perfect for reflection and dreaming.

This year I've been inspired by Chris Guillebeau (author of the Art of Nonconformity which I'm reading now) to do my looking back and forward in a more structured way. I followed his format (with a few deviations) because I think it's a good way to ask yourself lots of key questions. I thought I'd share some of the highlights, and I'd love to hear what some of your goals are.

Looking back on 2010

Two priorities
For the past few years I've chosen just words to focus on for the year. Any more and it gets a bit overwhelming. This year the words were writing and simplicity. I definitely gained momentum with writing, wrote a rough draft of my manuscript and found some supportive writer friends to encourage and keep me accountable. Not bad for a years' work!

In the simplicity department I think I'd also give myself an A (self-evaluations are always the best), because I do feel like I succeeded in enjoying some of life's simple pleasures (food, drink, time with loved ones) and in not stressing (too much) even though living out of a suitcase for 8 months, moving internationally twice, having no solid plans for what we'd do when we moved to the TBC location that turned into Seattle, and then settling down into said city. Oh the lessons in patience and faith you learn when you move every few years!

Focusing on simplicity has helped me to just take one step at a time, to not feel overwhelmed in all that I don't know and to focus instead on what I do know: that I have enough and things are going to be OK. Starting from scratch (over and over since we've been married) has given me a lot of practice in guarding my priorities as I build a life from the ground up. In this culture of busyness and more and more, simplicity isn't something you can just fall into, but it's worth the effort for me.

What went well?

In a nutshell, quite a bit! I am so grateful to have spent the first six months of 2010 living in New Zealand, reading, writing, drinking coffee and swimming in the sea. Staying with Dan's parents in Auckland all that time was such a surprise that was so good for the soul, the
perfect transition from England to life in the US.

I'm also thankful for these past six months, moving across the world once again and settling into a city I'm proud to call home: Seattle. We had no idea what to expect (that's how we roll), but think things have turned out nicely. We love our little one-bedroom apartment, our flexible income streams (ie jobs) and the community around us. It's also just nice to be home.

I know that years don't always play out like this one did, but rest assured I haven't taken one moment for granted.

What could have been improved?

There are always little things to learn from -- challenges and imperfections that are part of the journey. But overall, I wouldn't change anything. I am thankful for for seasons of stretching and challenge and disappointment, but even more that winter always breaks into spring, and seasons like this year come along to restore and recharge. 

Looking forward to 2011

Two priorities

For the third year in a row, writing's in the spotlight. But this year I'm upping the ante and have some specific goals, like finishing my manuscript and finding an agent. I'm planning to write at least one day a week and pushing forward with all the progress I've made. The other word is going to be balance. Balance isn't something that comes naturally in American culture (try over-the-top!/ busy!/ ambitious!), but it's something I know a lot of people want. For me, work-life balance is so important. I love working hard on things I love, but also having flexibility in my schedule to just hang out with my husband on a Thursday afternoon if I so choose is really important.

What am I looking forward to?

So much! It's nice to feel like we can unpack our bags for a while finally, and build on the past six months rather than prepare to up sticks again. Some of the words that I feel about 2011 are growth and roots. I've always thought that for the last 8 years living the life of a nomad I been growing roots in potted plants. I love the freedom that comes with being mobile and unattached. But I'm also glad to put those plants into some local soil and let them flourish.

I've got a lot of things I'm looking forward to, but here's a sampling:

  • Writing:
    • Having a writing day once a week
    • Doing a writing retreat
    • Going to a writers conference to practice pitching to agents
    • snagging an agent 
  • Design:
    • I've always wanted to learn graphic design, so I'm going to sign up for an InDesign class at the local community college 
  • Travel:
    • Dan and I are kind of obsessed with travel hacking and traveling for cheap. So we're trying to wrack up our frequent flyer miles and score some free trips. Here's the list of places we'd love to visit this year:
      • Dallas to see some great friends
      • San Francisco and NYC (I'm going for work anyway, so why not?)
      • Shanghai and Korea (dream big and all that)
      • New Zealand
So, those are some of my reflections at the end of the year. Right now the sun is streaming into our wood-paneled apartment, Dan's reading and I'm drinking coffee. In a few hours we'll be celebrating the new year with fondue and friends and hope for a wonderful year ahead.

Happy New Year to you! What are some of your goals for 2011 or reflections on 2010?

{Photos: one under the sun , banana strudel, and me}


Chris Guillebeau said...

What an amazing review! Great photos, great words, great stories... and it looks to be an even better 2011.

Big congrats to you and thanks for the props.

Rachel said...

Thanks to you, I think writing will be a theme for me this year, too. I feel like I've finally cleared enough head space to work on writing on my own, and have been encouraged that, with enough hard work, I could actually realize a long-dormant dream of being published. I'm excited for you this year, Alisha! It's going to be grand.

alisha said...

Thanks so much for stopping by Chris!

Rachel,I'm so excited to see how all of us push through with writing this year. It's so great to have the support and encouragement of other writers. :)

Here's to a great 2011!

Nadine said...

Great post Alisha! I love your goal of securing an agent! It's going to happen!

Rachael Randal said...

Happy New Year Alisha and Dan! Lovely to read your reflections and goals.

Mike and I spent the New Year just the two of us with a bottle of wine under the stars on the West coast of Northland. Just perfect. We made a 2010 quiz for each other, which I guess was our way of reflecting on the highlights of the year. As for goals, mine are rather too numerous to sum up here - I've always been rather optimistic in that department, but even if I achieve a few of them, I'll be happy!

alisha said...

Nadine, I hope the same for you!

Rachael, wine under the stars on the coast sounds like an ideal way to ring in the new year. And I love your quizzes -- I have good memories of the quiz we all played on the ferry ride back from Waiheke. The girls totally won right? :)

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