Lunar New Year: Looking Back and Ahead

I never made a blog about the passing of 2016, but can you blame me given the January we’ve had? This week marks the Lunar New Year, so I’ll take this  opportunity reflect on the passage of time and give some personal updates. 2016 was a dumpster fire. This is an incontrovertible fact; however, on the personal level, things have been looking up-ish. 

The Past: One of the biggest changes in my life was going to graduate school. The last quarter of the year brought me closer to who I want to be than the rest did, combined. I love being in DC, where I can leave work and find myself at a museum, new restaurant, event, or protest on nearly any day (unfortunately, protests are necessary right now). More than anything, I’m just so happy to be back in school. 2016 was my first full year out of college and it took time to adjust from the life of a student to that of an office worker. No longer were there grades or opportunities to prove myself that made me feel like I was making substantial progress, just an indifferent boss and endless busywork. I had to find my own fulfillment and drove myself half mad with self-imposed rules and goals meant to optimize my time and productivity levels. The actual result was stress and exhaustion. Going to school helped me feel more productive (when in truth, I’m just not beating myself up over impossible goals anymore) while beginning to build a career that hopefully leads me to feel finished, not started, with meaningful work at 5pm.

The HBG Flea also reached every milestone I set. We had events in four different venues, grew to 3.5K likes on Facebook, and created many long lasting, positive relationships with other business owners in Harrisburg. We are now in a position in which we can start paying for artists to make tote bags and posters for us, instead of relying on friends donating their time. We faced substantial challenges that in hindsight only made us stronger; arguments between partners or with venues taught me trust in my decisions and the value of letting go. I can’t convince everyone that I’m right; all I can do is present my case and move on, relying on my competency to speak for itself. I’m still working on not letting my emotions get in the way; I have a temper that, when not dealt with, festers and seeps into what should be dispassionate interactions. 

It wasn’t all success. I had hoped to but didn’t re-learn French or ballet. I used to be conversational in French, almost 6 years ago, and I know it wouldn’t take quite so long to tap back into to those pathways etched into my brain. I just couldn’t dedicate the time I needed to do so. I don’t want to give up on the language, so perhaps I’ll try subscribing to French YouTube channels or podcasts and try to learn by osmosis. Ballet is still something I’d like to pursue. I’m much more interested in body movement that’s closer to a skill or art than just exercise; this is why I love yoga so much. Ballet would have helped strengthen and stretch different muscle groups, but I was nervous about finding affordable classes for adult beginners, and eventually gave up the search. I’m not very comfortable being in public situations in which I admit to being a beginner, which is something I should work on. New yoga routine at home? Great. New yoga class? I’m nervous I’ll be the one person not keeping up, which would nag at me for the rest of the day.  

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This is pretty much my perception of public classes/ everything. (source: College Humor)

This last point wasn’t actually a goal, it’s just a thing that happened. I broke many of my materialistic habits in 2016, and though this is a small change, it’s helped contribute to a general sense of well being. I’m getting rid of clothes and stuff I don’t wear or like and replacing them with fewer items of higher quality. This fall and winter, I pretty much wear one of three different pairs of shoes, and I love it (if anyone’s wondering, two of the three are from everlane).  With fewer things, I cherish what I have more and want less (why would I want another pair of black flats when the ones I have are so great?). It’s so much easier to pick clothes when I have a pseudo-uniform for myself. This was inspired in part by my passion for environmentalism and sustainable retail, which, as many of you know, is also the impetus for this blog. 

Future: Most of  my 2017 goals concern attitudes or feelings. As I learned in 2016, too many yearly goals feels like failure even if half are met. When “do yoga every day” is categorically the same thing as “be accepted and do  well in grad school,” it’s easy to diminish one’s successes. “Oh, I missed a week of yoga, that’s essentially the same as being rejected from school, since they’re both just one of many equal goals” is my irrational, emotional response. 

I’d like  to learn how to make kombucha and basic coding. There couldn’t be two more disparate skills, but both are very close to me. I live for kombucha, the fermented tea drink with probiotic properties and slight effervescence. It is, like most health foods, expensive. So, with the help of a friend (who is also a soap goddess) I  procured my very own tribble SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) who will make the sweet, sweet elixir for me. Alexander got me a book about the process for Christmas, so I’m ready to go. Coding will help just because I spend so much time thinking about and using digital platforms and communications, I ought to know the basics of how they work. I know the famous intro to computer science class offered at Harvard is accessible online through edX, so  CS50x, here I come.

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Future me with my SCOBYs

I plan to take a cross country road trip this summer, get supplies to start painting silk and making felted figurines as I did way back in high school, and submit one article to a journal or magazine per week. The road trip will be the opus of what I hope to be a year of weekend trips; I already plan on going back to the Philadelphia Flower Show this March and will try to plan at least one small outing each month. Not only to see other places but to stop myself from falling into the doldrums of routine. It’s so easy to feel comfortable staying in, but I’m afraid too much of that equals a boring life. The other goals are really meant to help me continue working on the crafts that mean a lot to me (writing) while rekindling  my love of other art, if only for my personal enjoyment. I don’t want work or school life to assassinate my other passions. 

Finally,  I’ve been exploring mindfulness meditation to promote focus and reduce anxiety, as well as trying to be more active, assertive, and spend less time on social media. I could spend hours scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, and often find myself doing it mindlessly. I get so angry at posts made by people I don’t care about that won’t change anything, or creep on stranger’s political discussions. Does getting angry, writing, and then deleting a comment on an acquaintance’s post that suggests that Trump’s executive orders are just meant to hide what his administration really wants to do in an I’m-so-smart-I-figured-it-out-I’m-the-only-person-who-sees-the-truth tone really change anything? No. Absolutely not. It won’t even change their opinion. Convincing someone that something they believe is probably more nuanced and unclear than they think might be harder than it is to convince them of the contrary. I’ll still post and enjoy keeping up with friends, but I will periodically ask myself “is what I’m doing right now making me happy or making a change?” If the answer is no to either, stop.

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I don’t need to know what some guy I met once had for lunch

Present (ish): I’ve been trying to get to sleep at a reasonable time, but here I am, writing this blog post past 1am because it took so long to get into it. I’ll edit it in the morning, so this will have to do. I have other things to work on. I gave up half of my winter break to take a class on campaign management and it was probably my favorite experience in school so far. It was brutal with long days filled with lectures and late nights of work, but it was almost magical how after two weeks, everyone in my group transformed into campaigning experts. I had to drop nearly everything else, the flea, my blog, writing, personal reading, in order to do the class, so I’m still playing a bit of catch up. 

I’m also now working at Revolution Messaging as a part-time intern in their advertising team. It’s been so long since I had to commute to an office for work — it forces me into a schedule, but commuting is so enervating. This is my newest challenge: go to work and class and still dedicate time to my business, hobbies, and self care. Lattes help. I need to stop myself from falling back into my anxiety-driven state of considering hobbies work and work pointless, but since I enjoy my time there and really feel as if I’m making a difference, that will assuage my constant fear of failure. Hopefully you’ll be hearing more from me in the coming weeks as I find dedicated time to blog. Until next time. 

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