What I’ll Take Into 2015

The habits I want to build in the new year (and a few things I’m grateful to leave behind)

All years have their highs and lows, their triumphs and despairs. But for me, at least, 2014 felt a little different.

The highs seemed higher than ever before, and the lows lower, though I also worked hard on viewing even those moments through a different lens.

It was the kind of year where I got a truly life-changing opportunity when I was invited to join the team at Buffer. While I was meeting my teammates for the first time surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of Cape Town, my beloved pit bull died continents away in Nashville.

It was the kind of year where I had the huge privilege of co-hosting a live webinar with Twitter (whoa, Twitter!) only to have my social media high crushed moments afterward by a phone call letting me know that my grandmother was dying of cancer.

High high. Low lows. Entrances and exits. The kind of year that creates— or maybe “demands” is a better word for it — personal growth.

And what else can you do but what life demands of you?

This close to an elephant!

In 2014, I learned to meditate. I practiced vulnerability. I got really close to an elephant. I wrote and cried and prayed. I got more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I jumped off a waterfall. I wore wigs a lot, for some reason.

The year of wigs.

I told important people what they meant to me, and learned to ask for what I need to keep growing. I took in a new foster dog. I published things that scared me. I walked on a runway. I practiced gratitude. I volunteered. I tried to demand less and give more. I started a new social enterprise company with amazing friends.

And at the end of it all, I can say that I don’t feel like the same person I was at the beginning of 2014. My priorities are clearer. My goals are scarier. I grieve a bit for the time I’ve spent focusing on what now seem like the wrong things, but I’ve never felt more capable of making the most of every day I get the chance to greet from now on.

In other words, I have a lot of hope for 2015. Here’s how I plan to make it count.

Giving away 5% of my income

Have you ever had the right person come into your life at just the right time? A few months ago I met with an amazing financial advisor for what I figured would be a boring, here-are-our-assets-what-do-we-do-with-them type conversation.

Instead, she asked huge, amazing, questions that spun my head around. She asked me to think about my life goals, my legacy, what I want to be known for and leave behind in this world. What an exciting challenge! Working to create greater social justice for at-risk and underrepresented populations immediately formed in my mind as the area in which I’d like to make a real mark and I hope to solidify my “charitable mission statement” in the coming year.

One of my amazing teammates, Niel, shared with me how life-changing the book The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty had been for him in his exploration of giving back. I’m in the midst of reading it now and hoping that the book, combined with some future financial planning, can help make real my dream to effect change beginning with a small percentage of my income.

Learn to play piano; write and make music

I have learned about myself that I am much happier when I’m singing or otherwise involved in music on a regular basis, but I don’t have very much formal training (beyond a few years of chorus and in a jazz ensemble in high school).

I’m super excited to learn to play the piano this year (OK, the keyboard—I definitely don’t have space for a piano) and understand music more, at least well enough to know some chords and translate the choruses, hooks and bridges I sometimes hear in my head to something I can relay to others.

Plan and take an Alaskan cruise with my parents

When my one-of-a-kind grandmother died this spring, my family desperately needed a bright spot in the midst of our tears and loss.

We loved finding the school newspaper in which my grandmother, petite Mary Louise, was voted prettiest (among many other superlatives).

One day a catalog showed up in the mail for an Alaskan cruise. It’s a trip we have talked about taking together for years, so the timing of these glossy photos of glaciers and pristine ocean vistas felt almost cosmic. We would take breaks from eating funeral food and enter a new atmosphere as we talked about Alaska—what we would see, who would go, when. It will be with great gratitude that I work on making this trip a reality.

Learn Spanish

This one feels like a big challenge! I have long wanted to know more than one language. Clear communication and developing greater empathy are both ideas I feel very passionate about, and it seems like knowing a language other than English could really help me develop in those areas. Previously I have tried learning Spanish using Duolingo and I’m bummed I didn’t work hard enough to develop a good habit there. As a result I didn’t make it too far.

We have a growing number of Spanish speakers at Buffer, and I have a few Spanish speaking friends as well. I think it’ll be a great incentive to think about being able to talk with them in their native tongue. I’m also reading Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World by Benny Lewis. It’s been popular at Buffer and I’m hoping it’ll have some great tips!

Figure out how to make hashbrowns

I’ve literally never ever been able to get these right.

Learn to type properly

This is something I should have learned long ago. People are often surprised that I have had a career in reporting and writing while being little more than a hunt-and-peck typer. It hasn’t felt like a big hindrance to me, but maybe that’s because I don’t know how much better it could be! Hoping this one will make me more efficient and help me keep up with my thoughts.

Aerial silk lessons

I’m so excited about this one! I saw aerial silk artists perform for the first time around Halloween at 12th and Broad’s Gothic Circus event at abrasiveMedia.

Not me! But maybe by next year I can do this.

I was absolutely transfixed and made a promise to myself that I’d be ready to perform at a similar event by next Halloween. Since then, I have been building the habits of stretching every day and doing upper body strengthening exercises in anticipation of taking classes in the new year. I start next week!

Greet every criticism with gratitude

I cheated and got started on this goal a bit early after I researched a blog post about giving and receiving feedback, and making this change has already had a huge impact on my outlook and growth.

In the past, I’ve let my ego lead the way when it comes to responding to opportunities where I could grow, and as a result have not made as much progress as I could have. I’m very excited to challenge myself big with this.

More dancing!

I feel very strongly about this one, even though I’m not entirely sure why. Luckily, Nashville has tons of awesome dance parties like The Boom Bap, Keep On Movin’, QDP and more. It will be fun to achieve this goal!

Add diversity to my circle of friends

I adore my friends, who are each incredibly dear to me. I’d love to work on growing my friend circle and sharing that connection with some new people in the new year.

I’d especially love to seek out people who potentially don’t look like me, or who have different backgrounds or life experiences than me. It feels like that could be a great opportunity for growth in my life.

Be able to do 5 pull-ups in a row by the end of year

I have no idea if I can do this one.

Read one book a week

With the amazing gift of a Kindle and unlimited free Kindle books, Buffer has done so much to refuel my love of reading. I read about 30 books this year and want to push myself even further in 2015.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of reading mostly (maybe only?) women and minorities this year to attempt to fill in some of the blank spots I know I have plenty of in my cultural awareness. This could be a unique opportunity to grow a lot.

Pet a koala, an alpaca and a sloth

This list of animals I long to cuddle and frolic with could go on and on, but I think these three might be sufficient for 2015. I’m headed to Sydney in February, so I’m hoping to get the koala knocked out soon!

Bike a 50-mile trip

This past year, I foolishly fell in with a few long-distance cyclist friends on their weekend treks in, around and all over Nashville. Had I known how long they ride beforehand, I surely would have said no, but I’m so glad I didn’t.

In the middle of one of my longer rides so far, with my biggest cheerleader and coach.

Their patience and encouragement led me to fall deeper in love with cycling, and to challenge myself to go further than I thought I ever could. My longest trip so far, about 27 miles, almost killed me, so it should be interesting to see how I reach this goal.

Schedule time to think big

Time blocking is a strategy that has worked really well for me in the past. I’m looking forward to using it in a new way in 2015 with creative time blocking, scheduling periods to thing bigger and more creatively. Getting to a point where I can look up from “busy work” and reflect on how I can make a deeper impact is an exciting prospect.

Get rid of lots of stuff

You know what’s a fun thing to do? Read a book about minimalism on the day after Christmas, surrounded by tons of brand-new belongings. ☺ After doing some “minimalism lite” exercises earlier in 2014, reading Everything That Remains has given me a huge nudge to keep pushing further into the experience.

My next stop will be Project 333, 3 months with only 33 total items in my closet. In conjunction with that exercise, I want to get rid of anything I own that doesn’t either have a super important function or bring me joy.

What’s on your list?

It was a really enlightening exercise to reflect this way on the year, with all its highs and lows, and to create some goals I’ll enjoy working toward in 2015.

I hope publishing them this way will help keep me accountable and bring more of these goals to fruition in the year to come.

If you’ve got any tips or tricks in any of these areas that could help me out (especially the hashbrowns) I’d love to hear from you!