It usually starts some time in November when I take Stephen King’s memoir/instruction manual “On Writing” off my book shelf to re-read it. I’ve read this book toward the end of the year each of the last three or four years because I enjoy the way King tells his story and I hope it will serve as motivation to kick start my own creativity, my own writing habit.
Then as November turns to December and the calendar is about to flip to another year, I start thinking ahead and reflecting back. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions because I don’t believe in waiting around to start, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t set goals for each year. When December rolls around and I start preparing my bullet journal and my paper running log for the upcoming year, I start to reflected on the things I did and didn’t accomplish the previous 11 1/2 months.
Far too often, I look back in disappointment. I think about all the writing I didn’t do, all the photos I didn’t take, all the workouts I didn’t do. It’s discouraging and I always vow to do better. I usually visit this website I started in 2017 going through this very mental process and tell myself this is the year I will be more creative. This is the year I will create better habits and stick to them. This will be the year I become the creator I keep telling myself I want to be, the learner I want to be, the athlete I want to be.
I’m doing the same thing right now. That reflection, that disappointment is what convinced me to sit down with my laptop and start writing. After reading King’s memoir, I picked up Chase Jarvis’ book, “Creative Calling,” which is full of motivation and tips for chasing your creative calling. It’s inspiring but it is also reminding me of all the times I’ve started, and failed.
I am definitely reflecting back on the things I didn’t do this year and hoping it is the spark that finally gets me to stick to my goals and habit. To be more creative. To be more productive. To be a healthier and stronger athlete.
I also need to stop myself. There are plenty of things I didn’t accomplish this year, but to focus solely on those would be skipping so many positive things that happened for me in 2019. I did accomplish some goals. I did make significant changes. I should treat myself a little nicer and recognize the work I did do.
Maybe the most significant thing I did this year was give up booze. I always felt a little uncomfortable with my relationship with alcohol. There was always beer in the fridge (there is right now, too, but it has been there for almost a year, untouched). I always had beer when I went out. I always had more than one beer when I went out. I usually had a beer or two when I got home for work. On my day off, I’d drink a beer in the shower after my run.
I didn’t stop drinking necessarily because of any of those things. I challenged myself not to drink in January, just to prove to myself I could do it. When I made it through January with very little trouble, I decided to try again in February. When the calendar flipped to March, I said I wouldn’t drink until my birthday. My birthday came and went, and I still didn’t have the urge to drink, so I decided just to keep going.
As of today, Dec. 19, I haven’t had a beer in 352 days. I haven’t woken up one morning this year feeling hung over, wondering if I did something stupid the night before. That alone is worth not ever drinking again. I also haven’t come home after work and tried to drink the edge off, instead finding healthier ways to deal with stress. I haven’t had a beer when I went out because it was “cool” and I had to fit in. Granted, I haven’t gone out that much, but when I have, I haven’t had a drink, and I feel much better for it.
That is worth celebrating.
Also, I got myself in shape enough to run a freakin’ marathon again. Yes, it broke me and I’m barely running since crossing the finishing line at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, but after limping and whining my way through the Sugarloaf Marathon in May 2017 in 4 hours, 12 minutes and 5 seconds I thought my marathoning days were probably over. When I couldn’t run for two months later that year, I was convinced running another marathon was off the table.
But in 2018, I built myself to a point where I could run and not totally hate it, so at the end of the year I decided I would give the marathon another shot. The build to Chicago wasn’t without issues – I had hip and hamstring problems – but I worked harder than I have in a long time, ran more miles than I have in a long time, and ran a marathon faster than I ever have. 3 hours, 49 minutes, 45 seconds wasn’t my goal, and the last 10K hurt like hell, but it was a heck of a lot better than that 4:12:05.
That is also worth celebrating.
So no matter what I tell myself about what I didn’t accomplish in 2019, there are plenty of things I fucking crushed this year. As I move ahead to 2020, I’ll think about those things I didn’t do, those habits that didn’t stick, but I’ll also think about the things that went so well. I’ll think about those things when I’m doing work that seems boring or useless and remind myself this is what it takes to do the things I want.
I can be better in 2020, but I was better than I give myself credit for in 2019.