And now, and now, and now HURRAY for the new year! My longtime readers and real-life friends know that I am a sucker for a clean slate and that nothing inspires me more than a new beginning. And – I say this every year – while I know that I don’t need a new calendar page to make positive changes in my life, I can’t help but get a charge from the thought of all those days stretching ahead of me. Days that I get to fill – pages that I get to write – with laughter, adventure, learning, fun, and good work that matters to me and others. It’s an exciting thought.
I always start the year raring to go, chock full of plans and ambitions, and 2017 is no exception. I’m more excited than ever to chase my dreams, and I love – love – the place from which I’m starting the new year. When the calendar page turned from 2015 to 2016, I was full of uncertainty. I had chosen the word “home” as my word for the year (well, really, it chose me) and while I was open to any road that word meant to take me down, in my heart I was yearning to move back to D.C. But at the time – it was just yearning. We were selling our house in preparation for an out of state move, but we didn’t know if the move would take us south to Virginia or west to Colorado or if our dream of leaving New York (again) would work out at all. I was feeling hopeless – worried that I would never find a new professional home in D.C. after I gave up my dream job to move to Buffalo three years before. And even more pressing, we would be closing on our house at the beginning of February and we had nowhere to go after several options fell through one after another (which was a real estate theme for us in Buffalo).
You know how that story ended. After doing a lot of legwork and a lot of secret travel in the first half of the year, I got a job offer in June and we moved back to the D.C. area at the end of July – hurray! I start this year with – amazingly – no plans to move. We have a multi-year lease and I am sincerely hoping that I’ve found my forever firm. Steve and I are finally where we want to be professionally, and now we get to exhale. Which means that the theme of 2017 is going to be settling into our new life and figuring out how to live it best. It’s with that in mind that I’ve set my goals for the year.
Get with the program! In 2017, I want to experiment and figure out the systems that work best for me. Everything’s fair game – from morning routine to how to organize the kids’ closets, to meal planning and prep. My new job is going to keep me on the go, and having two young kids – one in school, one with a nanny – who both need lunches, outfits, and to be herded through their days as well, adds an extra level of stress (and fun). The only way I’m going to make it through these first few years on the job and with the kids in D.C. is going to be by harnessing the power of routines and getting (and staying) really, really, really organized.
Make room for me. At the same time, I don’t want to get so caught up in the mechanics of the everyday that I lose sight of someone important – me. I’ve been putting myself last for years now, and while I don’t expect Mom to jump to the head of my priority list (hello, unrealistic) this year I would like to take back a little ground for myself. Once upon a time, I poured energy into my passions – running, hiking, traveling, reading, learning – and while I have very different priorities these days (including two really cute priorities) I have been craving a little bit of myself back. I’m setting some plans in motion – some running, some travel – and will tell you all about them soon. The kids, Steve, and work are always going to have their demands and that’s to be expected; I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I hope that when I review my goals at the end of the year, I will find that I took some time and space for myself, too. Just a little.
Get my confidence back. A holdover from last year – as I was saying above, I didn’t make much time for myself at all last year. Not much time for running or doing yoga, not much time for prepping healthy meals, not much time for hiking. This year, I want to work on getting back to that version of me who is joyful, energetic and full of life. I know she’s in there, and with a little work she’ll be back, better than ever, and ready to bag some peaks.
Trust in abundance. This has never been my strong suit. I’ve never been a packrat, but I’ve always been someone who felt comforted by a fully-stocked pantry and bookshelves. Especially in the past few years – after you’ve been snowed into your house for a week, you really do see the benefits to having reserves. But I’d like to let go of that and make some strides toward a more minimalist existence this year. We have a smaller house now than we’ve ever lived in with kids (this was intentional) and I don’t want stuff crashing down on my head every time I open a cabinet door. If we run out of spaghetti, we’ll buy more. There will always be more spaghetti. This year I hope to let go of the need to be fully-stocked and trust in the fact that I have everything I need, and access to even more. Along these lines, I want to work on trimming the amount of resources we dedicate to our stuff and place more emphasis on experiences and memories.
Revive the 12 Months’ Hiking Project. YES! I’m bringing back my favorite family project (and blog series) of all time. Steve and I absolutely loved hiking in a different place every month in 2015, but we didn’t feel that the project would work for 2016 after we exhausted most of the family-friendly hikes in WNY in the first year. But now we’re in a different part of the country – in a region that has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to hiking trails. Expect to see us out there a lot this year – and not just in D.C., Virginia and Maryland. We have some travel plans in the works and if they pan out, we’ll be hiking in some truly awesome places this year.
Things to Do this Year
In addition to my goals, I dream up smaller projects and to-dos for myself (and I’m usually more excited about these than anything else). I doubt this whole list will become a reality, but I sure hope most of it does. In 2017, I’d like to…
- Use my dSLR camera more (like, lots more). And along the same lines, improve my photography skills – particularly outdoor photography.
- Plant another container garden with Peanut – and try not to kill it this time.
- Hang a birdfeeder and start learning to identify our neighborhood birds. (Do we have neighborhood birds?)
- Get back to the yoga studio, and take up barre3.
- Run a longer distance race (I’m already registered!).
- Spend more time in Barsetshire (both Trollope’s version and Thirkell’s version).
- Bag another ADK peak. (I’m thinking Giant of the Valley, but haven’t made up my mind…)
- Clean out our basement until we aren’t storing anything except holiday decorations and furniture.
- Read diversely again – at least 33% underrepresented voices.
- Incorporate memory-keeping into new areas of my home.
- Travel. Someplace amazing. Maybe a few someplaces.
Last but not least – choosing a word. It was actually hard this year. For weeks at the end of the year, I was waffling between “breathe” and “be” – but neither felt right. I knew I wanted my word to speak to multiple areas of my life and to anchor me in a long-anticipated year of no major life changes. But the word just didn’t come, and didn’t come, and didn’t come.
One afternoon, early in January, I was driving into the city to visit with my friend Carly, who recently welcomed a new baby. My trunk and passenger seat were both stuffed to the brim with hand-me-downs for the little guy – everything I hadn’t given to my friend Michelle for her baby boy, I’d been stockpiling for Carly. As I drove, between half-listening to Sorta Awesome and anxiously watching the D.C. traffic around me, I was running through possible words in my head. Sanctuary? Sweet? Family? Joyful? Reach? Stay? Peace? And then a word suggested itself.
Hmmmm. Now that’s interesting. I wasn’t immediately sold. It wasn’t like 2016, when home burst into my life in a frenzy of certainty and urgency. Gather was much more of a whisper. But I sort of liked it. It had a ring, a sound about it that appealed to me. And it seemed appropriate that it quietly suggested itself to me as I was on my way to see Carly, one of my oldest and closest D.C. friends and the person I missed the most when I left three years ago. Who opened her home to me and let me crash in her guest room while I was interviewing for jobs. Whose new son I was on my way to snuggle for the first time (and sniff his head, and kiss his little toes, and tell him that Aunt Jaclyn loves him). Gather is a word that is about community, and people, and Carly and her family are my people.
I started thinking about what gather could mean if I chose it (or it chose me) as my 2017 word. It could mean renewing contact with so many people I haven’t seen yet since moving back here. (And as much as we love Great Falls, it’s not the reason we moved back to Virginia. Our friends are.) It could mean seeking out new communities – at work, at church (maybe I’ll finally join a group!), at school, in the neighborhood. It could mean taking the initiative and starting that knitting group my neighborhood Facebook community is always talking about. It could also mean bringing the memories that mean the most to us – of our travel, and time with family like my brother and his wife – to the forefront of our home; gathering those cherished moments and mementos up and using them to create a place that holds meaning in every corner. Or it could mean so many other things I haven’t even considered yet.
I didn’t decide right then and there, in the car. But gather was on my mind as I rocked, shushed and patted Carly’s son until he fell asleep in my arms, as I listened to her relate her birth story, as I proudly displayed the travel bassinette I’d set aside especially for her, and as we made plans to get both of our families together for a playdate in the next couple of weeks. I thought about it as I drove home, and over the next few days, and the more I considered it, the more right it sounded. So, gather. I have no hopes for where it will take me – no plans – no schemes. I’m just open to it, ready and willing to absorb the lessons the word has in store for this year.
What dreams and plans are on your 2017 agenda?