I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions very often. With my aversion to cold weather, I find that winter is not a time to make resolutions. It’s a time to get cozy with life as it is, a time to bake sweet things and drink hot things and make friends with the couch. It’s a time to read and to nap. It’s a time to take walks on chilly winter days, enjoying the silence that winter so often brings with it. To my mind, winter is a time to rest and recharge. It’s not a time to embark on ambitious plans.
But this year feels a little different to me. 2010 was a big year for me with respect to personal growth. I feel like I’m on an upward trajectory, still feeling the growing pains, but moving up regardless. I’m feeling inspired to reflect on what I think I did well in 2010 and what I’d like to do in 2011. The list I wrote on my birthday turned out to be a list of the ways in which I’d like to have more fun in my 30th year. My New Year’s list is a little quieter, a little more centered. I like them both.
Before I tell you what I’d like to do with 2011, I’d like to say that I think I did pretty well with 2010. It wasn’t a perfect year, of course, and I made my share of mistakes. But I picked myself up and dusted me off, and I kept going. I kept trying. I think that counts for a lot.
Here’s what I did well in 2010 (and would like to do again in 2011):
* Took lots of photos and fell head-over-heels in love with my new camera. Color me smitten with photography.
* Kept my chin up even during hard times at work. It’s important to take care of yourself and keep your eyes on the prize, even when things are not going well.
* Learned to reach out more to my family, my friends, and Matt. I’m trying to be less of a loner, even though it feels like my natural state. Give me a stack of books, a pot of tea, and some cookies, and I will see you tomorrow.
* Bought some beautiful furniture to make my new apartment a home. This was a very good idea, and I’d like to do it again in 2011.
Here are my three resolutions for 2011 and beyond:
* I’d like to cook from new and inspirational sources. I have nothing but love for my cookbook collection and subscriptions to Vegetarian Times and EatingWell. These days I do most of my cooking from these printed sources, with supplements from the food blogging world. This year I’d like to expand my horizons: cook from my two new cookbooks, cook from the lesser-used books on my shelves, and most of all, cook and write about more recipes from friends. I have some terrific dishes that friends and readers have shared with me, and I’d like to put more effort into sharing those recipes in this space.
* I am going to cultivate a more intellectual reading practice. I seem to have fallen into a rut where most of the reading I do is on-line. Blog love is wonderful, and there is so much inspiration to be found on the internets, but I’d like to expand my reading horizons beyond my computer. Right now I’m working on a reading list for 2011, which I hope to share with you once I’ve compiled my choices. (I am currently soliciting suggestions, so feel free to leave a comment here or send me an e-mail!) As an aside, I should mention that I have no plans to quit reading blogs and such; rather, this resolution is about upping the ante on my reading choices. I really miss being in college and taking courses in history and philosophy. Since I am no longer a student, I need to be more proactive about being a lifelong learner.
* Finally, the resolution that will be most important and most difficult. I want to begin letting go of my chronic anxiety. It’s only in the last few years that I finally had a word to describe how I feel most of the time with regard to money and career. I feel anxious. I think I’ve always felt this way, but in the past, the anxiety was directed outward in a way that allowed me to live in denial of a problem that really lives inside of me. For someone who lives with chronic anxiety, I have picked a terrible profession. Experimental biology is filled with uncertainty: experiments fail, projects don’t to live up to expectations, reagents go bad and trash your results while you carry on, unknowing but perhaps always suspecting, always anxious, that something is going to go wrong. My anxiety is so dreadful that I have been seriously considering a change in career paths. For now, I am sticking to the plan, and the change that I’m considering is an internal one.
I think that being able to verbalize my feelings and being able to write about them here is a very good first step toward a life with less anxiety. I already do a lot of things to manage my anxiety, such as exercise, but I need to do more. I’m not sure what I can do, though, when I know that my anxiety is triggered by my work, which is anything but certain and guaranteed. Postdocs dwell in a kind of no-man’s land in academia, a land of great pressure and no job security. My postdoc position is, on the whole, very good in many ways, yet I am as anxious as ever. Since I am a researcher and a bookworm, I am going to tap into what other people have to say about managing anxiety. I’m going to visit the library and the bookstore and begin culling the shelves for advice. That, and perhaps I’ll try to do more yoga. (The yoga can’t hurt.)
PS I can’t discuss anxiety without at least mentioning anti-anxiety medication. My feelings on this topic are mixed. I have a lot of friends and family who have taken medication for anxiety or depression, and I think medication can work wonders. It’s an option that I’d be willing to consider for myself if I felt like my anxiety was inhibiting me from living a life that I consider satisfying. What’s funny about anxiety is that it does not preclude being happy. I often feel very happy with my life, and I’m grateful for that. Because my anxiety is so specific, I think medication is not the first solution that I will seek. But I won’t rule it out, either. I’ll start with the library first. And libraries make me happy, so that’s a sweet bonus.