Thursday, February 6, 2014

On Aspirational Goals

I think you all know by now that I don’t do anything “on time” when it comes to blogging, and my goal-setting for 2014 is no exception.  Before I can get to that topic, I want to look back one more time at the 2013 goals that didn’t happen in any sort of methodical way.

I think goals can fall into two categories: the plans you make and the things you’d like to do along the way.  I call that second category “aspirational goals.”  They’re fun goals, artsy goals.  They are challenges that let you learn a new skill or discover a new area of knowledge.  They aren’t required for you to make your living, which gives them a more optional feel.  They’re more like “if I had all the time in the world, here’s what I’d do with it.”

My aspirational goals from 2013 were art and cooking.  I wanted to cook new recipes out of a specific cookbook.  I wanted to learn more about van Gogh.  I wanted to embrace the sparkle and glitter in life, to move myself beyond the perfunctory and into joy.  These goals were the ones that kinda got shoved to the side in all the turmoil of jobs beginning, jobs ending, and travel.  When I sat back to think about the food and art that I was fortunate enough to enjoy in 2013, I realized that it was the people with whom I spent time who brought those things into my life.

Corpus Street Art

The person who influences me the most these days is Paul.  With him, I saw the street art above in Corpus Christi, across the street from an art gallery where we went to see one of his roommate’s pieces in an exhibit.  Paul has also brought a huge amount of new music into my life.  Hearing “Lemonworld” by The National will always remind me of driving into Denver one summer evening.  There are few feelings better than arriving in your destination city after a long day on the road.

Two new friends burst into my life in 2013, Amber and Jeremy Minnerick.  I’ve written about them here and there.  To be honest, I find it difficult to write about them.  My admiration of them is so deep that words aren’t enough.  If I found Paul because I was looking for friends who shared my values, then Amber and Jeremy are the exuberant expansion of that search.  Our time together is filled with art and food and asking good questions and appreciation.  

Amber and Jeremy are professional photographers, so there’s always a camera close by when we’re together.  You never know what will capture their attention: a sign, a leaf, an orange rind on the sidewalk.  Every walk together is a treasure hunt to see as much as possible, to be fully occupied in the experience of a place. 

Walking Together

And sometimes the artist becomes the art, like Amber in these two photos.

Mutual Photography

Admiring the Fauna

When we’re not out photographing black swans, we might be eating delicious vegan food.  It’s fun to cook for Amber and Jeremy; they appreciate good food and they are good eaters.  Cooking for them is wonderful.  After Paul and I started visiting our friends regularly, we began hatching ideas for what to make together.  We started with cashew cheese and roasted red peppers on good bread; from there, we’ve done granola, falafel, a salad with sweet potatoes and avocado, and most recently, a birthday feast for Jeremy with quinoa-cashew sliders and fiery cauliflower wings.  The sliders were fantastic—they’re in my queue to share here.  Paul came up with some great techniques for making a big batch of sliders for a party, and we want to archive his ideas for the next party.

And that’s the reason I am drawn back toward food blogging: now I have a partner with whom I cook on a regular basis.  This space is perfect for sharing our recipes with each other and with friends, in addition to all of you lovely readers.  I think I got burnt out on food blogging in this era of super-slick blogs and Pinterest.  I like the idea of gathering friends around a table.  I don’t like the idea of polishing my life so that it’s perfect for others to view.  In the words of Sherry Turkle, “Human relationships are rich, and they're messy, and they're demanding.  And we clean them up with technology."

I miss the days when blogs were more casual and less professional.  I’m somewhere in between with my blogs, and my cooking life is now in a place where food blogging serves a new purpose.  I am excited to share with you all the recipes that Paul and I have made our own: his tofu migas, our go-to muhummara dinner, our riff on fish tacos, the ice cream from last summer, my new take on giant vegan chocolate chip cookies…none of this is about taking the perfect food photo, or getting tons of traffic.  I just want to preserve these recipes in a place where we can share them with family and friends.  That’s all.  It’s a simple aspiration, really.

Maybe that’s the kind of goal-setting that works best for me now.  I’ve got my big, go-out-and-make-it-happen goals for 2014.  And I’ve got my quieter, daily-living goals.  Seeking art and good food doesn’t require setting a goal for me.  I’m always motivated to find them.  And being surrounded by friends who seek the same things fills me with joy.  It makes it easy to live in harmony with my values.  In the end, isn’t that what so much of our goal-setting is all about?    

Sporks in Line


Chrissy (The New Me) said...

I love this post - so thoughtful and interesting! I know what you mean about aspirational goals. Most of my NYR are not exactly life or death, but I think that's what makes them important. They tend to be things we might not do otherwise.

And I love your thoughts on how the blogging culture is changing. I'm also working on a post with this, but I'm still organizing my thoughts around it. I think you and I are in the same camp, though - blogging for pleasure, for community, for sharing our lives with a small group of people.

And I'm very excited for more food posts from you! I'm in a food rut myself, so I'm in need of some inspiration (and aspiration!) on that front.


Rosiecat said...

Hi, friend! I'm in favor of setting aspirational goals--they can definitely improve our quality of life. But I like the idea of how those goals can manifest in different ways. These aren't always S.M.A.R.T. goals--they're more about being open to new experiences and people.

I still love blogging and reading other people's blogs. But I feel weird about how people approach blogging now--it feels so calculated, so focused on numbers. I love what Leo Babauta said in an interview I watched recently: that he feels his blogging has met its purpose if he is able to help just one person. Maybe what I'm saying is that I'm more drawn to a humble approach to blogging, both as a writer and a reader. To be honest, I'd love to write a post more specifically about the new blogging culture, but it's a hard topic to tackle. Perhaps you are feeling the challenge as well?

Hurray for food blogging! I'm ready to dive in--I think the first recipe will be Paul's tofu migas, which everybody loves. They are fantastic.

Chrissy (The New Me) said...

I read this post on Design Sponge about the state of blogs today, and it left such a bad taste in my mouth! It's what I've been planning to respond to, when I have time.

So much focus on advertising and "finding an audience" and writing for short attention spans. I like blogs for an intimate voice, a peek into someone else's life. Not for something crafted specifically to make money. Then again, I get that some people have different goals for their blog, and that's fine. It's just not for me.

More and better thoughts soon. Maybe we should link our ideas in some way? A mini-series about blogging on the small screen? ;)

Rosiecat said...

Chrissy, yay! I'm super-excited for our mini-series. (For anyone lurking, Chrissy and I are plotting to tackle "the state of blogging" in a series of posts on our blogs.)

I love this excerpt from Molly Wizenberg on blogging and thought I'd share it here. It's very apropos to the subject: