Monday, December 30, 2013

Revisiting the Year That Was: 2013's New Year's Resolutions

With the New Year approaching, it's time to take stock of where we are and where we want to go.  Last year, Sally and I sat together and wrote out a short list of resolutions for each of us, and with 2014 coming up, it's time to revisit those old resolutions and take stock of the year that was.

I don't know if Sally's going to share her list or not, but these were my goals for 2013, shared now by way of holding myself accountable for last year's performance.

1.  Finish an Olympic Triathlon in the top 25% of my Age Group.
This seemed like the easiest of the goals that I set for myself, and yet, it is the one that I failed at the most completely.  2013 wasn't a bad triathlon season by any means, but although I put most of my training focus towards Olympic distance performance, the fact is that I only entered one Olympic distance race, and that one was a regional championship.  As such, I didn't even get close to the top 25%; in fact, I wasn't even in the top half of my AG finishers.  I did qualify for the Age Group National Champoinships at the Olympic Distance last year, but not in the one Oly that I actually ran, and I didn't even consider going to the actual race itself.

It's Triathlon that gives me the most pause as I consider what I want to do going forward.  Frankly, I think it might be time to look for a different challenge, but I'm not sure at this point what that challenge is going to be.

2.  Finish writing the stories that I start this year.
Writing was perhaps my biggest success of 2013.  Up until the start of the year, I'd been struggling to write since my father died (in 2007), and in wake of actually finishing a story for my kids at the end of 2012, I badly wanted to follow up that bit of success and build upon it.  A year later, I feel like I achieved my goal, although I'll be the first to admit that it took a lot of work and dedication.  I write on the train on my way into the office, and doing that requires a plan--every day.  Still, as I look forward, I know that my writing goals are going to be bigger and better than ever for 2014.

3.  Sleep better.
This one may sound silly, but believe me, it isn't.  I've suffered from insomnia since my first marriage ended, way back in December 1998, and it's gotten worse as I've gotten older.  I find it very challenging to keep a regular sleep schedule, and I don't think it helps that I work a desk job in an almost windowless building.

This past year, I tried hard to maintain good sleep habits, particularly in regards to my activities at night before I try to sleep.  Specifically, I stay off of the computer after 8pm, I never watch late-night football (which are guaranteed to have me worrying about the score for hours after I try to shut down), and I really, really try not to worry story problems when I'm lying in bed trying to fall asleep.  All of that has helped.  Still, I recognize that this is going to be an ongoing problem, and if I want to sleep well, I'll have to continue to work at it.

4.  Find a better balance between the things I do and enjoy life more.
This one might seem silly as well, I don't know.  But my life--like yours, I'm sure--is busy, and what makes it worse is that the ways that I like to unwind are still active activities.  I don't much play video games, and I don't sit and stare at my TV for hours on end.  Instead, I tend to obsess on triathlon training or writing or work or...  whatever.  Stuff.  And that stuff is great, but for me personally, I know that I need to makes sure that my hobbies, the things that I do for fun, actually are fun, that I don't let them become like second mini-careers.  

It happens.  You're forty years old, your kids are old enough that they don't need the kind of constant care that they once did, and suddenly, you have free time for the first time in a decade.  Being a successful forty-year-old, you throw yourself into something new, applying the same level of dedication to the new thing that you apply to the other parts of your life, the kind of dedication that made you successful in the first place.  Speaking personally, I keep score.  I track my finishes in races, I track readers on my blog, I get test readers for my stories as a way of gauging how well my writing is progressing and how well the stuff I've come up with is working.  I'm not out there just to get a Finisher's Medal; I want to get on the podium, and not just in Triathlon.

But it can become a bit much.  You can find yourself working all the time, even on things that don't actually matter, and suddenly, your family wonders what you're doing all the time, why you're obsessing over things that, frankly, aren't supposed to be all that serious.  So 2013 was a year in which I wanted to recognize what was going on in my own life, take active control of it, and keep a sense of real, meaningful balance going forward.  

I think I did that.  I feel good about where I am--as an Engineer, Father, Husband, Writer, Triathlete.  I feel like I have all these sides, and that's fine, but I'm still in control, I'm actively managing a busy and interesting life, but not a life of mindless work, not a life that's busy for its own sake.  Going to Maine helped.  In fact, Sally and I mapped out how the year was going to go early on in 2013, with the first half focused on triathlon training and the second half focused on vacation, family, and all the rest.  It was a good balance, and it served us well as a couple.  We will definitely have to sit down at some point soon and figure out the plan for 2014 in much the same way.

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