Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016 Resolutions

Happy new year, friends!

There's a lot in here, so let's get right to it.

A look back at 2015

Apart from my trips to DC and Cabo in January and February, respectively, I remember last winter as many other Wisconsin winters before: long and cold and dark, with lots of time spent indoors. A few separate dog sitting stints got me out for walks some days, as did a simple yet memorably good day of hiking and board games with Abby and her friends.

The first couple months of the year I was still trying to create distance from my first love, navigating life post-Korea without my best friend—knowing even when lines were regrettably blurred, that someday we'd figure out how our new relationship would work.

Watching the Badgers progress through March Madness (Shoutout to Alex and The Bristled Boar) was a definite high point of those months.

Speaking at my high school in April was an important event for me, and got me thinking more along the lines of how I can connect and encourage others to travel, by sharing the knowledge I've gained up to this point.

Living so close to my older brother while home this past year (like in 2012-13) was again another joy. I got to see him compete live at the WI grilled cheese competition, at many Friday night dinners with my parents, and at the restaurant where he works—among lots of other occasions and hang outs throughout the year.

Making kimchibokkeumbap with T.J.
Going to Montpellier in May and June was fantastic; I loved being a formal student of something I truly wanted to learn, and enjoyed the challenge of immersion and my fresh new surroundings.

After leaving France, the remaining days of summer and fall were all about enjoying familiar comforts and people—London loves, madrileños, family in Wausau, family in Minnesota, family and friends in Madison—while my visa and new relationship were taking roots in the background.

And since moving to France, there have even been multiple distinct phases in the past three months: before there was internet, after there was internet, getting acquainted with one another, hot days, cooler days, falling into a routine, swimming days, after the attacks, the job offer, falling into another routine living apart, the miscommunications, feeling disconnected and doubtful.

The year closed with a rather grey month for me. Not exercising, not leaving the house, and spending too much time wrapped in thought with serious questions about the core and fate of this relationship. High or low, I do appreciate that every new feeling is an experience, and I'm certainly crossing uncharted waters here with my thoughts of late.

I also know that all feelings are temporary, and looking back at the ups and downs of 2015, I know my being will continue to change in 2016.

Needless to say, I'm very much looking forward to our move to Rodez. In all of my moves since graduation, I've experienced again and again how much easier it is to develop new habits and lifestyles when your surroundings change.

But before we get to my plans for the start of the year in Rodez, I want to take a look at the resolutions I'd made last January, and where I'm at now.

Progress on 2015 resolutions

From a resolutions standpoint, here were my three focuses of 2015, with notes about my progress.

1. Reach a high intermediate level of French.

I'm not yet at a high intermediate level, but French was a huge focus of the year, and I made tons of progress. Among the steps I took—large and small—here are a few bigger accomplishments in this area:
  • Took an intensive French course in Montpellier for 6 weeks
  • Watched 5 seasons of "Un village français" and 4 seasons of "Fais pas ci fais pas ça"
  • Read "James et la Grosse Peche" and "Bonjour Tristesse"
  • Purchased "Grammarie Progressive du Français" workbook, as recommended by my French teacher. Have completed 5 units to date.
I also moved to France in October, and have been operating in French daily—aside from my work hours. 

I'll continue to work towards this goal, but at this point I don't need to dedicate a resolution towards it. The wheels have since been set in motion, and I have a strong desire to keep advancing.

Damien gave me this Bescherelle "game" for Christmas that I'd asked for (French grammar quiz questions for kids/teens, disguised as a game), I have plenty of books on hand to read, and I'm going to work my way through my whole grammar workbook this year. 

I've already made a January study plan, and will continue tracking progress in as many concrete ways as possible. Writing in French is something I know I should definitely work on this year—especially when it's so easy to have it corrected by native speakers (shoutout to you, lang-8, the site that I read/write about all the time at work with FluentU, but have yet to use myself.)

TL;DR: I'm very happy with where I stand, and will keep working on my French this year.

2. Diversify my income to three sources.

I can only laugh when I read some of this section from last year's resolutions post:
I plan to actually, for real this time, use elance and fiverr, to see what can happen with those. I also want to create and sell some e-guides, which I talked about more in my blog carnival resolutions post.
Why the laughter? Because I actually, for real did not use Elance or Fiverr. Elance has since shut down (and morphed into Upwork, an Elance-oDesk merger), but that is certainly not a reason why I never got around to this one.

Freelance writing

The truth is, I don't think I even want to pursue freelance writing any longer. Actually, I know I don't. Editing still interests me, especially editing for ESL speakers, but writing? Nah. I just like doing that for myself, on my own accord—despite the length of time it takes me and how difficult it can be.

I enjoy writing about things I care about, when I want to, with no pressure to stick to any rules. (And to somewhat contradict that, I do also like writing at my job, but if I get started on that subject I'm just going to gush and gush about how inspired I am by my coworkers' writing talents, and how fulfilling it is to help others learn languages. Oh yeah.)


I got the idea for and created the site "Rebemail" during the second half of the year, which is still a work in progress. The service it offers is correspondence with English learners via email, and editing their emails is an option in the pro subscription.

I did lose drive upon moving to France to pursue it full force, so I have yet to make any marketing efforts—which is what it would need to get going. I'm just not sure I want to pour all of this time and energy into sitting behind a screen writing emails... meh. That's how I feel at the moment, anyway.

So no income has been made from this pursuit; in fact, I'd have to have several clients to recuperate the investment in web hosting and the purchased theme. I'm definitely not throwing in the towel, but just noting that I was totally okay with never recuperating that money from this experimental endeavor when I began.

A theme you'll see me mention below is that I want to be more connected with others this year. Especially since I work online, I need to do things that get me interacting face-to-face with other people. I think that's perhaps why speaking at my high school was such a memorable event: face-to-face interaction with real people. And that's also probably why I've been questioning the value of trying to get Rebemail going.


So as we were nearing the end of 2015, I was still down to one official income source: my FluentU work. I've been talking about e-guides for quite some time: Korea food guide, ESL lesson plans, my English camps, etc. Sound familiar?

For whatever reason, in November I made a tiny effort and researched a few platforms, then put up both of my English camp lesson plans for sale—the camps I created and taught while teaching in Korea. I say tiny effort, though, because I didn't actually upload any files. In fact, I listed them as a preorder (aka not ready yet), which I said would be available November 30. And then I added the links to my Korean camp posts here.

November came and went, and I didn't spend any more time on the camps. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I woke up on December 28 with this message in my inbox:
Hello, I ordered your, "Around the World" project. I thought it would be an automatic download. Do you happen to know when I will be receiving it?
I did a double take. Wait, somebody bought one?! Somebody bought one! My very first sale! So I did a dance in the living room, and then I got my butt to work and spent all morning and early afternoon polishing up my camp to a quality I'm proud of, released the files, and then started my regular day of work 5-6 hours later than usual.

I still have to finish up the polishing of my second camp, but it's available for purchase and will be received in whatever condition it's in—so I should finish that this coming week.

This was a huge event for me, even though it's ever so tiny in the scheme of things—but it's just what I needed to start sparking some new sparks and leaving the grey days behind.

So I'll say again: I actually, for real this time, want to create and sell some more e-guides this year. (Korea food guide, I'm looking at you.) I have lots of other dreamy ideas of money-making projects to take on, but I've got to start with these that have been lingering for YEARS to show I can actually finish something I set out to do. Phew!

TL;DR: Technically I made it to two income sources this year, with a December 28th sale of my English camp lesson plans.

3. Eat a whole foods, plant-based diet; improve digestion.

I'm pretty happy with how I ate when I lived at home with my parents. I'd do my own grocery shopping and cooking, sticking mostly to whole foods and plants.

I bought a spiralizer and had fun trying out new recipes with spiralized veggies.

Since moving to France, my eating habits are all right—but there is definitely room for improvement. I love that France is so conscientious about organic ("bio") food and buying from local farmers. 

Unfortunately I can't really say that my digestion improved at all during the past year. I should give it more focus this year, but have lost that hopeful "this is the year!" I had back in 2014. And again in 2015.

I would like to read more books and watch more documentaries that expose the harmfulness of processed foods and industrial farms, and that show the incredible curing results of whole food plant-based diets, as that helps keep my thoughts and actions moving closer towards the natural approach to food—just as it should be (IMHO).

Other 2015 tid bits

And here were my tid bits, which aren't really worth including here since I didn't do most of them, but nonetheless:
  • Actively study or use Spanish 3x/week. - French totally overshadowed; only actively used Spanish the days I was in Madrid!
  • Develop a daily stretching routine/habit. - Would still like to do this in 2016.
  • Travel to France, visit my London loves, meet up with Canadian pilot - Did the first two!
  • Scrapbook (Finish scrapbooking either high school or college... they're each Life List items) - Nope. This is on hold until the next time I'm living in Waunakee.
  • Put all childhood photos into chronological order and into photo books. - I wish I could cross this one off, but it didn't get finished before I left for France. I spent multiple afternoons and have the first 7 years or so in my album, but there are tons of other photos to order. It's way more time consuming than I thought to play detective to figure out the years of every single photo...
  • Practice calligraphy; use my workbooks - Brought these with me to France and did some practice twice. Consider calligraphy my new French in 2016—I really want to learn this skill.
  • Pick up my guitar again - Negative. This'll be on hold until I'm back stateside with my guitar.
  • Continue learning about investing; buy stocks/bonds this year - Eh, whoops.
All right, some closing statements, and then let's get to 2016!

What I've taken away from all of this reflection is that over time I keep chipping away to uncover what's important to me, and what I want in my life. Sending snail mail, blogging, and learning French, for example, are completely integrated into my life at this point. I don't need to make any huge effort for those three; they're just what I do.

It was also interesting to see that while I often know what's best for me, I still struggle to take the right action in many areas. I'll easily dole out language-learning, expat, or life advice to others—knowing it's great stuff—yet only sometimes take the same advice myself. I know I feel better when I exercise, and that I like walking and being in nature (and that these are all good for me, too)—yet I let myself stay cooped up all December long. And thus is one of life's continual challenges.

Resolutions for 2016

I've decided to continue with three main focuses this year, though you'll see #3 does not follow my regular format.

1. Volunteer

I volunteered a ton in high school, and a bit in college. I even volunteered when I studied abroad in Madrid! It's been a few years now since I've been involved in any recurring volunteering, and I really want to introduce that back into my life.

What this means at this point is that I need to find somewhere to volunteer in Rodez and commit.

2. Learn calligraphy

As I mentioned above, I'm considering calligraphy to 2016 as French was to 2015. Lindsey at The Postman's Knock is my inspiration, so I need to develop a regular practice habit and track it.

3. Live out my values

Yeah, I know this one isn't a S.M.A.R.T goal, but I kept seeing recurring values and themes when doing my year-end reflection. I thought it might be beneficial this year to try and tie my actions to these values and qualities I want to possess.

Each month, I can pinpoint possible actions that are tied to these qualities and values, and during the month I'll also keep track of what I do in each category.

Here are the various quotes/thoughts guiding this one:
Starting is more important than succeeding. 
Your job is to share what you have to offer from where you are now. 
Purpose comes with practice. 
Done is better than perfect. 
Live a life driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear. 
Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them. 
Everything is progress. When you take action, you learn, you build skills, you get freer. When you stay still, your doubts fester.
And here are some of the qualities I want to possess:
  • Connected - Find a community
  • Creative - Create, share, take risks and fail
  • Helpful - Share things that help others
  • Confident/Assured - Less comparing, be vulnerable
  • Curious - Actively pursue curiosities
I was looking back at some older years' resolution checkpoints when writing this post, and I'm going to go back to using (+) (-) and (  ) in my checkpoints. I like the visualization of positive change, negative change and no change from month to month, rather than a hodgepodge of bold and italics.

2016 Tid bits

And as always, here are my other tid bits I'd like to accomplish this year:

  • Read 40 books (A few in French, a few in Spanish, a few English classics)
  • See doctors in France about my IBS and back
  • Develop daily stretching/yoga habit.
  • Have quarterly reflections to realign and reassess.
  • Travel to visit Max, Hannah and Herm, Madrid, and somewhere new.
  • Have a few herbs and plants in the apartment.
  • Write Thankful Thursdays more regularly to keep gratitude in front.
  • Reach a high intermediate level of French.
  • Finish Korean food guide and sell at least one copy.
Phew! (Again). I started writing this post this morning (after several separate occasions of reflection and brainstorming), and it's now 4:15 p.m.! Damien and I move tomorrow, and we haven't begun packing anything yet. So you know what I'll be up to the rest of the day!

How was your 2015? What are your feelings about the year? Any new endeavors on the horizon for you in 2016? 

As always I'll be checking back at the end of each month with a Resolution Checkpoint, and I invite you to join me!
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