Christmas is over, and I’m looking toward the new year.
I love new years, new beginnings, clean slates, a chance to start fresh.
At least I used to.
It’s taken me a long time to really accept that new years are mostly symbolic gestures, the byproduct of cyclical time structures human created to make sense of, and track, the days. New years aren’t imbued with any special power, they can’t make people or circumstances change. The new year is nothing more than the taking down of one calendar and putting up of another, the changing of some number at the back of a date.
I don’t write that to sound morbid, it’s just the reality. If anything, it takes the pressure off, especially for someone like me who likes to think she can make significant changes in the new and shiny year.
Last year I had high hopes for myself. I was REALLY going to get the budget shit done and find a way to live my life responsibly. While I am no where near where I want to be on my money situation, I have made incremental steps in the right direction. For right now, that will have to be enough. I am walking that fine line between appreciating what I did accomplish, and recognizing what is still left to do (and it’s a lot).
This past year was also supposed to be the year of new and renewed friendships. It’s hard not to feel like that attempt was a gigantic fucking failure. I mean it was, in that I have nothing to actually show for it. But I hate to think of effort expended as ever being called failure, because at least I tried. Having said that, I don’t plan to try again this year. This year I plan to accept the fact that making new friends, and even keeping the old, is hard in the early parenting years, and I’m going to attempt to embrace the loneliness. I think if I could find a creative endeavor this would be a lot easier.
If I try to do something creative with my time, I will be in control of what happens. It’s too difficult for me to push so hard at something when someone else will ultimately decide if it succeeds or fails–depending on others to show up seems to leave me disappointed. It’s not that I blame anyone, we all have our reasons. I found it easy enough to say fuck it and to stop reaching out after the school year started. Of course when I stopped reaching out, no one else reached out to me, which just confirms my suspicion that no one that I’m trying to befriend really wants to pursue a friendship in the ways I want to, at least not with me.
So this year I extend my financial goals of creating a budget that puts a considerable amount into savings, while hopefully allowing us a quality of life that feels fulfilling. We are where we are going to be, financially, so if we can’t feel like our spending feels sustainable for the long haul, we’re going to have to make some hard choices about where we live and what our jobs look like. Of course the easiest answer is to want less, and I feel like I’ve already let go of so much wanting–I have zero expectations to live in our downstairs unit, or take family vacations out of state (or anywhere really), or send our kids to private high schools, or even buy an e-assisted cargo bike as a “second car.” I think I’m close to wanting less in the rest of my life–fewer nights out with friends or my husband (this is on plus of not pursuing friendship–it saves me a lot of money!), fewer/no nice things, fewer/no new clothes or shoes, etc. And while I’m willing to forgo eating out (which makes it hard to justify spending so much to live in this fucking city), I don’t know if I’m ready for burritos to be relegated to special occasions. It would be one thing if one of us were in a temporarily difficult financial situation–like graduate school or interning to start a better paying career–but that is not the case for either of us. We chose careers that don’t make six figures and we chose to live in the third most expensive city IN THE WORLD, so yeah, if we can’t feel good about our budget, something is going to have change.
So budget is first and foremost on my list in 2016. I need to get a hold of the money stuff and I need to do it now (really, I needed to do it ten years ago). If there is anything left of me after that, I will be trying to pursue something creative. I thought about taking the preliminary steps to exploring alternative careers, but I honestly think that will be a dead end, at least until we’re done with childcare expenses and I can afford to take a bit of a pay cut. So instead of looking into a job that I might find more fulfilling, I’m going to try to pursue something creative that’s just for me. I think if I had something that felt really meaningful to concentrate on, it would make the dissatisfaction at work more manageable. Of course I have no idea what I might work on. I don’t want to write a book or pursue freelance writing, and I haven’t really pursued a creative endeavor that doesn’t involve the written word, so I have a lot of personal exploring to do. I might dabble in photograph again, or at the very least throw myself into some aspects of teaching that I know could use some improvement. And I may just look into high school positions when spring roles around. Maybe a simple change in grade level would be enough to make this teaching thing exciting again. Maybe searching for a high school job, in earnest, will remind me of everything I appreciate about my current position. Who knows?
Really, what it comes down to, is in 2016 I’m taking personal responsibility for my own emotional well being. There is always more I could do to be happier and more fulfilled, and I’m done putting the blame on other people or my circumstances. I’m ready to realign my expectations with reality, to ask for what I need and to not apologize when I take it, and to accept what life looks like, even if it’s nothing like what I hoped for or expected. So that is what I’m thinking about at the start of 2016. Let’s find some meaning in the mundane.