Recently, I’ve been having a bit of a hard time deciding on my yearly slogan. I was thinking that this should be the Year of Fresh Starts, but, considering that half the year will actually be spent tying up loose ends, that didn’t really seem right to me. I then wondered if I should call it my Year of Transitions, but can I even be certain about what I’ll be transitioning into or when these magical transitions will take place? No, there are no guarantees here and it’s not like these slogans magically change my life. It’s a struggle sometimes to manifest these messages once every few weeks, let alone everyday. Last year was supposed to be the Year of Purposeful Happenings
and, although I’m sure I fell into a lot of procrastinating pitfalls, in a way it was: I wrote a long dissertation chapter, I went to Finland, Estonia, Greece and Turkey and, besides all of that that, I also did a whole lot of work on various side projects. Similarly, 2011 was supposed to be the Year of Being Happily Satisfied
and, even though I constantly tried to find the silver lining, there were some moments of serious discontent. The only thing that makes sense to me right now is that this should be the Year of Reconnecting with Myself–my goals, my hobbies, my ambitions.
The truth is that, despite all the good things that have come my way this year, I’ve been a little lost and have had a difficult time finding my footing. I lost my dissertation working rhythm when I went to Finland, I felt that this semester’s teaching experience–usually the highlight of my academic life–has ranked among my worst and that I was sinking in various responsibilities. There’s been very little fun reading and no yoga. Of course, there’s been plenty of cooking, but that’s one of the few pleasures I’ve allowed myself. And, frankly, I think that’s been part of the problem. I need to figure out how to achieve a better, healthier balance between work and life. Even as I prepare for perhaps what will most likely be the toughest five to six months of my life as I teach language everyday and write the final chapters of my dissertation, I’ve come up with thirteen goals that will hopefully lead to a happy conclusion to a very long seven year grad school experience.
I’m interspersing my list of goals with recent photos from the past few weeks–baking the world’s best peanut butter cookies
(no lie; Molly from Orangette
knew what she was talking about when she posted about these cookies) and Dorie Greenspan’s Jammers
with my grandma, the snowy landscape of Pennsylvania, my two favorite canines, Elektra and Zoey. Some are from my camera, some are from my iPhone; it all depends on what’s been closer and the quality of the lighting. Come the official start of the New Year, I’ll be back with two recipes, one sweet and one savory.
Goal 1: No new cookbooks until I file my dissertation. I have more than enough to cook almost anything my heart should desire, not to mention the help of the World Wide Web.
: I joined a food literature book club
for January-March. The goal is simple: make time for reading, meet new people and, most importantly, go and enjoy myself without experiencing the usual academic guilt.
Goal 3: Regardless of how painful it will be–and maybe I can actually make it fun!–I plan on having a six-day workweek until my dissertation is filed.
Goal 4: Go back to yoga; remember what it feels like to stretch, to be still, to live in the present.
: When I was reading Amanda Hesser’s Cooking with Mr. Latte
this past summer, I remember being struck by her need to develop a cooking repertoire instead of always seeking out what might just be the next best recipe. For the past several months, I’ve been thinking about the need to develop my own repertoire that I can rely on when in a pinch or when the Greek and I are having guests. This almond cake
(Amanda Hesser’s mother-in-law’s recipe) has made a solid place for itself in my kitchen; leeks and prunes
, which I made for our Christmas dinner, is another keeper. A few others that have made the cut will be featured on the blog in the New Year.
: When I was in Finland
, I would sit in Stockmann or Zucchini
, the cute vegetarian cafe I frequented, and create recipes in a little notebook. Some of these recipes have become staples in my kitchen (strangely remaining unblogged material), while others have yet to be tested. I want to fix this and work more by trial and error. In my mind, rosemary cream cookies deserve to see the light of day. Just trust me on this one.
Goal 7: Finish my dissertation; this, my friends, is a no-brainer. This is the road to peace of mind.
Goal 8: Find a job. This probably won’t be easy, but I’ve got to give it a shot. It troubles me slightly that, beyond my work as a graduate student, I’ve only taught English in Japan, worked in a Subway, Dairy Queen and a Friday night bingo. As I approach 30, I think it’s time to expand my resume.
Goal 9: Turn 30 gracefully. Stop obsessing over the silvery hairs that keep appearing in my bangs.
: To reactivate my Greek, which I worked pretty hard to learn. I recently started watching Diane Kochilas
‘ “What’s for dinner, Mom
?” (“Ti tha fame simera, mama;
“) in the hopes of remembering what I’ve started to forget, as well as of learning what I never knew.
Goal 11: Remember that “no” isn’t a dirty word. Better to say it than to stew with resentment.
Goal 12: Remember that even if things seem grim, I have a lot of pretty amazing things to be grateful for.
Goal 13: To remember to celebrate my achievements by treating myself to something glorious–a trip to one of my top-countries-to-visit list? or the cheaper option that will protect my savings, i.e. vegetating for a few days, truly doing nothing?–after I finish my dissertation. It is, thankfully, the only dissertation I’ll ever write.