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.

Goal 2: 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.

Goal 5: 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.

Goal 6: 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. 
Goal 10: 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.

9 thoughts on “Notes from the Underground, Week 13: 13 Goals for 2013

  1. May 2013 be your Year of Reconnecting with Yourself. I love your goals. They're balanced, honest, achievable (yet ambitious), and are so you (in the best way). I especially love Goal #8 when you list your past jobs. May you always be so humble and brilliant. The world needs more of this (ie the world needs more of you).

  2. i also love your goals for just the reasons kana mentioned. Reconnecting with yourself is such a great way to summarize it all. Can i add one more? don't just celebrate your “big achievements” but remember to also give yourself congratulations and celebrations for just getting through the day as best one can. Especially when that is all one can do on some days – and on those days do be gentle on yourself and perhaps make some of those cookies or spend a little extra time with the dogs or even better both. you deserve it.

    Best wishes for succesful year of “reconnecting with yourself”

  3. I cannot even tell you how much I love this post, and how much I love you. I am so happy to see you doing great things for yourself and enjoying everyday life. Hurray for yoga and Greek and hurray for saying no (that is super hard for me too)! Also, I am in love with all your gorgeous photos, and those cookies look absolutely divine! You are an inspiration, my friend. Love you so much!

  4. What a lovely, honest post. I have been searching for my “word” for the year and am still struggling to settle on it. I wish you happiness and success in your endeavors.

    How do you like the Jerusalem book I see in your photo? I just received a copy as a Christmas gift and have read through much of it – have yet to cook anything, though, as I'm still just loving the pages.

  5. Thank you, friend. I hope I can achieve all of them; I'm sitting here trying to write right now and I'm feeling a little demoralized…I know, however, that I just have to fight it off since it's not a permanent condition (at least that's what Rilke would say, right?).

    I think the world could use more of you, too. x

  6. Thanks so much for your comment; for some reason, I feel like I know you. Regardless of whether we know each other, I appreciate your wise words and will try to be kind to myself even when my daily goals don't materialize in the way I had hoped they would. I'll try to remember that, 500 words or not, I still deserve some relaxation.

    With best wishes to you for a happy and successful new year!

  7. Thank you, Lisa! A friend of mine comes up with a “word” each year and I think that that sounds like a really good way of trying to manifest something new and good in your life (perhaps next year I'll go with a word instead of a slogan). I hope you find your word soon; I'm sure it will come to you. 🙂

    And I love the Jerusalem cookbook; it's such a beautiful book and the recipes are really lovely. I've tried the Tahini cookies and the Butternut Squash “Hummus” so far, but I really want to make the Roasted Chicken with Citrus sometime soon. It's the season for oranges! I hope you enjoy your copy; it's a great book to own.

  8. In my view, finding a recipe for the world's best peanut butter cookie is a BIG goal to reach — congrats! I have very specific ideas of what a peanut butter cookie should be like in flavor and texture, and as I tinker away in the kitchen, I still haven't found the perfect recipe yet. As a peanut butter lover, this is an important feat. Perhaps I'll try the recipe you mention here (thank you!) and add this to my goal list for 2013. :o) Yours are very inspiring — thank you for sharing.

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