On setting goals

Lists

Photo of lists

I live by lists. To do, to read, to cook, to buy, to pay, to try, to learn, to visit, to revisit … I have lists on my phone, my computer, my calendar, my notebook, my blog; Post-It’d up on the wall, scribbled on spare scraps of paper, and inked onto the back of my hand. You would think that such a commitment to time management would make me hyper-organized, but really I’m just out of breath. I’m constantly wrapped up in lists, planning for something, but often feel like I’m racing to catch up to my own schedule.

These lists as a whole translate into cyclical checkpoints: small, near-reaching goals that are “ticked” as quickly as they are written. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about goals as the big picture: Long-term, short-term, personal, professional… The privilege of being young and having so many options is liberating. The burden, however, is being young and completely disillusioned by time.

I want to believe that I have all the time in the world, to go and grow and fail and fix. How is it possible to have so much time and so little to waste? It’s a constant ebb and flow of abundance and thirst. The more I have, the more I want. But it doesn’t work that way.

Setting Goals

The Internet is lush with information on setting goals. Blog posts reveal the facts and figures, while Pinterest boards inspire users to pin their way to organized perfection. I found tips on setting goals for health and fitness, for financial planning, for professional development, and for 20-somethings specifically.

I’m definitely an advocate for setting goals, and believe they are something that should be reevaluated more than once a year. But I was relieved when I came across this article on the Huffington Post claiming that setting goals can do more harm that good. Stephanie Zamora writes that you should only have 2-3 priorities in your life at a time, or else you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed by exhaustion and disappointment.

At first I thought, “Great, now I need another list for priorities…” But the lesson here is to step back and decide what is truly important, and focus your time and energy doing those things. I had some trouble choosing only three, but I think these most accurately reflect the things that I want and love, in this moment. In no particular order:

Writing

Photo of notebook

This has recently become a joy for me. Although I majored in writing in college, I always approached it from the business standpoint: marketing, publicity, sales… I never thought that I would pursue writing in the creative sense, and actually enjoy doing it. This is a goal where I would like to focus more attention.

Objectives: Get better at curating material and develop a more concrete editorial calendar for this blog.

Travel

Photo Vally of Phocis

This, on the other hand, has been a lifetime love affair. There are few things I enjoy more than packing a bag and hitting the road, whether it is to discover a new place or return to my roots. It is thrilling to meet new people and indulge in new experiences, as it is a distinct pleasure to reconnect with familiar faces and places. Travel is an opportunity I hope to take advantage of for the rest of my life.

Objectives: Just keep going.

Health

Photo of yoga mat

How can any of us do anything without our health? My health is necessary to fulfill the aforementioned and any future goals in my life, and should be a priority. Also, there is something so fulfilling about being able to open a really tough jar. Early on, my lack of hand-eye coordination seriously hampered the development of any actual athletic ability. But I do enjoy a variety of physical activities, like running and yoga.

Objectives: Pay equal attention to mental health; Take the time to relax and unwind.

To live life by time’s watch is constricting; what is truly liberating is the ability fall into step with life as it comes. I don’t think that I’ll be able to relinquish my dependence on lists completely (I mean, I still need a list of top ten places to travel, right?). But I’m glad I’ve whittled away enough to put a few not-so-important objectives on the back burner. I’ll make a note to reevaluate in six months, but I’ll be okay if I lose it somewhere between the lines.

NOT the same as ice cream

During a visit home last weekend, I watched part of Parental Guidance (2012), a cute but perfectly predictable family comedy. In the film, grandparents (played by Billy Crystal and Bette Midler) make the mistake of buying an ice cream cake for their sugar-deprived grandchildren. Chaos ensues as the children devour the entire Carvel. Upon their mother’s return, the eldest accuses: “Mom, you lied to me! Yogurt is not like ice cream!”

That’s kind of how I felt when I tried this recipe that has bombarded the health boards of Pinterest since last summer:

 Frozen Banana Ice Cream

Photo of frozen banana

Freeze a banana overnight. Peel & chop into bite-size pieces.

Several food/cooking bloggers claim that if you freeze a banana and blend it till smooth, the result will yield a refreshing treat “just like soft serve ice cream!” No additional dairy, sweeteners, or ice cream maker needed. Learning to make ice cream was one of my goals for summer, but I was not quite ready to invest in the necessary equipment. This seemed like the perfect solution.

Photo of blended banana

Blend until smooth.

What I want to know is what sick and twisted health-food fanatic thought that a blended frozen banana could even compare to the rich and silky decadence that is ice cream. Sure, the result looks like ice cream, and the consistency is similar, but this cold, cream-less mush falls short of my snobbish standards.

Photo ice cream

Topped with fresh strawberries & chopped almonds.

Perhaps a blended banana concoction could serve as an adequate alternative for those so unfortunate to suffer from a lactose intolerance or dairy allergy. But it is by no means a substitute.

So do yourself a favor and indulge in the real deal. If you’re local to Boston, head down to your neighborhood J.P. Lick’s. Their featured flavors for June include Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb and Candied Ginger. Or, make a trip out to Toscanini’s Homemade Ice Cream in Cambridge, where they boast unique flavors like Vienna Finger Cookie, Lemon Pistachio, Bourbon Black Pepper, and Earl Grey. Never settle for less when best is at the tip of your tongue.

While I have a few signature locations nailed down, I’m still on the hunt to find the best ice cream in the city. Apparently, it’s not to be found in my own kitchen.

Philly, for a second.

Photo of home

This weekend, I visited home for the first time in six months. I know that many twenty-somethings are too busy or too broke to journey home more than once a year, so I really can’t complain if I get to make the trip twice or three even times. But even so, I crave the simple comforts of drinking coffee on the porch in the morning, reading on the hammock, waking up in my childhood bed… more and more after each visit.

Photo of hammock

For me, going home is like rereading a favorite book: There are no surprises and I already know all the characters. But there is something so soothing about thumbing through the same dog-eared pages, falling into rhythm with the familiar words and phrases, and, more than anything, reacquainting myself with my favorite characters.

Photo with dad circa 1995

My dad is the hero of this story, and Father’s Day was the reason for my visit. As his only daughter, I can’t image how terrifying it must have been to watch me accelerate through adolescence, push through the tangle of my teenage years, leave home for college and city life, move into my first apartment, apply for jobs, graduate… He has always been there to offer guidance, or just to listen, as I continue to get lost between the lines of my own story.

From day one, he’s loved me more than any man ever could.

Photo 1st picture with dad

He supported my city, long before we ever knew I’d live here…

Photo of Dad in Red Sox hat

Told me where to go to find my heart’s closest desire…

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And still keeps me well-stocked with my favorite coffee.

Photo of Wawa coffee

He’s kept his faith in me unwavering, even when I doubted myself…

Photo grad card from dad

And has always been there to catch me if I fall.

Photo beach with dad

Every time I go home, to the same house where my dad grew up, I am reminded of how beautiful my childhood was. But this story I’m writing has only gotten better with age. In devoting his life to taking care of his family, my dad has taught me that there is no greater measure for success than happiness. And he could not have raised a happier, or more grateful, little girl.

Books and the Big Apple

Photo of NYC

Last weekend, I attended BookExpo America in New York City. BEA is the premier book publishing event in North America, bringing together 20,000 publishers, authors, agents, bookstore owners, and librarians. The original purpose of the event was to give bookstores a chance to order books for the upcoming season. Now, the event has grown tremendously and serves as an opportunity for publishers to strike deals with buyers, create buzz about new and forthcoming titles, and showcase their authors. It was my first time attending, and only one of the few professional book events I’ve ever attended.

Spanning three levels, plus conference rooms, industry professionals stuffed themselves beneath the roof of the Javits Center. Between meetings and conferences, much of the day was spent waiting in winding lines between exhibits for galleys or advanced reading copies (ARCS) of highly anticipated new titles, hoping there will be enough left, and that the author will be there to sign.

For me, this event was a great opportunity to talk with other members of the book industry, but mostly to meet book lovers from all over the country. Highlights from my trip include:

This billboard, upon arrival. Thank you, Penguin.

Photo of billboard

A signed copy of TransAtlantic by Colum McCann, one of my favorite authors.

Photo of signed book

Getting to chat with him was a pleasure as well. His sister has the same name as me!

Walking around the city and browsing an outdoor market (another item on my bucket list).

Photo of market on 40th St

Finding this awesome, antique cigarette tin at the market.

Photo of cigarette tin

And this is, overall, measures the success of my day.

Photo of ten books

We all know about the news in recent years about the dying book business. However, in this Forbes article, Steve Cohen discusses the “contagious optimism” that radiated throughout the conference, claiming that with its embrace of technology and innovation, the book industry might just save itself. I am hopeful for my industry as well, and looking forward to attending BEA next year!

Early to rise

Photo of sunrise

I’ve always been an early riser. I love the calmness and quiet that comes with mornings. I wish I could give concrete tips on how to learn to wake up earlier but really, there is no method to my madness. There are some days where I wish I could sleep in, but no matter how tightly I clench my eyelids against the sunlight, snuggle beneath the sheets, or smother my face against the pillow, once I’m up, I’m up. No later than 7. Usually 6. More recently? 5:30.

If it serves as any inspiration at all, I can list a number of benefits to waking up early and things that I enjoy about rising with the sun.

According to the experts, waking up early means:

Success: A list of 23 successful, early-rising entrepreneurs.

Better Grades: A study by Texas University found that students who consistently woke up early each day scored better test scores and overall GPAs.

Productivity: Getting a jump start on your day  provides time for planning and anticipated problem solving.

Stress relief: Time to sip (not chug) your coffee, pour over the morning paper, enjoy a leisurely shower… With just 15 more minutes, the possibilities are endless.

Meditation: Set the tempo for your day: Stretch, plan, focus, read, write, plan, relax, breathe.

Exercise: Increase your energy and alertness, release endorphins, boost metabolism, and get a better night’s rest.

And here are some things I love about waking up early:

The view.

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The solitude.

Photo of empty streets

The first cup of coffee.

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Not to mention…

Breakfast is the BEST meal of the day.

Photo of breakfast

You have time to make your lunch…

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Figure out what to wear…

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And all of your favorite options are available at your local coffee shop.

Photo of bakery items

So get up, get going, and carpe the fuck outta your diem.

Two beginnings

For me, this past Sunday was a dual celebration:

My Commencement

Photo of tasselThe beginning of my adult life, post-grad

&

Mother’s Day

Photo of my motherThe source and beginning of my life

I was so happy to share this day with my mother. Over the course of the day, it became more and more evident how much these two celebrations should go hand-in-hand. I owe every ounce of my happiness and success to my mother.

Sometimes this is easy to forget, now that I am no longer living at home and consumed by adult responsibilities and other distractions. When I was younger, my mom’s proximity made her a constant presence and source of help and advice. My graduation day was an acute reminder of all that she has given me and continues to provide.

All that my mom did for me on Sunday, on her day, is just a snapshot of the things she’s done for me my entire life.

She decorated my graduation cap…

Photo of doily cap

Filled my closet with lace…

Photo of lace vest

And brought me coffee in bed.

Photo of coffee in bed

She was ready to help when things went wrong…

Photo of difficut grad cap

And to take my picture as I walked across the stage.

Photo of me getting my diploma

I said that I liked her shirt… So she gave it to me.

Photo of shirt

My achievements are every bit a credit to my mom’s efforts, as they are mine. I realize that not everyone was so lucky to spend the day with their mothers, but I hope everyone took a moment on Sunday to appreciate all that they have given us. Because really, where would we be without them? I never would have made it through college, through life, without mine.

Photo 1st picture with mom

My gradual graduation

Photo of graduation caps

Courtesy of Betterment.com

This Sunday, I am going to GRADUATE. Actually, I graduated months ago, in December. But my college doesn’t hold a ceremony for fall graduates, so I’m walking with the rest of the 2013 class this weekend.

I feel like I’ve been in a kind of limbo ever since I “officially” finished school. Last semester, I attended my final class periods and handed in my final projects. Soon after, my status in the college database updated to “Former Student.” A month later, I received my diploma in the mail.

Throwback:

Packed and ready for Freshman year

Photo of packed car

Now, I’m finally walking, and I can’t say I’m all that excited. People keep telling me this is “a big deal.” Administrators have bombarded my cobweb of a school email, regarding my “huge achievement,” for weeks. Even in my final semester, during which I went part-time, I felt like I already had one foot out the door. And the other, tapping timidly at the future ahead.

What do I have to complain about? Absolutely nothing. Graduating early meant scoring a job in my industry, as well as saving a couple thousands of dollars in student loans and tuition costs. And honestly, I never knew I could have so much free time until I graduated (hence, this blog). I guess the distance between graduating and formally commencing makes me feel somewhat removed from the ordeal.

But I’m going to turn this post around. I am closing a chapter to my life that has been filled with discovery, laughter, and unmatchable friendships. So here are a few highlights from my college years, pulled from a colorful and limitless list:

I lived in a castle in Europe for three months.

Photo of the castle

I was published in a student literary journal.

Photo of The Black Swan

I spent spring break of my sophomore year in Athens, Greece.

Photo of Athens

In my first month of college, I made the cover of the school newspaper.

For being quarantined with Swine Flu.

Photo of swine flu

Courtesy of The Berkeley Beacon

Freshman year, I went to the Common for a picnic and homework.

And found myself in a haze of smoke.

Photo of the Common

Hemp Fest 2009

The BPD were kind enough to make an appearance at my 21st birthday party.

Photo of captain & fancy glass

I not-so-secretly stalked the more attractive members of my school’s alumnus.

Photo of Denis Leary

Last summer, I shared a 5-bedroom apartment with 7 roommates and a cat.

Photo of apartment

The cat escaped unscathed. (More later on my relationship with animals).

Photo of cat

I learned how to cook, and how to love to cook.

Photo of soup

I cyber-stalked and finally met Patriot’s tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Photo of Rob Gronkowski

I worked at a bookstore or a library (or both) the entire time I was in college.

Photo of bookshelves

I made the best friends, better than any I could have ever asked for.

Photo of the esplanade

Just like every portion of life, or every week, or every day for that matter, college was a series of struggles and successes. But what stands out to me the most is not a single challenge I faced or a trial I overcame, but the people who were there to shape those experiences. For me, college is not a dusty yearbook on the shelf or a piece of paper on the wall, but a living, breathing phenomenon that I will continue to take from, learn from, and carry with me for the rest of my life.

So thank you to all who were there for the journey. College is over, but we’ve got a lifetime to go.