Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year. New Hopes.

Can you believe another year has come and gone already?!? I sure can't. As a child, you're always told not to wish time away because it will fly faster and faster with each passing year. As a child, you're also too dumb to pay any attention to that nonsense. ;) I remember always being so anxious to hit various age 'milestones,' but in recent years, I can't help but get a little sad thinking about how quickly life passes by. On the other hand, since I've been out on my own, I've been pretty darn lucky to have my days filled with a lot of great people and even more exciting happenings. It's this weird tradeoff; I'm lucky to have things to do and people to spend my days with, but I also long for peace and quiet where time goes slow. I don't think that tension will ever disappear. All I can say is that I couldn't agree more about time going too fast as I get older (and I'm pretty old, 28 big ones now;), and I want very much to make good choices and to simply enjoy my life as I move forward in the days to come.

And.....cue the 'new year reflections.' I don't like that it takes a new year to make me more reflective or to force me into reevaluating my daily life. But hey, something's gotta do it, and I sadly do really enjoy having moments like today where I think about all the good possibilities, goals, and hopes for the year(s) ahead. As always, I don't necessarily do resolutions, per se, but I do have a few things in mind for the coming year. Please don't jump to point out my failures over the coming weeks and months; just know that I am trying to do things right, whether that's in health, relationships, finances, etc. Some may be quite similar to my plans over the past couple years, but never hurts to revisit and reevalute things that are important. Here goes! 

1. Save more.
Wow. Starting out 2014 like I did 2012, with finances on the brain! There is one exciting thing that I'm really pumped about for this year, though. I don't know if I ever shared this, but during college, I managed to rack up almost $8,000 in credit card debt. Ahhhhhh. Long after I stopped using the card, I was still making hefty payments (probably about $300 per month) to try and whittle it down, but almost $100 of that would go straight to interest. UGH! I felt like I was getting nowhere... Well, a wonderful person who shall remain nameless in this scenario decided to help me out by paying that whole bill and allowing me to then make payments to him without worrying about interest. Since June 2012, I have been making $300 monthly payments to get that balance down to zero, and I only have THREE more payments to go until that person is completely paid back! I can't even tell you how excited that makes me. Where my excitement comes in now is thinking about what to do with that 'extra' $300 per month come May. No, I don't plan to go on a shopping spree. I have a number of things I want to put it towards (i.e., an emergency fund, retirement, student loans, etc.). Thing is, not sure where to focus it for now. Possibly a combination of all three things, hard to say. My student loans haunt me just about every day, and I want nothing more than to just get them paid off as soon as humanly possible. However, there are some variables in the air that make me hold off on that because there is a chance I could get the remainder of them forgiven after 120 payments. Sure would hate to pay $500+ per month to pay them off in 10 years, only to find out I could have gotten much of that forgiven had I waited. The more I think about it, the more I think I'll continue to make my normal monthly payments on those, maybe a little bit more, and then focus on building up at least a small emergency fund/savings and putting the remainder into retirement. I'm pretty lucky with retirement. Being employed by the state, 7.1% of my salary is automatically taken out and put towards retirement, and the university matches that. So, that alone is a great chunk of money being put away for me. Just under a year ago, I also started putting $75/month into a Roth 403(b) (on top of what's taken out of my salary), so that's another exciting thing. I'm thinking of possibly just making that total $200/month instead of $75, and then seeing how I want to use the other money. Regardless, just knowing that $300 monthly payment is almost off my back is such a thrill for me. I'm glad I got it done, but now I can put it towards stuff that really matters. My last bit about saving money is that I will be making an honest attempt to spend significantly less time and money at Target. Sounds silly, but it really is an issue for me. It's so close to us, and I'm often lured in because of the steals on the Cartwheel app, but after getting the things I need, I usually always buy at least one thing I could easily live without. So, I resolve at this point to try and limit my Target trips to 2-3 times per month. Still sounds like a lot, but for me, that's sadly a drastic reduction. We'll see how that goes! ;) 

2. Run (and train) for another 5k.
You may or may not recall that I ran my first 'real' 5k last April. I did the Color Run in 2012, but since I walked most of that, I don't really count that as my first 5k. We did a run last April to benefit Parkinson's, and I actually gave it some real effort. Granted, I didn't train really at all, but I ran as much as I could in the actual race. It took me 46 minutes, which is not too good at all. If you don't know, a 5k is equal to 3.2 miles, so that was about 14 or so minutes per mile for me. I know I could do way better, and I'm determined to try. Regardless of whether or not I'm ready, I will be participating in the same run to benefit Parkinson's this coming April, and I'm hoping I have a much better time to report! I'll probably do some cardio activities to help prep me for that too, so overall, I hope to get myself in good condition for it! Perhaps it's time to revisit that Couch25k app on my phone again. :)

3. Get my craft on...again.
As you've seen throughout some of my posts in the past year, I have really gotten into the whole crafting thing as of late. I love making envelopes and cards for people, and I could literally spend hours in scrapbooking aisles or in the 'party'  and 'office' sections of any store. I live for that shit. Problem is, I often get busy and let my love for it get pushed to the side because I'm too busy for other things. And this sounds soooooo stupid, but the fact that my my craft materials are semi-buried in a tote in my coat closet makes me a little less inclined to use the stuff more regularly too. I wish I had a room designated as an office or as a craft space. Every inch of my apartment is filled to the max, so it's not like I can just have stuff laying around without it overtaking my space. In my dream world, I'd have either a 2-bedroom apartment where the second bedroom was my 'work' space, or a house that had an entire room dedicated to it. When I want to craft now, I have to dig so much stuff out just to get at what I want, and it frustrates me. Not sure what the perfect solution is, but I really want to stop making excuses and spend more time on it this year. Certainly makes sense because it's one of the things I love doing most! :)

4. Stay positive (mostly about work).
As most of you know, I moved to Madison for a new job in September 2013. Super exciting for me to move here, to be closer to L, and to start a new chapter after a somewhat frustrating end to my time in Milwaukee! In my short time on the job here, however, many things have already changed in regards to my responsibilities. Go figure, since that's exactly why I needed to get away from UWM. Anyway, in learning of all the people who left our office, and all the responsibilities that will be shifting my way in the upcoming months, I've already become a bit negative and stressed about it. A lot of things have been thrown at me, and quite honestly, I often wonder how on earth I'm going to handle and manage everything. Then I need to remember that everyone else in the office feels that way too. That's good and bad. Good because they can relate, but bad because they have little sympathy and can't take much off my plate since they are swamped too. We have lost three people (including my supervisor who retired somewhat unexpectedly) and gained none, so we are trying to maintain everything that was being done before those people left, and then are expected to do even more now, despite no new people being hired. Not ideal. I think I'm just a little more vocal about my stress, so I need to be a little more careful and mindful. Everyone always tells me that the morale in the office isn't usually like this, but it seems everyone's a bit down since I started, and it's tough to handle and be around sometimes. Anyway, I am going to do my best to go into this all with a positive attitude, and if and when I am feeling beaten down and burnt out, I want to ensure that at the very least, I can take it all as a learning experience and make it work for me. Everything happens for a reason, right?! :)

5. Appreciate the little things.
I feel like I appreciate life a lot, and I can recognize how even little things make a big difference, but I think I can always be better. Ever since I moved to Madison, I have been fortunate to spend most days with L. We can be watching movies, talking, cooking, anything, and I am purely content. We often tell each other how special the other is, but sometimes I get caught up in the daily cycle of things and forget to count my blessings. L treats me well, he cooks for me, he listens, he does dishes, he supports me, etc. Need I continue? Anyway, sure, I can say 'thank you' after a good meal, or I can pick up a tab here or there, but I want to contribute more and I want to give him just as many things to be appreciative of in the days to come. Besides my relationship, I just want to be more thankful in general for the life I lead. I'm healthy, I'm happy, I have an apartment and a car and a job and a body that can do everything I need it to. All of this happens day in and day out, and because of the worrier I am, I probably do think about it crumbling more than the average person; that being said, however, I still know I could be better at not taking things for granted. I lost one of my close friends this year and it was one of the hardest things I've dealt with in awhile. Probably in my whole life, actually. He always used to text me when he saw my car in Colby to see if I could hang. Last text I have from him was wondering if I was around and I opted to stay in rather than going out, never thinking it could be my last chance to see him. I don't get mad or blame myself, but I do think about it. And I don't ever want to take my family or friends or health or circumstances for granted. Sounds bad, but maybe if I start treating people like it's the last time I'll see them each time I see them, I will appreciate them even more. Or maybe that could depress me. ;) We'll see how it goes. I just will keep on living my life and thanking my lucky stars for everything I have and all the things I can experience.

Okay... I know there are a million things I want to accomplish this year, but these are a few big things on my mind. Save money, exercise, get back into some things I love, stay positive, and be appreciative. Let's do this, 2014!

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