I just spent the past hour or so at my piano re-learning how to play “Falling Slowly”, and it really put the past year into perspective for me. A year ago at Christmas, I struggled through the first notes of that song with my nephews back in New York, and now I find myself easily reading the sheet music after a six month hiatus from the song. What is funny is remembering how painful and challenging it was to learn it, how rewarding it was to perform it at the recital in May, and similarly, how challenging it is for me to learn Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” right now. I suppose that it points out how the learning process is a never ending continuum, and that it really does take significant effort and struggle in order to achieve meaningful progress.
These New Year’s post have become somewhat of a recent tradition for me, and I think there is real value in sitting down and putting down my thoughts and goals and ambitions into words for the whole world to see. I know that I have looked back on the posts from the past two years on many occasions in order to motivate myself or bask in the glory of a job well done.
This past year has taught me even more about setting goals and working diligently to achieve them. It hard to know where to begin, but I can honestly say that weighing 15-20 lbs less than I did last year at this time is a huge accomplishment for me. Of course, the end result is wonderful but the process has been the most interesting and rewarding part of this accomplishment. As expected, I went full-force kayaking this year with 82 days on the water which bested my 70 days from last year and I stepped up to my first Class V run. The entire kayaking experience and lifestyle has really grabbed hold of me and mid-summer I made the very conscious choice that I wanted to maintain the energy and excitement of kayaking through the rest of the year in all other aspects of my life. So in July, I began to run after taking a long break since my first half marathon in 2008. Basically, I maintained my excitement and energy level by redirecting it towards running as kayaking began to wane. Ultimately, I ran my second half-marathon in November at the Highlands Ranch Backcountry (trail-run) Half-Marathon. And as a side-effect of all of this exercise in the water and on the trail, I wound up losing 15-20 lbs of unneeded weight which has almost gotten me back to my high school weight! I’m not going to go into this anymore, but I can say without a doubt that this is the best I have felt physically in over 15 years and I don’t want it to stop. As a matter of fact, I was running through an L.A. neighborhood this fall when I saw some out of shape, lazy suburbanites. Since I was running high on adrenaline from an adventurous trail run, the contrast between my current life and theirs was particularly accentuated. At that very moment, I decided that I wanted to be a person who lived life energetically and that I would be in the best possible shape I could be from now on. So here I go on this new path…
It has been almost 3 months since I wrote the first section of this post, and I finally have some concrete resolutions for the coming year, so like 2009 and 2010, I am going to put them down in writing with the expectation that it will keep me honest. After considering various goals during long, peaceful runs the past few weeks, I have categorized them into 4 groups:
1. Be deliberate
I believe that acting deliberately is not only necessary for achieving the following resolutions, but is also a basic ingredient to sustained happiness. For that reason, I have written an entire blog post dedicated to acting deliberately.
As you can tell from the beginning of this post and my post on being deliberate, I’m really jazzed up on fitness and kayaking is still holding center stage. I always say that time on the water is key to successful kayaking, so I am going to best my previous year’s record by kayaking more than 100 days in 2011. And in order to keep my frequency up throughout the year, I am going to kayak every month of the year as well. Additionally, I am teaching kayaking for the Colorado Whitewater club and for Renaissance Adventure Guides, so I’m sure that I will get a whole lot of extra days in on lakes and in pools.
As I am writing these goals, I am actually 3 weeks away from the April 17th Horsetooth Half Marathon in Fort Collins, and my training has been going exceedingly well. After I complete the half, I will go into a recovery training mode and then kick into gear training for the October 9th Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Denver! I never expected that I would run a marathon in my entire life, but now I see an opportunity that I am going to grab. I don’t think it will be easy, so I plan to join a training group that will provide me a deliberate framework in which to not only finish, but do so with a smile on my face.
Generally speaking, I plan to continue this life of exercise that I’m on in order to not only stay in shape, but actually increase my fitness to a higher level than ever before. I expect that my days at the gym will wane during the summer, but with outdoor pools throughout Boulder, there is no excuse to not enjoy a lunchtime swim! Ultimately, I expect my swimming technique and fitness to increase dramatically throughout the year so that I can consider participating in triathlons in 2012.
Anyone who has spent time around me as an adult knows about me and my projects. I always seem to have something in the works, but as I find my time occupied by so many other worthy pursuits, I find the projects get set aside. So I think it is worthwhile to make a few realistic resolutions regarding my projects. First off, I’m mentally ready to move out of my condo into something bigger, but before I can take the plunge, I need to save for a heftier down payment and make a few final improvements on the condo in order to increase its resale value. After having installed all new windows the past two years, January 2011 was dedicated to installing new wood floors. My remaining condo projects for the year are to replace the wood fence and replace the decking on the front porch. These aren’t particularly challenging projects, but I hope that putting them down in writing will help me follow through on them as I’m drawn each weekend towards kayaking in the mountains. Apart from my condo, I actually want to limit the number of projects I work on this year. The van is an endless source of projects, so I know I will continue to sink time into it, and the only van project that needs a kick in the pants is the Arduino-based battery monitoring system that I have 50% completed. I am telling myself that only after I finish it can I install solar panels on the van!
4. Intellectual Pursuits
Lifelong learning is one of my highest overall priorities. After spending years in school, I can’t imagine a life that isn’t filled with books, computers, and most importantly, intellectual stimulation and engagement into new realms. So it is not surprising that several of my resolutions for 2011 are geared particularly towards intellectual pursuits.
Writing this very post is another reminder of how much I enjoy the simple act of writing. I initially started my blog as a simple way to capture a few notes to go with photo albums I was posting, but over the years, it has become a wonderful outlet for me in its own right. I have discovered that I don’t write so much for others to read, but just for its own sake. I have also realized that as I get busy, I stop writing. So this year I am making a resolution to write more consistently throughout the year. I have gone to great lengths to implement a system that allows my little netbook to remain synchronized with my desktop computer, so there really isn’t any excuse for me to not bring it along and capture my adventures in writing throughout the summer.
Considering that I expect to be writing more and more often, I believe that it is critical to read as much as possible in an effort to stimulate all the parts of the brain that enhance the understanding and usage of the written word. I have almost a dozen great books sitting on a shelf waiting to be read, and now I just need to make sure that I bring them along with me and spend a little time on them throughout the summer camping months.
Finally, the exhausting flooring project in January forced me to face a reality about time and effort and motivation. Rather than limping along doing a poor job, I chose to halt my piano lessons for the time being. It was a hard choice for me to make, because I understand that it is very tough to return to a pursuit like piano after stopping it. So for 2011, my piano resolution is simple- I just want to keep playing the songs that I already know. I want to continue to experience the enjoyment of playing the piano with the hope and the expectation that my enthusiasm will be renewed and then I can continue with lessons once again.
I have my work cut out for me in 2011, but I’m lucky to get another trip around the Sun and I’m fully prepared to make the most of it!