Hopefully I don't look too tired in the photo above, which was taken on my first day back at the office after an extremely enjoyable trip to Bruges last week! Despite a 14 hour delay on the return journey (thanks Ryanair), I'm actually quite happy to be back at home and back to work, something which I never thought I would say! Perhaps that's my January optimism talking.
2016 was a funny old year for me, for various reasons, some of which I have talked about in previous posts. This was the year that I finally started to feel comfortable in my own skin and believe in myself, super corny I know, but sadly it has taken me 26 years to get to this point.
This realisation that I am actually a valuable and useful person has led to a renewed drive in my work and personal ventures. This enthusiasm has been further fuelled by the fact that I started to understand there is no path laid out for you to take in life. You need to trample your own, even if you have no idea where it leads.
Last year I made a list of 25 goals I wanted to achieve in my 25th year, a list which in hindsight was far too long. I'm hoping to do a round up post on what I actually achieved/did not achieve at some stage, but to be honest a lot of the points in there are quite vague and were hard to stick to. Regardless, it was a useful exercise in trying to set clear goals, something which I had not tried before.
Using my learnings from last year, I have tried to create a smaller set of personal goals for 2016. As I reread through them, I notice that they are very focused on "me" something which makes me slightly uncomfortable.
Whilst I am still wholeheartedly committed to working towards creating a compassionate and egalitarian society (something which I continue to try and do through my work and political activities), I realised in 2016 that I needed to start investing in myself alongside other people, work and businesses.
A small aside here, but I actually came across a great quote about investing in this way (Unfortunately I don't have the original source, apologies to the author!):
"We are all investors; the currency at your disposal is time and energy."
I want to maximise all of my investments in 2017, whether they are made up of my time, money, skills or emotional energy. Here are some of my goals which will hopefully help these investments grow and generate the biggest returns.
Buy a house, or at least save for a deposit!
Having financial independence is very important to me, especially as I'm now getting older *gulp* and can no longer maintain quite the same carefree attitude towards my financial future.
Whilst Des and I are extremely lucky in our current housing situation, I would like to have something of my own and in my own name. Ideally this will be in York, however the city is rather pricey and I'm also open to considering something a bit more rural.
My ideal property would be something which we could really make our mark on and ideally one which we could develop into an extremely eco friendly home. We have solar panels on our current house, which are great, however I would love to have the opportunity to really try and go off grid and also build/extend with sustainable materials.
Weigh and maintain 65kgs
I'm currently 72kgs (72.2 if you want to be exact) which has been my stable weight for about two years now after losing over 20kgs in 2012.
I used to be quite a decent runner but was forced to stop due to a knee injury in 2014. Since then I have been slowly trying to rehabilitate myself and gain some stamina again
In running, the lighter you are, the faster you run. 65kgs is my goal weight because this is where I am fastest. However there is a limit to this, If I weigh any less than 65kgs, I loose too much muscle mass which impacts my speed.
I'm giving myself three months to try and slowly work down to this, which hopefully will ensure I don't sacrifice too much muscle. My plan is to basically eat fewer calories than I expend, something which I can track through my Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. (Great apps by the way for anyone looking to loose weight sustainably.)
Start a retirement fund
Being self employed makes saving quite a lot harder, especially as your income is very inconsistent month to month and hard to plan for.
Whilst I have my suspicions that we will be the generation who never retires, it's a well known fact that the sooner you save, the longer you have to build up your pension and give yourself security in old age.
I've already scheduled a meeting with a financial advisor this month and want to get everything set up ASAP. It may mean a couple less meals out a month and some savings elsewhere, but I personally think it's an investment well worth making.
Try a Vegan month
In 2016 I dipped in and out of Veganism, something which was prompted by my growing concerns over the sustainability of my omnivore diet, its impact on the environment and the cruelty of the meat industry.
Whilst I definitely decreased my meat intake over the year, I found it quite hard to stick to a pure vegan diet, especially as eggs are usually part of at least one meal a day for me.
This year I want to continue to pursue a better and more compassionate diet. I'm still at a stage where going full vegan would probably end in failure, however I want to slowly move diary and meat out of my diet, with at least one month where I am fully vegan.
My plan is for this to start in February, which as I type I realise is the shortest month and maybe a bit of a cop out. However it doesn't have to start on the 1st of a month does it!
Write and record a whole album with Des
Des and I have about three folksy style songs we have been working on together on and off. I personally would love to expand this and try and get 6-8 together.
One of the perks of having a composer boyfriend is the fact that he knows how to record music, so my plan is to ask him very nicely to spend a weekend with me to try and put together some kind of EP.
I am the first person to admit that I'm not the most gifted musician and I doubt that such an album would be widely or critically received! However I would love to put it out there for people to download and perhaps donate some money to charity on a voluntary basis?
Try a new recipe every week
Cooking is my therapy in lots of ways and is something I really do not do enough for pleasure. Whilst we almost always cook from scratch when we eat at home, we got in a real recipe rut during the latter of 2016, making the same three or four over and over again.
I love reading the food section in places like the Guardian and have a growing collection of cookbooks, so finding inspiration will not be hard! Trying new recipes will hopefully also help me to pursue my goal of finding more of a vegan balance to my diet (if you have any vegan recipe/website suggestions - please leave them below!)
Go and see a live music once a month
In 2014/15 Des and I went to see a classical concert almost every month during university term times, experiences which I have really missed in the last few months.
For me, live music is sheer escapism from the stresses of modern life. Going to see performances such as Wagner's Ring Cycle this summer have enriched my life in wonderful ways and helped me to see the world from new viewpoints. I listen to new material on Spotify almost every day, however nothing can ever quite replicate the thrill of a live performance.
Whilst we both love classical music, I'm hoping that I can also persuade Des to come to see some bands with me in York and Leeds (again, suggestions welcome!) Variety is the spice of life, after all!