Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 Here I Come - Resolutions

Now, I know a lot of people are anti-resolution. They believe that the whole "resolution" thing ultimately dooms one to failure, that only idiots make them, etc. Now, I, in contrast, have come to love New Year's Resolutions, mainly because I suppose I think of them like "goals" as opposed to "wild and outrageous things that I likely won't achieve." Good resolutions over the past few years have gone a long way toward making me a happier person. This may be because I pick things that are totally achievable, sort of like how when I make a to-do list I'll put "run the dishwasher" on it so that I get to cross something off. In any case, I think that taking some time at the beginning of a year (or at the beginning of a semester, or on one's birthday, whatever) to think about what one wants to achieve can be a really good thing.

And so. Last year, my resolutions were "F-words" - Fitness, Finances, and Fun. Finances and Fun went very, very well, but Fitness? Not so much. Well, I suppose it didn't go totally horribly. I didn't actually end up in worse shape in 2008 than I was in 2007, which given the events of the year I feel like is a victory. However, I didn't really make progress. I lost my way about 3 months into the year, and then even though I tried to recover starting in October, deaths, bad news, stress, and craziness got in my way.

I don't say this to make excuses, though it probably sounds that way. No, I say it by way of self-reflection. I've known this about myself for a while: when Things happen, the first thing to suffer is me. Working out, or eating well, or taking time to relax, or getting enough sleep, or whatever, well, that has been the first thing I've dropped throughout the history of me. Not because I'm a "people pleaser" or some other dumb thing like that - because when I drop me, in my head it's a present to myself and not to take care of anybody else. Me-related things are the easiest things to let slide. Article deadline vs. laundry? Clearly the article deadline wins. A mountain of overdue grading vs. cooking dinner? Grading wins, because there will be obvious negative consequences if it doesn't and because something has to give, right? I have to do the grading whatever the case, and so don't I "deserve" not to go to the gym, which I do not enjoy? The problem with the whole "self-care" thing is that I've never perceived there as being a whole lot of concrete rewards for it, nor are very many concrete negative consequences if I fall off the wagon. It's easy to let myself go. I like it. Partly because the ways in which I typically let myself go are quite enjoyable. I mean, who doesn't like to eat food that's bad for one, to be lazy instead of vaccuuming, etc.? I think I've typically characterized "self-care" things as the antithesis of things that will make me happy or that will make any material difference in my life. They're like these "extras" that I'm "supposed" to do (and dude, I'm really crappy with "supposed-to-do" things) and so I feel this sense of autonomy by fucking them up. Except, then, the fact that I fuck them up leaves me drained and demoralized and guilty.

So here's the thing: as I'm thinking about the resolutions for this year, I think that I totally need to shift my perception of what it means to take care of myself. I think that I need to think about it less as a chore and more as a reward. I've accomplished so much in the past 10 years. I've gotten a Ph.D. I've gotten a tenure-track job. I've published things, not the least of which is a book. I've gotten out of a crappy relationship, and I've reinvigorated friendships that had fallen by the wayside. I've made tons of new friends. Heck, I've managed to make this blog a go, and even though I don't typically think of it that way, that's an accomplishment, too. I've gotten a positive recommendation for tenure. I'm well on my way to being credit-card-debt-free. I am the proud caretaker of two very lovable kitties. I've won a teaching award, and I've inspired students to do academic work for fun in their free time at a school where students typically think that education and thinking is totally not the point of going to college - they typically think they're just doing time and paying for a degree. I've accomplished a lot of shit. And so why not think of focusing on me - not the "me" of my job or the "me" as an academic generally or the "me" who is this "person" who does x, y, and z - as the reward? Why exactly is it that I've convinced myself that cooking dinner isn't something that's "important" compared to other tasks on the to-do list? Why exactly is it lame to read books that suck, when they make me so happy? Why, indeed.

And so. My resolutions for this year have nothing to do with work. I don't give a shit if I publish anything (though I'd be surprised if I don't), and I don't give a shit about my teaching evaluations (though I know I'll continue to care about teaching), and I don't give a shit if I'm perceived as "not being visible" or "not being a team player" or whatever (though I know I'll do my current weight in service even if I don't care about those things). What I need to focus on is all of the parts of me that have nothing to do with "success." Indeed, success will mean, this year, that I've stopped being a hamster running on the wheel of academic achievement.

And so the biggest of all things is physical well being. I need to eat well, and I need to work out. I need to take care of myself - both in body and mind - first. Period. Like as a non-negotiable thing. And I need to view those things not as "extras" that can be let go, or as chores that need to be done, but as just normal, everyday things that make me happy and that are just part of my life. So this is as much a mental resolution as it is a physical one.

And sure, I've got specific things that I'm planning on in those areas, but the specifics aren't really important for this particular blog post. What's more important is the general approach.

Other than that? Well, I'll keep with the financial resolutions of last year, as well as the resolution to have fun. Because, dude, those both make me so happy!

So Happy New Year, one and all. Let's hope for a great 2009.


phd me said...

Hear, hear! Wishing you well with your 2009 resolution to take care of yourself - I think we could all improve in that area.

Bardiac said...

Good on you!

Happy New Year!

You chose really hard things last year because they're constant. You have to consistently say no to extra purchases and yes to paying off bills. There's the same thing with eating healthy and getting exercise, and neither of those things is necessarily as enticing as its opposite.

So I'd say you did extraordinarily well. And, you know, every day you get some exercise, that's a success. And so forth.

Rev Dr Mom said...

This is a really wise post. Thanks for sharing it.

And here's to a good 2009!

Susan said...

I love your approach -- so often we think about health stuff (exercise, eating) in negative and punitive ways, it's no wonder we "fall off the wagon". So thinking about it as how you take care of yourself is just right. It's a huge mental shift (she says to herself, trying to do the same thing) but worth it.

I don't know why I've largely been able to do this with eating, but not exercise.

Happy New Year, and good luck with being nice to yourself.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

Happy New Year! These sound like wonderful resolutions.

Good Enough Woman said...

Right on! Preach! Amen!