Five days until 2020…
As I was reading through my journal entries from early 2019 it was clear to me that I still face many of the same obstacles today as I did then. I felt demoralized by the fact that, one, I didn’t accomplish everything I originally set out to do, two, I didn’t kick my self-depreciating habits and tendencies and, three, If I’m not able to do what I say I’m gonna do then how can I expect 2020 to be any different?
The more I read the more I doubted myself. Have I not made any progress this year? I mean, surely I have, but there’s so much more to do, so much more to improve on and change.
Do any of you ever feel like that? Like the goals you want to complete, the places you want to travel, the person you want to become is so far out of reach that even achieving some of your goals is insufficient? I know I’m not the only one, but it sure does feel like that at times.
For example, In various entries I wrote about never succumbing to procrastination again. Yet again and again I succumbed. In the beginning of January I wrote, ” What I dislike most are my negative tendencies to procrastinate and consume. They’re behaviours that don’t bring any value to my life. If anything they depreciate and prevent who I am from evolving into a greater me- a better me; Someone who not only recognises their potential, but who acts on it. I want my days to be filled with consistent action. Focused and purposeful action. I don’t want to waste time being an inferior version of myself.”
I swore to resist that ugly-artist characteristic which Marcus Aurelius described in Meditations as, failure to answer the call of your nature.
Aurelius wrote, “At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm? So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”
Reflecting on 2019
This past year brought me an abundance of happiness and love. I hold onto that gift closely. It also showed me all the areas I excel at and all the areas I need to improve. In a way this year revealed me to myself and for that I’m grateful and humbled alike.
For one, I reconnected with a friend from work who over time completely exceeded my expectations and reminded me how we should neither expect nor doubt. She shared her sorrows, insecurities, and pet-peeves. She shared her experiences, perspectives, and emotions. She gave me companionship, love, and asked for nothing in return though I was always happy to reciprocate.
A large part of this year like every year revolved around family. My sister taught me more about mental fortitude than I care to admit. She taught me about patience, compassion, and unconditional love. My mom demonstrated the virtues of tolerance and empathy. She taught me about forgiveness and the importance of strong roots. My dad practices was he preaches. He taught me consistency, visualisation, and the art of re-framing bad situations into good ones.
Despite feeling under-achieved this year, life isn’t just about success. It’s more so about the setbacks, the challenges, the obstacles we have to overcome. To me, success means nothing if there isn’t a back and forth struggle to get there. If anything I’m aware what I need to work on in 2020 because of my setbacks, not despite them.
Another challenge I faced (still face) this year that I’m committed to working on in 2020 is my depression. I admit calling depression a “challenge” is devious, however I like to think a mental illness is conquerable with the right combination of help. It’s an extremely personal thing and trying to articulate my thoughts about it in a detached way is difficult. My last article, Coming Face to Face with Emotional Pain, was an attempt at both distancing myself and giving the best advice I could to anyone struggling with depression.
What I’ve noticed about depression is how anytime I fight against the grain I usually feel better with time. For example, sometimes I need to force myself to be social because I usually tend to stray away from people, however when I put myself into a social situation I almost always feel better afterwards. The same dynamic applies to getting up in the morning, working, exercising, writing.
There are days and sometimes consecutive days where I just feel burnt out, meaningless, and exhausted. My plan is to prevent my overall “downtime.” The less downtime I have, the happier I am. Going back to the journal entry I shared with you guys above, if I fill my days with consistent, purposeful actions it should reduce my overall symptoms. One thing a psychologist recommended to me was to keep focusing on physical exercise since I love it and it’s proven to be a highly effective anti-depressant. Going to the gym daily will be a core habit that fosters all the benefits and positive characteristics I need and want.
Travel plans and becoming a Portuguese citizen
One of my primary goals for 2019 was to travel to Portugal.
I’m writing this from my home in the Azores which is an autonomous region of Portugal. So did I accomplish it? Well, partly.
Although I really had my eyes on the mainland– specifically Porto. My plan was to get my dual-citizenship, move to Porto, start working at either a hostel or restaurant while continuing to pursue photography and freelance writing.
My plan wasn’t super specific, I’ll be the first to admit it. And maybe that played a role in it not coming to fruition, however the first part, to get my dual-citizenship, was a much more tedious process than I expected it to be. As of today I booked my ticket back to the States where I can get all the necessary documents, stamps, translations and information to further the process along. The first half of 2020 is dedicated to becoming a Portuguese citizen so that when I do travel to Portugal in the second half of the year, I won’t have to worry about renewing my visa, or working under the table.
Acquiring my dual-citizenship is also part of a larger goal. Being a Portuguese citizen will allow me to travel through Europe with freedom of movement. By no means am I in a rush to see all of Europe, but with a Portuguese passport I’ll have the ability to travel as I please without worrying about a return date. Eventually when the time is right, I can branch out and immerse myself in new cultures.
Welcoming 2020 with open arms
While writing this blog post I realised I left out a fundamental part. Every new year– actually every day– theres an opportunity to improve yourself. Not by achieving personal goals, but by helping those in need. A simple act of kindness to a friend, loved one or random stranger has an impact we can’t quite quantify. Sometimes the greatest reward has nothing to do with how much you achieve, rather how much of yourself you give.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service others.”
Looking back at what I wrote in the beginning, I really should not be demoralized or feel under-achieved. I think part of the problem is that I try to measure my self-worth with achievements. At the end of the day the only thing that truly matters are my good deeds, how I communicate and care for others, the love and support I give. This is the true measure of self and happiness.
To those of you still reading, I thank you. Give more than you have to give this year. Try when you don’t want to try. Think of what a gift it is to be alive. It’ll be a year to remember.