Happy New Year, Everyone!
May the next 12 months bring us many opportunities to live courageously and compassionately.
I agree that New Year resolutions are not for everyone. For many, it can be a source of anxiety and undeserved guilt. For others, making a conscious decision to improve yourself is something you should do every day, not only on a particular day in the Gregorian calendar. And that's fine.
However, people who like making checklists (including Yours Truly!) will find making and keeping New Year Resolutions to be an enjoyable challenge and a good way to keep track of the progress we have made. I've always been reasonably good at keeping New Year resolutions.
Maybe it's because I don't throw in really difficult resolutions that entail major life changes in it. I wish I could include "Give up driving" or "Give up drinking Red Bull" in my list of resolutions, but it's not going to happen. The best I can do is strike a compromise with "Take public transport one day a week", "No driving on Sundays", "Switch to a hybrid car within 3 years", "Limit my Red Bull intake to no more than 3 cans a week" or "No Red Bull after 9 p.m." (The last two haven't happened yet, either.)
I'm going to try to be a little more introspective this year and not just throw in a laundry list of things I plan to do in 2015. There are some items that are repeats from the previous years' resolutions, and this is because I think my performance in those areas have been less than satisfactory and I need to reinforce certain good habits.
NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS FOR 2015:
1. TAKE CARE OF BOTH EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL OBLIGATIONS
This will be my main resolution for 2015. I realise that I am fairly good at meeting external obligations and expectations: Meeting work deadlines, bringing things for potlucks, remembering birthdays and anniversaries, helping out friends in need, taking on and fulfilling more volunteer commitments, submitting newsletter articles in time, etc.
But I am less efficient at meeting internal obligations -- things I need to do for myself, and that I should prioritise -- scheduling vehicle inspections, going to the bank, meeting with my lawyer, scheduling dental and medical appointments, getting my shoes repaired, sending out job application letters, studying something to improve myself, submitting contest entries, sewing a button back on. Time and time again, I put these internal/individual obligations on the back burner.
This year, I will ensure I allocate enough time to meet both external and internal obligations. On my To-Do List, I will do at least 2 items to meet external obligations and 2 items to meet internal/individual obligations daily, rather than meet all external obligations and then end up too tired and rushed for time to meet internal/individual obligations. Only when at least 2 such 'internal obligations' are met will I decide what to tackle next on my To-Do List.
2. BE AN EARLY RISER
I have had mixed success with this in the past year. I have been sleeping earlier and rising earlier these days, but rising early also means that I end up doing more housework in the mornings, so I still end up going to work at the same time, and not as early as I would have liked.
A major reason for this is because I live with messy housemates, and once I move out, I won't have quite as much cleaning and tidying to do. Still, I realise that part of the reason I still struggle with being early is because I underestimate the time I need to complete a task, and fall victim to the "just one more thing before I leave" mentality.
In 2015, I hope to cultivate a habit of rising early by:
- Going to bed by 1 a.m. every night.
- Putting away all electronics by 1 a.m.
- Not drinking Red Bull or coffee after 9 p.m.
- Getting everything ready for the following day by the night before, so I will be able to go to sleep without fretting or thinking about the things I need to do in the morning.
- Rewarding myself with a star on my calendar each time I rise by 6 a.m., and giving myself a treat or reward each time I meet or exceed 15 stars a month.
3. BE PUNCTUAL, ALWAYS
The reason I struggle with being punctual is mentioned in (2) above.
In 2015, I hope to cultivate a habit of being punctual by:
- Not putting extra things on my schedule.
- Not underestimating the time I need to get tasks done, and do the bare minimum before I leave for work or an appointment.
- Expecting delays, problems and traffic jams, and setting out 30 minutes earlier than I normally would,
- Setting my phone alarm in order that the first time it goes off, I drop everything and get ready to leave (shower, change, lock up the house, etc) and the second time it goes off, I leave immediately without any further delays or excuses.
- Rewarding myself with a star on my calendar each time I am early for work or appointments, and giving myself a treat or reward each time I meet or exceed 15 stars a month.
4. BE A BETTER AND KINDER LISTENER
In 2015, I hope to cultivate a habit of being a better and kinder listener by:
- Not interrupting, getting distracted or looking at my electronic devices when someone else is talking.
- Making a conscious effort to empathise with others, including and especially with those whose views and words I may not agree with.
- Assuming the best of others and stop judging others.
- Actively seek the views and opinions of those who are not like me, instead of those who are more likely to agree with me or confirm my beliefs and opinions.
- Silently counting to ten after someone has finished speaking before talking, just in case they have something to add.
5. PUT A CAP ON SPENDING
I have always been a saver, not a spender, but with a major housing loan to service in 2015, I will need to be even more proactive financially. Since I have no sources of passive income and no intention to take on a second job, I will have to put a cap on spending in order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.
In 2015, I will cultivate a habit of:
- Limiting fuel use to RM400 a month (paid for by my company, but saving fuel is still an environmentally responsible thing to do, plus I get to keep what is left of my fuel allowance).
- Limiting grocery shopping to once a week, and capping my spending (on groceries, pet supplies and other necessities) to RM50 a week.
- Limiting restaurant meal spending to RM10 a night, except on weekends.
- Putting a cap of RM300 a month for donations to charity, purchase of food for the homeless and Project Second Chance vet bills and TNR expenses.
- Setting aside at least RM1000 for saving each month.
- Setting aside RM300 for vacations/entertaining each month.
- Limiting credit card use to paying for fuel and phone/data plan bills, and paying for everything else in cash.
- Paying off my credit card bills on time each month to avoid paying interest.
6. KEEP UP THE MONTHLY BUCKET LISTS
I started doing a Monthly Bucket List in March 2014 and it was one of the best ideas I have ever had. Suddenly, I was making a conscious effort to visit new places, try new foods, learn new skills, make new friends and volunteer for new causes. It has enriched my life more than I realised and this is something I definitely want to keep up without fail.
7. KEEP UP KICKBOXING
I haven't been very disciplined about attending my weekly kickboxing classes between Sept and Dec last year. Long hours at work, several bouts of flu, and the holiday season all provided me with excuses to play truant. This year, I resolve to stick with kickboxing and attend at least 3 sessions each month.
8. KEEP UP SKATEBOARDING
I haven't been going for skate sessions at the Bukit Kiara skate park ever since I started the new job. It's been just too difficult to try to fit everything into the weekends, and my new workplace is too far away from the skatepark. I occasionally skate at the park near the Bachelor Pad, but the recent monsoon season has made it too wet and slippery for skating.
However, considering that skating brings me so much satisfaction and joy, I need to find ways to fit skating back into my life. I will put skateboarding into my schedule one hour a week and then try to increase it from there. I may not have the time for proper skate lessons anymore, but this doesn't mean I can't skate on my own and improve whatever skills I have.
9. DO THINGS THAT REMIND ME OF WHY I AM BUYING THIS APARTMENT
I'm in the process of buying an apartment that I plan to live in for a long, long time. It is significantly more expensive than many other apartments I have viewed, but I didn't want to settle for anything else. I have friends living in the same apartment project and neighbourhood. The community there is animal-friendly and my cats would not be unwelcome. There is a forest reserve nearby, with a proper hiking trail. A clear little stream runs through the apartment project, in between the blocks. It has a beautiful swimming pool, a gym and a clubhouse, and looks most resort-like when lit up at night.
I am sure the novelty will wear off within months of moving in. I am sure that I will soon get caught up in work deadlines, volunteer obligations, familial and social commitments, housework and just trying to keep everything running smoothly, to appreciate the things that made me move in to this apartment in the first place. I don't want that to happen. I want to remind myself of the reasons why I bought this place, and appreciate what makes this place special and what makes me happier living here than in my previous rented place.
So, upon moving in (which will probably take place in 2-3 months), I will cultivate a habit of:
- Exploring/hiking the forest reserve trail at least once a month.
- Giving back to Mother Nature by cleaning up the creek/stream/jungle trail, planting indigenous trees and repairing and maintaining the trail at least once a month.
- Going swimming at the apartment pool at least once a week.
- Using the apartment gym at least once a week.
- Meeting up with friends who live nearby at least once a month.
10. CROSS OUT 5 MORE ITEMS ON MY MIGHTY LIFE LIST.
2014 has not been a very good year for Malaysia, but it was a very good year for me personally. I managed to check off 8 items on my Mighty Life List, namely:
- Watching the Jersey Boys on stage;
- Throwing a vegan barbecue party;
- Blowing smoke bubbles; and
- Helping someone out with a Kiva microfinance loan.
In 2015, I hope to tackle at least 5 of the remaining items on my list.
11. GET UNDERPRIVILEGED CHILDREN INVOLVED IN POSTCROSSING WITH OTHER UNDERPRIVILEGED CHILDREN.
Combine 3 of my passions: Volunteering, reading to/with children and Postcrossing, and what do you get? This: http://yellowhousekl.com/e-volunteer/
My friend Shyam approached me for help in drawing up guidelines for her postcrossing programme for critically ill children in hospitals and youths in juvenile correctional facilities, and it occurred to me that it would be a great idea to get the young beneficiaries of The Revolving Library involved in this.
To do this, I will collect unused postcards from friends (I know we all get lots of free ad postcards and accumulate lots of postcards on our travels, which we then forget about sending once we reach home!) and get the children who we read to in welfare homes and children's shelters to write in postcards for their peers. Volunteers will provide one-on-one guidance, and we hope this will help our young proteges develop better writing skills and a stronger sense of empathy. Imagine what fun it will be for the children in hospitals to receive postcards for other children! I hope to kick off this project by late January.
12. GET 8-10 OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD STRAY CATS NEUTERED BEFORE I MOVE OUT.
I have not been able to catch the neighbourhood stray cats for neutering so far because they are mostly too skittish. However, ever since I began feeding them regularly, they have become a little less afraid and a little more trusting. There are about 10 of these cats, not including the ones I have previously neutered and released. I hope to get them all neutered before I move out of this neighbourhood to my new apartment.
13. CARRY OUT 3-5 MORE VISIT-AND-VOLUNTEER SESSIONS FOR GREEN LIVING THIS YEAR.
Green Living had a reasonably successful year in 2014, with lots of educational projects and events and visit-and-volunteer sessions to the CETDEM energy efficiency documentation and demonstration centre, Eats, Roots and Shoots Edible Garden Project and Masjid Tanah Turtle Information and Conservation Centre. This year, I hope to organise and coordinate at least 3-5 such activities apart from our usual education and advocacy work.
14. READ 52 BOOKS IN 52 WEEKS
Reading means a lot to me and improves the quality of my life. The trouble is, I don't make the time for reading. I need to do so by setting an actual measurable goal.
15. COORDINATE ANOTHER SERVICE PROJECT FOR MOTHERS' DAY
The Mothers' Day service project I coordinated this year for mothers caring for their critically ill children in hospitals was a success. This year, I hope to coordinate something for other mothers in need. If I can work out the transport logistics, I would like this year's service project to benefit the mothers in the flood-hit indigenous communities. Donors can stuff coffee mugs and food savers with sewing kits, toiletries, food treats and other practical items for the mothers. They work hard all year. They care for their families. They wipe snotty noses and wash diapers. They kept everyone together and sane during the floods. I think they deserve a little something nice this Mothers' Day.
16. CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS IN MY NEW APARTMENT AND DO THE NEW YEAR'S EVE COUNTDOWN SOMEPLACE DIFFERENT
This sounds like an odd thing to include in a New Year resolution list, but it's on my list all the same because I don't want to forget I made this Resolution when December rolls around. Spending Christmas at home is something most people take for granted, but we're not Christians and have never spent one at home. I've always spent Christmas Eve alone while my housemates and friends are busy celebrating with their families. Christmas Day is just an ordinary day for me, usually spent on housework and volunteering. One year, I took my parents out to a hotel high tea buffet on Christmas Day just so we wouldn't be so left out of the festivities. I think I enjoyed it more than they did. Another year, I celebrated it with my best friend Nicole, and in 2013 it was with another group of friends.
I've always loved Christmas trees and wreaths and crackers and stockings. When I finally move into my new apartment, I will do all the things that make me happy and Christmas is one of them. I will invite friends who don't have anywhere else to go to on Christmas Day as well. We will have a big slap-up meal and pull crackers and play charades. We will build and demolish a gingerbread house and eat a whole tin of Quality Street sweets.
Same goes for New Year's Eve. I've always celebrated it at my usual pub, but the celebrations seem to be getting more and more low-key. Nobody even does the countdown, shout happy new year, blow horns and whistles or sing Auld Lang Syne anymore. It's just like any other night at the pub. This simply won't do for an extrovert like me. The next New Year's Eve, I want to go someplace loud and rowdy and glitzy and fun. It should ideally involve balls and confetti and random colourful objects falling on the revellers, and shaking hands with strangers and shouting "Happy New Year" to no-one in particular. An odd goal, yes, but my goal all the same.
Onwards and upwards, 2015!