It’s that time of the year when people everywhere are looking down at their love handles and solemnly vow to get fit in the year to come. I’ve done a variety of new year resolutions in the past, with an equally varied degree of success, but last year I decided to try something new. Rather than making a resolution, I would assign my new year a word. A mantra. Rather than define success as a goal, success would be my journey.
My word was: Opportunity.
You see, we welcomed our second child in November 2013 so by the time 2014 rolled around, I had a very colicky newborn to deal with while learning how to handle two kids on zero sleep, with my return back to work imminent. At that moment I realized that, if I let it, being a mother of two could consume me entirely. My goals, my interests, my hobbies… They could all be replaced with endless “there’s no time,” “I’ll get to it tomorrow,” and “I’m tired so let’s watch TV tonight.”
I decided that, rather than simply survive motherhood, I would rock motherhood. I would grab every opportunity given to me, no excuses. I would say yes more often, I would break the walls of my comfort zone, I would put myself out there, I would make time to accomplish the kind of things we never have time for—without sacrificing time with my kids.
I’ve been keeping a list and, now that 2014 is coming to a close, here’s what “opportunities” I accomplished this year:
Joined a mommy & me group: I’m a shy introvert through and through, but I’m trying to break the habit. Baby steps!
Learn the ukulele: I am a saxophone player, but I don’t have time to set it up and practice with the kids running around. On a whim I decided to try the ukulele. It has been a very fun instrument that I can pick up whenever I have a free minute.
Join a (public!) ukulele lunch group: I found out my office has a group of ukulele players who practice together weekly in front of the main building during lunch—where everyone going out to lunch can see and hear them play! This is taking me out of my comfort zone in so many ways, but I’m enjoying it anyway.
Attend a class to make balloon sculptures: Someone at work was teaching a class on how to make balloon animals. Why not add this to my list of useless life skills! Also, I am now my daughter’s balloon sculpting hero.
Submit a proposal to write a chapter for a book: In an Ada Lovelace Day newsletter, they mentioned that they were looking for writers to write a chapter about a woman in STEM for an anthology. My proposal was accepted! Writing my chapter took so much self-discipline to make it happen on top of all my other jobs and projects, but I made it happen!
Lose the baby weight: Okay, so perhaps the word for my year should have been self-discipline. Again, finding the time to work out wasn’t easy, but I made it happen. Lost all 40+ lbs!
Take a hip hop dancing class: On topic with losing the baby weight, I was looking around town for a workout class that ran after 9 pm so I could attend after the kids were in bed, since I didn’t want to sacrifice my time with them. I found a hip hop class at the nearby university. I had always been curious about how well I’d do; no time like the present to find out! Yes, I was 10 years older than anyone else in the class. No, I did not do well. But it was fun to try and it kicked my butt into shape!
Made myself a professional writer website and business cards: I’ve been wanting to push my writing career to the next level, but publishers don’t just magically find writers and beg them to come write a book for them. So I made myself a professional website using Squarespace and business cards using Moo.com. Now I’m ready for networking my way into more opportunities!
Signed up to be a member of a children’s book writer group: One of my dreams, from reading so many children’s books to my daughters, is to write children’s books of my own. My stories could teach programming principles, or showcase awesome scientists! Once again, the first step isn’t to wait for someone to knock at your door. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as a place to learn how to get started in this business.
Tried an oyster for the first time: Not all opportunities have to be daunting. Some can be quite simple! I had never had an oyster, the opportunity just never arose. Then I went out for a girls’ night out with some friends and some of the girls ordered oysters so I did too. I’m like a real adult now.
Wore a skirt to work for the first time: I know, weird, right? I had never worn a skirt to work, and I’ve been at my company for over eight years! I don’t like to wear skirts, but I had to do it at least once, just on principle.
Tried stand-up paddle boarding: I live in a beach town, so I’ve seen people paddle boarding quite a bit. I was curious to try it. When I found a friend was also itching to try it, we made it happen together. No excuses! And it was so much fun.
Attend a writer’s day: The SCBWI was throwing a writer’s day, so I took a Saturday off mommy duty to attend. I learned a lot!
Joined two critique groups for children’s book writers: Because paying a fee to join a society and attending a one-day seminar isn’t enough to make you a children’s book writer, I actually had to sit down and start writing. I figured joining some critique groups would give me a reason to commit the time to writing rather than push it off to the next day. And the next day. And the next day. Accountability rocks!
Submit a proposal to write an article for a children’s magazine: I’ve been told it’s a great way to get some experience in the business, so let’s try it! Proposal status pending, wish me luck.
I had so much fun trying a lot of new things in 2014, and I feel immensely satisfied with the work I’ve done for my writing career. I sacrificed a little sleep to make it all happen—like how I’m writing this at nearly midnight—I also got a house keeper and gardener to liberate some of my time, but mostly I sacrificed TV time. It was tempting to turn to wine and TV when I felt tired—so, like, every night—but self-discipline feels a whole lot better in the long run. Yay for getting things done!
Now that I’m in the habit of saying yes to new opportunities, I’m not going to stop just because the year is coming to an end. I will always cherish new opportunities—to a fault, really—but it’s also time to other things to my field of vision. Since “opportunity” often had me planning for the future, I decided 2015 should be about looking a little more at my past. My word for 2015 will be “roots.” I’ll update you on that next year! In the mean time, what is your resolution or mantra for 2015?