In the early months of living in New Haven, I remember thinking, “My life has fallen back into place. Now what?”
Was I just going to work and come home each day, collapse, and then do it all again?
I was (I am) in love with my new job. It was everything that I had asked the Universe for and more. I was falling in love with my new city and all it’s quirky unpretentiousness. But I recognized this head space — this state of being. I was falling asleep to my life.
Prior to all the crazy changes that took place in 2014, I had been reading a lot about mindfulness and meditation. The concept of being present, in this very moment, engaged and not mentally somewhere else, resonated so strongly with me. With Reese’s help, I practiced daily being present and engaged during the first year of our friendship, which we often call Our Magic Year.
We call it that because not only did we create this blog that year, but we created this safe space for each other where we could dream our biggest, wildest dreams. And the magic was so strong that we believed we could accomplish them.
During that year, I discovered Pema Chodrön. She is my Buddhist guru in my head and reading a lot of her books helped me stay afloat in 2014. I read more Alice Walker and bell hooks. But if 2013 was the Magic Year, 2014 was the Absence of Magic Year — also known as the Shit Storm Is REAL Year.
And by the time the clock struck 2015, I was weary of having survived the most difficult year of my adult life. Truth be told, I was especially weary and wary of dreaming and being creative. I mean, look at where my leap of faith had taken us.
We’re both now reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and listening to her Magic Lessons podcast and the lightbulb has gone off so hard, so many times about our Magic Year and why it was magical.
During the Magic Year, our lives were driven by our creativity. Whether it was styling clothes, cooking, writing and fixing our finances — all of those activities were infused by creativity. And while we were doing some of the things that we chose to do that year for very specific reasons like paying off debt, saving and traveling, other things we did — like starting this blog — because they made us happy.
At some point leading up to 2015, after all I had been through, I had taken what I learned from Pema and twisted it in my mind to think that because nothing was wrong, if there was nothing to fix, then there was nothing I needed to do. I didn’t need to be creative. I didn’t need to have goals and dreams.
For the record, Pema has never said anything of the sort. What she has said essentially is that you don’t have to tell yourself stories to do these things. You don’t need to constantly fret and contort yourself because you don’t think you’re good enough. And no you don’t “need” to do these things, but if you want to, it’s OK. All she was saying is that you can just be here, every second of every day, doing whatever you are doing with your whole self, present in the process.
To that end, I realized that when I’m at work, I am at work. I don’t often wish I’m somewhere else. I can write and report for hours. At the job that I quit, I used to often wish I was home writing this blog. But when I was physically putting together a story, I could do it for hours, such was/is my ability to concentrate. Such is my ability to create.
It took Reese to point out to me that I had given up dreaming and setting goals. And when she said it, I felt like she had given me a sharp, stinging slap to the face. I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew she was right. During our Magic Year, I would have just read a bunch of books and got myself together. But reading felt like work and I already had enough of that, no matter how much I liked it.
A few weeks into the new year, Reese sent me a link to this thing called the Passion Planner. Though she is a huge user of technology for planning purposes, Reese knows I’m a paper and ink kind of girl.
While I have spent much of my adult life trying to break free of the regimen and routine that I grew up with as an Army brat — and now am often plagued by my failure to plan — I have consistently, over the years, maintained a physical, monthly calendar.
When Reese sent me the link, I liked the story of the planner’s founder Angelia Trinidad. She’s a military brat too and I loved that it was a way to create some short and long term goals, write down actionable steps for achieving those goals, and be challenged to not only meet those goals but to reflect on and revise those goals as needed.
But when I saw the daily breakdown of the day, I was low-key intimidated. I’d never scheduled my time that way before and currently my boss dictates what I do throughout the day, which can make it hard to plan. Also, when I saw the price, I was like, “nawl.” I think if I remember correctly, I told Reese that I probably wouldn’t get much use out of something like that.
For some reason, I decided to give it a try. Maybe it was recognizing that I did need a planner for the year and had not bought one yet. But I went back to the site and saw that if you told people about it you could download the template for free. But like YNAB, after about 30 days of using it, I made the purchase. Now I can’t imagine life without it.
My first Passion Roadmap was a hot mess. I was like a child coloring for the first time and my Passion Plan wasn’t much better. But by writing things down, trying to plan my day, and thinking about how I wanted to spend my time, the Passion Planner helped me to prioritize.
More and more I found myself pulling out the planner to not only get ready for the week, but to look at my goals and what if any steps I had taken to accomplish them. When the six month check-up came, my roadmap looked different and my goals were more refined. The concept of Free By 40 crystalized in my Passion Planner and continues to get sharper every day.
And there is something about writing everything down, even your wildest, craziest, buried deep in your heart dream, that makes it start to materialize. So many of the things that I have written down have manifested, or are manifesting, that I am stunned when I read them back.
- I started dealing with a health issue that was really impacting my quality of life and a year later I’m feeling so much better
- I needed to get on top of some of my mother’s financial affairs and now I have a much better handle on them
- I wanted to become a better photographer and I participated in a workshop in November
- I figured out that part of my debt free strategy is a) ignoring conventional wisdom and not using cash and b) moving what is left of my consumer debt into a small personal loan and c) cutting up my credit cards
- I got back to blogging
But it’s not just my goals that are manifesting. My creativity is making a come back. Though I lamented purchasing a coloring book in another post it helped me reconnect with that part of me that always liked to doodle and color as a child.
My lifestyle in New Haven doesn’t present a lot of opportunities to play dress up, but I still play in makeup just for fun. It doesn’t matter to me that no one, but maybe Instagram, gets to see it. I just like the artistry of a well beat face even if it’s my own.
As a child, I loved to paint fingernails, but as an adult it felt like if I couldn’t go to the nail salon, I certainly wasn’t going to make time to do my own nails. In fact, the art of doing my own nails is very calming to me, meditative even.
And all of the fun things that I’ve seen done to other people’s Passion Planners, and other kinds of planners, has opened me up to a whole community of people who take planning to a level that seems fun and creative.
So when Angelia started a new Kickstarter campaign to raise money to help the company be able to become a get-one, give-one company, I was down for the cause. She blasted her goal and my special edition #stayGOALden Passion Planner was here before Christmas just like she promised.
In the words of Pastor Troy, “We ready,” for 2016.
We hope you have not only survived but thrived in 2015. And we’d love to hear from all of you. Tell us what goals you’ve set for 2016 and what tools you’re using to help you crush ’em.