2021: The Year of Creativity

Welcome, 2021. I think it’s safe to say that everyone has been looking forward to your arrival.

Though it is a new year, that doesn’t mean that our work is over. We still have a global pandemic to combat. We still need to have those difficult conversations and take action against racial injustice. We have so much work to do.

This new year feels very different. I don’t feel as inspired as in years past. I’m burnt out and emotionally spent. However, I think that’s why continuing my tradition of establishing a theme for the new year is important, especially the one I came up with for 2021.

Last year’s theme was Self-Care (boy, was that ever necessary), and I am looking forward to continuing that theme with a little creative empowerment. This year’s theme is Creativity.

I have always been creative, from writing stories as a kid and journaling throughout my life to doodling and creating music. As I’ve grown, however, my creative aspirations have taken a backseat. I have found that my career and education are consuming my time, and I really want to balance out those responsibilities with embracing creative outlets.

When I think of a year of creativity, I envision a few things:

Writing: As a communications/PR pro and a graduate student writing a Master’s thesis, writing is definitely something I do all of the time. It can be exhausting, but I want to do more creative writing to balance it out. This year, I plan to update my blog at least once a week with bookish content. I also plan on starting my first book once my thesis is done.

Home: Ian and I bought a house this summer, and while we purchased it flipped, there are a lot of projects that we would like to complete. I would like to use my creative side and look at ways we can make this house even more of a home – from paint colors to wood accents to furniture and carpets! I’ll make sure to update this blog with our home decor.

Music: When I was 12 years old, my grandpa gave me a guitar for Christmas. I’ve always loved singing and performing, in fact, my theme for 2018 involved performing.

I learned basic chords and played a lot throughout high school and college, singing to my suite mates and future husband (hehe), but my guitar has been neglected. I now also own a mandolin and a ukulele, and I would like to learn how to play those too. Get ready for a year of music!

Do you have any goals for 2021? Share them below.

2020: The year of ‘Self’

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’m a little late to my 2020 theme post. Actually, I’ve been later. Did you notice I didn’t post one last year? Neither did I. I don’t even know if I had a theme in 2019, and it sure did prove to be a tough year for me.

Not only are we welcoming a new year—we are also welcoming a new decade. As I reflect on my life the past 10 years, I see tremendous growth: I met my husband, graduated with an undergraduate degree, traveled to places around the world, had many rewarding jobs, got married, got a cat, went to graduate school, won an alumni award, and rediscovered different hobbies like theater and avid reading and writing. Life has been good to me!

If there’s anything that I’ve learned this past decade, and continue to relearn, is my self-worth. It’s something we all have (not to be confused with self-esteem) and I’ve worked hard to combat those negative thoughts.

What I have noticed throughout the past year is that I have been super negative. From looking in the mirror and picking at my face, my body, and overall image, to writing and calling myself incompetent or worthless, I’ve really pushed myself down this year. I feel as if I can never say a good thing about myself. I’d like for that to change in 2020.

Writing a master’s thesis and starting a new job at the same time is extremely stressful, but they are both very positive things. I’ve become so stressed that I’ve been sick since October. I haven’t been eating well, and I haven’t exercised as much. It’s taken a toll. It’s time I start to become more positive and erase those negative thoughts that constantly swirl in my head telling myself that I am “not enough.” As a perfectionist, these thoughts occur often, and it is affecting my overall health and happiness.

In 2015, I learned that there is a key difference between resolutions and habits. Resolutions just don’t work. If you say you want to eat healthy, you aren’t really creating something that is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based). If you really want to succeed in your goals for the next year, try to form habits.

In 2016, I took it one step further (all inspired by Gretchen Rubin, a happiness expert) and declared a theme for my year, which was Health. In 2017, I created a theme of Improve, and in 2018, my themes were Perform and Travel. This year, my theme is “Self.”

Coffee, Food, Drink, Hottest, Leaves, Winter, Cold

I was trying to find the perfect word to describe what I wanted to achieve this year, and I found that one of my friends has the same goals for 2020, calling 2020 the year of “Self.” So, inspired by her, that will be my theme!

Now, along with a theme, you must create goals that correspond with that theme. Then, you create SMART habits that will help you achieve your goals.

Here are my goals for Self:

GOAL: Become more mindful: Do you every feel as if your mind doesn’t stop? My mind has raced constantly and I cannot concentrate and complete everything on my to-do list.

Habit: To achieve mindfulness I will use my Stop, Breathe, and Think app once a day and meditate throughout the year.

GOAL: Be organized: From my full-time job and writing my master’s thesis to side gigs and a social life, I have found that I have lost touch with my organizational side (a side I took pride in). I want to be able to juggle all my tasks—from my blog and bookstagram posts (follow me @keepitkassual on Instagram) to my work meetings and academic projects.

Habit: Purchase a monthly/daily planner and a bullet journal and regularly update both items once a week, on Sunday mornings. Sundays will be your day to be organized for the week and start the work week recharged and focused.

GOAL: Prioritize fitness: This one is pretty straightforward. When I exercise, I am not only physically healthy, but mentally healthy. I am energized, confident, and can concentrate and complete my other tasks with a positive attitude.

Habit: Go to the gym 2-3 times a week, incorporating regular strength training with cardio (spinning on Saturdays or using the bikes at the gym on weeknights). I also plan on putting the gym in my planner to hold myself accountable and not move it if other things were to arise.

I am hopeful that these goals will be achieved this year! If I am mentally and physically healthy (mindfulness and exercise), I will feel organized and energized to complete my other tasks. I also hope to prioritize writing not only for my thesis and other academic projects and read slowly, enjoying the books I want to read rather than rushing through them. With the help of achieving these goals, I will truly be able to focus on myself—mind, body, and soul.

What about you? What are your “themes” or goals for 2020? Share in the comments below, and wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

It’s Summertime! Six Ways to Celebrate Summer

It’s summer! Yesterday marked the official start of one of the best seasons: sunny skies, fireflies, lemonade, and beach days!

While I definitely prefer fall and cooler weather, there’s something about summer that gets everyone excited and in a great mood—which I love!

Here are some of my favorite activities to do in the summer:

Go for a bike ride:
We live in an amazing part of the state where we can access a few of the many rails-to-trails spots in Connecticut. One of the trails follows a major river, and my husband and I love to strap on our helmets and ride along the shady, cool trails and take in the scenery. We love to stop and watch the flow of the river and listen to the birds and bugs buzz on a cool summer night!

Go to the beach:
Since my husband and I started dating, we have traveled to Rhode Island multiple weekends in each summer and spent time with his cousins and his family. It’s one of my favorite traditions that we plan on continuing when we grow as a family! I love the beach. I love planting myself in a chair with a giant sun hat and devouring books to the rhythmic sound of the waves under the warm sun.

Ice cream shops
On a hot summer day, nothing cools you down better than a cold treat. Ice cream, naturally, is delicious, and eating a giant ice cream cone outside with music playing and kids running around is quintessential summertime!

Travel
Summer is a great time to hop in the car with the windows down (or up with the AC blasting) and explore the world around you! Aside from our trips to Rhode Island last summer, we traveled to Burlington, VT, Washington and Montpelier, VT, D.C., and Montreal, along with stopping at different places in our state, like the Book Barn! Make sure you take time to travel this summer!

Drink iced coffee
I only drink iced coffee when the weather is warm, and I sure do take advantage of it! Iced coffee/iced lattes are such a delicious treat in the summer. I even started making my own iced coffee to save a few bucks, and I love my recipe!

Just celebrate summer!
This is actually a new favorite of mine! Yesterday, two of my close friends and I celebrated the Summer Solstice with a barbeque, lots of glitter, flower crowns, dancing, and music. It was a fun way to enjoy the nice weather and welcome summer with open arms (especially after such a cold winter in New England!)

How do you enjoy summer? In her latest blog post, Marycatherine shares her list!

Happy Summer!

 

Reflection: Themes for 2018

Hi all! We are halfway through the new year, and I thought it might be fun to check in and see where I am so far with my “themes” for 2018.

Back in January, I shared my two themes for 2018: Perform and Travel. I noticed that these were two lifestyles that I wanted to incorporate into my life. I spent my entire childhood performing, but I stopped when I got to college. After seeing a beautiful production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” I realized that I wanted to be back on the stage again! Back in August 2017, my husband and I traveled to Montreal, and we realized that we wanted to see more of the world. So, we made it our goal to travel more! Reflecting on my year thus far, I am super proud that I have been making progress in reaching my goals.

When you make goals, it’s a great exercise to reflect and see how far you are coming to reaching them. If you notice that you have a long way to go, you could always modify your goals, or set smaller actionable steps that you can take to get to your predetermined finish line! It’s also a rewarding reflection process: If you are close to reaching your goals, or if you already met them, celebrate! You are awesome and moving in a positive direction!

Let’s go back.

In the start of the new year, I set two goals for “Perform:”

  1. Try out and perform in a public setting for a local community theater
  2. Practice my guitar/singing twice a week and share progress through videos

In April, I auditioned for and landed a solo in a local community theater’s spring cabaret! Not only did I encounter the nerves of auditioning in front of strangers, but I also had the opportunity to perform in front of an audience. It was an exhilarating experience; even though I listened to the recording and had plenty of remarks and criticisms, I had to recognize that it was a big step to get up and do it—and I had so much fun!

And now, I have joined a community theater! A few weeks ago, I tried out to be cast in the theater’s fall production, “Young Frankenstein. ” and I am thrilled to say that I will be a part of it.

So, the second goal: I am still working on that one! For those who do not know, I also go to graduate school. This past semester was incredible because I had the opportunity to be a graduate assistant and help teach a 17th-century British literature course! With a full-time job, three classes, and a cabaret to rehearse for, I found myself with little time for leisure! Now that it’s summer, I will be able to focus on practicing guitar. I plan on writing down practice time in my planner and sticking to it so I can meet my goal this year.

I did, however, have some time to play guitar at my sister’s birthday party and even posted a video on my Facebook page! Progress!

Now, let’s turn to my goals for “Travel:”

  1. Travel outside of the country at least once and write about my experiences
  2. Take more spontaneous trips and explore the state and area that I live in and write about my experiences

When I made these goals back in January, I admittedly knew that I would meet one of them right away. In March, Ian and I traveled all around Ireland. We originally planned to do this for our honeymoon but decided to wait another year. Boy, was it worth the wait! If you follow my blog regularly, I’m sure you read about our experiences!

We are working on scheduling smaller trips this summer, and I cannot wait to share our adventures with you! In fact, we just took a road trip to Burlington, Vermont this past weekend. Take a look!

Thank you to all of my followers for reading and keeping it “kassual.” What are your goals for this year or overall life goals? Feel free to share them in the comments!