76 ways to be better at life in 2014

Just kidding. There are no numbers in here.

A few (un)lucky souls have listened to me harp on these themes over and over (and over and over) again, so for once I'm giving those lovely friends a break.

One year ago, after I was laid off from my job, I found myself with 60 extra hours a week on my hands. There were no more 2 a.m. closes or work lunches or 300 emails in my inbox that weren't even addressed to me, but that I would scroll through anyway because I had swilled the Kool-Aid so much it was running in my veins. All of that was over. I woke up every day with no agenda (save for my TV binge-watching phase, thankfully short-lived). 

I'm not quite sure I knew what The Point of All That was, but did know I wanted to start getting better at things. Everything, actually. Without articulating my goals in that way, I started to read more, eat better, move more, and listen more closely. In 2013, I wanted to be a better daughter, sister, niece, and friend, a better writer, editor, and reader, a better stranger, traveler, observer, and listener, a better runner, eater, emailer, and sleeper. (I love my sleep.) So I read how-to and habit books, downloaded apps, created schedules, crossed off to-do lists, wrote notes, picked up the phone more and actually used it as a phone, and said "hi, how are you" to people I'd never met and probably will never meet again. Some days I felt like I succeeded at everything, others I bombed miserably, yet most of the time, just like my poor dead hamster Ginger who used to keep spinning around in her wheel even though I just knew she was getting a headache—I kept tryingAnd I really did feel myself becoming a little bit better than I was before, and edging myself closer to who I want to be.

And so just because it's (almost) Christmas, and at (almost) Christmas you tell the truth, I'd like to offer up this one thing: Please give yourself a goal—whether it's running a mile or eating a dozen donuts in one sitting or reading the entire canon of Russian literature, it doesn't matter—and push. Push yourself harder than you think you can. And when you reach a point where your legs are going to fall off or your stomach is distended or you never want to hear the name Mikhail again in your life and you think you're absolutely spent: go further. Run. Eat the donut. Turn the page. You will amaze yourself.

(You might even become a self-help-reading, soapbox-standing, relentlessly optimistic person who wouldn't imagine writing a blog like this a year ago—but here you are anyway. Everyone can change.)

One final question to you, friends and strangers. What do you want to be better at in 2014?

There's a vegetable whisperer in Spain...

There's a vegetable whisperer in Spain...

A view from the bridge—of another bridge

A view from the bridge—of another bridge