In 2019, I tried to slow down. I meditated, learned, cooked, and played without rushing to the next thing. Although I assemble my backpack in the morning while brushing my teeth, I have single-tasked and de-optimized other parts of my life just to remind myself that those seconds aren’t so precious to go crazy over.
And in decompressing my routines and chores, I found myself paying more attention in daily life to seemingly mundane but meaningful details. That newfound appreciation led me to this year’s theme of awareness.
At least, that’s the convincing narrative for my 2020 theme. To be honest, I accumulated a bunch of potential goals, winnowed them down to a manageable set, then figured out what a common theme could be. It may be a stretch, but at least I didn’t choose 2020 vision.
Eat Vegan for Lunch
As part of last year’s goal to cook without a recipe, I wanted to learn how to make a variety of tasty salads. Despite whiffing on it, I still wanted to keep that sub-goal.
From a different angle, I heard many stories in 2019 about the environmental impact of meat and dairy production. Although I’m sure that my general lifestyle in the US has an outsized impact on climate change, I feel like I can control and modify my diet more easily.
So I came up with the goal of going vegan for lunch. I thought about several options about how I could change my diet to more closely match my values. Cut out red meat. Go vegan for a month. Don’t cook meat for dinner parties. Just go vegan fully.
I was mostly vegetarian for a few years around graduation, but I gradually got out of the diet. I knew I needed flexibility, but the rules I had set for myself were too difficult to stick with consistently. When meat was always potentially an option, it just took too much willpower because I never really stopped liking meat, which apparently is a common dilemma.
So I’m trying something new by going vegan for lunch. I’m already mostly there with breakfast ever since we swapped in soy milk for cow’s milk in our oatmeal. Since I pack my lunches for work, I also have control over what I eat there. And dinner becomes my chance to enjoy a wider diet and not make a scene out of social dining.
Even this isn’t much of a change. Going vegan for lunch is just to eliminate a slice of cheese, 2 slices of cold cuts, and mayo for something else. However, I have become quite cautious with my goals and see this as eminently achievable.
Take Care of My Skin
My worst habit is picking at hangnails. I don’t remember ever being much of a nail biter, but when I’m sitting down in meetings or waiting in a line, I fidget by picking at the things I always have with me: my hands.
My first stab at this goal was better awareness. I should catch myself picking at hangnails and realize the problem. It’s a good first start, but I do try to set goals and make changes that minimize the need for willpower because it’s just so hard.
Really, the root cause of my hangnails is dry skin, and I just need to do a better job with moisturizing and repairing my skin. I have a dry patch on my right foot for 15 years, and I would very much like to evict that.
Julie got me into the habit of using a daily sunscreen lotion, so I know better skincare can be trained and incorporated into my life. I just need a push to get there.
Get in Touch with Nature
Late in 2019 as part of my quest to slowly conquer American literary canon, I read Walden. Although I found Thoreau somewhat hypocritical and thought his ideas have been better expressed elsewhere since this book, I did latch onto his appreciation for nature, and I could use more of that in my life.
I’m remarkably out of touch with nature in my life right now. Other than my bike commute, I spend most of my time inside, and even inside, I am a serial houseplant killer. My life is so carefully boxed inside of human constructs that even my appreciation of nature is mediated through technology when I watch Planet Earth on Netflix.
And yet, nature is literally just outside my doorstep. People have always commented on how beautiful the Bay Area is with great hiking and access to the ocean and mountains nearby. I want to take advantage of that and really appreciate how incredible nature and the Earth’s ecosystem really is.
Part of it is going out and doing it, like doing monthly hikes. Another part is probably just learning. I am extremely poor in recognizing either plants or animals, and I can foster that curiosity as part of this goal.
I know I’m short on my goals this year by one, but after evaluating the options, I felt like this was enough. My routines have changed quite a bit, and I think that may naturally facilitate other changes in my life. Otherwise, I have these three goals requiring both research and execution to improve just a few parts of my life.