Friday, January 30, 2015

January Shopping Reflections

At present, I don't set a monthly, quarterly, or even a yearly shopping budget for myself. Although I can anticipate the funds that I will have access to throughout the year, it is difficult for me to predict some of the large travel and interview-related expenses that might or might not emerge and reduce the amount I can spend on shopping. While I do quite obsessively track my expenditures and overall budget, I am not quite ready to commit to specific amounts when it comes to my fashion expenditures. Instead, I think it is more useful to be thoughtful about my purchases and to do my best to buy only the things that I truly need or will use. Or at least, that is the goal. 

I did not do that well in January based on the rules of my shopping fast. I might be giving myself too much freedom to buy things that "I could wear to work in the fall." That accounts for the burgundy jacket, the waterfall cardigan, and the dress (though in practice, even after getting it hemmed, I must admit that the dress is probably too much even for my future office's fairly permissive business casual dress code). 

My purchases for January were as follows:

Fashion - (TOTAL: $227.87)
  • Uniqlo Heattech Gloves in Navy - $7.90 - These were a definite "need" because I needed a pair of touchscreen-compatible gloves. 
  • Uniqlo Heattech Gloves in Red - $7.90 - These were a "need" once I lost the navy pair on the first day that I wore them. Oops.
  • Uniqlo Knit Beanie - $12.90 - These were a "need" because I had not previously owned a winter hat that covered my ears and my down jacket has a fussy hood that won't stay up. 
  • Uniqlo Heattech Socks - $9.90 - These were a "need" because I didn't own any trouser-type socks. Sadly, these might not have been the best choice as they're a bit too thick and my boots are all on the edge of not being spacious enough to accommodate.
  • Uniqlo Sweatpants - $9.90 - These were a replacement of my previous pair. 
  • Lou and Grey Ombre Waterfall Cardigan - $15.88 - This was neither planned nor a "need" or replacement. It doesn't fit in the rules of my shopping fast, though I quite like the cardigan and it will be a useful (if slightly redundant) part of both my casual and work wardrobes going forward.
  • Loft Twill Jacket - $42.50 - Similar situation as with the Lou and Grey cardigan... 
  • Anthropologie Baikal Dress - $76.00 - I even mentioned this one as a likely mistake in my shopping fast post. The one I ordered ended up being too small and too long, but when I went to make the return, I tried the dress on in my size. It is quite lovely, and I have a serious weakness for pretty prints, bright colors, and dresses that fit. Strictly speaking, this dress will end up costing more when I include the shipping costs I paid on the one I returned in addition to the tailoring costs to hem it. 
  • Sam Edelman Trina Sandals - $44.99 - This was a replacement for a pair of the same style in a different color. My other pair is on its last legs.

  • Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid - I decided to take advantage of a sale. It is a "need," though it is perhaps a few months before I originally planned to replace it.
  • Hada Labo Lotion - I was not supposed to replace this item so soon, but I made the mistake of buying another product that broke me out and needed to replace it.
  • Hada Labo Emulsion - Same situation as above. 
The only clear lesson from this month is that I should definitely not buy things online from Anthropologie anymore, at least until the point in time where they decide to offer free shipping as a general practice. From trying out that dress and that skirt, I find their sizing very unpredictable. There are other lessons too, about how I approach shopping for my work wardrobe, if at all, but I will have to give that question some more thought. Finally, I should be a bit more careful about replacing skincare products in my routine and about not losing things like gloves and hats. 

I linked with Franish's Budgeting Bloggers here. Hopefully my approach (where my shopping is constrained by the ebb and flow of my overall budget for the semester, though I don't stick a firm number on it in advance) is alright!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: Sephora Dare to Oil Set

It has been a snowy few days in New York City and several classes were cancelled as a result. I took advantage of my extra free time by watching a fair amount of TV though I also spent a fair bit of time on reading a novel (The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, which I quite enjoy). 

Wintry weather tends to lead to dry, patchy skin, which makes this review of Sephora's Dare to Oil gift set somewhat timely. At $32.00 for four deluxe sample-sized items, I don't think I can fully recommend it. However, I am generally a fan of using oil as face moisturizer, and I did enjoy three out of four products. (The only problem is that I have tried cheaper argan oil and maracuja or passionfruit seed oil, and it is just as good as the Josie Maran or Tarte stuff.) I bought this in early December last year and each of the bottles I've used frequently are still going strong. Each bottle contains enough for at least three weeks or so of daily use. 

Last year, I spent a lot of time on developing a fairly extensive skincare routine. As I've gotten older, my skin went from mostly oily and acne prone to dry and acne prone. Although my skin's dryness is worse in the winter, I use an oil moisturizer at night (just prior to applying Vanicream moisturizer) throughout the year. I think this set is an alright way to experiment with face oils, but a more cost-effective way might be to buy a sampler pack of oils from, say, Garden of Wisdom. 

Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Youth Activating Oil 

Pros: The Ole Henriksen Youth Activating Oil is bright orange in color and smells a bit like orange juice. I like it and find it to be pleasant to use. I've used it every morning before a lotion moisturizer  and my sunscreen for about three weeks. 

Cons: It does leave a bit of an oily finish that sometimes remains visible after my other moisturizer and sunscreen. I did not notice any real benefits besides the effect of wearing an additional moisturizing product. I probably would not buy the Youth Activating Oil again. 

Tarte Maracuja Oil

Pros: I quite like the Tarte Maracuja Oil and other passionfruit seed oils. This product is noticeably more moisturizing than the Ole Henriksen one. However, I've also tried other, cheaper maracuja oil and find both the Tarte brand and other brands to perform similarly well as part of my nighttime skincare routine. 

Cons: None, except that the Tarte brand is far and away not the best value. That being said, I am fairly certain that a 1.7 oz bottle would probably last for six months or more of daily use, and the price is within the range I am personally willing to pay for a product that works. 

Algenist Advanced Anti-Aging Repairing Oil 

Cons: This product broke me out pretty badly the first time I used it all over my face (and I did patch test it). Naturally, I did not continue to use it. 

Josie Maran Argan Oil Light

Pros: I really enjoyed using this and it is my favorite product in this set. Argan oil is generally my favorite face oil out of all the kinds I have tried (jojoba oil, passionfruit seed, rose hip seed, the Boscia Tsubaki Oil and some others). I find that it is both the most moisturizing, albeit by a slight margin, and that it does not leave any kind of visible sheen or oily finish. 

Cons: None, except that I find cheaper argan oil brands to perform the same, making the Josie Maran products not the best value. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Everlane Slim Zip Wallet

I am a pretty big fan of Everlane's leather goods. I used their Petra Market tote as my primary work bag this past summer and found it to be very functional (though not quite up to the task of carrying a 13 inch Macbook Pro in addition to papers for work, makeup bag, etc.). I bought Everlane's Slim Zip Wallet in the Burgundy color in late December last year to replace my former wallet and I am happy to report that I love the Slim Zip so far. The simple design is attractive and I quite like the Burgundy color even if I worry a little about whether burgundy/oxblood type shades are too trendy and will become dated later on. 

Admittedly, I don't think that I have steep standards when it comes to wallets. I prefer slimmer designs, but I do need a wider rectangular-shaped one rather than a square or french purse style to accommodate my moderately large number of cards.  Other than that, I just hope that the wallet is durable and stands up to daily use for quite a few years. I've never gotten much more than two to three years of use out of any given wallet, and it remains to be seen whether that will be the case again. At $115, the price is right for me, though on the upper end of what I hoped to pay for a wallet. 

I only have two small quibbles with the Slim Zip. First, the zipper was initially a little tricky when starting to zip it up, though it ran smoother once the zipper got over the first corner. Second, the card slots are a little tight, but they seem to be loosening up slowly.

EDIT, December 2016: As I indicate in a reply to a comment below, I eventually found that the leather on this wallet had some tendency to get smudges and other marks, such that it may have been a good idea to treat it with some kind of leather protection spray. After I switched jobs in July 2016, I started carrying a backpack and tiny cross-body bag,  one that's too small to fit this wallet, to work, so I've temporarily retired the Everlane Slim Zip. In total, I subjected this to hard use for about a year and eight months, and outside of the smudges and some faint creases near the "hinge" of the wallet, it's in good shape. If I don't get too content with using a small card case-type wallet, I could see myself resuming use of this one again for at least another two years or so before feeling a need to replace it. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tidying Up my Beauty Products

After my initial burst of tidying up, I finally went through my papers from school and recycled another garbage bag filled with papers, bringing my total to 11 large garbage bags of stuff taken away after following Kondo's advice. 

Beauty products were another area where the tidying up process made me feel like I didn't necessarily have much to discard. From looking at my collection "before," it might seem clear that I don't have a particular habit of buying (or using) makeup, outside of lip products and nail polish.  I also used to hoard samples a bit, even when I had no real intention of using them. 


There were, however, quite a few old products that I didn't have a particular intention to use again. Although I am a fan of oil as a moisturizer for face and body, I never really liked Jojoba Oil, the first thing I tried. Now that I am a bit more knowledgeable about skincare, I no longer feel the need to try and use makeup primers intended to cancel out redness. I don't particularly like color cosmetics outside of lip products, and going forward there won't be a need for more eyeshadow palettes. 


One thing I am finding is that I don't think tidying up is a one time only, in one fell swoop-type process for me. Although I definitely believe what Kondo says about one time being enough and that her clients who fully follow her advice never need it again. I will certainly be much more thoughtful about acquiring new items from this point forward, and the process made me reflect further on what my makeup needs are. However, I feel like the process of really making decisions about what to keep and what to discard can't always be completed in one go. (I discarded that small eyeshadow palette to the right of the NYX eyebrow palette shortly after I took this picture. I will probably choose to throw out more samples soon, etc. etc.)

I think that the lesson about making decisions and only keeping items that bring joy and that are important to you is one that sticks after one large tidying-up session. However, the process of living that more pared-down life is likely an ongoing one. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tidying Up my Shoe Collection

As I mentioned last week, I found Marie Kondo's book on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up inspiring. Now that I am back in NYC for my last semester at graduate school, I have been applying Kondo's suggestions to my closet and the rest of my worldly possessions. I will say, at the outset, that there are some limitations on my ability to follow her process to the letter. Kondo's main suggestion is that one keep only the items that inspire joy (with specific exceptions for necessities, the main example of which is important papers). That principle has helped me let go of many things that I was keeping because "it might be useful someday," but I am still constrained by a need to keep certain things in my wardrobe for work and interviews. 

Before: 20 pairs (flip flops and slippers not included)
One thing that I found while decluttering was that it is likely fair to say that I simply didn't have that much stuff even before the process. Because I went to college far away from home, moved across the world for work shortly after, and then made another cross-country move for graduate school, I had to significantly edit down my possessions each time. In that time, I moved from dorm room to studio to modestly-sized NYC apartment and there were definite physical constraints on how much stuff I could accumulate and take with me each time. 

Of course, small spaces are no absolute deterrent to accumulating dramatically large quantities of stuff. Between all the things I discarded or plan to donate, give away, or sell, I have personally removed 10 large garbage bags full of things from my life.

Looking over the shoes I decided to keep versus part with, I wonder if I could have been more aggressive with my decluttering. The heeled sandals in the back near my boots, for instance, are not especially functional for me because I have a strong preference for wearing only flats or very low heels. Yet I wonder if I could still need them for more formal summertime occasions. I do not particularly enjoy the gray low-heeled wedges, but I need more shoes to mix things up with my work outfits. 

After: 16 pairs 

Still, applying Kondo's principles (and finally being honest with myself about what shoes I will never wear no matter how long I keep them) has helped me remove quite a few pairs that have traveled with me on multiple major moves despite their lack of utility and the lack of joy involved. I'm throwing out that pair of Zara leopard loafers that are so stiff that my feet practically shriek in pain whenever I put them on. I'm selling the unworn black Nine West pumps that I bought for interviews and never wore because the heel is both too high and they don't actually really fit (oops). Same thing goes for the gray Plenty by Tracy Reese booties that simply don't have a place in my actual, flats and low heel or wedge heel-wearing life. 

Even if my progress looks like nothing much, I feel that it has been a highly educational process. It allows me to confront some of my less wise shopping decisions and why they happened. It helps me come to terms with the fact that I shouldn't always keep something I bought and barely wore because of a fear of wasting money. (Kondo's suggestion is that one sees such items as having already served their purpose of bringing joy to the buyer at the time of purchase.) Finally, it also helps me to better understand what is functional for my lifestyle. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shopping Fast: Beauty and Skincare

via Pinterest
As I mentioned last week, the decision to go on a cosmetics and skincare shopping fast was an easy one. I have a general habit of using shopping as a way to alleviate stress and stress has been a fairly common feature of the last few years of school. Although beauty and skincare was an area in which my impulse shopping was a particularly pronounced problem, I believe that it will be fairly easy to draw up and comply with a realistic plan that allows for drastically reduced shopping for beauty products this year. I know my "trigger" (stress from school) and why I sometimes get on the slippery slope of adding extra items I didn't initially plan on (adding products to bring up the order price by a last $7-$10 to get to free shipping at Sephora). I also know my own beauty needs fairly well. The rules are essentially the same as for my clothing and accessories shopping fast: I can buy things I "need" to replace what runs out and I will allow myself room for "wants" that I have thought about carefully

For context, I was only about $150 off from Sephora VIB Rouge status last year, which is not reasonable for me given my actual makeup needs and my graduate student budget. This is particularly true when I take into account the fact that most of my skincare products are not from Sephora and that quite a few of those skincare products were not cheap. I don't necessarily regret most of my individual purchases, but as an aggregate whole, it was all too much. Beauty and skincare are categories of my spending and consumption that are possibly most desperately in need of an overhaul. 

I am particularly low-maintenance when it comes to makeup. Even when my skin was not in particularly good condition, I elected only to wear makeup on occasional weekends when going out. I will likely wear makeup more often for work, but on most work days I only use concealer, a little bit of tinted moisturizer if necessary, eyeliner, and setting powder. 

In terms of skincare, most of the problem came from stockpiling excessively to take advantage of sales or other promotions. I plan to continue with my fairly extensive routine (the cost of which I calculated and estimated here), but all that stockpiling last year allows me to get away with very few purchases in the next few months. 

Planned Purchases for 2015 (Makeup) *indicates products that replace items I will use up
  • *1 concealer
  • *1 tinted moisturizer
  • *1 translucent setting powder
  • 1 lipstick (a "my lips but better" type shade for work)
  • 1 new eyeliner brush 
  • 1 lip brush? 

Planned Purchases for first half of 2015 (Skincare) *indicates products that replace items I will use up
  • *2-3 dozen sheet masks (already purchased about 2 dozen)
  • *1 eye cream or anti-aging serum
  • 1 sleeping pack/mask
  • 1 bottle of the P50 Biologique Recherce to try? 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I originally read about Marie Kondo and her book in the New York Times and thought that it might be interesting, but that I didn't have any particular need for it. After all, I live in a fairly small apartment in NYC, and there simply is not much room to accumulate clutter. I was also already accustomed to going through my closet every three months or so to cull unwanted items that I could donate or discard. However, an alum of my college recently mentioned how the book had helped her to think about her stuff and her clothing in a more minimalist way, which made me want to read it for myself. 

Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is primarily about the act of "tidying up" or decluttering one's home in one fell swoop, mostly by discarding things that are no longer useful. However, I agree with the alum that described it as ultimately being a book about minimalism as a broader concept. Her primary overall point is that first and foremost, one should discard items that no longer or never inspired joy. The process of going through one's belongings and making decisions about whether an item is worth keeping under that criteria is then helpful for better understanding the type of life one wants to live and what is important in one's life. 

A few choice quotes:

Through the process of selecting only those things that inspire joy, you can identify precisely what you love and what you need. - p. 126

... one of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity. Tidying means taking each item in your hand, asking yourself whether it sparks joy, and deciding on this basis whether or not to keep it. By repeating this process hundreds and thousands of times, we naturally hone our decision-making skills. - p. 178 

The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. - p. 182 

In short, I quite enjoyed the book. It is a quick read and Kondo's general suggestions are based on using intuition rather than setting out unnecessarily detailed or specific suggestions or rules that might not work for everyone. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Shopping Fast: Clothing and Accessories

Although I had already decided to institute a shopping fast for cosmetics and skincare products this year, I had been dragging my feet on doing the same for fashion purchases. I originally thought that it would simply result in setting myself up for failure. While I have accumulated a decently-sized work wardrobe, I was not completely confident that I had everything I needed for work. I don't necessarily need to shop for office clothes until October, but I wanted to preserve the flexibility of being able to buy items when I saw them available for a good price. I also wanted to leave room for this or that perfect thing if I saw it at the store. 

My post-Christmas sale shopping has led me to reevaluate. With the spate of additional percentage off sale promotions, I ended up being tempted by a lot of pretty things that I wanted to try out, but that I don't strictly need and that don't fill an identified hole in my wardrobe. In particular I grabbed some items (the Baikal Dress and Shimmered Monarch Skirt) from Anthropologie's online 25% off of sale price promotion. Even on sale, their items tend to be a little bit outside of my price range, especially when I take into account highly probable issues with quality and fit from buying things sight unseen. Neither is final sale so I will be able to think about whether either item is worth keeping, but their shipping fees are steep. Even if I return both, I have definitely spent nearly $20 just for the privilege of trying on the items. That experience would at least be a lesson about not buying online when shipping is not free and I am not sure about what I'm getting.

While all this online shopping was going on, I was also looking at my finances for the semester and trying to draw up a budget for the months immediately before and after I start work. I have not historically been the most frugal person, and while a reasonable budget allows me to enjoy a lot of the things I like (some eating out, a gym membership, some room for shopping) while I do the things I must do (aggressively paying down student loan debt, paying my rent, etc.), I will have to cut costs in some areas quite a bit if I want to save money for more distant things like future vacations. In short, it will be good for me to reexamine my shopping habits and see if I can make some changes.

My shopping fast probably most resembles the one described here by Maja. I am planning to stick to the fast for about nine months (after work starts, my needs will probably change) and it extends to all my clothes, accessories, and beauty products. I will also try to extend the principles to other categories of shopping, but no complete guarantees in anything else. My ground rules are as follows:

  • First, I can buy the things that I actually need. Of course, I need to be careful and thoughtful about what is an actual need. Before late February or early March, I plan to buy some socks. By late April or so I will probably buy another casual summer top or two at most. Sometime before September I am also considering buying a nice, but still rather modestly priced watch (perhaps a Skagen) because I don't currently own any. 
  • Second, I can buy replacements for things that are truly worn-out or used up. This has a lot of overlap with things that fall under the first rule. Under this category, I am vaguely in the market for a pair of sweatpants to serve as lounge clothes. I recently purchased a pair of sandals in order to replace a current pair that is already on its last legs. At some point in the summer I will probably need another pair of flats as well, given the rapid rate at which I wear out the ones I have. 
  • Third, I am still allowing myself room for a few "wants," provided that I have given it enough thought. I've been thinking for a while about getting a bracelet to round out my collection of jewelry (costume jewelry in the price range of pieces from Gorjana or J. Crew). I might also consider buying a ring (something like this, though potentially not at that price point) that would be suitable for everyday wear. I have not made a firm decision about either purchase, but I do plan to leave room for expenditures like that if I have given it a lot of thought. 

I will lay out my specific plans for cosmetics in another post. (Spoiler alert: I went a tiny bit crazy in that category last year because of stress-shopping and the like so I am cutting back significantly.) I feel some trepidation about whether I can fully stick to this plan, but I also feel that by having taken the time to think about my shopping and what I want versus what I need, I will be moving in the right direction. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Style Resolutions: Maintaining my Clothes

via Pinterest

One of my style resolutions for the year is to learn more about and spend more time on caring for and maintaining my wardrobe. For now, I am focusing on laundry and ways to avoid dry-cleaning whenever possible. The vast majority of my clothes are suitable for a business-casual wardrobe: a lot of lined pencil skirts, sheath dresses, cardigans, and the like. I also have a particular fondness for silk clothing. All in all, I have ended up with a lot of items that are labeled as "dry-clean only," but dry-cleaning in NYC is hardly cheap and it ends up being a disincentive to wearing a lot of my clothes. Some items also languish for weeks after a few wears until I can get the items to and from the dry cleaner. 

I have previously grown accustomed to hand-washing my sweaters and cardigans (I wear too many for dry-cleaning to be practical) and a few of my more casual silk tops. The method I have been using is alright, but I am not entirely satisfied with it. In particular, I have been reading that Woolite might not be the ideal detergent for hand-washing delicate items. My general practice so far is to follow the method described here on the Martha Stewart website and I use Woolite for detergent.

The general idea is right, I think, though it might not be the most efficient procedure. (At the same time, it doesn't take too long and isn't too difficult to keep up with if I set aside time for hand-washing a few items about once every week or two.) My main problems are that I have not figured out how to deal with residue from deodorant in the armpits of my sweaters. Also, I feel like the Woolite sometimes doesn't rinse out cleanly enough, even after two full soaks in clean water. Finally, using this process and Woolite with my bras doesn't seem to work well over time, nude-colored bras start to get dingy, the bras don't feel that clean, etc. 

There is going to be a bit of a learning curve. I decided to purchase some of the products from The Laundress, namely the Wool and Cashmere Shampoo and the Delicate Wash. It was a bit expensive when compared to any laundry detergent I have ever purchased in the past. I had read about some cheaper alternatives such as using baby shampoo, Eucalan, or diluted Dr. Bonner's castille soap, and perhaps I will look to those alternatives in the future. For now, I was comparing the cost of  the Laundress products to the alternative and higher costs of dry-cleaning more regularly. 

My hope is that I will stop taking most of my sweaters and silk items to the dry cleaner and that I can eventually get comfortable with using the Laundress products to machine wash some of my delicate and wool items as they recommend in their handy "Can I be Washed" chart.  In theory, I feel like I should only have to take special items like my suits, coats, and special occasion dresses to the dry cleaner. That the suits go to a dry cleaner might not even be a given. Presently, however. I am still leery of machine-washing wool sweaters after one of mine shrank very noticeably after being put in a washing machine one time (in cold water only and in a mesh bag) even though I line dried it. Attempts to stretch out that particular sweater to its original shape during subsequent hand-washings have been to no avail. 

I will write in the future if I learn anything substantial about hand or machine-washing clothes that were previously destined for the dry cleaner. Any tips about how to care for and hand-wash (or machine-wash) more difficult items are, of course, very much appreciated!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Decluttering" my Reading List

I have been doing well with at least one of my goals for 2015. I started trying to read more a few days before Christmas and it has been going well. I finished two nonfiction books and then shifted to novels for a while. (My favorite so far is Haruki Murakami's latest.)

Boston Public Library via

A few years ago, before I started graduate school, I took some time off for a teaching fellowship abroad. It left me with extremely ample free time, and I got into the habit of reading voraciously. I have always liked many airplane-reading type thrillers (which I mixed with the occasional more serious novel) and I read a lot of nonfiction too. There was very little that I wouldn't finish. Indeed, I often feel a bit of a compulsion to finish a book once I am more than a few pages in. Only the most noticeable quality issues are enough to keep me from trying. I commuted a lot more often by subway, which left me with at least forty minutes or so of built-in reading time in my schedule for any given day.

These days, however, I do more than enough reading for school or work, and I generally don't commute anywhere during the week. There have been times when I set aside a half hour or so to read every night before bed, but that is not always the case. Books I used to gamely finish now linger on my Kindle or bedside table for months while I opt to listen to podcasts instead. I realized early last year that if I was going to keep to the habit of reading for fun, I would need to be far more selective about my reading material. There is certainly no point to keeping up with reading a book that is tedious to me, and not adding any value to my life while it takes up time or keeps me from reading something else that I would enjoy more. 

I say all this because I just started reading what is likely the first "dud" of a book for this year. It is reasonably well-written insofar as it is engaging. I don't particularly dislike the experience of actually reading it and it is "easy" to read quickly. However, the characters and the way the plot is structured leave a lot to be desired. Back in my gap year days, it would have been an easy thing to finish it and move on. I also happen to be on a fairly long break between semesters, so it would be an easy thing to finish now. 

Overall, though, it makes more sense to cut my losses and move on. I read the spoilers on Wikipedia, which I often cannot help doing and I saw that nothing seems to improve. My time would be better spent starting on the next book.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: Reflections

Sunset in Santorini, August 2014

2014 was quite a year for me, most notably in terms of my professional life. I wrote a scholarly paper that will be published in the near future. I received a job offer in my field after completing a summer internship. I decided on the subfield that I will specialize in. Through it all, I had to spend a lot of time reflecting on what my long-term goals are and learning that sometimes, life happens and causes many of those goals to change. In terms of my personal life and self-growth, I learned a lot about what is important to me in my friendships. 

2015 is going to be another big year in terms of professional milestones. I graduate in late May, take a licensing exam shortly after, have some time to travel, and then I will start work in early or mid-autumn. There will likely be some major relationship milestones as well. 

I have had mixed success with some of my more abstract goals for 2014. For the most part, I did well with things like eating healthy food, exercising, and reading more for fun for a few months at a time before those habits suddenly dropped out of my life. A few of those things returned at the end of the year, but some did not. 

Here are some general things that I hope to work on in the coming year:

  • Stick to my budget. Once I graduate, I will have fairly significant student loans to pay off from graduate school. 
  • Be a more thoughtful consumer. This is mostly in support of my budgeting goals, though I would also like to think about the environmental and ethical consequences of consumption. I can't say that I anticipate getting very far with anything but the budget-related side of things, but my hope is that being careful about how much I consume will help with the other goals.
  • Read. I am much pickier about what I like to read now than I was a few years ago, given how much reading I have to do for work and school. Because of this, reading for fun definitely fell by the wayside in the second half of the year. 
  • Work on forming and sticking to healthy habits. This goes to both diet, cooking, and exercise. I enjoyed and quite liked the book Foodist by Darya Pino Rose of the blog Summer Tomato and will likely approach both the exercise and healthy eating goals using her suggestions. I can't speak for whether her suggestions are universally helpful and I realize that a fair amount of economic and other privilege is required. However I think her ideas are at least a good fit for a young student or professional living in a major city and cooking for one or at most two people at a time. 
  • Keep working on being "good." This is both in terms of always aspiring to be a kinder person and one who is open to learning about and understanding where others come from. There is also a component of public service. I will be entering a profession where public service and volunteering are relatively "easy" to do at work, and because that sort of work is important to me, I hope to stick to it and find ways to be more effective in that capacity.