Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

Photo by K

2015 was a whirlwind of a year for me: I graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, moved in with K, went on my first real apartment hunt, and started my first full-time corporate job, among many other things. The last few months have been particularly hectic, and while I'm starting to get oriented to my new office-dweller lifestyle, I'm definitely not fully adjusted yet. 

Looking back onto my goals for 2015, I think I've done alright: I've been largely in command of my budget and doing well, though not perfect, with regards to my financial goals. I'm a more thoughtful consumer in terms of buying fewer total items and actually wearing the vast majority of what I buy. I don't read as much because of the new job and a commute that involves more walking than time on the train, but I got through 30 books this year. The healthy habits thing is a work in progress, but I've been on a two to three times a week gym habit since starting work. As for that goal of always striving to be a "good" or "better" person, I did some charitable giving this year and I've devoted 60 hours to public service since starting at my job. That goal also involved a component of being less cynical, which is still a work in progress and can be difficult, especially in times of high stress. 

For 2016, I'm setting a few goals, some of them quite abstract and a few that are more quantifiable:
  • Meet my financial goals: (1) save six months of expenses as an emergency fund and (2) finally get on that ultra-aggressive (monthly payments totaling 150% of my original minimum payment) student loan repayment schedule I kept talking about. More or this later, but I'm not currently meeting that student loan repayment goal. Another goal of saving a little extra in a Roth IRA on top of my 6% of salary 401K contributions also dropped off the map for now. It isn't entirely due to my discretionary spending either, at least some of it is just NYC life being expensive. I'm on track to have my six months of expenses saved by early May, mostly thanks to a generous tax refund (every paycheck is taxed as if I worked for the whole year even though I only worked for three months in 2015). I'm transitioning to that year-long fellowship-ish with its significant pay-cut by early September, which means I will only have approximately three months of ultra-aggressive loan payments, but every little bit counts. 
  • Healthy habits: stick to an approximately three times a week gym schedule and cook at least half of my meals on the weekday evenings I get to spend at home. My work schedule can be very unpredictable, but these goals are somewhat realistic, particularly the exercise component. The cooking dinners at home thing is more challenging. There are many weeks where I don't actually head home in time for dinner more than once or twice, making it difficult to know what accomplishing this goal would even look like. 
  • Prioritize relationships. This can be a bit more difficult for me than it is for most. I have a strong workaholic streak and I'm also an introvert who values and even needs ample alone time at home to recharge. Free time is, naturally, in much shorter supply now than when I was a student. The concrete things I can do are: (1) be better about unplugging entirely from work on nights and weekends whenever possible so that I can spend more quality time with K, (2) take advantage of all the opportunities I have to spend time with family and friends, and (3) initiate a few outings with friends and finally invite friends over to the new place. 
  • Keep working on being "good." I'd like to increase my charitable giving and continue devoting a decent quantity of my working hours to public service. 
  • Keep working on being a more ethical and mindful consumer. Although there's always room for improvement here, I'm not sure how much further I will get with goals in this category, given my other life priorities. I will continue to cut down on the total quantity of items I buy, both in terms of clothing and beauty products, and I'd like to look to consignment shops and secondhand items for a larger proportion of my clothes shopping. 
The overall theme of my 2016 goals is, in truth, probably the not-particularly-inspirational notion of adapting to "the new normal" of life as an intensely busy working professional. I was expecting the transition to be challenging, but a few things took me by surprise, especially how little energy I sometimes have when I get back home.

What are your goals or resolutions for 2016? 

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