Galloping to the Goal in the Year of the Horse

Last year, I made 5 resolutions:

1. Lose weight. I managed to lose 15 pounds from July to November by exercising 3 to 4 times a week. Injuries got in the way. I injured my left knee twice in June and July and strained my neck in December. Even though I’m starting from zero again for 2014 (at 154 pounds, only 1 pound lighter than last year), I’ve figured out the exercise program that works for me.

2. Learn Japanese. I had planned to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), but I missed the deadline. Still, this year, I finished one full journal in Japanese, applied for a Japanese speech contest for foreigners, and re-started organized Japanese studies with an advanced course.

3. Save more money. I didn’t save more money this year. I spent more money (yikes!). I did, however, started seriously paying off my student loans and my husband saved the majority of money.

4. Travel more. Because of our savings, my husband and I decided not to travel.

5. Get to reading and writing! 2013 was a good year for me in regards to writing and reading. I won a science fiction writing contest and one of my stories was selected for a science fiction anthology. I also read 32 books out of my Goodreads’s goal of 30 books in a year. Along with my writing and reading progress, I took two very insightful Coursera classes: Comic Books and Graphic Novels (University of Boulder) and Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World (University of Michigan). They helped me improved my writing style and approach to fiction.

Now that I’m staring my 2013 resolutions in the face, I understand why most of these goals failed. They’re so broad! I need concrete, realistic goals, not general ones that can be transposed from me to another person.

So here’s another shot at my resolutions:

1. Lose 25 pounds in 2014 and keep it off. If I exercise 30 minutes 3 times a week every week for a year, that’ll make 144 workouts in a year. This is possible if I look at it as in half a pound a week is lost in 48 weeks (a year). Luckily, I’ve found some great workouts online for free (save money!) and I can put my birthday gift to use (Nike Plus Fitness on Kinect). And, since my husband and I have decided to only eat meat in one meal a day, we’ll be helping each other stave off the pounds.

Ultimate goal: Weigh 130 pounds.

2. Take the lowest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). I missed the deadline last year, but I have another chance in July. I have a tutor to help me with this resolution now, and I can concentrate on kanji (Chinese writing system) and grammar through old textbooks.

Ultimate goal: Pass N1 of the JLPT, finish 2 Japanese journals, and pass my Japanese advance course.

3. Pay off 100% of my last credit card, pay off 95% of my student loans, and save at least $1,000 a month. This is totally possible if I ignore the horrid yen-to-dollar exchange rate. From October, I already implemented my student loan pay off. This year, I have to take the reigns of my budgeting plans by creating monthly bill deadlines and alerts.

Ultimate goal: Have $0 on all credit cards, have $700 left on student loans, and have $10,000 in savings.

4. Read 50 books this year and win 2 writing contests. I’ll have to pace myself and read more e-books while I’m at school. I need to develop a writing schedule and stick with it for the year.

5. Create 8 manga podcasts on Anime 3000. I’m a manga podcaster for Anime 3000’s Manga Corner. I was able to release only 4 manga podcasts last year. I’d like to re-vamp the show a little and interview 8 different guest stars. If you’re an anime, manga, or Japanophile podcaster, you can contact me (mangacorner [ at ] anime3000 [ dot ] com) about being a guest star.

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Goodbye,Rabbit. Hello,Dragon.

2011 is coming to a close, and I couldn’t be happier. With the U.S. economy in a downturn and the politicians doing more to make the situation more disgustingly difficult, this year has been a year of ups and downs.

Since I’ve become used to Japan, being there is like a lifesaver for a recent college grad as myself. I’m still doing a good and comfortable job in English teaching that grants me a relaxed atmosphere in both my work life and my personal life. Professionally, I’ve made a few good decisions, like renewing my contract for another year of teaching in case the U.S. economy continues to be a sanctuary for severe underemployment. Although I did well to continue with a good job and stable income, I’ve tried my hand at writing and art while in Japan. It’s a bit laughable how I haven’t won even one simple writing contest or that I’ve left my favorite manga writing position for writing for myself, but regrettable things happen like that every year, so it’s no big deal.

Financially, my life could’ve been better starting out. I didn’t really know how to save, and when I finally found an attainable goal, I learned. Still, my husband likes to make fun of how much I blew before he came to live with me and how bad I was at money. Now that I’m saving, the future looks a little brighter financially for the year 2012.

As for my personal life, I think my life went in the direction as the economy, with fluctuations here and there, and I’m not sure how I should feel about them. I can’t say I personally became a better person this year. I usually concentrate a lot of energy on my overall goals in my professional life while balancing a healthy relationship with myself. I usually dig a little bit deeper into my psyche and try to fix damaged areas, finding more and more reasons to be comfortable in my own skin. But I don’t think I’ve actually repaired anything within myself this year. I feel like I’ve taken a step back, and at times, I feel like I’ll break. I’ve thought that maybe 2011 was for me to change and break down and rebuild even stronger than before, like a fatigued muscle. But people don’t operate the same way as muscles.

As 2012 looms, I have no resolutions. They all seem futile  when I look at the scheme of life. But there are things that I want to accomplish while I’m trying to live. I want to go back to volunteering in my community so I can feel connected to people somehow. I want to make a difference somewhere in the world, and going away from that makes my heart feel heavy. I also want to work on being less selfish. My husband says I’m a brat and selfish. I won’t discount this because it’s true. I have an expectation of what I deserve, and there are a lot of things that I don’t feel like I deserve just because of certain nonsense things. And I have to work on being more loving and caring for my husband, being more understanding and be like an extension of him. If not, I’ll probably be a bad wife or a continuous selfish person. We won’t have to fight about my selfishness. We can just be a happy wedded couple. If I keep my professional life separate from my personal life, keep my finances controlled and abundant, and become less selfish and more understanding, I’m sure 2012 can be a great year for everyone and myself.