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New Year’s resolutions

The traditional end-of-year blog post is a retrospective and a reflection on the year’s experiences, but I feel like I did some of that with my Thanksgiving post. I realize I missed some stuff, and, sure, I glossed over the negatives of the year, because I was trying to practice gratitude; but I’d probably have done that with an end-of-December post, too.

So I’ll do the other traditional blog post, listing goals/resolutions. And, to some extent, I think my goals for 2014 speak to my experience in 2013, so there’s a hint of the first type of post in here, too.

My goals:

#1 – Care for myself. – In 2013 I learned that I have an autoimmune condition, which I will battle for the rest of my life (barring some miracle with stem cell research or something); if you read my earlier post about it, you might be under the impression (as I was, at the time) that it’s curable, but no. It can definitely be managed, but I have to keep my stress in check, keep my sleep schedule as steady as I can, [insert some undetermined stuff with food, supplements, and/or medicine], and try to do low-impact exercise regularly. It also means I also have to advocate for myself, when necessary: I have to make my water aerobics classes (my exercise of choice, for now) as important as my work meetings. I have to block out a couple of evenings each week to just do stuff that I want to do, so I don’t feel overwhelmed all the time.* I have to kick people out of my house at a decent hour when we throw parties, so I don’t get out-of-whack with my sleep schedule. (That one hurts. I hate it.) I have to run a timer on my computer so it locks me out for five minutes out of every hour, forcing me to stretch so my joints don’t lock up. I have to say “no” to four-hour reference shifts (and meetings—oh no, I just realized I might have to drop AkLA E-Council—the all-day meetings were tough, this September :/). And, probably hardest of all, I have to learn how not to overdo it on good days, so that I can limit the number and severity of bad days.

chillax#2 – Do less. – (Closely related to #1.) I know it seems risky to commit to “doing less” on a professional blog, the year I’m scheduled to go up for tenure. But, between university and professional committee work, community work, and all the little things I’ve said “yes” to, on top of my actual job, I am working well over 40 hours, many weeks; some weeks, I have enough commitments that I don’t have any evenings free. In order to give appropriate time to the committee/volunteer stuff I care most about and still meet resolution #1, I’ve realized I need to choose a couple of things to quit, or at least allow to end naturally. And then I have to say “no” a lot. On the tenure front, I’m already doing a lot of my not-for-MPOW work off the clock (and a little of my yes-for-MPOW work, too); pretty much, as long as I kept Faculty Senate, I could drop every other volunteer commitment on its head, and tenure would be unaffected. … I won’t do that, though. I’ll exit gracefully, and only where I have to. It will all be OK.

code-nailsI almost called these two resolutions “Paint my nails each week,” because I enjoy being glib, but I kind of mean it: I have to learn to be the kind of person who has time to paint her nails. (And crochet. And read. And…) Honestly, I kind of have to relearn how to be. Maybe having (spoiler!) eight resolutions is proof of how much I need to learn this skill. (But since three of them amount to, essentially, “slack off some more,” I hope I’m going in the right direction.)

#3 – Code. – The Sheldon-Hess organization has developed a joint resolution, for 2014: one weekend a month will be set aside for programming. What specific stuff we work on is up to each of us. We might do projects together, or we might do entirely different stuff. Maybe I can convince him to practice pair programming with me. :) Of course, I’ll spend part of my time going through my Python book, and I’ll chip away at my Twitter bot and some other projects, too. We might also do not-exactly-programming-but-certainly-techy things with the Raspberry Pi. I’m really, really looking forward to this, honestly. It might not be the most important of my resolutions, but it’s my favorite. I really enjoy programming, and I look forward to improving my skills, this year.

#4 – Swagger. – I know that impostor syndrome will always be something I battle. But I also know it’s absolutely vital that I stop selling myself short, not only for my own professional advancement, but also to be a good mentor for newer people in Anchorage’s technology community. If I know more than someone else—or more in one domain—and they see me beat myself up for what I don’t know, that can hurt their self-esteem. And, of course, part of this is learning how to do honest self-critique, because there’s a fine balance between confidence and bluster. Right now, I could stand to do a little blustering, but I don’t want to end up going too far in that direction, either. And it’s important to me to always have the confidence to admit what I don’t know, so that I can learn.

cookies#5 – Get tenure. – I won’t actually be awarded tenure until July 1, 2015 (the lord willin’ ‘n the creek don’t rise), but the materials are all due in early September of 2014. If anybody’s interested in writing me a letter of support, I’m going to start asking for those soon; I am not above bribing you with sending you totally unrelated delicious cookies, gluten-containing or not. (I make a good gluten-free “stuff” bread, where “stuff” can be pumpkin, banana, zucchini, or whatever.) ;) I also have to find two “external reviewers”—I think they have to be academic librarians or library school professors?—to look at my work and declare me worthy (or, I guess not worthy) of tenure. And, while I agree in principle with Patrick Sweeney’s(?) statement that everyone should apply to at least one job every year, I’m going to dump job openings into my Gmail trash in 2014; at this point, I’m too close to tenure to even look at them. (And my own rule is never to apply to something I’m not serious about.)

#6 – Find something good to do with my “lost year.” – The time between September and July, while one’s tenure status is in limbo, is referred to colloquially as “the lost year,” at my university. Nothing you do that year “counts” toward your possible eventual promotion to full Professor. (Untenured: Assistant Professor. Tenured: Associate Professor. Six years and/or sufficient achievements as an Associate Professor: [full] Professor.) It’s a misreading of ONE line in ONE document by an administrator who has since left (I’m not joking), but it is treated as an official policy. So I’m resolved not to do anything the Peer Review Committee would deem awesome during that time. If any publications came out, or conference presentations happened, they would be on my CV, but the committee could choose to ignore them. I’ve joked that that’s when I’m upgrading the website to HTML5, and I might go that way, but “the lost year” is also the ideal time to do something like Hacker School or Ada Academy, if one can get permission for a leave of absence and, you know, acceptance to the program. :)

#7 – Read some books. – I probably won’t attach a number to this goal (see the first two resolutions and my attempt to be less of a control freak), but I do enjoy reading, and it does help me unwind. Between grad school and library school and throwing myself into … uh, every job I’ve had in between and since, pretty much, I forgot my love of fiction. I’ve rediscovered it over the last two years, and although I admit freely that most of what I read is brain popcorn, it helps me deal with stuff. So I’m going to keep doing that. I also have some job-related nonfiction I want to read. I get to do it on work time, if only I can make time for it. So that’s also part of this resolution: I’ll find a way to make the time.

#8 – Practice gratitude. – I’m a problem solver and a change agent by nature. This is often wonderful and a strength: I find and diagnose issues like a champ. (I don’t just mean this in the engineering sense, either: I poke at organizations as much as—maybe more than—I poke at technology.) But it also breeds negativity, when it gets out of control. I find the problems in everything. I want to solve everything. I have trouble stepping back and seeing what is right and what is good enough and what is already beautiful. So, in one sense of this resolution, I am going to try to be more mindful, to see the good—and the good-enough. I didn’t do the Month of Gratitude in November, but I might do it in January.

kitten-duckIn the other sense, though, I actually want to say “thank you” more often. I don’t just mean it in the sense of being polite—I was raised kind of in the south, as a female human; I’m great at “nice” and at “polite” (except for sending cards and remembering to introduce people who don’t know each other; I’m bad at those things). I mean taking the time to appreciate nice things people do. Even stupid nice things (like when I texted my best friend to thank her for convincing me to watch “Supernatural,” like, a year or two later; I’m pretty sure that text made us both happy). This year’s been hard for me in a lot of ways, which means it’s been hard for my husband, and I don’t know if I say “thank you” to him often enough. Some of my friends and coworkers have made my life easier or better, this year, and I don’t know if I’ve thanked them. So, I want to do better about that. Maybe I’ll even write thank-you cards, now and then. Fancy!

Those are my resolutions. I’ve got some smaller, less-formal goals, too, like “get this non-profit off the ground,” “get that magpie tattoo,” and “keep Anchorage Programming Workshop running.” But they’re continuations from 2013 and have some external dependencies, anyway. And also? Eight is enough.

What are your goals for 2014?

* I noticed something, recently: when I don’t have commitments after work, and I’m free to decide whether to putter away at some project or to read stupid vampire books, I am a lot happier. Like, a lot. And, often, I still get stuff done—see also: “puttering away at projects.”

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