Career, Lifestyle

Having the Courage to Start

This is fairly verbatim to a video I made today. Maybe with a few added points and fewer “and….” ‘s. But I’m pretty much going to just copy and paste my video script.

A few years ago one of my colleagues shared about a poster in her classroom. We are traveling music teachers, going between schools, and we all share spaces with other teachers.

The poster said, “It’s not the finish line that matters. It’s having the courage to start.”

And my coworkers had a field day with this. Because HOW could the finish line not matter?

Does this mean results don’t matter in the end?

Does this mean you can do a crappy and half-assed job and as long as you do something in the meantime, you’re good?

Does this mean if you start something and then you quit immediately, the fact that you started is the only thing matters?

I think this third idea is what grabbed the attention of my coworkers. Because we are band teachers. Kids get very excited about band. They get their instruments, their books, learn about music, and some kids find out that music is hard. And they quit.

For those kids, my teammates were probably thinking, that’s the finish line. And the poster becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way – “It’s not the finish line that matters.” The fact that the kids started band, and quit band, and didn’t see it through to the end – that’s a dissonance that makes them want to disagree with the poster. Because it seems ludicrous.

But I’ve been thinking about that poster lately, because it happens to also have been hanging in one of my classrooms for the past two years. And I’ve been in this weird phase of life – on disability leave, not sure when would be the most appropriate time to return to work, thinking about starting this YouTube channel and wondering how much time and money I really want to invest in this.

I was thinking about what I should discuss this week because I wasn’t sure if I had any perfectly-formed thoughts about ANYTHING and would that even be worth posting about? I’ve been watching so many videos of these great YouTubers and their amazingly formed opinions and thoughts, and wondering what would be the best way to deliver MY expertise and feeling like a fraud because I’m not even currently working in my field.

I thought about a song I wrote once. A song about songwriting, that might perhaps be one of the most poignant and relevant songs in my life. It’s a song about taking an idea that came from your brain, developing it, holding on to it, and being proud that that came from your brain even years later. Even if it turns out later to be crappy or weird.

I feel like this song will always be relevant to me. The last lines?

Because what if I couldn’t sing at all? Who cares if the world isn’t ready for me to sing at all?

Today is the day I realized that I agree with the poster. “It’s not the finish line that matters. It’s having the courage to start.”

Please hear me out about this. If you are like me, maybe you are someone who seeks to work hard and do great things and make the world better. Maybe you want every piece of work that comes out of your brain to come out as a shiny golden masterpiece. Maybe there are a lot of circumstances stacked up against you and you’re just trying to be better, or there’s something you want to change in your life and it’s very different from anything you’ve ever seen anyone else do.

Maybe you are considering a big life change or even a small one. Maybe what you are thinking about could put a strain on your relationships or a strain on your ego.

My point is, starting something is friggen scary. Doing anything new can be terrifying. Especially when you are changing something about yourself or making yourself vulnerable.

Going to a yoga class for the first time? Scary – because most people in a yoga class have already experienced that. Starting a fitness regime, even in the comfort of your own home, is scary. Because what if you can’t do it? What if it hurts? What if you abandon it a week in?

Returning to something you’ve done before is also scary. Especially if it’s something you have been good at. You risk bruising your ego, and that sounds like the smallest thing in the big picture, but it’s a big deal and a big risk.

I’m freaking out about returning to teaching. Everything I’ve built in the beginning part of this year, everything I’ve trained my students to do, I just don’t know if they will still have that. I may have to start from scratch.

This is a big one – starting to be the change.

Having the courage to start to be the change.

I’m addressing this in light of the student walkout on Wednesday. I know my district was supportive of students who chose to walk out for their safety in schools. I know other districts may not have been so supportive. Students who chose to participate and speak out against gun violence in schools – They took a huge risk. That is scary. It takes courage.

It takes courage to model the change you want to see if it’s different from the norm. It would be much easier to just keep doing everything the same. But guess what? You have to take risks to grow. We, as a society, have to take risks to grow. There has been a lot of failure but that doesn’t mean it’s all over.

Because the truth is, there is no finish line. There’s no finish line until the sun engulfs the earth. Even after the last human dies, there is still a planet here. Even after we die, there will still be more humans whose lives are valuable and worth fighting for.

Even after my ego gets bruised from a day full of teaching mistakes, or from someone telling me my trumpet playing is full of clams or that I really need to check my privilege, there is my opportunity to START FIXING THINGS.

Have you recently been battling to find the courage to start something new or important? Have you recently taken a risk to change something in your life? Was it scary? I would love to hear about it. Please let me know in the comments!

Stephy

 

Goals, Lifestyle

My Messy Mindset

This post is the space where I’m going to discuss a certain consistent, prominent factor in my life. It is my relationship with clutter, and you guys, this is a doozy.

Some people have unhealthy relationships with food, which factor into all kinds of decisions they make. Some people have very strong fears or stressors, and have to dramatically alter their lifestyle and plans to avoid stress-triggers. Some people love Nickelback and nobody can understand why. These qualities can be prominent to others, but are not always so prominent to the people directly affected.

This is the phenomenon that occurs when I give my coworker a ride and she says with true, sincere admiration, “I think it’s amazing that you can just have your car like this. I would be so anxious.”

What’s the Problem?

I have a very specific style of messiness. It’s hard to describe.

My car has papers from everywhere – oil changes, doctor receipts, planners, an actual package of colored paper to copy on for work, sheet music. A full-size keyboard that belongs at one of my schools. Three scarves. A can of soup I brought for lunch once and then couldn’t find so I’d assumed I forgot it at home. Random shit people give me that has no home.

My desk has all kinds of craft supplies, pens from conferences, music books, teaching books, hobby books, hobby stuff, stamps.

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I am so productive!

My dresser has a basket with random hair stuff, maybe some old jewelry I never wear, a box for jewelry I do wear, two boxes with random scarves or specialty clothes like scarves and an Ugly Christmas Sweater.

My kitchen counter has all kinds of papers and all kinds of stuff. Even when it’s “clean,” it’s messy.

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This is truly a good day.

The problem is, when I get into someone else’s car and they apologize for it being “so messy” when there’s only a few things in the back seat and virtually nothing else, it seems my standards for messiness are askew from the norm.

Why am I like this?

Two reasons: Projects and Habits.

I was always a crafty kid. I loved making beaded jewelry. I loved drawing with all kinds of media. I loved sitting on the floor of my room, with all kinds of supplies, and making something pretty.

The problem was, those projects were often time-consuming and involved lots of little components. It didn’t make sense for me to put supplies away if the project wasn’t finished yet. So the stuff would sit out, sometimes for weeks, until the project was done. During this time I would usually have developed another, shorter project, that I could do when I got stuck on the first project. It was not uncommon for me to trip over a project in progress as these things typically took place on the floor.

Why put things away when you can keep them out? That was my mindset. Unfortunately that type of habit setup doesn’t transfer smoothly to anything besides running a personal art studio, and even then it’s questionable. Why do the dishes when you could wait for there to be more dishes? Why sweep the floor when you can wait for there to be more stuff on it?

Of course I was never consciously thinking those things, I just never made the space in my mind to make tidiness a habit.

Breaking It Down

It was everywhere growing up, too. My house was never clean. My dad had all kinds of projects going on in the den and the garage, always. There was constantly mail, books, catalogs, and unfinished business on the coffee table, dining room table, and kitchen counter. Clothes, shoes and school supplies were all over the place.

(Please note, growing up was pretty great. My parents and sisters are GREAT. My dad worked all the time and usually didn’t come home until late. My mom was usually taking night classes when I was in middle school. It would be unfair to expect my parents to keep the house clean in the situation we had.)

I hated messes but somehow never saw my own messes. When I got my own room, I was so excited that I would finally be able to have a clean room. Nope.

For a long time I felt shame about this. People did not want to be my roommate because of how messy I was. Then I decided to stop feeling stressed about that. I coped by deciding that I am just a messy person, and that’s how I will always be.

Then I went on temporary disability. To keep myself productive, I made a daily chart-format to-do list.

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I put “Dining Room Table,” “Dishes,” and “Cat Box” on my list. And just last Wednesday, like a ton of bricks, it dawned on me as I was doing dishes (no pun intended).

I don’t have to be a messy person. I just don’t currently have strong cleaning habits.

I can clean up my messy mindset. I can take control of my environment.

The Zero Waste Factor

Deciding to follow a zero waste lifestyle has made it much easier to address this part of my life. How?

First, I’ve started to take an extra critical look at the things that occupy space in my house. There are some things I can sell, but I honestly am privileged enough to say I don’t need $5 for that bottle of face wash I used for a week that makes me break out. If someone wants something I have and don’t need, I want them to have it. I will be systematically purging things that make clutter from my house, but working to throw away as little as I can.

Second, I’m aligning myself to the idea of using what I have. I have a lot of stuff. I have clothes, shoes, and five sets of shampoo/conditioner. That means I don’t need to get more for a long while. I don’t need more pens, either. I thought I might need a new cup mute for my trumpet, but a quick brush on the corks with sandpaper will give my current mute a much stronger grip.

Third, I’m disconnecting myself from acquiring more. Purchase-wise, that means I’m only going to be buying food and basic essentials. I’ve been receiving a lot of mail lately. I signed up for online billing. I subscribed to Catalog Choice and every time I get mail that I don’t need, I add it to my account. Accumulation of stuff makes the clutter come back.

Making a Change

So I have laid out my plans for reducing clutter in my house. That is great, but it’s not the only component of this problem.

The way to sustain a pattern of stopping big messes before they start, is to make it a habit.

“Duh,” says every person I’ve ever interacted with, who is by default a tidier person than me.

I don’t know why it took me 30 years for it to finally click that I don’t need to be messy. But if there’s one thing I am good at, it’s building habits. That’s how I got so decent at the clarinet in college – I habitually went to school at 10pm when parking was free, and practiced until midnight when the buildings closed.

Making a to-do list is a really simple way for me to keep up. If I get “most” things on the to-do list done in a day, I feel like a productive human.

But what really got me building habits was the chart. Because “Dishes” is on the chart every day. I can’t have one day that omits “Dishes” from my to-do list.

I hope this has reached someone who struggles with a problem like this. You are not alone. We can all build better habits and become better, happier people. Someday I will give someone a ride and there will be no comments on the cleanliness of the car. Someday I will have a dresser with only a few things on it that I use frequently. Someday my desk will be organized and functional.

This will be the week I plan on fixing those things. Who’s with me?

-Stephy

Lifestyle

My New Year’s Resolution 2018

I spent a lot more time thinking through these personal goals that this post got really long. I think I’ll just discuss my New Year’s Resolution briefly here and then give it its own post.

My New Year’s resolution for 2018: Be a more conscious consumer.

By “conscious,” I mean my first focus is going to be on reducing my impact on the earth’s resources by NOT partaking (as much as I reasonably can) in products that can’t be re-used, composted, or repurposed, or in products that take a lot of resources to make. (Hence my specific goal of not buying any clothes.)

Next focus will be on supporting necessary products that support sustainability.

When I’ve obtained as much information as I need, we will be investing in some kind of tool that will help us compost our food waste.

Why?

I grew up in a small town. In a forest. In the 90’s, when every year the whole school would gather in the cafeteria and watch that video with the dinosaurs singing “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse!”

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Recycle Rex is kinda proud that stupid song was stuck in my head for 20 years.

One of the first rules I learned at school was “Don’t litter.” Any kind of store besides the local grocery store was about 12 miles down the hill. I did not grow up consuming a lot. I didn’t even realize that I lived my life exceptionally close to the natural world.

I went to college in a town that shared very environment-focused views. I walked everywhere. I brought my own grocery bags with me (10 years before they even made that law!). I re-used plastic produce bags and bought my kitchen supplies at a thrift store.

Then when I moved to this larger town where I currently live, with more amenities, and started making money, I started to lose it. I fell into the consumerism pit. I bought nice clothes for work. I bought so many craft supplies. (I paid off my car!) I started clicking on advertisements on Facebook and getting the things. No, Stephanie. It’s a trap!

Sometimes the silliest things can bring you back to your original principles. Luckily I know some people in the world who really hold themselves to that which we should all strive for – a life where our existence as an individual and species makes as small of an impact as possible so others (human and not) can share the space. And I saw a video about straws and how devastating they are for the wildlife in our oceans.

And then I saw a video about microplastics. (That link isn’t the video I saw, but it explains some of it.) Basically, when we throw away synthetic textiles they don’t decompose. But as those polyester jumpsuits in the landfill start to come apart over time, tiny synthetic particles get washed away into…you guessed it…our oceans. Microscopic organisms eat the particles, bigger organisms consume those and collect more particles over their lifetimes, and the particles accumulate more as we go up the food chain.

And that’s when I became horrified.

Watching “Planet Earth II” hit the nail in the coffin for me. Now there’s no way I’m not going to do everything I possibly can to reduce my personal impact.

“Zero Waste”

A childhood friend of mine is part of the Zero Waste movement – a movement where individuals reduce, reduce, reduce, then reuse, then recycle (or compost), in that order, with a goal of sending as little waste into the landfill as possible.

I’ve been checking out a number of Zero Waste blogs and Youtube videos. It’s very doable but requires a bit of work in the beginning. I’m excited to make this part of my life. I find the name “Zero Waste” a bit deceptive – it really is just about taking steps toward “Minimal Waste.”

I’m going to share some of the steps I’ve been taking and plan to take to reach this goal. (I created a very comprehensive checklist for my house – If you’d like me to share this let me know!)

Refuse/Reduce

One very big way I plan to reduce my impact this year is to not buy any clothes. New or used. I don’t need any new clothes, especially after buying all those clothes for my surgery recovery time. It takes a huge amount of natural and human resources to produce new clothing, and again can we mention the synthetic fibers in the ocean? So this year, no new clothes.

I bought one pair of flats last month for work and those are the only new shoes I will have this year. I bought some fancy secondhand sunglasses off of eBay and I’m pretty sure I’m set for life there.

I will reduce my purchasing of new craft supplies for work. I have all the supplies I will need, for several years probably, to write nice notes for my students on fancy paper.

I’m switching all of my bills to electronic statements. I took my name off the mailing list for junk mail.

Reuse

So, that closet full of clothes? I don’t wear them all. I plan to actually repurpose some of them into produce bags for myself and maybe others if my sewing skills are up to par. Brian’s old ratty undershirts are going to be rags for when the kitties have an accident.

We got two lovely sets of cotton napkins for our wedding, which have already proven not only great for traditional napkin purposes, but for tea towel purposes.

Anything that comes in a jar will be repurposed to hold raw ingredients. I plan to reuse spice jars for spice mixes. Later I will buy spices in bulk.

I’ve been using my own water bottle for years! (It’s a plastic Camelbak, unfortunately.) I like the straw for drinking water while driving…but if I lose it I’ll replace it with a steel one.

I’ve been baking oil-free muffins in silicone baking cups for months. They are amazing!

I have invested in reusable feminine pads. Unfortunately they didn’t arrive in time for me to try them, so it’s one last cycle with conventional protection. My remaining feminine products will be donated to a local shelter.

Still to Do

SO much. Including establishing a compost system, figuring out a routine for buying in bulk in our town which is a bulk bin desert, and creating little car kits for eating out. There is a lot to be desired about how we handle our pet waste.

It seems overwhelming to move toward this lifestyle, but I think we can check something new off the list fairly often. Every check is a step that reduces our impact. Everything we do is important and we have to acknowledge the small steps we take. I’ll be updating on this regularly.

Have a lovely day!

Stephy

Lifestyle, Veganism

On My Veganniversary

Good evening friends,

Today for me marks the anniversary of a surprising doctor’s visit. She said, “I wanted to talk to you about your cholesterol. It’s high.”

I was so surprised to hear that at the time. I had been a vegetarian since 2005, the day after I graduated high school. But the truth was, I still ate eggs for breakfast every morning. And cheese with a few meals a week. And put half and half in my coffee.

I asked, “Is there anything I can do?” The doctor, also a vegetarian, suggested a plant based protein powder for breakfast instead of eggs.

I chewed on that information for awhile. And I used the protein powder for awhile. I started to think about why I stopped eating animals in the first place. I thought about how much I had wanted to give up all animal products, but I knew so little in 2005 about what a plant-based lifestyle was.

I made a plan to “eat plant based two meals a day.” That escalated quickly to veganism. Quickly, like within two days. Because, I figured, if I’m going to eat in a way that’s health promoting and reduces suffering in the world (the latter of which eventually far outweighed the former), why only partake 2/3rds of the time? Why only do the best thing most of the time when you can easily and happily do the best thing all the time?

Starting Out

What had stopped me from taking the full leap to veganism in 2005? Lack of education. When I was a kid, in college grocery shopping for the first time, I had no idea legumes could be a cheap and easy staple. I looked at packages of vegan cheese and thought, “That’s so much more expensive than cow milk cheese!” I just didn’t know.

This time, as a 29-year-old woman with a job and an Amazon Prime membership, I knew what I wanted. I did not want a diet full of processed food. I wanted something that would support my active lifestyle and keep me healthy for as long as possible. So I typed in the search engine, “Vegan whole food cookbook.”

(And quickly learned that the term was “Whole foods plant based.”)

I bought an embarrassing number of cookbooks. Some of them were way over my head with the amount of work the recipes required. Some of them called for ingredients that were already in my house! (I gravitated toward those ones.) I liked “Forks Over Knives” for the simplicity in their recipes. I loved “Oh She Glows” because it helped me branch out when I wanted something more impressive.

I read “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger. Twice. I learned about food that has been shown to be health promoting through science.

I changed what I bought at the grocery store. Beans of some sort are always on the list. Instead of two eggs for breakfast every morning, it was now overnight oats with berries, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, shredded wheat cereal, cinnamon and walnuts. Replaced 1/2 and 1/2 with the soy creamer from Trader Joe’s, easiest switch ever. I warmed back up to grains like rice, quinoa and barley, which I had mistakenly dismissed under the influence of my keto and paleo friends. Nutritional yeast, which I had loved in my days at Humboldt but slowly phased out when my partner expressed a distaste for it, came back with a fierce yellow vengeance. Instead of any oil for cooking, vegetable broth became my jam.

I got better at bringing my lunch to work. Unconsciously I had started relying on a bagel and cream cheese from Starbucks to eat for lunch in between sites. It became easy to bring last night’s leftovers to work because I would throw just about everything in the fridge into my dinners.

I experimented a lot but also had healthful fallbacks. I’ve developed a love for creating food.

My mom and stepdad gave up meat and dairy this summer. I relished in an opportunity to put together a vegan Thanksgiving for them. It was truly the least stressful Thanksgiving I’d ever had.

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My Thanksgiving plate, complete with Tofurky on my husband’s request
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I made a friggen’ vegan pumpkin pie from scratch!

Beyond Plant-Based

Inevitably I ran into the awkward situation of saying I was vegan while wearing leather shoes. They were thick-soled black Mary Janes, shoes that I had bought before I went vegan. Shoes that I wore to work nearly daily. (Extra shame points for being a vegetarian so long and still partaking in this.)

I came to realize there was more to be done in this journey to be less of a burden on the world. I donated my jackets that had down feathers. I switched my leather purse I’d purchased in a thrift store for a nylon bag. I realized it wouldn’t be practical to donate my leather shoes because I needed them for work, so my plan is to use my shoes until they become unusable, and not buy any leather in the future.

I thought about toiletries. I changed to a more ethically produced soap that isn’t tested on animals. I switched to a natural deodorant. I’m still trying to find the right hair products for me, but you can bet when I find the one it will have that starry bunny logo on it.

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This is the logo to look for!

The Hardest Parts

For me, by far the hardest part about going vegan has been my fear of judgement from non-vegans. I try to have a thick skin and stick to my guns and research but I’m a really sensitive person and care about what people think. For that reason, I generally avoid mentioning veganism unless it comes up.

I don’t like when people say sorry for eating meat in front of me. My lifestyle choice doesn’t have to be the source of your sorrow, and now you’ve shined the awkward spotlight on me. I’m still brainstorming better ways to respond to this behavior.

The restaurants in my area are not incredibly vegan-friendly. The one a few towns up that is, sells mostly salads and smoothies. (No thanks, for $8 I can make my own at home, plus 3 more for my friends.) Dining out is a chore and I generally try to avoid it if I can. I much prefer to cook a nice meal for others. I want to open friends’ eyes to the fact that vegan food can be nourishing, filling, and delicious.

After 1 Year

Now I feel like I don’t have to work so hard to navigate this lifestyle. I can put together any kind of meal. I’m not afraid to ask if something is dairy-free. I feel supported by my loved ones and enjoy seeing the changes they have made in their lives, too. I look forward to enjoying a lifetime of veganism. There are still challenges when it comes to people who are less educated about the horrors of factory farming and what it takes to get animal products to the table. I still struggle to find the right words when people sincerely ask me “Why are you vegan?” But I’m working on those things. It’s always a process.

I haven’t followed up with my bloodwork yet. I’d be interested to see if it’s changed since last January.

Thoughts? Questions? Please feel free to share! See you next time.

Stephy

Lifestyle

My SMART Goals for 2018

Hey friends! Get your ponchos because you are in the splash zone of one of my teaching tools and it’s about to get drippy in here.

In this seventh year of my teaching career, I’ve started structuring my units and content around the goals of the students. And while it’s easy as a 5th grade beginning band student to say your goal for two weeks from now (or one year from now) is to “be better at the trumpet,” you may feel overwhelmed about the process of creating an action plan unless your goal includes these criteria:

  • Is it Specific? What about your trumpet playing do you want to improve? Maybe range? Articulation? Breath support? Endurance? Tone (the answer to this one is always)?
  • Is it Measureable? How will you know if something is better? Can you put it up to a metronome and measure how fast you’re playing that passage? Can you play a note for 10 seconds longer than you could before?
  • Is it Achievable? No, young student, you will probably not be able to play the Haydn concerto two weeks from now. But you will probably be able to expand your range by two whole steps if you worked on it!
  • Is it Results-based? I visualize an improved version of myself doing the thing I’d like to achieve with my goal. It has to be something you can attach to an end result.
  • Is it Time-bound? This one, in my opinion, is the MOST important when you are first starting to set SMART goals. Even if you fail to achieve the first goal you set, at the end of your time frame you now have new information about what you need to change and how long it will take for you to try again next time. Couldn’t get that passage up to 120 BPM, but could get it to 90 from a starting place of 78? Okay, next goal will be 108. (A little more than what they achieved next time because they now know the route to get there.)

So that’s my format with goal-setting that I use with my students. I give them space to discuss as a group what their goals as a whole band will be, and then they have some time to journal about what their personal goals should be as well. And what if they don’t reach the goals they set? This is okay in my class. Failure to reach a SMART goal is not really failure. It’s just a way to inform what our next goal should be. This takes the bad, “I’m not good enough for this,” personal feeling out of it and focuses students on the tasks.

This year I have a few personal goals and a New Year’s Resolution to reduce the amount of waste I produce as a consumer. For this post, I will be sharing my personal goals for the year.

My Personal Goals for 2018

Physical Fitness

The context of this is that I went into this year having just had a major shoulder surgery. Before my shoulder became such an issue, I was exploring my limits as a runner. I had finished two half marathon races and seen improved results (and physical feelings after) between the two. I also was practicing yoga 2-3 times per week, strong practices, in a studio environment and was frequently exploring those limits as well.

Of course having to keep my shoulder immobile for 6 weeks is going to put a damper on my fitness regime. So here are my physical fitness goals for this year:

  • Run a half marathon race in the fall (October or November) with a time of 2 hours 30 minutes. A half marathon (13.1 miles) is a familiar distance for me and this is all about getting close to where I was. My first half marathon time was 2:26, and the second was 2:15, so I’m giving myself plenty of buffer room. I’m walking about 3-5 miles per day right now. Obviously I can’t run until my sling is off Jan. 25, but once that’s off I plan to start small. (1 mile at a time in the beginning…that seems like such a small distance but will probably feel much longer when I start back up.)
  • Resume a regular yoga practice of 2-3 times per week, gentle enough to protect my shoulder but strong enough to strengthen my other muscle groups, by June. The 6 month mark after my December 15th surgery is when, according to my PT plan, I should be able to “resume all activities.” So if I follow through with the plan and follow all protocol I should be okay.

It’s important to know that when you’re working with a time frame as long as a year, there might be a need to adjust your goals as you find yourself getting closer faster or slower than you expected. You go with what feels good to you. You will probably not stick to your goal if your routine feels like torture, or if you don’t find it challenging enough.

Financial Goals

I’m going to be candid about my financial context: 7 years after finishing schooling, I’m finally starting to feel like paying off my 8 outstanding student loans is achievable. All of my loans are currently less than $5,000, most are between $1-2k. I have paid off 2 of them completely (once when I got a substantial tax return, and again when I got overlapping paychecks from a change of employment). It feels GOOD.

Last year, I got married, we combined incomes into one bank account, we got a roommate whose rent check goes directly into savings, and we got a new car. So lots of financial activity going on in my life. Still, the thing that by far has the most interest to pay off and is the stupidest thing to have hanging over my head is that student loan debt. So with that in mind, here are my financial goals for this year:

  • Pay off at least one student loan. Okay, so it’s a specific debt, measurable because when it’s paid it will be gone, results-based because it’s about getting rid of it, time-bound because I will do it by the end of this year. But how will I achieve this? Maybe this next one will help –
  • Don’t buy any clothes. This should be the easiest one. It’s a goal achieved by NOT doing something. Same goes for sunglasses, jewelry, and probably shoes. I may make an exception for running shoes if my current pair wears out.
    I’d love to be a person who is so organized I could say “I’ll take the money I saved from not buying clothes and put it towards this other thing!” But I don’t buy clothes unless I’m in a place where I don’t need a clothing budget. Therefore, I have no idea how much I spent on clothes last year. I judge myself often for this quality of my character. I’m working on it.
  • Put money aside (specific amount I will keep private) for a big summer adventure. One of my best friends is getting married this summer, and I am the maid of honor! So I’m going to be traveling for awhile.
  • Start saving for a new clarinet this fall. My clarinet I’ve had since 2005 broke last summer. Like, the wood cracked and the repair cost is more than the value of the actual clarinet. I’m heartbroken as playing chamber music is a really big part of my life. But here is an opportunity to become a better musician with a better tool. And until then, I have my trumpet.

Professional Goals

I’m basically taking a gap year in the middle of the school year – I worked for 4 months, will be on disability for 3 months, and will be back at work for only 3 months. So my professional goals for the remainder of this school year?

  • Stay calm and take at least 2 weeks to assess the progress students have made in my absence. I will breathe. I will reinforce behavior expectations I set at the beginning of the year. I will remember that kids are only human and it’s easy to forget the small stuff in band. I will be candid about mistakes when I make them in front of the students.
  • Reduce clutter in the context of my unusual teaching situation. Actually organize the file box that lives in my trunk. Keep the original music parts in a folder in the file box and do not accidentally give them to students. Only bring materials I will absolutely need to my classroom situation.
  • Brainstorm and memorize at least 3 activities students can do in the inevitable situation that some kid’s valve gets stuck and I have to fix it right then and there.
  • Figure out a better classroom system for teaching clarinet players to play over the break. What will the other kids be doing at that time???

I know, my job is very specific.

Staying SMART

It would be irresponsible for me to say, “This is how you create a SMART goal and these are mine!” And then for me to leave the post without giving you any ideas or tools for staying accountable to your goals.

I have to admit that this part is very challenging for me as a person. I reach out in a thousand directions and don’t often follow through with every route I explore. Everyone has different methods of self-monitoring that work for them. Here are some things that work for me:

  • Google Calendar. (Or a paper calendar!!! Or a planner!) There are probably a thousand easier ways to keep track of your time-bound goals, but looking at a calendar helps me the most. I use the reminder feature constantly to remind myself to do my shoulder exercises, to help process how many days I did this or that or the other, keep track of what lesson I taught the third grade classes last week, and (VERY important since I am an itinerant teacher) where to be.
    I only went to the wrong school once so far this school year!
    A thing I do that helps me immensely: I color code my time commitments. Each school is its own color, doctor appointments are lavender, social plans are orange, music ensembles are dark purple, and I think volunteer things are yellow. When I start running again, I think they will be “Flamingo” colored.
  • Mint. I love this app. You can keep track of all your money-related accounts, your credit card, student loan debts, savings, etc. They inform you of your credit score (which for me has risen 250 points since using this tool). They have a tool you can use to help fund your financial goals – a specific “Goals” tool. They also categorize your expenses for you. (Maybe I could find out how much I spent on clothes last year after all…)
  • The 8,000 health tracker apps out there. Yeah, if you have a smart phone, there aren’t any excuses if you plan on achieving your goals. I use Runkeeper because they have good half marathon plans. I will take the workouts they schedule for me and jot them in my Google Calendar so I know when I’m done teaching that day, “Oh, I have to go home and run 4 miles.” Or if I have the foresight to look the day before, “Oh, I should bring my running clothes with me so I can run 4 miles before I get home.”
    I don’t feel a big need to track my food intake, but I’ve heard good things about Chron-o-meter if that’s a goal for you. Shop around for apps that will help you achieve your goals!
  • A journal or notebook. If one of your goals is to limit your screen time (which I’m having trouble with lately) you may consider using a notebook or journal to help keep track of your goal progress. There are a plethora of ways you can do this. Some ideas:
    • Give each goal its own page or group of pages.
    • Write down specific action steps for each goal.
    • When you’ve worked on one action step, record what you did to get there. And maybe, how did it feel? What did you learn? How might you approach this differently next time? What failed? What felt comfortable or uncomfortable? (Sorry, my teacher is showing.)
  • Friends. Share your goals with your friends. Do it. Do it! Share your progress. Share your failures. The more you talk about your goals to the people close to you, the more presence they will have in your everyday life. Your friends will be curious and ask about your progress. Your friends will hold you accountable. Your friends may even feel empowered to work with you toward their own, similar goals. A mutually beneficial friendship. What better thing is there?

I hope this post has been helpful for you in your journey. What did I miss? What have you done that’s worked for you? Please share in the comments! And have a lovely week.

Stephy