I was thinking long and hard about this post, not sure if I wanted to focus on me or on girls and women in general. In my 42 years, I have never made resolutions for the new year, but I constantly have goals that I want to achieve. I have always been goal-driven, but I don’t limit myself to New Year Resolutions. That said, I wanted to share some goals that I am applying in my life that I thought I would share with both the men (are there any?) and women who read this blog. When implementing goals into my life, I don’t do it because I have to, but rather because I am always endeavoring to empower myself, to find my voice and my place in this very precarious life. By setting goals and attempting to achieve them, I am feeding myself, for the hunger that yawns and aches inside me goes beyond hunger for food.
Here are some ideas to work with:
1. Read: No matter what I am teaching, I try to introduce writers that my students will seek out after our course ends. A writer who speaks to them, for them, and of their experiences. Someone who will empower them in ways that literature has always empowered me. When I was young, I didn’t think about the ways literature helped me make empowering choices and gave me words for my experiences. I analyzed its place in my life afterwords, after years of introspection and literary analysis. Literature helped me most when I became a mother and I felt like a failure pretty much every day. I found Kate Chopin, Betty Friedan, Shari Yalom, and countless other women writers who wrote about motherhood in ways that I was able to feel more comfortable with being a green mom. So read! Whether it’s 50 Shades of Grey or As I Lay Dying, just read. Keep reading until you find the one writer who makes you see the world through different and enlightened lens. It is most empowering.
2. Write: Whether you are a writer or not, every single one of us should write. You don’t have to write books, short stories, or even poems. You can just write diary entries or journals or even blog posts. You don’t have to publish your blog posts — you can write in a blog every day, get your thoughts out, and just let it sit there — unpublished. For your eyes only. The key is to write. I know so many people who wrote when they were young, and yet as they became older, they stopped. Life, kids, family, work all get in the way fo our writing, but writing is such a useful tool for gaining a better and deeper understanding of the inner machinations of our desires — the ideas and thoughts that govern us, motivate us, and even disempower us. French writer Gustave Flaubert said “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” In other words, by writing, we are attempting to draw a map of ourselves and the yearnings that we don’t usually offer to those who live alongside us — no matter how much we love them. Much of what I write offers me a different vantage point of my experiences; I get to look at myself and what makes me tick with a different set of eyes.
Writing is also confessional and a very advantageous outlet. There are dark thoughts that live inside all of us. If we don’t speak the dark, and we don’t write about it, then it remains inside us, festering and harming us from within. So write! Write a sentence a day, a paragraph a week, or more. Just write, and make sure you write for you! It is truly empowering.
3. Visualize a Dream: One thing my husband has taught me is that to make a dream come true, you have to visualize it. You have to see it. You have to jump ahead and see yourself achieve the dream; feel how it feels when the dream is achieved. My dream was always to be a writer, and sometimes visualizing this dream is like a jacked up roller coaster going nowhere. But I visualize it. I see myself reading at book stores and signing copies. I see myself writing more, and then I end up actually writing — because I see it. Whether you dream is writing, climbing the highest mountain, painting, or just getting a degree, visualize it, and then take it one step farther by doing it. We constantly tell our kids to dream big, but the only way they will believe us is if we follow our own advice. The dream doesn’t have to be life-altering, but no matter how old we are, we only have this one life, so fill it with your dreams.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have been struggling to publish my book for the past ten years. This year, I am moving forward. I have already begun writing another book, and I am presently attempting to publish the children’s book I wrote a year ago. I’m getting something done this year, no matter what I attempt in terms of getting published.
4. Take Classes: I consider myself a self-learner. If I am not learning, I am not happy. I learn when I teach, and I learn by enrolling in classes I enjoy. I’ve taken freelance writing courses, writing children’s books courses, and now I am finishing my women’s studies certificate. I am even going to continue my PhD studies this year. Taking courses in what I am interested in reminded me how invested I am in scholarship and women’s issues. How much I want to join and write about and teach issues that concern women and the violence they experience as the second sex. Make a list of your interests, and then take some classes at the local community college. Get a certificate, a degree, or just classes to enhance your knowledge of the topic that interests you. knowledge is enlightening and can lead you to paths you never considered for yourself, but which will open new doors for you.
5. Join an Organization: Since I left The New Agenda, I have been looking for a new organization to join. I am still looking, cautiously, because I want to join one that completely suits me, and most don’t. But let me tell you that I never felt more alive than when I was writing for this organization or when the founder asked me to join their Board of Directors. It’s most empowering to be part of a movement that advocates women’s rights — in politics and on the streets. Joining an organization gives us an opportunity to move beyond words, beyond thoughts. Activism is the key to liberating others and our selves, and organizations allow us to channel our gifts and our needs to issues that are bigger than our individual needs.
6. Feed Your Self: By making these goals, you are feeding yourself. In 2012, I challenged my self by presenting a paper at the SAMLA conference on memoirs and how women memoirists use food in their work with which to empower themselves. This was a personal project for me because I often wonder about hunger and how we attempt to feed our bodies and our needs. We use food to feed ourselves, but sometimes our hungers are not physical; they are emotional. It’s why we respond to emotional havoc in our lives by overeating or undereating; it’s why we have eating disorders like bolemia or anorexia.
We don’t realize how important these hungers are, and we use food to fill these voids because it is easily accessible and because we are thinking simply about the hunger that we experience. But how wonderful would it be if we could fill the voids inside us not with food, but with what we actually need? I have many hungers and they represent themselves to me in terms of goals, achievements, things that make me feel worthy of love I have been denied. Yes, it’s immensely entrenched in psychology, which is what makes it fascinating for me. I feed myself by teaching, writing, and by going to school. All of this gives my life meaning, substance, and makes me feel like my time here is worth something. Everything I witnessed is worth it.
How will you feed yourself? What are — not your resolutions — but your goals?