January 2021 Status Update: 2020, How’d I do?

This last year has been a crazy year. I’ve had to make major life decisions that have affected my trajectory for the near future. No easy calls but hopefully decisions that lead to a better tomorrow.

A New Year, an improved me

Since I can remember, I have always tried to draft resolutions for the new year. In High School, they were typically one goal and it wasn’t until college that I started adding multiple. Years of failed attempts left me upset, until I took the SMART method from my studies and applied it to my resolutions. Even then, this was far from perfect. In 2019, I went a step further and implemented what I called a “tangible” goal to help measure my success. SMART covers the how, but it doesn’t necessarily cover the why. This year, I want to take time to look back on my 2019 goals that I carried over to 2020. And more than simply focus on what I didn’t do, I want to take the time to focus on my successes.

Language

German and French were the two languages I wanted to add to my language toolbelt. My main motivation is I’d like to spend more time in both countries and not feel like a tourist. Since I’ve already lived in Germany, my main focus for the last couple years was German. In that time, I’ve watched my first German TV show and as of late December, have completely finished the German language tree on Duolingo. That doesn’t mean I’m done with German but it does mean that I now have a foundational base and can begin moving on towards quantifying my language expertise. As a chronic dabbler, I have a bad habit of simply dipping my toes in the water without ever getting wet, so this is beyond exciting. So my Language goal for German? Has been met!

Because I’ve finished German on Duolingo, this shifts my priority to French. French I find extremely difficult to pick up. I’ve been learning it sporadically over the last couple years and while I have some idea of the language, it is elementary at best. Over the next year, it is my hope to build a base much as I did for my German. Luckily, I enjoy learning languages, so it’ll be fun to see how far I go.

For 2021, my stretch language goals are to learn Latin and eventually Japanese. Japanese is completely unnecessary, but it’d be fun to know the basics should I ever travel there. Since for the most part I spend 10 to 15 minutes everyday on Duolingo, I’m not too worried about meeting these goals to some extent.

My overall tangible goal for the year is to take an aptitude test to know where I stand.

Coding

Perhaps the most exciting development, I have wanted to code for the longest time dating back to when I did Lego robotics as a Cub Scout. A missed Summer camp, dropping out of Computer Science II in High School, and a couple decades have finally brought me the furthest I’ve ever been. Online coursework through Codecademy and I finally have a base. Python, SQL, and JavaScript are the 3 languages I’ve started with and I’m actually having fun. For 125 days I learned Python and I hope to get back on the horse after taking a couple months to relax. If I can get 8 months of coding in, then the year subscription will have been worth it. With that said, coding has been a resounding success in my book!

Three coding specific goals for this year: finish my Computer Science coursework and get a certificate, then finish my course in SQL and “How to build a video game with JavaScript”. I had two main childhood dreams: catch all the Pok√©mon (which I did this year) and make a video game. So all in all, not too shabby for the year.

Painting Drawing Art

I did not get into painting this year! The plan was to originally sign up for art classes and then bam, the plague rolled into town. That said, I did adjust the goal to broaden the scope. The only reason I want to paint is because I’ve heard it is very therapeutic. I’ve since adjusting my goal to include penciling and doodling. To that extent, I’ve succeeded as I bought markers and spend about 5 minutes from time to time drawing lines and circles on a paper. It’s fun, easy, and relaxing.

This year, I want to focus on penciling as that’s the easiest as far as getting started. The plan is to take all my old homework notebooks that I just have sitting around and convert them into my personal art sketchbooks. I’ve subscribed to Skillshare, so a class is literally a click away. I remember being quite good at drawing as a child, so I’d ideally like to recapture some of that childhood spark.

2021, one new goal

Yes, 2020 had other goals that I never met, like camping and running a half marathon (albeit the half marathon can be forgiven) as well as cooking. Looking back, this were just taking a shot in the dark. If I exercise, I exercise but forcing myself to run was too much to ask. Gone are my cross country days and while I eventually want to tackle the half marathon beast, it’ll come when everything else falls into place. Camping is great in theory but in practice it was too difficult to get out given my anxiety. I thought camping would help with my anxiety, but it is clear now that I have to work on my anxiety first before camping can become remotely possible. Cooking is another marathon situation. I have no urgency to cook and while ideally I’ll get into it as a hobby sooner or later, having it as a resolution adds more stress than joy. If I cook a meal every once in a blue moon, I am ok with that. That aside, my new goal for 2021 is…

Music!

I am a nut for all things that can improve cognitive function. My two goals are to learn piano and eventually the violin. My brother bought an electric keyboard a while back and never played. Growing up we had a grand piano that I would play around with until one day we didn’t. So now, I’m going to right a childhood wrong and learn to play without an instructor because online tutorials are actually quite good! Violin I will most likely need someone to teach me but piano has thousands of tutorials and offers the least resistance to learning. It’ll be tough but if it can make me smarter, then it’s worth it.

My tangible for the year is to take a month course and do exactly what the teacher says. I want to simply have fun and find the joy in playing an instrument, which I’m sure I can do.

Epilogue

A new year, fewer goals. 4 in total. gone are the days of exercise resolutions and resolutions I don’t need. This year is a focus on what I enjoy and developing skills that I can carry out of my twenties. It’s a year of change and solidifying who I am and where I want to go. I am ready to move past 2020 and into a new year, so here’s to hoping 2021 is better!

Mike Cole’s Year of New

2018 has come to a close. And it’s a year best left buried. While I found “success” I’ve struggled. I feel my soul slowly seeping and what was once new has become routine. Now is a time for me to define 2019 before 2020 rolls around all too soon. To look at my life and see where I want to be in a year.

Last year I had written an article and meant to post it in January, to declare to the world “How to New Year Properly”. And the moment came and past. And I did not “New Year” properly. I played it safe and while I kept some goals for a time, most fell through and I was left to the mercy of the world.

So ultimately, my year is themed and having a month to reflect, I don’t think the “Year of New” is enough; I want this to be the “Year of Finishing” as well; A “Year of New Beginnings” so to speak. To clear out the clutter and find stable ground in an unstable world. In addition to a theme, I have chosen a word to represent the year, “Forward”. Forward can mean many things to many people but my focus is towards progress and being up front; not bottling in my emotions and saying what’s on my mind. It’s a year to stand up and put my foot down.

Goals for 2019

Language

I have not been diligent with my practicing. I am off and on again with my languages and in addition to Learning German, I have also decided to pick up French. Obviously I feel it’s important, however, I have lacked the motivation to maintain consistent practice as I am unable to see the long term benefit in the short term. I’ve tried fixing this by joining the Duolingo clubs and time will tell if this works. It’s the first step, but it is my hope to join more communities for my interests and ultimately expand my network.

For specifics at this point, my goal is to practice at least twice a week on Duolingo for both French and German. I would also like to start watching more shows in German and eventually watch a show in French.

My tangible goal for the year is to be able to help with translations for both German and French.

Run A Half Marathon

More and more I am realizing I respond well to what I can see. I need tangible goals to create the framework for improvement. So what better way to get back into shape than to start with a distant goal, one that will require training and discipline? As I write this, it sounds absurd and I think that’s exactly the point. This is just right outside my comfort zone.

So it boils down to this: Exercise 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes and it can be whatever I want it to be. I can go bouldering, running, or even do push ups as breaks when I’m playing video games.

My tangible goal is to sign up for a half marathon in my city and hopefully race close to January of 2019.

Learn to Program

This has been long overdue. If I want to move forward, I will need skills that position me as an acting agent and further my ability to create. I am starting with the basics; Javascript and Python. From there, I might branch out, but I do not want to bite off more than I can chew.

I’ve already started with Codecacademy and I’m trying to sit down to watch LinkedIn learning videos. However, each time, I have fallen short. So now, I have a long term goal in mind: to design a video game. This is the challenge I need and the goal to really push my ability further. The game will be either 8 bits or 16 bits and could be a minute or 60 hours, so long as I have something tangible to show by the end of the year.

Writing

This is the big one and perhaps the goal I’m most excited to achieve. Over the past couple years, I’ve been working on my creative writing and think it’s at a point where I can start pushing my comfort zone even further. My writing goal for this year is to publish a book.

As far as specifics, I am starting with Poetry. The goal is to have 30 poems written and once I have done so, I will publish (most likely on Amazon). Right now I am playing with different formats and trying to add variety to my writing.

My other goal is to re-imagine my posts never published and bring the majority of them to see the light of day.

Cooking

As the list grows longer and longer, I should be worried; however, this is the most excited I’ve been in a long time and I can’t stop writing; I had forgotten how great it feels to set goals to achieve.

For cooking, it is simply to cook a dish once a month. To go out, buy groceries, and make anything. Ideally, I’m cooking to be healthier and to find what I enjoy; cooking relaxed me in College and I should’ve never stopped.

The tangible goal is to make cheese sticks (weird, I know). I tried once before and had a breaded cheese blob and it has been my greatest cooking regret.

Painting

Truth be told, it can be painting or drawing. I am in need of relaxing hobbies that soothe the soul. I need a hobby where I can catch my breath and create more than just vivid descriptions; I want to see what I create.

I’m starting out small and small is all I need; I want to attend one art class and have one painting I can be proud of. Online tutorials are great, but for this, I feel the need to go out and be part of an art class.

Road Trip/Camping

I do not consider myself a great driver. I can get some bad anxiety and figured I could kill two birds with one stone. The goal for this is to get me out of the house and more comfortable with adventure. When I did study abroad, I nearly had a heart attack but I grew so much. This goal is of the same mindset. I already have a trip planned in May and am taking a week vacation at the end of February so things are already shaping up to be better than the last two years.

My measure of success will be if I bought the sleeping bag and tent I’ve been saying I was going to buy and to not only go on a trip to the beach but to go camp overnight or for a couple days.

Epilogue

So that’s it, I now have my goals in writing. A basic roadmap to get me started with the catalysts I need to jump start my life. In addition to these goals, I want to get out once a week; whether that’s getting drinks downtown or trying a new restaurant, seeing an art display, or visiting a park, this year is about stepping out and creating the environment I want to live my adulthood in.

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As always, thanks for reading! What are your goals for the new year? Have you started? Are you happy with your year so far? Let me know in the comments below.