health

Goodbye, Year of Exploration. Hello, Year of Ambition.

For the last three years, I’ve rejected the idea of explicit resolutions and instead made a habit of declaring a single word to embody each new year. There was the year of discovery (2012), the year of dedication (2013), and even the year of exploration (2014). Each year lived up to its name, albeit sometimes in surprising ways that pushed me to my limits and then a bit beyond.

In 2012, I discovered who I was away from my friends, outside of my hometown, and apart from everything that I’d always thought was certain, as well as who I was when I came back. In 2013, I dedicated myself to whatever felt important, including finishing my bachelors degree in English and refining my art. And, in 2014, I explored whatever struck my fancy, even as that led me to travel from coast to coast for months on end and begin a master’s degree in criminal justice. No two years were the same, yet no year was more or less enthralling than any other.

All of that being said, 2014 was pretty intriguing. I spent three months in California, Oregon, and Washington. Then I spent three months in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. That’s not to mention all the states and shores I visited on the way to and from those places. I turned 21 and wasted my newest privilege by drinking a pitifully small volume of alcohol (say “no” to big kablue-nas). I began graduate school and discovered that sometimes the student teaches the professor. I baked foods and treats I couldn’t even pronounce and used ingredients I’d never heard of before.

In short, I explored.

Now it’s time to put all of that behind me, to close the door on 2014’s wild exploration, and step into the year 2015, which already seems daunting and intoxicating.

Over the next 365 days, I’ll be traveling back to South Carolina, the state I know only through my family tree.  I’ll be completing my Masters of Criminal Justice degree, complete with nerve-wracking comprehensive exams. I’ll be leaving my friends and the only place I have ever truly regarded as “home.” I’ll be taking control of my health and defying my genetics. I’ll be taking important steps in my personal and professional lives, striving to achieve success through desire and determination.

All in all, 2015 can and will be nothing less than wild and engrossing, fast-paced and sublime. Thus, in the same vein of thought, I’ve decided to call 2015 the year of ambition. I chose the word ambition to embody or headline this year mostly because I have a strong desire to achieve multiple things this year. I have an end-game in mind and nothing will stop me from reaching it. In addition, I’ve come to realize that being ambitious is just in my nature and that is something to use to my advantage, to accept as a benefit. So, this year will be a journey in accepting ambition as a facet of my nature.

Keeping with tradition, as I jumpstart the New Year, I won’t write down any particular resolutions because, well, it just feels awful when a perfectly composed resolution isn’t fulfilled precisely as it was written. I prefer to stick with matters of certainty, like the inevitable graduation and move, and variety, like the generality of being ambitious in all my endeavors. Along the way, I simply hope that at least 15 marvelous things will happen.

Here’s to a year of purpose and cheers to everyone reading this. I hope that you find precisely what you are looking for in the exciting days ahead. Happy New Year!

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Our Bodies Are War Zones.

Every rise of a lip.

Every crossing of arms.

Every twitch of an eyebrow.

Every small head shake or nod.

Every creak and crack of aching joints.

Every clenching of teeth, scrunching of nose, and tensing of shoulders.

Every human body is a war zone, quickly destroyed and speedily rebuilt. Immeasurably changed and yet the same. Speaking volumes yet somehow unyielding.

Each movement of every day leaves its mark.

A person might survive a war, but their body will always hold the signs of the past.

The faint scar above the lip and slightly uneven rising of eyebrows. That off-kilter step interrupting the usual pace and automatic tensing at certain sounds or times. Those lines and creases extending from the eyes, highlighting the tired grey that tints the eyelids. Clues remain even with the passing of time.

However, more concerning than the war that is forever marked, is the war that was never seen.

A bright smile betrays pain.

A quick laugh covers sadness.

A soft sigh conceals worry and fear.

Offense or crime without evidence or proof is a true horror.

Our bodies are our temples, and we cannot help but abuse them. Life abuses us, regardless of whether or not it shows.

We can protect and cover, nurture and strengthen, yet that in itself is part of our war.

Our bodies are works of art, and we have so little to do with their sculpting. Life shapes us, forming us in ways that we may not even notice.

We can hope and try, pray and push, yet that in itself is part of our war.

We are all at war.

Our bodies are our records.

Do not forget to notice that which stares right back at you in the mirror.

Appreciate your own story.

Appreciate the story of others.

I can feel revolution in my bones and see it in my skin.

Can you?

Determination & Motivation

Every year marks the beginning of thousands, and likely billions, of new years’ resolutions are made and committed to memory–at least, they are for the first few weeks of the year. Many resolutions will likely result in futile struggles towards nearly unattainable goals, and others will simply be forgotten before they are even begun.

“I want to be rich by the year’s end.” “I want to find love in the next twelve months.” “That lovely job will finally be mine this year.” Goals are an important part of every individuals’ system of self esteem and motivation, but at some point, we all have to be realistic about what we wish to achieve.

You may not be worth your weight in gold or at the same economic level as Bill Gates, but perhaps you could save, invest and be smart about your money this year, so that, at the conclusion, you have some money to show for your efforts.

You may not find your true love or experience that connection of a lifetime, but perhaps you could apply yourself more thoroughly in your social life, so that you form more meaningful relationships with people, and end the year on a better social foot.

You may not get that new job or finally be promoted to that prized position, but you could still work hard and make sure that the higher-ups at least notice your efforts. This is the reality of most new years’ resolutions: they are too broad and/or completely unobtainable, but there are revised goals that can be achieved.

This year of 2012, my primary goal revolves around fitness, strength, and nutrition; however, Rome wasn’t built in a day and I cannot expect a goal to be achieved, even if it is reasonable, without some effort. And so I am tackling each aspect of my resolution, beginning with fitness.

The fitness and strength portions of my goal comes at a relatively important time in my career and education plans. For the past few months, it has been my aim to join the United States Navy as a Naval Officer upon my graduation from college in two years, but the fact that that is two years away does not mean that I can put off preparing. In order to join any military force, you must be physically fit and strong in more than one way. So, since the don of the new year I have begun my own physical training.

As I mentioned before though, this beginning also comes at a perfect time in terms of my education because just this semester I am participating in a course entitled “Community & Personal Health.” From the course already, we’ve discussed personal fitness, community involvement, the different realms of health and wellness, and soon we’ll move on to even more convenient topics.

In regards to the nutrition portion of my resolution, that bit may be a bit more difficult for me to stick with. Determination, however, is a powerful thing, and I am quite the determined person. Will power shall carry me through, I am certain.

My plan is simple. Over the course of this 366 day year, I will commit myself daily to becoming a better physical specimen in nearly every way. Sure, I have more slight goals, and at the start I dreamed of bigger endeavors for this year, but this is my achievable goal that I crave to make reality. You see, resolutions are all about what is realistic and what is not. What is possible and what is not. And at the end of it all, you’re simply pushing your own boundaries, seeing how far that stretch out.

Each day, I will be exercising in manners that I have never stuck with before. During the middle years of my high school career, I devoted myself to running. During my junior year, I became a vegetarian. During my senior year, I wondered at what could happen if only you committed yourself to something long enough. Now I am making commitments and sticking to them.

Running, to begin with, is now my main hobby. Whenever I feel myself falling back on the typical teenage habits of social networks, Internet browsing, texting, or simple couch potato-type activities, I gather my wits about me and channel my energy into a run. Some days, I find myself capable of walking and running for miles without rest. Other days, my body aches from the days’ activities that have recently passed. Yet, nearly every day, I win the internal battle of coercion and find myself running yet again.

Along with running, strength and weight training will become part of my daily plan. Since I remain a military dependent, I have access to a gym, indoor pool and other fitness devices. I will be sure that the workers at each of those places will tire of me before I will tire of them.

Vegetarianism is a different matter. For nearly two years, I was a devoted vegetarian, even excluding eggs and fish from my diet. Sadly, I must admit that the teenager in me fell back far too often on pizza and cheese sandwiches for my nutrients. During that same time though, I discovered the power of other foods, primarily fruits, vegetables and grains. It’s a wonder how much you notice about yourself and the way foods effect you when you cut certain food groups out. While I will not be returning to my past vegetarian mentality, I will be incorporating healthier eating choices into my daily diet.

Perhaps it’s foolhardy to attempt so many changes over the course of a single year; however, the goal is not meant to be completed in the course of the year, but rather to learn the level of devotion necessary to bring myself to my best physical condition possible.

And so, this is the nature of my own year of devotion, as I prefer to call it. Good luck with your own!