I hate New Year’s resolutions. I really do. They are way too much pressure. I am by nature ambitious, a high-achiever. I would always set the bar high and get frustrated when I didn’t meet my goals. And I never considered “lowering the bar” because, well… pushing myself got me places. Being hard on myself got me the results I wanted. Only 4 months after being hospitalised because of my mental health, I sat my A-levels and achieved two A*s and two As. In June, I told people I didn’t think I could go to uni, to which the universal response was “but Oxford is such a great opportunity, you can’t pass it up!”. And they were right. I couldn’t. I knew I should have tried to defer, but the though of potentially losing my spot terrified me.
So I stuck it out. I stuck it out for a year and a half before reaching breaking point. I was unable to perform basic functions like going outside, doing laundry, concentrating on a book for more than 5 minutes at a time. In February of my second year, I suspended my studies. I packed my bags and went home 2 weeks before Hilary term ended. I was lost at first; after years and years spent in high-pressure academic environments, “I had nothing to do”. My main concerns were just getting through the day, holding down a part-time job and going to therapy. And, as I’ve discovered, that is difficult enough, but at the same time unfulfilling.
I yearned for being challenged academically again all year, but I knew I couldn’t return to university yet. I would crumble under pressure. So I stayed at home doing boring things like trying to take care of myself. I’ve not “achieved” anything this year. I didn’t do that much academic work (nor was I supposed to), I got some training at my job, I didn’t pass my driving test, or learn German in my free time, or even recover from my mental illness. The one thing I was supposed to do.
And yet I learned something important. “Getting by” is enough. It sucks when all you can do is “get by”, but if that’s all you can do, that’s okay. It’s going to have to be okay.
And in the spirit of getting by, I made some goals. Most of these are things I want to achieve, not things I feel I should be doing. A lot of these are fun things. Most of these are specific, actionable goals, that are small and not at all overwhelming. I haven’t put anything on there that I feel I can’t achieve. All I expect of myself this year is to keep up with my studies (go to lectures, hand in work on time, engage in class) and do things that I know will make me feel better, happier and more fulfilled. In short, I’m trying to be kinder to myself this year. So, in no particular order, here are some things I’d like to see happen in 2019:
- Pass your driver’s test.
- Read 100 books not (directly) related to your course.
- Have at least 1 evening a week of “chill time” (coffee/drinks with a friend, board games, movie night etc.)
- Declutter regularly and keep your space tidy.
- Stick to your savings’ plan.
- Exercise 3-4 times a week.
- Get signed off as cross-trained in the kitchen.
- Go to a talk/free event/art exhibition at least once a month.
- Write more. Sit down to write at least once a week.
- Cook from scratch at least once a week.
- Play guitar regularly and start practicing the piano.
- Post in your blog at least once a week.
- Try a new sport or society.
- Hydrate yourself, it is super important.
- Study for 40ish hours a week during term time. Split your sessions into morning, afternoon and evening sessions:
9 am – 1 pm
2 pm – 6 pm
7 pm – 10 pm
You can spread out your sessions as you like throughout the day. E.g. if you have a commitment in the evening, pack in extra studying in the morning and afternoon.
- Aim to have 2 days off at all times, at least to change activity (e.g. work during term time, study during the vac)/
- Travel at least 4 times a year.
- Always carry a tote bag with you.
- Keep up with your billet journal, but keep it simple.
- Stay in touch with the people you care about.
- Learn to recognise your limits and respect them.
- Go on your year abroad and stay safe and happy.
- Decorate your space, whether at home or at uni.
- Give therapy a real chance. Recovery is hard work and it will take a long time, so don’t expect to be “cured” within a specific time frame, but do continue to work towards it.
- Try to do things that are out of your comfort zone.
Hope you all had a great start to 2019 and are excited for the year ahead!