If a Millennial travels and doesn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?

No, really. We’ve all heard someone say “pics or it didn’t happen” about something. In this age where we carry cameras in our pockets, travel has become a key target, especially among millennials.

I try to take photos whilst traveling to remind myself of the places I saw and the people I met. When I look at the pictures months or years later they really help jog my memory and bring back stories that would have otherwise been buried. I like turning the pages of printed photo albums and remembering that those moments were real.

That said, I’ve tried to take fewer pictures as I’ve explored more. The ocean may not look exactly the same everywhere, but it’s blue and made of water. I don’t need to take 25 shots of the ocean every time I see it. If the weather is particularly unusual or the landscape surrounding the ocean is unique, yes, definitely. Even better if the photo includes people (either people I’ve just met or those I’m traveling with) as that’s when the pictures truly stop time forever: seeing a day, a moment, a person exactly as it was.

With social media, we now see everyone’s photos all the time. Moments don’t stop. They just keep piling up. People are booking vacations just to get a photograph of a particular location because they saw it on Instagram. While it’s great people are exploring more of this beautiful world, it’s not great when travelers aren’t earth-conscious or respectful of others. Ecosystems are suffering from an influx of human activity which they cannot handle. Economies are booming from tourism and yet the residents are still living without basic necessities. All this, just to get a better Instagram photo than someone else?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t travel. But maybe we should put some thought into our goals and reasons for traveling. Posting a cool pic on social media isn’t really well-thought-out criteria for selecting a travel destination (nor the best use of one’s time, in my personal opinion).  What matters to do? Do you have a list somewhere of things you’d like to accomplish and places you’d like to see? Focus on that. Take pictures and don’t worry about posting them on social media. Stop following people whose posts “give you wanderlust” and choose your own adventure. Seriously, unsubscribe. We’re pummeled with messages about the next coolest destination and the most beautiful locations. Let it go. Those do not have to be your adventures.

It is entirely possible to travel to really awesome places without taking the whole world with you in your pocket. You may find you’re able to enjoy it more because you’re more focused on the moment than the perfect filter for the frame. Don’t travel somewhere because everybody else is. Travel if you want to, where you want to, when you want to. Your adventures are real, whether posted on social media or not. Share your life and adventures with people in real life instead of “sharing” with a screen. I guarantee your grandma will love looking at a photo album and hearing your stories and she won’t care whether it’s the most beautiful picture of the Pacific Ocean she’s ever seen. She cares that you enjoyed yourself and your life is richer because you went somewhere new.

Try traveling and not posting all your pictures. You’ll like it, I promise.

Maybe She’s Born With It

I stopped wearing nail polish almost a year and a half ago. The last time I painted my nails was for my interview with my current job. I recently threw away the last of my nail polish colors and nail polish remover and it felt good to unload some “stuff” that has some questionable ingredients and smells pretty strongly.

I stopped getting my eyebrows done at the same time. I got them threaded for the same interview, and maybe once after, but then I stopped. My brows have always been thin and light so all they really needed was a bit of shaping. I loved the salon near my last apartment in New York and would visit them about once every six weeks as a mini luxury, but in my new town I found few salons offered threading and the price was much steeper. It wasn’t worth it to me. I could handle the small amount of shaping my sparse brows needed and forego the time and effort.

I very rarely (1-2x/year) get a glaze put in the bottom part of my hair to help old dyed color blend in with my natural color while I grow it out. I haven’t full-on dyed my hair in over three years. I loved the darker color and how it looked against my skin, but wasn’t a fan of the waste and questionable chemicals I was always using. Also, it’s not cheap to dye thick hair that you can literally tuck into your pants. Plus, I think the grays I’m getting look kind of cool. I love seeing older women with long, beautiful, silver hair, and I would be totally cool with that look as I age.

What am I getting at here? This isn’t just a list of “stuff Sarah doesn’t do anymore.” It’s about making conscious decisions when it comes to what I put in, on, and around what my body. Choosing how to spend my money and time. Learning to love myself just as I naturally am.

That last one is pretty huge.

I spent my childhood wishing I had green eyes, black hair, and pale skin. Instead, I had light golden brown (my stylist considers it blond) hair, blueish eyes, and yellowish skin.

Then I discovered hair dye and staying indoors, and my eye color fully developed into – surprise! – green. I spent my 20s black-haired, pale, and green-eyed. I was thrilled to finally look the way I’d wanted to look my whole life. People saw me the way I wanted to see myself. I projected confidence and happiness…until I’d visit friends or family and realize I’d forgotten to bring my makeup, or my un-dyed roots got out of control. I loved feeling “pretty” but I was still insecure with my “mask.”

Once I started weaning myself off the mask, starting with the hair dye, it snowballed into a slow unveiling of confidence in my true self. It helped to have an extremely supportive partner who prefers me to not wear makeup (nor anything unnatural) and actually means it. He doesn’t mean he prefers the no-makeup look, he genuinely doesn’t like makeup (or hair dye, or nail polish, or cologne, etc).

The hair dye, nail polish, and eyebrows were small in comparison to the makeup. I never wore much makeup to begin with. I only wore foundation/powder for photos or special events. My daily routine included eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, and lip stain. Over the last two years, while I learned more about the ingredients in cosmetics, I started to get “lazy” and cut out the eye shadow. Down to the liner, mascara, and lip stain, but I wasn’t happy with the way my eyes looked with the liner. Some colors were too dark and others made my eyes red so I’d look like I was crying. Finally, I cut out the liner too – down to just mascara and lip stain.

About six months ago I decided to try a “safer” mascara and see if I liked it. I’d recently purchased reusable cotton rounds for witch hazel/makeup removing purposes. On the first day of wear, when I tried to remove the mascara at the end of the day, it stained the cotton rounds (permanently, although it wasn’t waterproof mascara) and was so hard to remove, I lost a couple eyelashes. Sadly, the “safer” mascara had an unintended effect: instead of choosing a safer mascara, I ended up choosing not to wear any at all. It’s been sitting in my (now-tiny) makeup bag for special occasions only. I’ve now worn eye makeup exactly twice in 2017, both for professional events.

I still wear lip stain as I feel that pop of color does really brighten my face, but I’ve switched to a handmade tube from Etsy with natural, recognizable ingredients. It gives me more of a natural flush than a vivid lip, and that’s okay with me. It helps me look a bit more alive as my lips are naturally super-pale. I feel, at least in professional settings, it’s important to look like I respect my appearance and take time to look professional, and it’s perfect. I don’t feel like I need to look like anybody else, but I don’t want to look unkempt or sloppy simply because I’m choosing a more natural lifestyle.

That said, last weekend was one of the two occasions on which I wore makeup. When I looked in the mirror my eyes seemed red and I felt like I was made up for photos or the stage. Although it was barely any makeup (eyeliner and mascara) I felt I looked much different, and not necessarily better – what a change in perspective!

Over the last few years, I’ve learned to love myself for who I am, to appreciate my appearance as well as what’s within my flesh-and-bone walls. Taking off the mask has allowed me to see more of myself and gain strength. I now focus more on what’s important to me to do, and less on how I look whilst doing it.

Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it comes from a box, or a tube, or a salon, or a brush, or a wand, or a bottle.

Maybe it’s not what’s on the outside that matters.

On Thursdays I Wear Dresses

I figured it was appropriate to write about my Thursday sartorial choices as it’s Thursday today. I’ve written about my progress toward minimalism, including reducing my wardrobe to more of a uniform. I’ve actually made great strides with my closet this year. Nearly every top I own is now blue and bottoms are black or gray. I have a couple oddballs I owned prior to the cleanout, but anything I purchase new must fit into those basic parameters.

Why?

It ensures my clothes all work well together and can be worn a variety of ways. Once I pared everything down it made me want to wear what I loved more frequently – after all, I bought these items for a reason. I was able to release many of those “just in case” items I’d work perhaps once or twice in the previous two years. I’ve decided if I own something, I need to use it. Gone are the days of saving something “for a special occasion.” As the saying goes, you don’t need an occasion to open that fancy bottle of wine: opening the bottle is the occasion. And so it became with my wardrobe.

I’m not an overtly feminine lady but I really love dresses. I think they’re beautiful and easy to wear. Sadly, since I’ve been working in male-dominated industries for the past decade, many of my pretty dresses simply sat in my closet.

Once I reduced the amount of proper work pants in my wardrobe, I found myself looking at my dresses – in particular, two basic black dresses that have stood the test of time and yet were rarely let out of the closet. I decided I was going to take them each for a spin, male-dominated workplace be damned. I was concerned about unwanted attention in the beginning but have (quite thankfully) found it not to be an issue (though perhaps that’s owed more to my decision to forego most makeup and heels these days).

As I shrank out of my dress pants (thanks Invisalign…more on that unending process later) I found I had only three pairs that fit. Thursday rolled around and I would turn to a dress. At first this was unplanned but as the weeks passed I began to look forward to my Dress Thursdays.

  • First, it shakes up my blue-and-gray pants ensemble. Second, I feel a little extra feminine. Third, we have casual Fridays so it’s fun to dress up right before dressing down. And perhaps the biggest benefit for me is mental: I’m not in love with my current job, so this gives me something to look forward to toward the end of the week, when it’s too early to think about the weekend but the days have begun to grow long. When I don my dress (or skirt) Thursday morning, I know the weekend is coming and the routine helps to propel me through the last 16 hours.

Do you have any wardrobe routines? Would you ever consider one?

I Got My First Client!

It’s been a surprisingly productive week! Although last week was pretty quiet  due to Travis’s surgery, I spent a lot of time looking into freelance writing gigs while I was home with him.

And…crickets. Not a single thing came through. It hasn’t been too long, but I figured the freelance world probably moves pretty quickly. I’d keep on keepin’ on and submit proposals as I could.

Then, yesterday morning, I got not one, but TWO projects, in the span of a couple hours! I wanted to jump out of my chair and dance around, but I was at my corporate job, so I just texted Travis with a ton of smiley-face emojis.

Last night, after a glorious first run in the beautiful spring weather, I got to business on the first project – editing business documents. I delivered before bedtime and was paid before I arrived at my job this morning. WOOHOO!!

At the moment, I’m taking a quick break from copywriting on project #2. It’ll probably be delivered tonight unless I feel I want to revise it with fresh eyes tomorrow.

AND – on top of those already-great developments – I was invited to cover an event in NYC this weekend for my previous employer. I’m stoked to be back in the fold and to be able to spend some time connecting with other musicians and music educators. I’ve been talking with them for a while about how we could work something out, and although I’m terribly impatient, keeping those lines of communication open is finally paying off.

Speaking of paying off, I ran some numbers and found I could cover my current bills working just forty hours per MONTH as a freelance writer/musician/teacher. It’s all starting to (very slowly) seem feasible now. Baby steps – but life is too short and too precious to not spend it doing what you love.

Don’t give up your daydream.

Parenting Isn’t For Me

I know I just wrote about being kind to children – and absolutely everything in that post still applies. This post isn’t about that – it’s about how I know parenting isn’t for me.

Travis had surgery last week – it was planned and he’s recovering on schedule, thank goodness, so all is well – which rendered him nearly incapacitated for most of the week. Thankfully, the weather cooperated (if you can call it that) with a winter storm, so although I missed days of work, the weather would have kept me home anyway.

That said, although we prepared for the surgery by making a massive batch of soup, making the bed as comfortable as possible, and renting a slew of DVDs from our local library, his recovery has shown me time and again I’m not cut out for parenting. I know, I know, people often say it’s completely different when you have a child, when it’s your own, etc, and while I think that’s super awesome (and I’m secretly very thankful as this isn’t easy), I’m glad I won’t be finding out firsthand.

This week I’ve had to scrub the toilets, take out the trash, vacuum, do all the laundry, change the sheets, cook EVERY SINGLE MEAL (and this man eats a LOT), wash every single dish, play with the cat, draw baths and help Travis in/out of them, remind him to take his medication even when he didn’t want to, help him bandage his wounds, drive him to/from the hospital and subsequent doctors’ office visits, find out answers to surgery questions he asked, run errands for food or other necessities as requested, PUT ON HIS SOCKS FOR HIM, and – oh yeah – go to work myself.

To parents out there everywhere, my GOODNESS, thank you for dedicating your lives to doing this day in and day out, for about a decade or so, until your kids decide you’re only cool enough to drive them around for another eight years, and then dropping them off at college, and finally breathing. This is temporary for us, and it’ll be fine, but I couldn’t imagine doing all of this every single day, especially for a tiny human who wouldn’t understand any of it until much later. It felt like a very solitary existence – Travis up in the bedroom while I buzzed around the downstairs prepping food and cleaning. It felt like that cycle of prepping and cleaning never ended, and by the time everything was put up for the night I was exhausted. I didn’t have any “me” time – no time to read or journal or go for a walk or take a class or play music or anything I would have preferred over cooking and cleaning.

I couldn’t do it. I’m happy to take care of Travis now while he recovers but I personally wouldn’t be a good parent. I am far too selfish – which isn’t always a bad thing because I think it’s good to know yourself – and I am okay with that.

Parenting isn’t for me.

A Happier 2017 – Be Yourself

One of Rubin’s resounding messages in her book and blog is to “Be Gretchen” – meaning, of course, to be who YOU are at the core. Yesterday’s Page A Day calendar spelled it out with a bit more verbosity: “It is essential to happiness that our way of living should spring from our own deep impulses and not from the accidental tastes and desires of those who happen to be our neighbors, or even our relations.” (Bertrand Russell)

In our oversharing society it can be all to easy to mistake another’s goals, dreams, and visions for your own. Seeing a photo or reading a story about an amazing trip, location, or adventure can absolutely inspire us to want to recreate it – and that’s great! It’s good to learn more about the world around us. However, it’s important to focus on doing what you TRULY want to do. If all your friends are going to Cuba because it’s hip now, but you don’t speak Spanish and you’ve been dying to hike through Japan…then go to Japan, Instagram hashtags be damned.

And on a smaller scale, don’t waste your time reading books you don’t like.

Most of the time – I would say probably 92% of the time – I finish absolutely every book or movie I pick up. I strongly dislike leaving anything unfinished, regardless of whether I like the characters or storyline. I feel even if I disagree with an author or director, I’ll have something to discuss with others after the fact. However, I occasionally come across some I can’t get into, no matter how hard I try – this is coming from the woman who spent a considerable amount of time one year reading books on string theory and quantum physics just to attempt to grasp the theories.

Last night I was pumped to begin reading a book about the history of vegetarianism in America, especially since I’d just posted about my personal history of vegetarianism. I got comfy, opened the page, and dug in. The introduction alone put me off – an awful lot of references to religion and religious leaders. The author’s bio at the end of the intro confirmed a position as a professor of theology. Okay – it’s not my jam, but I can learn something from most people. I pressed on to Chapter 1.

It was the shortest chapter in the book and I couldn’t book it down fast enough. I made myself finish the chapter but I could do no more. The book touched on Pythagoras and a handful of other non-religion-based historical vegetarians, but the vast majority were Christian vegetarians. I have no problem with vegetarians of any faith (nor lack thereof), but I was expecting to read about how vegetarianism took shape with early settlers due to growing conditions and crops, not how early settlers came to America to escape religiously-based vegetarianism persecution. No thanks. I’d recently read Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression and was expecting something of similar quality and scope. Not so with the book on vegetarianism.

I put it down at the end of the chapter and returned it to the library this morning. I could have read it, but I gave myself permission to stop because it wasn’t enriching my life. I have other books on hand to dive into (John Muir, anyone?) and if I’m going to devote a few hours of my life to learning something, I’d like to enjoy the subject at hand.

Be yourself. Give yourself permission not to do what everyone else is doing. Give yourself permission to change your mind on something if you find it’s not to your liking – that’s the only way we can grow.

Be Kind to Children

I will be the first to admit I’m not a typical baby/child fanatic. Case in point: a close colleague of mine just had a baby and everyone in the office is gushing over how cute the baby is. I’m mostly just happy my friend is happy, and a little bummed she’s not in the office to trade cute pet photos with now. Travis and I are not having children. I can’t have children, even if I wanted them (which I don’t).

However, that doesn’t mean I actively dislike these tiny humans.

To the contrary, I’ve recently found my aversion may actually be due to how much I truly care about children.

I LOVE teaching. It’s fascinating and energizing to engage young minds at a time during which they’re growing in so many directions. It’s amazing to see my work turn into a tangible skill in the hands of a child. Although I’m generally not a very patient person, I somehow find steel reserves of patience when teaching a child about the wonders of music.

But there’s a bit more beyond my chosen occupation.

Last year, whilst reading The Happiness Project, I came to a page where Ms. Rubin mentioned a statistic that stuck with me: 80% of the messages children receive from adults are negative. No, stop, that’s wrong, bad, etc. Since reading that, I’ve been far more cognizant not only of my interactions with my students but children in general. I want my students to feel comfortable, happy, and safe learning with me, and I want them to be excited about what they’re learning.

Why children in general?

Well, a quick disclaimer: I’ve found I recently tend to have issues with parents, not children (see our previous post about the long flights to and from Hawaii).

I dug a little deeper into myself after a routine trip to the Post Office really bummed me out: I was in line to send something for work. A little girl, maybe 2 or 3, was standing quietly to the side, clutching a stuffed animal, with her mother who was filling out shipping forms. The greeting card display was precisely eye-level with the little girl. “Mommy, look, a mom dog!” the little girl cried with glee upon seeing a silly card with a photo of a dog on the front. I generally try to mind my own business as I’m fairly uncomfortable with strangers, but I looked down and met her eyes. She looked much like my cousin’s daughters: brown curls, deep brown eyes, a big, toothy smile.

Her mother didn’t acknowledge, didn’t turn around, didn’t say anything, and my heart broke.

I know that feeling.

I was that little girl, and although it’s been years, that little hope of sharing something special with another person is still in there.

When the mother finished filling out the forms she finally turned to the little girl, now holding the card she so desperately wanted to show her mother.

“You put that back right now!” the mother ordered.

“I’m sorry, Mommy, I just wanted to show you the mom dog!” the little girl replied. My heart broke a little more. She was just trying to connect, to be sweet and funny, and instead it was shot down and instantly her fault for doing something “wrong.”

I have been that little girl. I once wanted to show my mother a Curious George book in the bookstore and she tugged on my arm so forcefully she dislocated my elbow, trying to get me to focus on whatever it was she had come to do. The next day, after the doctor put everything back in the right place, my mother purchased the book for me out of guilt.

Please don’t be the mother in the post office. Please don’t be my mother. If you’re going to have children, for the love of everything kind in this world, please be kind to them. I am aware parenting is a difficult job (which is why I am choosing not to take it on) and I know not everyone is perfect all the time. But please remember, when you’re little, all the little things matter to you. The way you speak to your child, the way you do or don’t show them respect, the way you do or don’t value their ideas and thoughts will all stay with them long after the incident has passed for you. Please try to treat your children (and other children with whom you may interact) with kindness. Kindness costs absolutely nothing and the rewards are great.

One of my friends had a mother similar to mine, and although she and her husband do not have a lot of extra money, they have a LOT of extra love. Their children will never have to doubt the love and kindness they find at home. My friend knows what it’s like to grow up without it, and she’s ensuring her children will never know that feeling.

Kindness is free, and takes just a little bit of forethought and a tiny bit of decision-making to work properly. Respond instead of reacting. Think before speaking. Actively listen, and try to see what the speaker is trying to show you.

And please, be kind to your children. They need it more than you know. When they’re  just little and the world is so big, they need to know your love and kindness are there to shelter them as they grow. Encourage their creativity and willingness to share. Show them they matter to you, and you value their thoughts. The entire world could use a bit more kindness, and those tiny ripples can create incredibly beautiful waves.

A Happier 2017 – Habits

Today’s “A Happier 2017” asked “Are you more likely to indulge in a bad habit in a group or when you’re alone?”

First I thought, “well, obviously, in a group. I keep a pretty healthy home.”

Then I thought about the times I’ve done things alone I normally wouldn’t do with others due to judgement or consequences (nothing that bad, I promise, but we all do things like eat peanut butter straight from the jar), and now I’m not so sure. I’m fairly certain I tend to make worse decisions in social settings because it’s easier to go with the flow. It’s easier to skip working out to have happy hour with friends (both indulgent choices) or order dessert as long as someone else does.

But, left to my own devices, I’m not totally self-motivated to be good. I’ve eaten Nutella for dinner. Wine and cheese has been dinner. When I’m tired, I might scroll through my computer instead of working out. I’ve managed to discipline myself by not purchasing Nutella, closing my Facebook account, and putting a timer on my computer for anything more than 45 minutes spent on certain mind-numbing websites. Nature and age have tempered my ability to subsist on wine as an entree.

I could still be better, and not just to look good on paper, but to be better to myself. I don’t always sleep well, and I could do better to actually go to bed when my bedtime alarm goes off. Although I mostly eat well, I could still dial down some of the sweets I enjoy. I could probably even enjoy one less glass of wine or beer and still be just as much fun as I am now. And I could make myself work out every single day, no matter what.

Would I be truly authentic if I did those things? Are those slightly-bad habits just who I am, or can I improve upon this framework? Is the juice worth the squeeze?

I’ll have to spend some time examining my indulgent habits over the next few weeks and report back about how I can be happier, healthier, and better to myself.

Why Should I Care?

I’m not having kids, so why do I care about the future?

That’s a pretty bold statement, but it’s true. People often say they’re concerned about the world their children are going to grow up in…yet they don’t seem concerned about the world TODAY. I’ve had conversations with people who say climate change issues are so far away we shouldn’t worry about it today. Well, if we don’t worry about it today, who’s going to worry?

Travis and I have been reading and watching a LOT about climate change, pollution, and garbage lately. We’ve watched An Inconvenient Truth and Before the Flood. We’ve been reading Green Barbarians, Silent Spring, The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, A Short History of Nearly Everything, and more. We’ve been talking about these issues amongst ourselves for a couple years, but not with the urgency and action we have now. Digging deeper into an earth-conscious lifestyle has been a great focus for us. We’re making better choices and also spending our time learning. We’re focused less on gathering knowledge and more on taking action – using less water, re-using vegetable scraps, and making homemade cleaners.

But we’ll both be dead within 100 years, and we aren’t having children. When we leave, we’re leaving the planet with our lasting contributions being only how WE treated the earth while we inhabited it. And perhaps that’s why we care. We aren’t leaving the responsibility of choice up to any future generations or children. We know, at the end of our days, what matters to us is how WE treat the earth.

This matters to us because we’re learning more about how we are, truly, all stardust. Diving into the combined science and history of the planet, of the universe and its enormity, and the minuscule amount of time in which humans have been here really hammers home the reality that we’re destroying the planet that gave us life. Nature has, of course, run into issues of overpopulation, weather pattern changes, and more, but – always – with time, nature can recover and correct. With the introduction of human industry and invention, we’ve done great things, but we’re also attacking the planet at unrecoverable rates. Our brain power is allowing us to create materials and chemicals nature can’t break down and reuse.

I know making small changes in my personal life won’t save the planet entirely, but I can’t in good conscience make choices that damage the planet further. We are simply visitors here on earth and it’s too easy to forget that in a world where anything you can imagine you may want can be delivered to you almost instantaneously, via drone, car, plane, or courier. We forget what goes into creating what we “want,” or, perhaps more accurately, we simply don’t see what’s behind the scenes. In a grocery store, a chicken breast looks NOTHING like a chicken clucking around on a farm. How much has to happen to that chicken between the farm and grocery store? We don’t see it, but it happens, somehow. What about a cotton plant becoming a t-shirt? I’ve never even seen cotton formed into thread, much less into cloth to be cut and sewn into a garment.

I care because I’m here. I’m not trying to save the planet for my children. I want to treat it kindly while I’m here. And I want to continue to enjoy the natural gifts of the earth while I’m here. It doesn’t add up to me to love being outside more than anything, and then create tons of garbage to simply sit in the ground or poison our oceans. I need to know for myself that I opted out of the system and got more in tune with nature.

I care because I’m here.

 

A Happier 2017 – Choose One Word

I read Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” last year and I realized how far from happy I’d gotten. Happiness, it turns out, isn’t a destination – it’s a constant journey. As soon as you think you’re happy, you’re not – at least in my case. For me, it’s because I tend to get complacent with happiness. Once I achieve my goals, I’m satisfied. I can look back at my achievements and see how far I’ve come. But if I forget to set new goals that align with my idea of happiness – and they can be small or large, easy or challenging – I can quickly fall into a routine.

After I finished the book I saw she was coming out with a Page-A-Day calendar for 2017. Since I wasn’t (at the moment) overjoyed with where my life was, I ordered it, and it’s been sitting in my office supply box, staring me down for the past couple of months.

When we arrived home after visiting families last night, I opened the box and flipped to page one. Choose one word to serve as your overarching theme this year. I read it to Travis. “What would your word be?”

“Passion.” Sounds good to me. He’s been working very hard for, well, most of his adult life, climbing the ladder and doing everything right. Although successful in the traditional sense, he’s pretty far removed from spending time on his passions. Good idea. “What about you?”

“I don’t know.” It’s been 24 hours and I still don’t know what my one-word theme for 2017 should be. I considered “musical” because I’d like to get more serious about both practicing instruments new to me and growing my music teaching career. I considered “healthy” because I want to continue on the nutrition and movement journey I’m on – and get even more serious about taking care of my health. I considered “write” because I want to write so much more. I want to finish my book, write more in my blog, and write more actual letters to people. “Adventurous” because we plan to move and make a major life change? “Outside” because we’ll be spending more time in the great outdoors? “Positive” because I want to be more positive?

I can’t decide. Rubin calls this “analysis paralysis” and both Travis and I suffer from it fairly often. With too many options, it’s nearly impossible to decide.

Actually, in this moment, a word came to me:

Quiet.

This is probably the best one I’ve considered yet. I logged out of Facebook to quiet the noise. I deleted unnecessary apps on my phone for the same reason. I’m reading more books and less news. I’m avoiding marketing and advertising as much as possible (choosing public radio, not having television, not reading magazines, using an ad-block). I’m minimizing the noise, both figuratively and literally, in my life. By actively choosing to enjoy the quiet, I can focus on what matters to me.

This year, I will choose to be strong, healthy, and happy by choosing to quiet the noise that surrounds us.