Posts Tagged ‘ goals

Never Again

It’s about that time where everyone dashes off their lists. Whatever it is you like or are passionate about these days, there’s a list for it. Whether it’s your favorite sports moments of the year or your favorite movies or tv shows or records or tapes or labels or who knows what. I’m actually pretty okay with that as a concept. A year is nothing more than another revolution around the sun, but it is nice to organize time into discrete units, and one revolution around the sun sounds as good as any to me. I haven’t really been in a list making mood the past couple years, but I used to do lists of some of my favorite musical things of the year, whether it was a recap of the shows I attended in 2010 or my favorite records in 2005 (a little short, but I was doing a bit of other writing at the time too). They are useful and fun, though I haven’t done them over the past couple years. I still listen to some of the mixes I put together. It’s a curious snapshot of those times. Sometimes I find that I’ve changed quite a bit. If I were to give you a Top 10 from 2013, it’d look nothing like the one from 2005. But it might still have a Kanye album. Life is funny like that. In a lot of ways I’ve changed, so it’s cool to look back on it. Which is why I say, go forth and make lists. There’s nothing wrong with these encapsulations of time. Is the period arbitrary? Of course. But one of the great things about living in a functional society is we agree to generally consider the passage of time the same from one place to the next; with a little help from the rotation and the revolution of the Earth, boom, we have days and years. And with that year we make arbitrary decisions to help things function and make society generally go. Your taxes are due on April 15th because someone decided that was a good time for them to be due. Or because some historical event occurred that pegged it to that date. I’m not actually really sure, but there’s no natural reason tax day occurs then. It just does. Life is a nice mix of those sorts of arbitrary things that are marked by the less arbitrary ones.

There’s nothing to say you can’t dash off a list of your favorite things in the last 12 months in October either. Sure, it’s a little weird to some, but perhaps your birthday is in October, so it’s less strange, or perhaps that’s when you started the job you have been at the past few years or whatever. Right, we are moving those sorts of goalposts around all the time. Most people, though, would agree that it’s odd to do a list of your favorite records in October, but not nearly so weird to do a list of your favorite things that happened in your first year of marriage if your anniversary is in October. We all can fall into that mentality. There’s nothing wrong with it. Like I said, I’m a big fan of the organization that it provides, the ability to look back on something.

But we are coming up on something that I’m not down with: New Year’s resolutions. Those I loathe for the most part. Partially because the implementation is terrible. There’s a whole lot of vague goals. I want to get fit is not a goal. I want to lose 5 pounds is a goal. Right, there’s a difference there. I want to lose 50 pounds is a goal too, but maybe not the best way to immediately approach the new year. That isn’t to say we are incapable of doing things that may seem difficult or impossible. It’s to say that maybe that’s an overly aggressive and possibly self-defeating if it’s not broken down a bit. Like a main goal with sub-goals. I want to lose 50 pounds, but I’m going to start with losing 5 by the end of January. Goals are tricky like that. They need to be challenging, but not overwhelmingly impossible, definite, measurable in some way (at least if you are hoping to see whether or not you do x better, whatever x is). Not to say there’s anything wrong with the goal of being a better person in the overarching sense. But what does that mean? Right, you can see the difficult in a goal like that. I already think that goal-setting is a tough enough sort of thing to do for all of those reasons.

My chief problem with New Year’s resolutions, though, is that I think it’s a terrible way of actually setting goals. It’s certainly a convenient time for doing it, because everyone else is, but if you wanted to lose a few pounds, why didn’t you start working out and eating better last month? If you want to stop eating meat, why’d you wait until January 1st? If you want to drink less, why’d you just have that beer right now? Shouldn’t we always be asking ourselves about the things we are doing and interrogating our actions and thoughts? I get that one cannot spend all their time thinking in such terms. It’s self-destructive. I get that the end of the year is a good time for reflection because of that tendency to look back on a discrete period of time (that list-making again). I understand how that can create a time period where people say, hey, maybe I should do this better next year when looking back. I feel like people should be setting goals as they come up. But New Year’s resolutions frequently come off in the same tone that you or a friend might use after a night of drinking, when you see that burrito one too many times and spend the night on the bathroom floor. Never again. And while there probably are some people who after a particularly bad night of drinking say that, take stock of their lives, and realize that drinking might not have a place in it, most of us say that because we’ve got that weird taste in our mouth and our head is pounding and I’m pretty sure no one ever likes vomiting. For some people, that next day is a formative event, for sure. But for most of us, it’s an aftereffect. New Years resolutions are the morning after the excesses Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Eve for a lot of people. And most of us, we’ll do it all again the next time we get the chance.

This isn’t to say you should go out there and make some resolutions. By all means, do it. But be mindful of them. Make resolutions that are a bit more than vague statements; don’t fall for the blandishments of your nearest gym just to sign up for something you are never going to use. This isn’t an exhortation to think small, though. I have achieved many things that I never really thought were possible with my life. I’ve made a lot of personal and professional goals that at times seemed totally unrealistic and unattainable. I attained those by doing smaller bits and pieces of those goals along the way. And then, before I knew it, I was past the points that I thought I’d never reach. Even after I came out, the idea of surgery seemed like some sort of weird, distant, impossible thing. But it’s coming up on three years now since I flew out here for it. It always seems impossible until it is done, right? I think Nelson Mandela was onto something there…

Just don’t wait until January 1st to do whatever means something to you. A year might be a discrete unit of time; New Year’s Day is an arbitrary starting point of that discrete unit. Your life is not a discrete unit of time. If something means a lot to you, there’s no reason to wait. Why not peg it to the winter solstice instead and start tomorrow? You can just as easily measure your progress on January 21st as you can on February 1st for whatever it is you set out to do. And maybe then, besides the solstice, next December 21st will have some added meaning for you. My life is littered with little important dates and anniversaries, January 5th, January 22nd, June 2nd, those are a few obvious ones that come to mind. I’m sure there are a couple more I could think of if I tried. I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t think of one significant January 1st in terms of goals. But even that goal of a poem a day, the idea started well before that. January 1st, 2005 was merely the implementation of an idea that had percolated for a while. And one I did stick with for the entire year. Just don’t expect anything that ambitious from me right now. I’ve got a lot of other stuff I’m already working on.

Explore Minnesota

As I was riding home today, I’m pretty sure I saw half of the Twin Cities, walking dogs, riding bikes, jogging, just enjoying what has been the best day in a winter full of good days. I think we can officially put winter to bed for 2012. Certainly it will be chilly in the mornings still, but I don’t see a high below 40 or a low below 20 for the next several days, so I can start thinking about shedding a layer on the morning rides, slipping in an extra five minutes, and hopefully getting home a few minutes sooner since it’s that much less clothing to put on and take off. That’s the hidden cost of winter biking. There’s a lot of layers going on there, and all that clothing takes a lot of time. So I think I can suffer through a couple mornings in the near future as I keep hitting the bike.

Unfortunately, I only just crossed the 700 mile mark for 2012. I know, I’m so lazy. On the plus side, I have ridden 32 of out 66 days (outside, at least…exercise bikes hardly count), and that percentage is sure to go up as we get into the stretch where I ride to shows, Twins games, or whatever the hell else catches my interest. I know that the longer days are ahead of me, when I start turning in 40 and 50 miles instead of just 22. And you know what? I look forward to it. Of course, spring and summer come with their own special hazards as more and more people crowd the roads and trails. It’s always a little treacherous on these first few nice days, not because of the ice (though that will be back in force one of the next few mornings), but because everyone out there is getting their bearings. I want them to, but you have to pay attention. People are still working on the kinks on their rides, still getting back in the swing of the simple courtesies of the road, and generally that stuff is not automatic. But it does come back (except for those jackasses who just never had it and never seem to want to find it).

It’s going to be tougher to get a tune-up, but that’s a good thing. That means more people are getting ready to get out there. Don’t take it into the shop just to put it back in your garage or basement and not pull it out again. There’s a bike storage room in my building and I swear 4/5ths of those bikes never move. Some of the owners may not even live there any more at this rate. Setting that aside, I should call Freewheel and schedule some time, because my bike needs some work as it is.

And if you want to see Lake Calhoun, you better go now. Because it just gets ungodly as it warms up. It’s the one place I am happy to be when it’s raining or cloudy or cold because half the Twin Cities is there if it’s nice. Bless their hearts, but there’s too many people who are just there to be seen. And there are so many better lakes in the chain. Maybe you are out there to see and be seen. I’m fine with that when I’m walking. But it’s a mess on a bike. There’s just not as much to see at 15 miles an hour.

Look, I’m not saying I expect you to start biking to work tomorrow (though, you know, it’s not that hard…). I know we all have a lot of things in our lives that pull us simultaneously impossible directions. While it would be noble to ride to work every single day, that’s just not going to happen in my life. Not that I shouldn’t try to make it happen every day, but there’s a lot to juggle. Sometimes I need to be in Brooklyn Park at 6, and while I certainly could do that on a bike, there’s still the fact that I would somehow need to get back to Saint Paul later that evening. Even someone like me who bikes a fair amount has to make those decisions. And maybe it’s not biking for you. All I’m saying is, I get that winter is an easy excuse to not do things. Especially this winter, when the normal wintry things weren’t even possible. Minnehaha was a little sad, though it was also nice to see the only partially frozen falls. It’s a bit different.

Anyway, it’s time to get onto those goals. Because this year, I’m figuring out how to get my bike from Saint Paul to Hastings. And though my mileage was a little disappointing for the first couple months, 6000 miles is still a realistic goal. Because the 200 mile weeks will begin to pile up. It’s not all that much anyway. My parents will ride at least as much as me probably, and I have an uncle who will definitely ride twice that. I bike because I enjoy it. I don’t expect everyone to. But if you are getting out there, are you enjoying what you do? Because you should. There are too many great things to do, especially right here in Minnesota, for you to be spending too much time doing one that you don’t enjoy. Whether it’s on a lake, around a lake, or nowhere near one doesn’t really matter. We can get too caught up in all the various bullshit of life. The long work days, the things we need to do, I get it, I have them too. The dishes still don’t wash themselves and until there’s a fundamental restructuring of the way our employment is structured in this country, I don’t think the long work days will stop any time soon either. Personally, I long for the days when the bike paths and road trails are so crowded that we actually have to pay more attention to that infrastructure. While it’s a bit contrary to a large part of why I bike (seriously, cut 5-6 hours of driving in traffic out of your life and see how much less stress you feel) as more bikes mean paying more attention and probably falling into those same pitfalls, I think we as a society are a long way from that. And it’s never going to become most people’s primary mode of transportation. So if it’s not biking, that’s fine. And if it’s not why you bike, that’s fine too. Get out there and run, or walk, or take those dogs to Cedar Lake. Make this the year you finally see Cascade River or the Devil’s Kettle. And if you don’t live here, I’m sure there’s plenty to do wherever you are. It’s not that hard if you look for it. The question is, do you really want it?

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