Looking ahead

New Year's Eve has always been an extremely stressful holiday for me. As if I needed another reason to sit down and overthink what I've done with my life and what I want to do with it in the future. Before I had a handle on my anxiety, I dreaded New Year's. There was an enormous amount of pressure to make the next twelve months of my life something spectacular -- to be more successful and improve my life in some major ways.

In all honesty, New Year's is still stressful. The pressure to be a bigger/better version of myself hasn't dissipated. Now, I just handle it in a more practical, less dramatic way. I think a large reason of my coming to peace with New Year's is that I have a clearer view of what I want my life to look like. I know what I want to do with my life, and I have laid out steps I need to take in order to accomplish these goals.

This year, I can also look back on the Erica from 2014 and see a very obvious "before" and "after" version of myself. 2015 brought along a lot of major changes. In 2016, I think I'll see even more.

Looking ahead into the next year of my life, I know I'll grow to be a better person. I'm using my voice more, and I know what I want to say with it. And, unlike the complicated, often unrealistic New Year's resolutions I normally set for myself, my 2016 resolutions are obtainable, practical, and all about being a healthier, happier me.

My 2016 resolutions
  • Eat better. I want to eat healthier food -- food that doesn't necessarily come in a box or a bag. Food that "spoils" because it hasn't been packed with unhealthy preservatives. I want to make plans for dinners, have fuller breakfasts. I want to eat food that's so good I'll become one of those annoying people who Instagram pictures of their meals because wow, avocado and scrambled eggs on toasts looks GOOD with a Valencia filter. Also, maybe every now and then, I'll stop down at my community gym and do a few minutes on the elliptical because I may be thin, but I am not in good shape.
  • Compliment people more. I'm getting better at this. Whenever I pass people on the street, I make a conscious decision to smile at all of them (unless the wind is especially nasty that day and distracting me). I'll often think to myself "Man, I love that girl's scarf" or "That guy has a great jacket," but I'll keep the thought to myself. Why? A simple, small compliment can mean the world to someone else. So strangers, friends, family... get ready to feel flattered. I've got some nice things to say about you, and I think you need to hear it. (Because, really. People need to start being actively nicer to one another.)
  • Stop apologizing for things I'm not sorry for. I tend to say "yes," "please," and "sorry," a lot. I almost always agree to help someone out with something, even if I don't have the time. Please -- well, I don't want to cut that out of my vocabulary, even if I overuse it. And sorry? God, I apologize for everything. I apologize for bumping into inanimate objects. I apologize for sneezing. I apologize for my feelings or moments of anxiety. I'm through with that. I will never do something to intentionally offend someone, but I need to start retraining myself to accept that my feelings are valid, too, and not everything (or everyone) deserves an apology. This "stop apologizing" thing also applies to me valuing myself more and demanding respect. I want to go after the things I want and do so unapologetically because I deserve to be happy, too.
  • Pet all dogs. This one is very specific, but can be pulled back to a more broad resolution of "be happier." I want to indulge in what makes me happy and forget about the rest. I want to laugh and smile and find peace. Petting all dogs is just the perfect metaphor for that feeling, isn't it?
I don't know what 2016 will bring, but I have faith it's going to be something great. We deserve greatness this year, and happiness. Hopefully, we can all start being nicer to one another. I want to be proud of what I will accomplish, and proud of what the person next to me is accomplishing, too. We may all be going at different paces -- what looks like success to me may be completely different than what looks like success to you -- but let's all encourage one another no matter what.

In 2016, I want to share more of myself with others. I want to speak out more about things that are important to me, like mental health awareness, or how I deal with celiac disease, or what it's like figuring out how to feel important in my adult life. I'm practicing better social consciousness and learning more every day. It feels good; I feel good.

What does 2016 have in store for you?

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