An Uber driver in Portland, Oregon told me to expect major life changes at 28 because it was my “Saturn Returns” year. Being a practical, bordering on cynical, East Coaster who therefore has minimal interactions with the hippie-dippy nonsense of the crystal-clutching West Coast, I had to ask the man what he meant.
He went on to explain that Saturn is returning to the same position as my birth year, which would mark my transition into a new life stage. I’m still a major skeptic, but it turns out the sage Uber driver had a point.
I marked my 28th year of life in May of 2017. A mere 19 days prior my first book hit shelves. In August, Peach, my partner of seven-years, and I got engaged. In October I was offered a two-book deal to continue on with the Broke Millennial series. November was my anniversary of surviving my first full year of self-employment and the associated highs-and-lows of earning a variable income (and battling the desire to sit in pajamas and watch the latest Netflix show all day while cuddling Mosby).
This is not going to turn into a humble brag about the wonderfulness of my life. Rather, it’s to point out that objectively on paper it seems as if all is well in the land of Broke Millennial. Here’s the thing — it’s not.
2017 was a year full of major life accomplishments, but it ended with me feeling on the verge of a full-fledged panic attack. I cried while texting my sister about how I was nervous for my 13-hour drive home from Charlotte to New York after Christmas because I worried a panic attack would hit while driving. She wisely advised me not to work myself up into one and instead focus on what I could control and listen to all my nerdy podcasts.
So, why was I feeling as if I were about to have a panic attack as the sun set on a remarkable year?
A potent mixture of imposter syndrome, a dash of personal failures, and enough down time without work distractions over Christmas to New Years allowed me to finally feel all the emotions I’d be shoving aside for months.
I’ll back up.
First, I’ll explain the imposter syndrome. Writing Broke Millennial* triggered a steady drum beat of “why you?”, “who do you think you are?” and “people are going to call you a fraud” that consumed my mind through so much of the process. I couldn’t sleep the night before the book release for fear that it would utterly flop. Rationally, knew I’d put in the work. I knew I’d interviewed the right people and did the right research and broke it down in a digestible way. But fear is powerful. That same fear has come roaring back as I begin the journey of writing my second book, which is about investing. An incredibly heavy, complicated topic.
Second, the personal failures. I truly became all consumed with building the Broke Millennial brand in 2017. If I wasn’t in actively engaged in book press or writing, then I was thinking about it all. I began to stress eat, a lot. I also started to meet people for drinks as I tried to keep up an active social life in my switch to being a self-employed-sitting-at-home-all-day person. This naturally lead to gaining weight, a lot. I put on 30 pounds over the course of about seven months. This is on top of the fact that I didn’t feel completely comfortable in my body to begin with. Once I realized it was a problem, I hired a trainer and while I am getting stronger — the weight stayed pretty stagnant as I continued to still stress eat and hit the happy hours. Not to mention, the idea of feeling uncomfortable with myself on my wedding day (which is this year) is ulcer-inducing for me. I don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on photos I’ll never want to hang in my home. I don’t want to feel awkward about hundreds of people looking at me. I want to feel beautiful and powerful and be completely focused on the happiness and love of the occasion.
realized finally admitted to myself I was numbing my brain to avoid ruminating on my worries about being self-employed or the book being a failure or being mad at myself for gaining weight or fretting that I wasn’t putting in enough quality time with Peach or my other loved ones to maintain healthy, strong relationships. In order to do this, I watched a lot of TV. It would constantly be on in the background as I did anything where I could split focus: e.g. cooking, cleaning, answering mindless emails and even showering. I listened to podcasts when I walked the dog or walked to the train station. I never allowed my brain the silence it needed to process my feelings and anxiety.
Finally, I screwed up with managing my money — but that is a separate post to come soon (you can read all about it here.).
Here I am giving you a lot of intimate information because it’s important to understand why I’m trying to tackle 2018 in a different way. Like most of us, I fail each year at my New Year’s resolutions. Then I realized I should apply one of my favorite money tactics to my resolutions.
I’m a big believer in setting a lofty goal and then working backwards to chunk that goal down into manageable pieces. For example, I knew I wanted to save $10,000 by the time I graduated college. For whatever reason, that’s the amount I decided it would take to accomplish my dream of moving to New York City after graduation. As a freshman in college I broke that down to saving $2,500 a year. Then I set a monthly goal of saving $208.33 a month. That’s still a lot of money when you’re in college, so I became a resident advisor and then worked during summers and saved a lot.
As the new year dawned, I sat down and wrote out a list of goals for 2018 in the categories of:
There are 29 goals total on my list. Yeah, it’s a lot of goals. But they run a wide spectrum. For example, one professional goal is to write for three major print publications in 2018. Another is to hit 20,000 Twitter followers. I also want to post on Instagram at least three times per week. Other goals are more lofty, like hitting a goal weight of 130 pounds (which would mean losing 50 pounds this year) and to read a minimum of 20 minutes per day. I was a voracious reader all the way through high school and most of college (as evidenced by too many family vacation photos of me with a book in my hand). But for some reason I fell out of habit and turned instead to TV to distract me. The 20 minutes a day rule is a way for me to return to something that always made me happy.
Obviously, trying to focus on 29 goals from the jump is asinine and just going to set me up for failure. Instead, I’ve created micro-goals that serve my larger resolutions. Those goals are written on a post-it, which I’ve put on a mirror so I see it each day after I wake up and before bed.
In January, my goals are:
- Complete a dry January (with the exception of a mimosa the day I go wedding dress shopping).
- Exercise daily (at minimum I have a kettle bell circuit I do each day)
- Read 20 minutes a day
- Plan out my next day the night before (it significantly boosts productivity if you have a set list of goals and agenda items already scheduled when you wake up).
- Use the headspace app each morning (experimenting with meditation is one of my larger self-improvement goals for 2018)
That’s it. Those are the micro-goals I’ve set for myself that feel manageable enough to accomplish each day. Hopefully some of them (e.g. kettle bell workout and planning out my next day) become habitual so I don’t need a post-it note reminding me in February as I take on new micro-goals. I’ve also found these micro-goals are leading to other, healthier trends. For instance, I usually grab my phone to turn off my alarm in the morning and then immediately check Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and my email. Now, I’m challenging myself not to check email or social media until after my meditation, breakfast and walking Mosby. Albeit this rosy glow of feeling even more accomplished than intended is a premature as we’re a whopping 5 days into the new year. I’ve also started new micro-goals for my finances, starting with diligently track my daily spending as I work on my 2018 financial goals, but more to come on that in the next couple of days.
Now I’m off to go
watch some TV read!
*yup, that’s an affiliate link and I’ll get something like 40 cents if you buy my book using it!