I’ve gotten behind on my book reviews – since my last book post I read La Belle Sauvage (which no one I know has read yet and it’s driving me crazy) and Parable of the Talents, both of which I have lots of thoughts about. Right now I’m getting close to the end of The Poisonwood Bible, which I love, and I know I’ll have a lot to say about that, too. After that I plan to read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. 2017 was a great reading year for me – I was really inspired to go outside my usual sphere and read books that I wouldn’t have picked up before. Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 challenge was a big help in choosing books, and I plan to use their 2018 list to help me keep widening my horizons this year.

I think “widening my horizons” was my running theme in 2017, along with my goal of “learn more, do more” – and in 2018 I plan to just keep trucking down that path.

One thing I’m determined to do in 2018 is to get at least a little more politically involved. Actually involved, rather than just reading/learning/talking-with-people-I-know/voting. This is going to be a huge freaking year politically, and I don’t want to let it go by without doing at least something to help out. To that end, I signed up to go to a phone bank training session next week. We’ll see what other opportunities 2018 will bring for political volunteering, but phone banking is definitely something I can do – I’ve worked in call centers, so while calling and talking to people isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, I’ve got the skillset. I’ve phone banked once before and it was scary at first but got steadily less so as I kept doing it – kind of like most new, outside-my-comfort-zone things. I was calling people to encourage them to contact their state senator about a statewide reproductive rights issue, and I figure if I can call people about reproductive rights, I can call them about anything. If that’s something I can do to help get out the vote, count me in. I’ll also say that the Crooked Media folks have been extremely inspiring on that front, too – their encouragement for everyone to pitch in and stop letting democracy be a spectator sport has been a factor in my determination to come out of the stands, even if I’m just carrying water.

Of course I’ll be continuing to teach ESL twice a week, too – that’s in my permanent plan at this point. It’s hard to believe that I started in March; before long I’ll have been doing it for a year. Of all the changes I’ve made in the last year, starting to volunteer with Centro Hispano is the one that I’m proudest of and that has been the most fulfilling and inspiring. I sometimes wish I could go back in time and tell my former self “No seriously, you don’t have to give up sitting around and playing video games, but you sure as hell can do less of it and give some time to help people, IT WILL BE WORTH IT.” But there are a lot of things I wish I could tell my former self, and life just doesn’t work that way. I’m sure in the future there will be things I wish I could tell my now-self. I’ll just keep working on doing better and hope to end each year with the ability to say “I did work that I’m proud of.”

It’s getting to be close to a year that I’ve been studying Spanish. My Duolingo streak is 312 days now; at this point Duolingo is just a quick daily refresher and not one of my main learning tools, but the streak marks when I first decided that I needed to make a serious commitment to learn Spanish, even if it took me forever. (It’s actually been a bit longer than 312 days – I try not to use Streak Freeze too often but I’ve used it a handful of times, maybe 4 or 5.) And it is going to take a long time for me to really get comfortable speaking Spanish, but I’ve come so far since I started. My reading comprehension is way further along than my speaking – I can regularly skim articles in Spanish and understand enough to know what’s going on. I love practicing on Facebook memes that my Spanish-speaking friends post. And I can – slowly, awkwardly – engage in basic conversation. I understand a lot more than I can call up in my brain to say at this point, but I’ll get there. A year ago I didn’t speak any Spanish – now I can say I speak a little. This time next year I’ll be able to speak more.

I’m also pleased with how consistent I’ve been with my fitness goals this year. This has been possibly the busiest year I’ve ever had – the most involved and active I’ve ever been – and I didn’t use that as an excuse to slack on my fitness goals. I’m not saying that my exercise level didn’t change – last year I had more time and energy to focus on running, last year I hadn’t yet started the superfun hormonal fluctuations that my body has decided I get to start experiencing at a relatively early age, and last year I wasn’t drinking quite as much wine. I’m starting 2018 with a little more weight, less free time and shifted priorities. My fitness is, and always will be, extremely important to me, though – 2017 was also the year that I upped my Fitbit daily step goal to 15k steps (from the default/recommended 10k) and in the entire year there were only five days that I didn’t meet that goal. Four of those five days I still got over 10k, I just didn’t make it to 15k. Bodies change. Lives change. Goals and priorities change. How I focus on my fitness may continue to change, but I don’t intend to ever lose my focus on it, or my commitment to it. The fact that I devote time to it and make it a goal every single day has served me very, very well.

2017 was challenging in a lot of ways. The news has frequently been enraging and terrifying, and I’ve been determined to not look away, to not go back to hiding in my pillow fort of entertainment (at least not full-time; I’m not saying the pillow fort isn’t necessary for a retreat sometimes, it just doesn’t need to be a full-time residence). And I haven’t – I’ve taken my concern and anger and directed them towards learning and helping.

Yes, I’m totally giving myself props for this year. Yes, I’ve also made missteps and yes there’s still a lot that I’ve got to work on. But the world turned upside-down and I’m proud of how I’ve stepped up. Currently we’re spending the week of New Year’s at our favorite beach, which is beautiful and odd in the cold weather, and a great place for both rest and introspection. And then it will be home, back to real life, time to start 2018 in earnest, and time to get to work. Onward and upward.