here’s looking at you, twenty-seventeen

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”
– C.S. Lewis

Twenty-seventeen.  I like the sound of it.  Three-hundred-sixty-five days, each offering possibilities. Or at least invitations to take small steps here and there.

 “The days are long, but the years are short.” ~ Gretchen Rubin

I’m a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions, or, better yet, Intentions.  I always have been, although my success at achieving them is about as good as anyone else’s.  Still.  I love to dream.  If the day ever comes when I stop dreaming, I might as well call it quits.

Philadelphia Museum of Art - Perelman Building
Philadelphia Museum of Art – Perelman Building

I have a long list of resolutions that cover a wide array of categories: education, health & fitness, finances, household projects, spiritual & cultural growth.  I use the same categories every year, written in a large bound periwinkle-colored book full of blank pages. At the beginning of each new year, I write: Cathy’s 2017 Resolutions (or whatever year it is) and then I tape a copy of 2017 Yearly Horoscope: Scorpio (which rarely holds any truth in its predictions).  At the end of each year, I evaluate what I did and didn’t do (no rewards or punishments necessary), clip together the pages of the old year, and close it out. It’s my method, and I enjoy the process.  I love the bulk of those years of resolutions, some met and some not. My periwinkle book of wishes and dreams.

Urban hiking in Philadelphia
Urban hiking in Philadelphia

It has taken me a long time in life to figure out what’s most important to me, but now that I know what lights my fire, my intention for twenty-seventeen is to focus on the things I love, to expand on them and to delve deeper, to let the full expression of them bloom.

a tree-lined path near the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia
a tree-lined path near the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia

These are the things that set my heart on fire: inspirational and creative travel, writing & blogging, photography, walking (urban and nature hiking) and reading. I’ve also been toying with the idea of entrepreneurship as opposed to career-seeking in a world that seems infused with age discrimination.

I guess pedestrians go that way....
I guess pedestrians go that way….

Because I’m interested in so many things and I have so many ideas, because there are so many choices, I often feel overwhelmed; in fact, I feel utterly swamped.  When I read this passage from Robert Clark’s Love Among the Ruins (p. 162-3), I recognized myself in Jane:

Jane, “having resigned herself to the fact that a Ph.D. was not in the cards … for a personality, a character formation, that, truth to be told, has felt itself ‘swamped’ since perhaps the age of four — no, longer still, since before she seemingly alone rowed herself ashore and landed in this life.

“It is, Jane must admit, a curious thing to be so overwhelmed by obligations and duties — to have unfinished chores hugging at her hem while lined up behind them is the impending sense that some fundamental necessity has been completely overlooked — but also to experience moments of terribly clarity in which she sees that she is not busy, that in fact she is doing nothing.  And that ‘nothing’ is perhaps the substance which swamps her, the flood that threatens to sink her altogether.  For it is not merely nothing in the sense of a moment of inactivity, of respite or pause.  Nor is it the nothing of ‘nothing in particular,’ neither this nor that.  It is, Jane sees when she looks up to see it hovering just above and in front of her, her thumb holding a place in a magazine article whose subject she has already forgotten, the index finger of the other hand clawing in the near-spent cigarette pack, ‘nothing at all.’ It is the kind of nothing that is a force in its own right, that precludes all the possible somethings one might try to put in its place; that marks the fact of everything one is not doing and, looming stupidly, heavily like humidity, renders starting impossible.”

How I love it when I read a book of literary fiction (which I read to the near exclusion of anything else) and recognize myself.

following the glowing path
following the glowing path

The nothing that I’m doing, that nothing that has a life of its own, is so physically oppressive that starting something, anything, becomes a force to be reckoned with.  How does one start something when “all the possible somethings” remind me every moment of what I’m NOT doing? I often feel smothered by all those possibilities, and rendered inactive.

Philadelphia urban hike and Paint the Revolution banner
Philadelphia urban hike and Paint the Revolution banner

Yet.  I do continue to search.  To seek.  A good friend of mine once admitted to admiring me for always searching.  For what, he didn’t know.  Neither do I.  But I do believe it is important to keep searching, even if you don’t know what for.

urban hike through Philly
urban hike through Philly

In the excellent memoir-writing book, Writing Life Stories, teacher Bill Roorbach asks one of his 85-year-old students, coincidentally named Jane:

“Jane, tell us, what’s the secret of life?”

Jane smiled benignly, forgiving me my sardonic nature, tilted her head, and said without the slightest pause: “Searching.”

An indignant Chuck (one of the other students) said, “Not finding?”

“No, no, no,” Jane said emphatically, letting her beatific smile spread, “Searching.”

Searching is what keeps us alive, gives us hope, keeps us moving along, step by step, through our lives.

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”  ~ Vincent van Gogh

enticing shop window
enticing shop window

In the areas of life that excite me, here are my intentions for the year ahead:

Reading: I intend to bask in my love of reading, using Goodreads extensively, adding to my to-read list and writing reviews of every book I read.  My goal is to read 40 books in different areas: literary fiction, memoir, poetry, short stories and travel memoir; books on the craft of memoir, travel and fiction writing: and inspirational books on creativity. Last year, my goals was to read 35 books and I achieved that goal. I was enriched by every page I read. 🙂

a construction zone beneath a mural in Philly
a construction zone beneath a mural in Philly

Photography: I intend to read books on photography, push myself to play more with my camera, possibly take a photography workshop, and challenge myself to be more creative. I will try to participate in several photo challenges on WordPress.  I would also like to get and learn a new photo processing software.

diagonal walkways
diagonal walkways

Walking (urban and nature hiking):  I intend to continue my 3-mile walks 4x/week, but also to take local urban hikes through cities such as Washington, Philadelphia, and Richmond and natural hikes in the Shenandoah mountains or elsewhere on the East Coast.  I also hope to do three official 10K walks this year.  Of course, I walk a lot whenever I travel abroad because I believe it is the best way to fully experience any destination.  I also have a dream of walking the Camino de Santiago in the fall, possibly September-October. If I do it, I want to do the whole thing, The French Way, all 780 km of it.  I hope I can swing it this year.

As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life. ~ Buddha

urban hike in Philly
urban hike in Philly

Inspirational and creative travel:  I intend to travel more intentionally this year, and to make something creative from my travels.  My plan for this spring is to try to volunteer at a bed & breakfast in Croatia for a week, travel solo in Croatia, and then meet Mike, where we will explore Hungary and Czech Republic, focusing on Budapest and Prague.  In the fall, I hope to be able to walk the Camino de Santiago.

urban hiking in Philly
urban hiking in Philly

Writing & blogging:  I’d like to stop being lazy in my travel writing and blogging and to push myself to be more creative and inspirational.  I intend to travel more intentionally and observantly, keeping a detailed travel journal and taking more creative photos. I hope to make something from my travels, whether the stuff of memoir or fiction, poetry or storytelling photography.

still decked out for the holidays
still decked out for the holidays

As for my fiction and memoir writing, I’d like to self-publish my novel and finish my memoir by year-end.  In addition, I plan to take classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  I’ve already signed up for three classes: How to Build Complex Characters, Building Better Characters, and Character Building. I know, they all sound alike, don’t they?  However, they each have a slightly different focus and are taught by different teachers.  I’m interested in this subject because I want to create characters to take with me to Croatia and on my other travels.  I’m also interested in creating a course on how to create characters and bringing that character to …..(fill in the blank with a foreign country name).

Old row house on Cypress and Juniper, modern Kimmel Performing Arts Center, Art Deco 1920s Drake Hotel converted to luxury apartments
Old row house on Cypress and Juniper, modern Kimmel Performing Arts Center, Art Deco 1920s Drake Hotel converted to luxury apartments

Entrepreneurship/Career:  Finally, there is the issue of work.  I’ve been reading a book by Gail Sheehy called Sex and the Seasoned Woman.  I started this book years ago, but I finally finished it this year.  What I found most interesting were the stories of older women who decided to reinvent their lives and bring their passions into fruition.  I found a story about Elaine, who started out as a schoolteacher, to be funny and inspirational (p. 232-235):

Elaine’s husband asked her: “What are you passionate about?”

“Books,” she said.  “This may be a really dumb idea, but I’ve always wanted to be a bookseller.”  Now she is the proprietor of a large bookstore in California.  Later, her husband asked her again if there were anything she was missing in life.

“Teaching,” she admitted.  “This may be a really dumb idea, but what if we started a conference for travel writers?”  Now their bookstore has expanded into a small university of sorts.

Elaine says “But these things didn’t start as smart business ideas.”  They started with Elaine saying to her husband, “This is probably a dumb idea, but….”

So, THIS is probably a dumb idea, but I hope to start a new blog where I don my teaching hat and write posts about how to immerse oneself more creatively and intentionally in travel, how to approach travel with awe and with an eye to inspiring creativity in oneself.

The Church of St. Luke & The Ephiphany
The Church of St. Luke & The Epiphany

I’m hoping that eventually this will lead to me offering creative travel retreats.  Slowly, slowly.  As a teacher, writer, and traveler, I know I am perfectly capable of doing this.  Yet.  And of course, there is always a YET!  I’ve never been an entrepreneur before, so I know I will have a steep learning curve. I intend to climb that curve, even if it involves backsliding down that slope as I learn.  I will need confidence and courage.

Philadelphia urban hike
Philadelphia urban hike

In that vein, I’ve written a lot of notes about defining my business and my market, signed up for a course called Starting Your Own Business, and have subscribed to Entrepreneur magazine.  Now I need to come up with a name!

I will reveal more about my ideas for this business on a new blog at some point soon, I hope.  I have lots of ideas. 🙂

southside Philly
Southside Philly

As for my ESL career, I will cut back on my job applications, but I will periodically apply to jobs abroad or at home.  My heart isn’t really in the work itself, except for the travel opportunities offered.  If I get a job, it may waylay my aforementioned plans, but I’m open to any adventure the world throws my way! 🙂

facade in Philadelphia
facade in Philadelphia

I hope everyone continues to dream and grow in twenty-seventeen, and I hope all your wishes come true. 🙂

(All photos were taken on urban hikes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 29-30, 2016)

31 thoughts on “here’s looking at you, twenty-seventeen

  1. Wonderful and incredibly inspiring blog! Thank you! I had forgotten that under my high school graduation photo, I had written, “I will search until there is nothing left to find.”!!! Seriously!!! And I used to be that girl, what happened to her? Oh…. I know. My SIX cats!! Hahahaha! No matter!! There are still things to learn and do and to be more proactive on all fronts right where I am, and this is now my goal, too!

    I love the idea of the periwinkle notebook! Going back and seeing how much you were able to accomplish!

    But you know what? I heard something on TV last week about how there is no need to wait until January 1 to make changes in your life – every day can be the start of your “new year” if you want to make a change in your life. I quit smoking on December 24th, and while I had a craving last weekend, I overcame it. I am proud of that even though I was not a heavy smoker, I did not succumb and yesterday I passed my favourite international smoke shop and overcame the urge to drop in and buy something. 😀

    Your inspiring blogs (and profoundly valued friendship!!!!) make me realize every day that even the smallest change can be part of one’s evolution to become whatever you can dream you can be, and there is no time like the present to start a new journey and see where it leads you!!

    Thank you for this, thank you for that, thank you for your friendship, thank you for all the motivation and inspiration and sightseeing, and most of all, thank you for all the phone calls in 2017! You inspire all of us by being who you are, and we cannot WAIT to see what you will do next!! Whatever it is will be AMAZING!!


    1. I believe you are still searching too, so don’t be hard on yourself. I agree that any day can be the start of a new year, and inventing a new self. It’s amazing, though, how many things crop up to waylay the best laid plans! Congratulations on quitting smoking. I know it’s a hard habit to break. I hope to start this new journey and to keep focused on it and work toward my goals slowly and surely. Thank you too, for your friendship and encouragement and inspiration. Here’s to a great year for all of us in 2017! 🙂

  2. Travelling, bicycling, reading: that would be the areas I’d like to do more in. Blogging will be the same, I think. I spend enough time on thta. And then there’s gardening. That MUST be more.
    Good luck with your ideas for 2017,

    1. Those all seem like great goals, Pit. I’m not much of a bicyclist, not in a serious way anyway, but my husband is. Traveling is what really lights my fire, and I hope to find the means to do more of it in 2017. I’m certain that you’ll find time and energy for all your goals in the coming year! Thanks so much for your good wishes. 🙂

  3. It sounds as though you’re finding your space, a space that has room for your husband, for your life in the U.S. I’m happy for you – being comfortable in your space is so important in a happy life.

  4. I like the fact that you have so many resolutions/inspirations for the coming year – and so many exciting ones. If you are to try them all you will be very busy – not a moment to lose! I’m not a great one for having new year resolutions, because I think that if I didn’t manage to keep them I would feel as though I had failed, whereas anything I do manage to achieve during the year in terms of changes to how things are now, can be seen as a bonus! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Elaine. I do make too many resolutions; already in the first week, I barely checked off much on my daily lists toward accomplishing my goals. I know it’s all too ambitious! I understand your way of looking at things: anything you do manage to achieve is a bonus. I agree with that. However, knowing myself, I know I wouldn’t accomplish anything at all if I didn’t have some goals. Here’s hoping I won’t get too overwhelmed! 🙂

  5. Phew, reading this leaves me a little breathless. You have a great list of goals and I’m sure you’ll achieve many of them. I’m looking forward to all the travel, because that means we get to come along with you. 🙂

    1. It leaves me breathless too. I was hesitant to even put it in writing, because I’m sure to come up short on many fronts! But, oh well, I’m sure I’ll achieve some things and won’t achieve others. Of course, the travel is what I look forward to most of all! And as always, I’d love for you to come along. 🙂

    1. Thank you! And thanks for stopping by. I hope by focusing on what I love, I’ll stop being waylaid by all the things I normally waste my time on that aren’t that important! Happy New Year to you too. 🙂

  6. I like your ideas – that’s a great place to start! I also like seeing you get yourself up again after several disappointments and keep going. I think the new blog sounds like a great idea or you redirect this one to do the same thing.


    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Nancy. You had the idea for a new blog with a new focus yourself, right? I don’t think what I hope to do in the coming year would fit the purpose of this current blog, which is basically like a diary. I really need to think of a name for this new business idea, but so far, I’m stymied! I won’t get anywhere if I don’t come up with one soon. 🙂

      1. Yes, I’m thinking of doing a blog on cooking with my Big Green Egg. The BGE people don’t give a lot of helpful guidance. The forum is superb, but you have to really dig through to find the gems. I’m having the same problem though in coming up with a name plus the time to get it going! Between year end and coming home from the holidays with a really bad cold, I’m not getting much done.

      2. Interesting, Nancy. I’ve never heard of the Big Green Egg, so I looked it up. You should definitely start a cooking blog! Yes, the name and time are both big hurdles to overcome. I’m sorry you have a bad cold too. I hope you get better soon! 🙂

  7. I like the idea of you writing your annual aspirations and resolutions in a pretty periwinkle blue notebook. I am also most admiring of what you set out to achieve each year, whether or not you do is immaterial, but it shows that you are constantly seeking opportunities, assessing and evaluating your path through life. I’m probably far too comfortable in my life and just go with the flow ‘so ‘s to speak’. I’m glad that you have managed to work out what you want and ways to achieve it, I hope that you succeed, though running your own business is not for the fainthearted and there will be lots of competition for what you have in mind. Good luck Cathy, I look forward to following you through 2017.

    1. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, Jude. I’m always dreaming, but I so rarely actually get anything accomplished. However, I certainly won’t get anything done if I don’t set goals. My tendency is to be lazy and just keep doing the things I feel comfortable with, but I’m happiest when I push myself out of my comfort zone. Lately, I’m boring myself with my own writing and photography, and if I’m boring myself, I’m sure I’m boring everyone else. I was doing some exercises in a book called Emergence where I listed the times in my life when I felt most connected, fulfilled and happy. The moments I listed have to do with my writing and traveling and photography, so I know I’m heading in the right direction. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll figure it all out before I die! As for being an entrepreneur, I’m not sure I have it in me (THIS MAY BE A DUMB IDEA BUT…); the alternative is to do nothing, or to keep wasting my time applying for jobs to which I get no replies! Happy 2017 to you, Jude. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jude. I’m glad you like my urban photos. I hope to do more urban hikes in 2017. After all I live near Washington; I need to push myself to go into town more often. It would be nice to have a partner in crime, but everyone I know works, so I’m on my own. I think we do have a similar eye in many of our photos. 🙂

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