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New Year, New Beginnings

The last few years I have spent the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve working on cleaning out my closet and decluttering my room. The idea is to work on clearing out all the of stuff that I don't need anymore so I can start the New Year with a fresh slate. I also sit down and look back at the previous year to review my life so I can work on the areas that need improvement and build on the successes I've had.

This year I accomplished that goal and glad I did it. My room is now more organized, and hopeful that I will be able to keep it that way, and feels better not having all the clutter. 2017 was a rough year. It started off on the wrong foot and never seemed to really improve much. There were some really great things that happened but they were still overshadowed by 2 really tough events that occurred fairly early on and had lasting impact: tearing the meniscus in my right knee and getting rear-ended which totaled my car.

Last year I decided to forego my normal end of the year routine of creating a list of goals to work on, largely because I ended 2016 on a sour note that lingered into the new year. This year it was important to me that I created a plan so I can stay focused on my goals and working toward accomplishing them. The idea is to take what I've learned over the past 12 months and put it into action, so here it goes:

Complete at least one 5k (or longer) race a month


Back in 2014 I made a commitment to myself that I would do at least 1-5k a month and I was on track to not only complete that goal, but to actually surpass it. At least until sprained my left ankle at Dragon Con which led to the second surgery. At first I was discouraged because I wasn't able to complete my initial goal, especially after I crossed the finish line at what would be my last race of the year at the beginning of Oct. 2014, but when I was looking back at my accomplishments at the end of the year I realized I had completed a total of 11 races, including my first 10k.

When I was cleaning out my closet last week I was a little discouraged when I realized how few races I was able to do last year. But one of the amazing things I realized was that I am a runner. The other thing that I realized was that running provided me with the chance to train and compete. I may not be the fastest one out there but it's never stopped me from pushing myself to improve.

This year I’m going to recommit myself to do this, especially after not being about to do much running last year. I don’t care if it means I have to walk the full distance, I'm determined to get back out there again. Even if I can’t run like I want to, I can at least get back out there and start training again. And hopefully in time I can find a way to start running again, meniscus tear be damned.

Treat myself to a dinner and movie at least once a month

Dinner and a Movie

One of the traditions I have on Christmas is going to Waffle House for breakfast and the going to watch a movie at the theater afterward. Originally my little sister and I would go together but now that she has a family of her own I go by myself. This year was no different and I spent most of the day on Christmas at the movie theater and ended up watching a total of 4 movies. It was a great way to relax and let go of some of the pent up stress that had been building up over the previous weeks.

Going to the movies is something I’ve always enjoyed doing but for whatever reason I never seem to make the time to go to the theater. This year I’m going to make more time for myself and focus on self care. Part of that is going to be doing stuff like going to the movies and participating in 5k's. But it's also remembering to do some of the boring stuff, like making sure I keep my room clean and organized. Focusing on my goals. Taking Max out to play everyday. Because in the end it's all an important part of living in recovery.

Focus on my goals with Toastmasters


I first joined Toastmasters in March 2016, after being encouraged to check it out as a way to help me overcome my severe fear of public speaking. I resisted at first but when I finally went to a meeting I decided to join. Last year I completed the requirements to earn my first communication and leadership awards. I also volunteered to serve as my club Vice President of Public Relations, which was a huge step outside of my comfort zone. It has a been difficult at times but it has also helped me build my confidence not only with my public speaking skills but also my leadership skills.

This year my goal is to continue through the program and work toward earning the highest award Toastmasters offers, the Distinguished Toastmaster Award. I currently have another 5 speech projects to complete my next communication award and one presentation to complete my next leadership award. My goal is to complete the requirements for both by the end of April and start working through the next two advanced manuals, which I ordered to night. I also ordered the manual so that I can start working on my High Performance Leadership project which I would like to complete by the end of 2018.

Find public speaking opportunities

HNC Print Photography Public Speaking

One of my goals, both personal and professional, is to find more public speaking opportunities and ways to give back to the community. Last year, I was finally able to attend the RESPECT Institute of Georgia. It was great experience and I was able to learn a lot about myself as I worked on writing and presenting my recovery story. I also had the opportunity to be part of two separate panel discussions for suicide prevention and awareness events. In December, I asked to be part of the CPS panel where I was able to share my experiences as a Certified Peer Specialist with those who were completing their training. It was the third time I was given the opportunity and hopeful I will get the chance again this year.

This year I am going to work toward building more opportunities to speak about living in recovery with a mental illness as well as suicide prevention. I want to be able to combine my skills as a professional photographer with my training as a Certified Peer Specialist to serve as an advocate for change in mental health and suicide prevention. Going to be working with my career specialist at Briggs & Associates to develop a photography workshop as well as finding venues to present the first photo essay I completed, "Breaking Point" and created a presentation from. Now that I have found my voice I want to find ways to spread the message that recovery is not only possible, it's happening. I am the evidence

Create more art

Art projects

I’m going to make more time to work on various art projects. Whether it’s making new sculptures, photo projects or just other random stuff making art helps me stay focused on my recovery journey. One of the things I realized in November is that when I have a structured goal it helps me get through the rough times.

I have other photo projects that I’ve wanted to start for years but for one reason or another I’ve put them off. This is the year I stop doing that and figure out how to make them a reality. Starting with illustrating the 5 stages of recovery using my own recovery as a model. I have the basic idea for the images I want to create, now I just need to start working on capturing them with the camera instead of letting them dwell in my head.

Going to continue building on the "Messages of Hope" project I started last year. One way I plan to do this is by focusing on the photography workshop/seminar I have already started to develop and find ways to get out into the community where it can do the most good.

Maintain my blog and update it at least 1x/week

I’ve wanted to start a blog for several years and I’ve finally did it in November. So far I’ve managed to keep it up to date, only missing one week, and I’m determined to stick with it. My hope is that it will help me establish myself as a photographer, a CPS and an advocate for mental health. The focus of this blog will continue to be on art, photography and my life in recovery.

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