Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is August 12th. It's strange to think that today marks the starting point of the twentieth year of my life. I now get to say that I'm 20 years old, no longer a teenager but still not yet an adult.

As I've grown older, I've felt like people tend to put a lot of emphasis on their birthday. Don't get me wrong, I love having an entire day dedicated to me: the fact that I'll have Facebook posts from friends and family filling my walls, spend a day doing my favorite activities and eating my favorite foods, end my night with cake and gifts.

I'm all for recognizing that another year-long milestone has been passed, that another tick mark on the graduated cylinder of my life has been filled, but don't we age every day? Don't we make mistakes and learn and grow and change with every passing minute? Can you really summarize the last year of your life with a series of bullet points or discoveries?

On the other hand, those who list the twenty lessons they've learned before turning twenty or nineteen biggest moments in their 19th year have a knack for summarizing and focusing on the big stuff. Something that I've been pushing myself to do is spend less time sweating the small stuff and more time looking at the big picture, the overarching goals I have for the year.

This is only a recent development in my life, after I started seriously bullet journaling (a practice that has a tendency to plan ***far*** ahead). I have now started looking at the different aspects of my life and thinking about what I want to start, stop, and continue within each of them.

To continue this trend of my recognizing the comprehensive arc of all of my actions, how every little decision can impact where I end up at the end of the year, I'm starting a tradition for my birthday. For every all-encompassing aspect of my life, I'm going to format my goals within the "Start, Stop, Continue" activity that I learned freshman year.

The system is pretty self-explanatory and answers these three questions:

  • START: what do I want to start doing?
  • STOP: what do I want to stop doing?
  • CONTINUE: what have I been doing that I want to keep on doing

Now what aspects of my life do I consider important? It's hard for me to wrap my head around it, considering I'm involved in so much and constantly have lists of wants and tasks peppered around my space, but I think my life can fit into the following buckets:

  • Academics
  • Leadership (within my extracurriculars: my sorority, Women in Computing at Cornell, etc.)
  • Technology (both as a career and a passion)
  • My personal health and happiness

Without any further delay, here's what I want to start, stop, and continue in my twentieth year!


Academics

Start:

Last year, my friends went to office hours for help and I would then turn to my friends for their assistance. I rarely went to office hours myself, instead opting to hear the information secondhand. This year, I want to put aside time for office hours and self-studying, so that I can understand the material, not just learn how to do the homework.

Stop:

I have a tendency to spend my time doing easier work that's due in a while, rather than tackling the harder assignments that are due sooner. In my mind it's still being productive, because I'm not being lazy, but I'm not using my time effectively. That's why I want to stop pushing aside harder tasks in favor of easier ones, and to realize it's better to work on assignments that are due earlier (even if it takes more effect).

Continue:

Back in high school, I made study sheets before every exam with all of the definitions, formulas, and concepts I had learned in the units covered. I kept with this tactic throughout college, and it really helps me buckle down and study (especially when I can remember equations because I know where they are on the page, even if I don't get to take the study sheet to the exam with me). I'm going to continue doing this for all of my exams, especially on a more regular, bi-weekly basis.


Leadership

Start:

In all of my organizations, I've micromanaged and picked up other tasks instead of waiting for the relevant team member to swoop in. Not only is it unfair to me and my time, but it doesn't allow my team members to learn how to do their job, therefore starting an impossible downward spiral of inefficiency and stress. This upcoming year, I'm going to start stepping back, not in a way that'll let everything slide, but in a way that makes me more of a manager and less of an overlord breathing down everyone's neck, waiting to snatch up the next to-do item.

Stop:

In the same vein as above, I tend to make snap judgements based on the input of one or two people, or even just my own first-hand opinions. My extracurriculars are important, but not life-threatening or world-ending in a way that means every decision has to be made immediately. Typically, I have time to reflect, consult other people, and make a well-researched decision, but I often jump the gun. I want to stop quick-thinking and start making mindful decisions with evidence and other opinions and time to compromise.

Continue:

As the wise Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus once said, everybody makes mistakes, and I'm definitely not an exception to that. I  have made bad calls, overstepped boundaries, and overlooked issues, but I own up to my mistakes and call myself out. Although I want to minimize these mistakes, I want to continue holding myself accountable and making sure that my fellow team members and sorority sisters know that I won't shy away from acknowledging what I've done wrong and what I want/need to do in order to improve. 


Technology

Start:

Side projects, side projects, side projects! There's only so much I can learn in lab at school or through internships, and those lessons are often self-contained within a lesson plan or summer project. There are so many technologies and techniques I want to tackle, and pursuing them independently will help me with that. My first focus: hardware, with my new Arduino (birthday present) and unopened Raspberry Pi (from *CHRISTMAS*, so long ago!).

Stop:

in previous internships, hackathons, and other tech-related endeavors, I stick to what I've done best: basic web development, coding in Python, using Firebase databases. These skills are extremely helpful and now I have them down pat, which is why I want to keep my use of them to a minimum, opting instead to push myself to learn and use something new.

Continue:

Something I've done in every new environment is reach out to the people around me: professors, TAs, full-time employees, even fellow students/interns. Everyone knows something that I don't, whether it's in technology or business or makeup techniques. There will always be some type of knowledge for which I am not the expert in the room, so I try to find that expert and learn as much as I can from them, whether as a regular mentor or just a one-time coffee chat.


My Personal Health/Happiness

Start:

With sophomore year came more responsibility and less free time, meaning I only really saw the friends in the electrical and computer engineering majors, my sorority sisters, and fellow WICC board members. I would only be able to make a random meal with my friends from freshmen year, high school, or other college activities. When I was saying goodbye to people at the end of the school year, I felt bad about those who I didn't stay in regular contact with despite really liking their company. No matter how hectic my schedule may be, I want to make sure I take time every week to regularly meet up with my friends (and also stay in contact with my family!) so that I don't take those connections for granted <3

Stop:

Whenever I'm asked what my greatest weakness is, I always say overburdening myself. It can be seen as a cop-out answer, a way to say that I'll put 110% of myself into a job or assignment, but for me, it's really true. I'm passionate about technology, diversity, writing, sports, etc. and whenever a new opportunity presents itself, I'm privy to immediately saying yes and signing myself up. However excited I am about the exploring the new activity, I overextend myself and lose focus on the things I find the most important. This is why I need to stop being a yes-woman and recognize that I have a lot on my plate already—if I really want to add more, something's gotta give.

Continue:

This summer, without the time spent on homework and studying, I ended up with free time after work. I only went to the gym twice (even though it was across the street) but I did start trying to do at least 15 minutes of vigorous exercise every day. Some days that meant following a PopSugar Fitness routine from YouTube, and other days that meant walking a mile down to a beach or taking a surf lesson. Either way, I want to continue thinking about my health and trying to spend even just 15 minutes a day being active.


Have I ever been successful with following through on my New Year's goals? Absolutely not. Am I constantly strong-willed and will always refuse a good Vine compilation or Netflix special in favor of making my life better? Uhhhh, I wish.

I do think that me listing practical and achievable goals will push me to think more about the small choices I make everyday, and maybe my twentieth year will actually have me achieve concrete goals that I lay out for myself.

Maybe :)

Whether I'm able to start/stop/continue the points above or not, this day was the perfect way to kickoff my life as a twenty year old!

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