With every New Year comes the inevitable rash of people making New Year’s Resolutions, not to mention the equally inevitable rash of people talking about how they don’t like New Year’s Resolutions, and how they only get broken in two weeks anyway.

I’ve often wondered what it is about the start of a new year that lends itself so easily to kicking off self-improvement initiatives. Perhaps it is simply that the New Year is one of the few actual milestones in the life of adults. We don’t have school years or semesters. We aren’t working toward a degree. Aside from marriage, kids, and retirement, there just aren’t a lot of milestones in the average adult’s life.

Milestones are very important. During my MBA program, in which I studied Project Management, one of the things that was often discussed was how important it was to understand the eventual goal of the project, but also to have milestones along the way. Without those checkpoints along the plan, it’s very difficult to know if you are actually making the correct amount of progress–if you are actually on schedule to achieve your ultimate goals or not.

Milestones also provide an important opportunity for course correction. When I was in college, and had a roommate that I particularly loathed (I had some doozies, let me tell you…), then I knew that I only had to get to the end of my lease/semester, and I could make a change in my situation. I find that as an adult, without those artificially enforced milestones in my life, I tend to do a pretty poor job of making course corrections. I rarely take the time to evaluate my situation and determine if I’m headed in the right direction.

So, for me, the rollover of the calendar from one year to the next is a perfect, if artificial, milestone. It gives me an opportunity to have a finite starting point for change, rather than some nebulous “I’ll get to it soon” mentality.

Which, really, is just a long-winded way of explaining why I try to set, perhaps not resolutions, but some areas on which I would like to work. The list is the same as with most people, but this year, I’m trying to set some goals that are reachable and realistic. So, here is my list of 2013 “Areas for Improvement.”

1. Money

I feel like I am just on the verge of finally getting my financial situation under control. As mentioned in my previous post, I found a budgeting software that is truly amazing, and it has completely reformed the way I spend money. In March of this year, I will pay off my car. I am starting to see a little extra money from my audiobook company (FINALLY), which I don’t include in my monthly budget, because I never know what I will actually get. Last year, I paid off my Macy’s card entirely. This year, I will pay off my closed Best Buy/Chase account ($1200). For a stretch goal, I’m hoping to also pay off my Kohl’s card ($1450).

2. Health

2012 was the year that I felt like my health finally started to catch up with me. For the first time, I truly started to feel old. I’m getting more aches and pains when I wake up in the morning (I sleep on my stomach). I found myself getting winded just walking up a few flights of stairs. My flexibility’s shot. And frankly, I can’t stand the way I look right now. This year, I have a two-pronged approach. First, I will get my eating under control. My goal is to spend no more than $100 per month on eating out in any combination. I know that seems like a lot, but last year, I budgeted $150 per month, and almost always went over that limit. More cooking. Less fast food.

Along with that, I will be working to cut down portion sizes. Today is a perfect example of how not to do it. I had oatmeal with fresh pineapple for breakfast. Reasonable portion, and fairly healthy. Then, for lunch, I had 1/2 of a Papa Murphy’s FAMILY SIZE pepperoni pizza, and two chocolate chip cookies. That meal alone probably set me back 2,000 calories. Then, for dinner, I needed to make a pot of soup for meals for the rest of the week, so I did that, and made a batch of dinner rolls to go along with them. (The soup was a split pea and bacon soup, and I don’t mind telling you…it was incredible.) But I ate two bowls of soup and three rolls. Probably another 1000 calories. In general, I need to re-train my body to be content with human-sized portions again. It’s not that I eat such terrible food (all the time), but more than I eat SO MUCH of it.

And finally, I will be doing some more exercise. When it starts to warm up, I want to make the effort to go on longer walks with the dog. He’s starting to exhibit signs of old age too, and I would like to keep his weight lower so he doesn’t have to suffer so much from joint problems as he enters the final third of his life. And I want desperately to feel attractive again. I need the confidence of knowing that my body isn’t repulsive to other people. Because that’s how I feel. I’m the fattest person in my family, by far, and I hate that. Plus, the exercise should help improve my mood (somewhat.)

3. Move Out of Redmond

I love Redmond. I have since I moved here. It’s pretty. It’s quiet. It’s clean, and relatively safe. I have everything I could ever want within a 15 minute drive. I live on a beautiful lake, five minutes from a 40-acre dog park and a 400 sq. foot garden plot. I love it.

The one thing that Redmond doesn’t have though? Eligible singles my own age. In my socio-economic circles, everyone is married and has young children. Most are Indian or Chinese. And while I have nothing against either Indians or Chinese people, they tend to socialize within their own sub-cultures, and seem disinterested in interacting outside of their comfort zone. (Just going off my own experiences here in my apartment complex.)

Young single people live in the city. They live in neighborhoods where you get to know your neighbors by walking around and interacting with them. They don’t live in suburbs or bedroom communities.

I will desperately miss my beautiful apartment on the lake, but living out here is killing me. Last night, I sat in the middle of my floor wishing that I had some neighbors or friends with whom I could spend New Year’s Eve with. Or even moreso, a partner to spend it with. But the only people I spend much time with around my complex are literally the same age as my parents. I need to find some younger folks in my life, people with whom I can forge new relationships.

So, when my lease is up in November, I’m going to move. I’ll give it at least a year. If I move into the city and hate it, then I’ll move back out to Redmond in 2014. But who knows. Maybe I’ll love it. Maybe I’ll find a nice little apartment in a quiet, safe section of the city, meet a bunch of new neighbors, and really grow to love my new neighborhood. And if not, I’ll have learned something new.

Plus, it’s a really great way for me to…

4. Simplify

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My life has started to overflow with “stuff.” I live alone in a two-bedroom, two bathroom apartment with tons of storage. And I have run out of room. I feel crammed to the gills. So, this year, I’m going to be cutting back on stuff. Do I really need 9 pairs of jeans? No, I don’t. Those oxblood patent leather oxfords from Spain that I LOVE but never wear? Why do I still have them? The five spindles of blank DVD-Rs that I have in my closet? Never going to use them. The new computer I ordered doesn’t even have a DVD drive. I’m going to be taking a long, hard look at what I can get rid of, what I can excise from my life.

* This year will be the year I finally get rid of Cable.
* As a result, it will also be the year I get rid of Tivo.
* I will watch the videos I have saved, and get rid of most of them.
* I’ll digitize my old tax records and shred the paper variety.
* Time to sell off excess furniture.

I really want to focus my life more on people and less on stuff. Of all of the goals for this year, this one has the potential for being the most difficult for me. I do so love my stuff.

So that’s my plan for 2013. I feel like it’s time to take a long, hard look at my life, and start to put it in order. I’ve let the law of Apathy drive my decisions for too long, and I want to feel like, when it comes to my life, my home, and my mind, I have everything where it should be. I want to feel as though, when the right career option, the right friendship, or the right relationship comes along, I’m ready to dive in without reservations.