4 Things to Focus on in 2016

It’s 2016! The clock has just switched over. I’m sitting at home, listening to fireworks exploding all over London while a gentle rain falls. I’m all tucked up and cozy with some delicious wild-crafted tea, my hot water bottle, and my writing. It might sound lonely to you or anti-social, but honestly after 3 non-stop weeks with family and friends, I actually can’t think of a better way to start 2016 than with some delightfully quiet reflection.

2015 was a great year that had a pretty rough ending for me. There’s lots of change happening in my life right now, which is always exciting and also a little unsettling. But looking ahead to 2016, I’m feeling positive.

This year, I’m setting four places to put my focus in 2016.

1. Get Strong

I’ve had this problem with my left hip and knee since I turned 30 (yep, apparently everything does start to fall apart…). I’ve been in and out of physio for the better part of a year to get it fixed. Though we haven’t gotten to the root of it yet, everyone I’ve seen has told me, it would help if I were stronger.

I used to be really strong – back at uni when I rode horses 5 days a week, I was a machine. When I stopped riding, I noticed my confidence to be able to do things waned with my muscles. It made me shy and skittish and less bold when I was outside even doing easy things like hiking. I longed to have the strength back that let me throw around our living room arm chairs with ease. I didn’t realise it was so connected to my self-confidence.

As I’ve started working out more and more to get that strength back, I remember that external strength and internal strength are tied together and support one another. I’m looking forward to 2016 being the year I get really strong. I’m making it a top priority.

I hope this will allow me to go on the adventures I want to go on and do things like become a better swimmer, yogi, and acrobat.

2. Stay Creative

I seem to put this one down every year. I suppose I always feel like I could be doing more? Or maybe it’s just that it’s good to remind myself of my focus. Lately, I’m getting good at devoting time to writing and drawing, and it feels great (look out for more posts as proof!). I’m also looking forward to sewing more (second lingerie workshop is coming up in a few weeks!) and getting into lots of DIY projects for my new flat.

I would really love to finish my memoir/novel about learning to sail this year and get some feedback on it. And I would love to enter a writing contest at some point.

3. Trust myself

I am a very risk-averse person. I inherited it from risk-averse parents, so it’s in pretty deep. This often reveals itself as my nerdy side, the side of me that is afraid of jumping off the tiny ten foot bank, or afraid to turn up late, or won’t ask perfectly normal questions. It’s my shy side. You have to be right, safe, good – don’t try anything too crazy!

More recently, I’ve realised that this risk-aversion also makes me second guess myself. Most especially with the question, “Did I make the right decision?”

What a worthless question! Who cares? You made the decision, so deal with it.

I’ve been wrestling with a couple of big decisions the past few months and it’s put me in a state of nearly constant self-doubt. Self-doubt is kind of a convoluted way to make myself the victim and lose my own power. Cue whiny, internal chatter, ‘What if… what if… what if…” . So in 2016, I want to focus on trusting myself. If I make a decision that gets me into a tricky place, I will trust in myself and have the confidence to know I can handle it.

Put another way: I got this.

4. Go Vegan

Whoa.

This is one I have been dancing around for a long time. I’m vegetarian and I haven’t ever felt comfortable with the ethics behind most animal product agriculture, but I like eating cheese enough that I’ve been too lazy to give it a real go.

I saw the movie Cowspiracy a few days ago. It’s on Netflix right now. Def check it out if you have the opportunity. The film looks at a few different papers that discuss animal agriculture’s impact on climate change. Here’s one of their stats that’s particularly impressive.

Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Goodland, R Anhang, J. “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change were pigs, chickens and cows?”

WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.

Animal Feed Science and Technology “comment to editor” Goodland, Anhang.

The Independent, article Nov. 2009.

Yikes. He spends the rest of the film wondering why environmentalists and environmental organisations aren’t talking more about going vegetarian/vegan to save the planet from climate change when animal agriculture is by far the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases – more than all transportation combined! His conclusion is pretty scary – the meat lobby is incredibly powerful and people who speak out about its ill effects have often ended up dead prematurely… (Check out more of the film’s mind blowing research here).

Ok, so it contributes a lot to greenhouse gases, but if you ride your bike, recycle, use resources consciously, then you can splurge on animal products, right?

Well… take a look at this chart.

water usage for common animal products

Can you believe a pound of beef requires over 2,400 gallons of water? There was recently a big fuss about almonds and almond milk consuming a lot of Californian water, but as it turns out, almond milk is relatively benign, only racking up about 50 gallons per pound of almond milk – 50 gallons/lb seems like a staggeringly high number but it’s still less than animal dairy milk at 90 gallons/lb.

Oh no – and now look at cheese – 896 gallons per POUND of cheese??

Unfortunately, while super tasty, animal products are also super resource intensive. They take a lot of water, a lot of land, and a lot of vegetable/feed resources. With the number of people on our planet and the way it is changing, it’s just not sustainable to be using our resources to feed and house animals that we then turn into food.

It’s not even an ethics argument anymore. Even ethically raised animals have these problems. In fact, ethically raised animals actually have a bigger impact on climate change because they need more resources (water, land, and feed) and create more emissions (because they live longer) to create the same amount of meat.

I won’t reproduce the entire film here, but it is super effective at showing how very inefficient and damaging to the climate it is to be getting our protein from animal sources. Western cultures are currently gorging themselves on meat, and it’s changing the planet in ways that will have very big implications for us. This has always been one of the reasons that I chose to be vegetarian, but seeing the film laid out very clearly how animal agriculture touches upon several major, global issues that I don’t want to be a part of: climate change, water depletion, rainforest destruction, habitat destruction, cruelty… And cheese and dairy products aren’t exempt from any of it.

SO! I’m going to try to go vegan. I’ve done it for three days now. We’ll see how I go. It’s going to be really hard for me to give up cheese, I think. Especially pizza (OH GOD NO). But it feels like the right thing to do. Wish me luck!

What are your goals for 2016?