About 30 hours before 2018 began, I hastily typed my resolutions into the Notes app on my phone after scrolling through search results on Instagram and Pinterest.
(For the record, I don’t usually elicit life advice from social media, but when the going gets tough, the tough turn to fake news and cat videos.)
Making resolutions is a tradition I cherish greatly, and perhaps a bit too greatly. This year, I made no fewer than eight resolutions, each successively more difficult than the last.
- Use no plastic shopping bags
- Cook a meal from each continent
- Memorize five of your favorite poems
- Meet 50 new people
- Read 50 books
- Invest $2500
- Qualify for the Boston Marathon (BMQ) and Run 2018 Kilometers
- Scoring a 520 on the MCAT
1. Use no plastic shopping bags
Even without making this an explicit goal, I’ve been fairly consistent in bringing reusable tote bags with me to grocery stores in the last seven months. Perhaps once a month, however, I’ll inevitably forget and be stuck with five or six plastic bags inhabiting the void above my kitchen cabinets.
To avoid this calamity, I’ll add “bring bags” to my weekly reminder to go grocery shopping in my to-do list.
2. Cook a meal from each continent
While cooking a meal for my girlfriend last week, she teased me ruthlessly about the lack of variety in my diet. My cooking, meanwhile, “wasn’t that bad.”
Since my college graduation, I’ve made three stock meals a week: 1) pasta with tofu and marinara sauce; 2) black beans, tomatoes, and rice; and 3) black beans, corn, and rice. Kale or spinach as well as broccoli, green peas, or brussels sprouts typically accompany each meal.
Even though I actually don’t mind eating those same three meals, my palate could use a bit more sophistication. So, I plan to cook a meal from each continent, save for Antartica, over the next year.
The first, a vegan variant of jajangmyeon, is a dish from Korea that my girlfriend learned how to cook while fulfilling her general education requirements in undergrad. I’m already looking forward to writing about
the small kitchen fire the experience.
3. Memorize five of your favorite poems
On the surface, this resolution seems fairly facile, though it requires a substantial dedication of time in order to fulfill.
For example, while I adore the final stanza of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”–
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
— I’ve never even bothered to read the three stanzas that precede it.
In an effort to be more cultured, I plan to learn five of my favorite poems, including:
- “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
- “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas
- “The Guest House” by Rumi (as translated by Coleman Banks)
- “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
- “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
I plan to memorize these poems using some special functionality in Anki, my go-to flash card program. (I previously wrote a guide for Anki, which will be updated upon successful memorization of these poems.)
By the end of 2018, I hope to post videos of me reciting each poem to my YouTube channel.
4. Meet 50 new people
Some might describe me as a flamboyant extrovert, always ready to make introductions or conversation at the drop of a hat.
In truth, I do my best work and am most at peace in isolation, placing me squarely in the realm of “introversion.” During those formative years of adolescence, I shied away from parties on the weekend and had only a small, close-knit group of friends. There were no greater pleasures than reading alone in my bedroom and journaling.
Although I’ve recently enjoyed a boon of extroversion, I still prefer the quiet recesses of a library to a noisy coffeehouse and the serenity of intimate friendships to having a wide range of acquaintances.
I am what author Susan Cain calls an “ambivert,” one who exists in the bardo between extraversion and introversion.
Thus, while it is not altogether difficult for me to meet new people, there are few situations in which I am actually moved to do so. I’m hoping that the salience of this goal as a resolution will help me to approach more people and make a raft of new friends.
I will define “meeting someone” as
a) learning someone’s name;
b) having at least a five-minute conversation with them (outside of an obligation, such as a training session); and
c) knowing how to connect with them in the future, be it through mutual friends, social media, or geographic proximity.
Throughout the year, I’ll be keeping track of the new people I meet in the Notes app on my phone.
5. Read 50 books
Since reading about 120 books in 2011, I haven’t come close to hitting that mark.
- 2017: 24 books
- 2016: 14 books
- 2015: 43 books
- 2014: 39 books
- 2013: 49 books
- 2012: 67 books
The amount of books on my to-read list on Goodreads is quickly nearing 300, with more volumes added every time I visit the site. In order to make head-way on that list, I plan to devote about a half-hour to 45 minutes every evening to reading, which should allow me to complete about one book every week.
Similar to grocery shopping, I’ll add a reminder in my to-do list for reading each evening.
This goal, mind you, is deceptively easy. Consistently finding the time every day to sit down and read, I already recognize, will take a Herculean summoning of willpower and time management.
I’ll track these books in my Goodreads profile. Right now, I’m reading “The Sympathizer” and “Algorithms to Live by”.
6. Invest $2500
This resolution also appears to be simple enough, particularly if I set up auto-deposits into my investment portfolio from my savings account. (Which I have.)
What may ultimately get in the way of accomplishing this resolution is a behavioral barrier known to cognitive scientists as the “planning fallacy” by which humans greatly underestimate the requisite time or energy needed to complete a goal.
Among students, the planning fallacy is most often experienced when studying for exams. The expectation that one only needs a few days, or even fewer, to master large amounts of material is as rampant as cups of coffee and dating apps on college campuses.
(Another concept from behavioral science, hyperbolic discounting, might also be applicable here: we humans tend to place more value on “smaller-sooner” rewards over those that are “later-larger.” In short, we “discount” the future for our present consumption.)
These barriers notwithstanding, I need to start thinking seriously about my retirement and plan accordingly.
7. Qualify for the Boston Marathon (BMQ) and Run 2018 Kilometers
For those who dabble in long-distance running, qualifying for the Boston Marathon is the crowning jewel of the sport. As my Frizzly Runs page no doubt reveals, I am a dabbler.
The qualifying time for my age group (18-34) is a 3:05:00 marathon, which equates to running at a 7:03/mile clip. So far, the closest I’ve come was running a 3:13:23 at the Cape Cod Marathon in 2015.
In the process of training, I also aim to cover 2018 kilometers (about 1254 miles) over the next year. I’ll track these miles in my MapMyRun profile.
In future posts, I’ll detail my training regimen as well as how it’ll fit into my final resolution…
8. Scoring a 520 on the MCAT
For reasons that evade even the most seasoned medical school admission committees, scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) range from 472 (the first percentile) to 528 (effectively the 100th percentile).
Note that there are not 528 questions on the MCAT, nor is that figure of significance in medical science or medical history.
If the highest score was, say, 986 to denote normal body temperature in Fahrenheit, 74 for physiological pH (7.4), or 206 for the number of bones in an adult body, we’d be in business.
But no, the ever capricious AAMC chose 528. Glad to place my future in their hands!
Scoring a 520 on the exam (far, far easier said than done) lands the examinee in the 98th percentile, putting even the most elite medical schools in contention.
I’ve been studying for the MCAT in fits and starts since the summer of 2016. Since then, I have deliberated extensively about whether to pursue medicine (see “Why You Shouldn’t Become a Physician“), largely over concerns about my long-term mental health.
In anticipation of the elephantine workload of medical school, I’ve already started constructing safeguards to prevent against attacks to my mental well-being. One such strategy is tracking my emotional states in Pacifica, a multi-platform application based on techniques from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness.
On a daily basis, I aim to log my overall emotional state (today, for example, I feel “excellent”) as well as more specific feelings (“ebullient,” “energized,” and “trenchant”).
I’m also in the preliminary stages of building a new website with free resources for MCAT prep. Last May, I wrote about my so-called “plan of attack” for the MCAT, a post that will soon be updated and around which the website will be adapted.
I look forward to sharing my success and missteps in these resolutions over the coming year!