2018: A Year in Numbers

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

At the beginning of 2018, I set my sights on achieving eight ambitious resolutions, ranging from only using reusable grocery bags to qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

At year’s end, I’m delighted to report that I accomplished much of what I set out to do twelve months ago. These resolutions, while varied, map directly to my five life goals, which provide a broad overview of how I endeavor to spend my sparse time on Earth. 

If your interest is piqued by this framework, I’ve also written about how I structure my goals and priorities.

I reflect on my resolutions for 2018, worts and all, in this piece. As a companion to this post, I’ve also published my resolutions for 2019.

The actionable steps I took to achieve each resolution are displayed in red text.


Resolutions

  1. Use no plastic shopping bags
  2. Cook a meal from each continent
  3. Memorize five of your favorite poems
  4. Meet 50 new people
  5. Read 50 books
  6. Invest $2500
  7. Qualify for the Boston Marathon (BMQ) and Run 2018 Kilometers
  8. Score a 520 on the MCAT

1. Use no plastic shopping bags

For the first five months of this year, I lived on my own in Ann Arbor. I’d typically go grocery shopping about once a week, often to Aldi or Kroger. To ensure I remembered to bring reusable tote bags, I had two mechanisms in place:

a) I kept them handy in my car; and

b) I set a reminder in the to-do app I use, Todoist

I used at most ten plastic bags in 2018, an unqualified success in accomplishing this resolution!


2. Cook a meal from each continent

I put forth the least amount of effort towards achieving this resolution. In juggling MCAT prep, my various jobs, and, later, medical school applications, I neglected to invest the requisite time to find trusted recipes and ingredients.

Nonetheless, I did manage to cook two meals from different continents.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Never Coming Back to America

In February, I cooked jajangmyeon with my then-girlfriend, detailed in my five-month update. While watching highlights from the royal wedding, we also attempted a bastardized version of Nigerian chapati in June. (We failed to take photos out of fear we would shatter the camera lenses on our smartphones.)

Though I did not set a culinary resolution for 2019, I plan to take up advice from a friend visiting from Amsterdam on how to ruin veganize boerenkool stamppot, a traditional Dutch dish.

I also plan to make arepas using a recipe from a friend who has travelled extensively through Latin America.


3. Memorize five of your favorite poems

Five of my favorite poems include,

I memorized these poems with Anki, an electronic flashcard program I used to study in college and achieve success on the MCAT.

In an advanced guide for Anki, I discuss how to use the software to memorize poems as well as other text.

Among these five, “Do not go gentle” proved the most difficult to learn, given the parallel structure in its several stanzas. I have posted the following YouTube videos of me reciting each poem:


4. Meet 50 new people

As I declared in my initial post in January, I am an “ambivert.” I exist in the limen between ebullient extraversion and reticent introversion.

As such, I rarely shy away from making new friends and acquaintances, though I often find the exercise altogether draining and eventually pine for the solemnity of solitude.

In hopes of bolstering my interpersonal relationships, I created this aim with three criteria of “meeting new people” in mind,

a) I have to learn someone’s name;

b) We have to have at least a five-minute conversation (outside of a work-related activity, such as a meeting or training session); and

c) I have to know how to connect with them in the future, be it through mutual friends, social media, or geographic proximity.

Throughout the year, I kept track of the new people I met in the Notes app on my phone. 

I met new person #50, Max, in mid-October during a rally at which we saw President Obama spoke.

After hitting that benchmark, I neglected to continue tracking the new connections I made.

Certainly, this resolution was helpful in overcoming social inhibition to strike up conversations and get to know others.

Keeping track of every one of those interactions, however, makes the activity increasingly contrived. It’s almost as if I don’t have any genuine interest in these individuals and am merely hoping to add them to a list on my smartphone.

Nevertheless, being open to meeting new people was proof positive that my introversion hasn’t gotten the best of me.


5. Read 50 books

At the start of 2018, I set out to contribute to my Life Goal #2, “Acquire, Maintain, and Utilize an Eclectic Repository of Knowledge.”

The advent of technology provides a panoply of modalities from which to learn new material and concepts, including

  • video lessons and tutorials (Khan Academy, for instance);
  • adaptive, interactive games and activities (Duolingo);
  • electronic flashcards (Anki)
  • symbiotic download of bytes of information directly to your hippocampus for processing into long-term memory (Neuralink)

Okay, so that final modality isn’t yet available, despite the wishes of many in Big Tech.

Despite this unprecedented array of instructional methods, good, old-fashioned books are my favored source for both learning new information as well as gaining different perspectives and world-views.

All told, in the last eight years, I’ve read 438 books, including 82 books in 2018.

I’m undoubtedly proud of that figure, although I continue to have my work cut out for me.

At the start of 2018, the amount of books on my to-read list on Goodreads had yet to eclipse 300. Now, the list is quickly nearing 600 volumes, with more added almost every time I visit the site.

If I thought college was detrimental to my reading goals, I have another thing coming once I matriculate to medical school and, later, begin residency.

But, I digress.

To accomplish this resolution, I planned to devote about a half-hour to 45 minutes every day to reading, which I estimated would allow me to complete about one book every week.

Although I believed it would take a “Herculean summoning of willpower and time management” to make reading into a habit, it became far simpler over time. 

I typically read while eating breakfast and lunch, with my book set in a book stand, as well as during breaks at work and before bed.

During the four months I spent prepping for the MCAT from January to April, I only read 7 books. In the eight months that followed, I made up for lost time, reading 74 books, averaging about 2.3 books read per week.  

I wrote another companion piece to this post, Lesson Learned from Reading 82 Books, about the most important books I read in 2018.


6. Invest $2500

I was fortunate to be offered an inordinate amount of overtime this year, working about 55 hours a week on average throughout 2018.

Despite this windfall, I still had to allow for real-world expenses, the bane of every millenial’s existence.

Through prudent budgeting, I found ways to reduced my consumption precipitously.

I switched to a prepaid cell phone plan, ordered staple food items from the Internet in bulk, dined out at most twice a month, and carpooled to work as frequently as possible.

I also tracked my expenses judiciously in Mint, a web-based and mobile application. Mint collates information from my checking and savings accounts, as well as my investments, to provide me with a seamless financial health report.

Taking these steps allowed me to exceed this investing goal, setting up a Roth IRA and making regular contributions to a high-yield savings account. 


7. Qualify for the Boston Marathon (BMQ) and Run 2018 Kilometers

As my About Frizzly page suggests, I live to run and run to live.

In 2018, I met a few incredible running milestones, competing in my seventh marathon, setting a new personal record (PR) in a 5K race with a time of 37:03, and running more than 1,000 miles for the first time in my life.

Despite these successes, I failed to qualify for the Boston Marathon or achieve my goal of running 2018 kilometers.

A particularly pernicious injury to ligaments in my right ankle cut my season short in mid-October. Since then, I’ve run about fifteen miles in total, at first attempting to run past the minor pain and eventually succumbing to it and undertaking long-term recovery. 

At present, my ankle injury has yet to resolve, calling into question my future pursuits in running. Though I’m planning to undertake a similar resolution for 2019, I do not plan to set a mileage goal, as my lingering injury might delay the start of my season until February or–cringe–even later in the year.

In total, I ran 1,002 miles this year, surpassing my previous PR of 909 miles in 2015, but still far from my goal of 1,254 miles.

Once I am able to return to running in full stride, I hope to detail my training regimen here as well as the steps I’m taking to stay injury-free moving forward.


8. Scoring a 520 on the MCAT

I had particularly high hopes of scoring in the 98th percentile on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). In fact, the day after publishing my resolutions for 2018, I began studying for 103 days consecutively for at least two hours daily.

The hard work paid off. Albeit a far cry from a 520, I scored a 517 on the exam, landing me in the 95th percentile and providing me with a competitive advantage in applications to top-tier medical schools.

I’ve previously written about my MCAT plan of attack, which was subject to immense changes once I began studying in earnest this year, and have also published an exhaustive list of free MCAT resources to aid other students from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Thanks for joining me on this wild journey!

2 thoughts on “2018: A Year in Numbers”

  1. Do you find yourself reading mostly nonfiction? And how is your retention? The quicker I move to another piece (game, book, film, anything), the less I’m liable to remember.

    Really anticipating that training regimen. Our last conversation left me wanting a lot more.

    1. It’s about 70:30 non-fiction:fiction; I always find myself wanting to read more about the real world than those that are imaginary, but obviously there’s immense value in fiction.

      I agree that retention is always prone to fall to the wayside as you move more quickly through content.

      I have another post in the works about how I boost retention– the gist: take notes after consuming material, use mnemonics, and consider a flashcard program like Anki if you want to increase the likelihood of long-term retention.

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