The last couple of weeks of 2008 found me in a rather reflective mood. The cold weather, holiday travel, filling out a report on my work activities for the past year, and few other things left me thinking a lot about my goals, life, and desires for the coming year.

I realized right around New Year’s Day that I hadn’t ever established any goals for 2008. In January 2007, I sat down and decided on very clear goals for the year, mostly because I seemed to be fucking everything up, so I thought I needed to get my priorities straight. I never had that moment for 2008. As a result, I feel like I’ve just coasted along.

That’s not to say that I didn’t accomplish a lot in 2008. I did. The difference is that I felt like I had a clear aim in life during 2007. In retrospect, 2008 feels like a year where I just drifted along doing a lot of stuff but not really getting anywhere. It’s like being in a row boat on a lake. I rowed a lot, but I’m not sure I went anywhere but in a circle. That feeling has left me feeling unsatisfied. I feel like 2009 needs some clear goals, that I need to sit down and decide where I want to go this year. Where do I want to be a year from now? What do I want to be doing?

The initial trouble with this is that I don’t seem to have an immediate answer to those questions. I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to be. Part of me is thinking that I don’t want to be where I am now; I want to break out of the circle and row someplace in particular. I just need to figure out where that is.

One of my most basic problems, I think, is that I live too much in the not-now. I dwell too much in the past or in possible futures. I spend too much time either remembering or planning but not actually doing. Take my current book project, for example. I’ve spent too much time planning it during the past year, figuring out what the chapters are going to be, what texts I want to write about, etc. and not enough time actually writing it. I understand that planning is an important step in accomplishing one’s goals, but it feels like planning, imagining, fantasizing is all I do. I need to move on to writing instead of going around and around in circles.

That basic problem can be applied to just about every other aspect of my life. I want to change this in 2009. So, I’ve decided to name 2009 the year of “Here, Now, and Me.” I want to focus my attention this year first on the here and now and then on me and what I want in life.

Instead of just dreaming, planning, and fantasizing, I want to focus on the here and now. What’s going on in my life now? What do I need to do today to move forward in life? Once I figure out what I want to accomplish, what do I need to do now to start accomplishing it?

I also want to start paying more attention to what I really want in life. Where do I want to go next in life? in my career? in my relationships? What are my short- and long-term goals? What parts of my life am I happy with?  What parts do I want to change?

I’ve already started working on this new, auspicious agenda for my year. My friend James gave me a little notebook along with other gifts for Christmas. This is the notebook’s cover. He’s encouraged me to keep a log of my work for years; I’ve finally decided to do it.

What I intend to do is write down brief notes listing any and all work-related activities each day. Class prep, professional emails, writing, grading, whatever I do each day that’s somehow related to my job.

While this alone won’t give me a sense of purpose over the next year, I think it will help me feel better about how I spend my time. In putting together my end of the year report on my professional activities for 2008, I realized that I do a lot of work. It’s just not necessarily the work I want to be doing. I think that last bit is the key to part of my mood lately. Maybe the work I’m currently doing is contributing to the feeling that I’m going in circles because it’s not what I really want to be doing.

I’m also hoping that this notebook will pressure me to write more. I’m already feeling the need to put something in it related to my scholarship. What have I done today to move forward on the book or the next conference paper or the articles I’m supposedly writing? A day with nothing about my scholarship written in the notebook already feels wasted.

The next year-and-a-half has the potential to rearrange a lot of things in my life. I want to experience these changes actively. I don’t want to wake up one day in June 2010 feeling that everything that’s happened has happened to me, that I wasn’t an active participant in my own life. I want to know what choices I’ve made, why I made them, and how I feel about them. I want to feel like I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.

I like to pair up songs with my moods or goals or whatever. Listening to the right song can be a way of reinforcing or clarifying or even dispelling a mood or thought. So, the song I’m listening to now is Ray LaMontagne’s “Be Here Now,” which I think captures some of what I’m feeling. “Be Here Now” is originally from Til the Sun Turns Black, LaMontagne’s 2006 album. A live version is also on Gossip in the Grain, his most recent CD. Here are the lyrics:

Don’t let your mind get weary and confused
Your will be still, don’t try
Don’t let your heart get heavy child
Inside you there’s a strength that lies

Don’t let your soul get lonely child
It’s only time, it will go by
Don’t look for love in faces, places
It’s in you, that’s where you’ll find kindness

Be here now, here now
Be here now, here now

Don’t lose your faith in me
And I will try not to lose faith in you
Don’t put your trust in walls
‘Cause walls will only crush you when they fall

Be here now, here now
Be here now, here now

PJ has recommended that I just pick a song a week (or something like that) and post a short blog about it or maybe even just post a YouTube clip of it without further comment. I might start doing that too.

At any rate, I want 2009 to be the year of “Here, Now, and Me.” I’m sure I’ll blog more about how this going throughout the year.