By Ashley Sears, Esq., sponsored athlete of the Maine Dairy Promotion Board’s Moo Squad.
As 2016 comes to a close, we all begin to reflect on the past year’s events and look forward to the coming year. The year undoubtedly had its share of highs and lows for us all and was a year of many changes, both in our personal lives and for the nation as a whole. We set out our goals from the previous year with the hopes of accomplishing them in twelve months. Whether we met all of our proposed goals or not, we can all be thankful for our family, friends, and animals, careers, our health, and the opportunity to have another year to work towards the goals we have not yet achieved.
It was a memorable year for me in many respects, but also a year that included the loss of loved ones, challenges, and change. I got engaged in May to a fellow cow-loving guy, ran my first trail race, trademarked my first program, performed pro bono legal work, and learned how to fish for the first time! All of these moments were memorable and special to me in different ways. At the same time, my dog Spirit passed away after spending more than two-thirds of my life with him, fellow friends and family lost loved ones, and the challenge of budgeting, financing, and planning a wedding in another state has become a part of daily conversations. Each of these moments/events has taught me something about myself though, and as an optimist, I’ve been able to find good in each situation. These events and memories have also helped to shape my goals for the coming year.
Here are my top 5 goals for the New Year:
1.) Celebrate and appreciate my family, friends, and four-legged friends more.
It’s easy to take for granted the great family, friends, and pets/livestock that we have in our lives. It’s also easy to forget that life can change at any moment and we may not have gotten to say or do what we wanted to before we had the chance. Moving to Maine from Massachusetts has made me appreciate my family, friends, and livestock to a greater degree. While I’m only a three hour drive away, a phone call every few days with my family or a picture sent of our dogs or cows makes me appreciate the little things. It also makes the time that much more special when I am home and getting to see friends I don’t see as often, helping with chores at the barn, or getting to cuddle with a furry, feisty pug.
2.) Train for my second marathon.
I ran my first marathon in May of 2014 and found it exciting, exhausting, and exhilarating all at the same time. I overcame calf cramps and dehydration at mile 18 to finish, but did not meet my time goal. I loved the process and goal-setting of training for the race. I also learned that I was a lot tougher than I thought I was and to push myself beyond my self-imposed limits. I want to feel those emotions again and reach my time goal, while training smarter.
3.) Enjoy the process of wedding planning.
If there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I’m a planner. From my meals for the week to what I’m going to wear to work, I like to plan. Getting engaged in May, Nick and I set a wedding date of October 2017 because Fall in New England is amazing. Plenty of time to plan and not worry too much, especially since we live in separate states at the present time. However, I’m finding I want to plan every detail now so I don’t have to worry too much last minute. Wedding registries, favors, and decorations have been fun aspects, but I still worry about other details and set timelines on a daily basis (Nick has to talk me off the ledge somedays!). Going forward, I’m going to enjoy the little parts of planning, and accept that everything won’t be perfect and that’s OKAY.
4.) Set specific career goals and timelines to achieve them.
With many changes coming in 2017, both personally and professionally, I want to focus more on specific career goals and my five year plan. I want to do more legal work to help the farming community (whether pro bono or contract), establish a recognition program for farmers, and help to effect positive policy change. I also want to be able to maintain a work life balance, in order to have time to spend with family, friends, on the farm, and running/exercising. I often put work above my other priorities and want to make sure I prioritize the other important aspects of my life.
5.) Participate in more winter outdoor activities.
Truth be told, I’ve never been a huge fan of the winter weather. I don’t know how to ski or snowboard, barely know how to ice skate (and it’s not graceful by any means), and I’ve only been snowshoeing a few times. Maybe moving to Maine has helped me embrace the cold or just made me tougher, but I’ve actually started to enjoy winter. In 2017, I want to go ice fishing (my fiancé is hooked on it), snowshoe, skate more, and run on more outdoor trails. I’ll be a true Mainer by the end of next winter!
Whatever your goals may be, always appreciate the journey in moo-ving towards reaching and achieving them (It’s my last blog post for the year so I had to throw in a cow pun!). We often feel like we failed if we didn’t reach our specific goals but in reality, we probably made huge progress in other respects. We may have set a race PR goal but didn’t quite reach it. Or wanted to learn how to cook a turkey but didn’t quite master the proper basting technique. Ultimately though, we learned lessons along the way that we can carry with us and apply when we try again. That’s half the battle…being willing to try again!
My racing season includes one final 5K race on New Year’s Eve in Indianapolis. I completed three half marathons, two 10Ks, and four 5Ks over the course of the year. I met several new runners from Maine and across the country, ran a race with my best friends, developed monthly training schedules, and overcame some minor injuries. I learned the importance of rest days and embraced cross training, nutritional changes, and stretching as ways to improve my running.
I cannot thank the Maine Dairy Promotion Board and my fellow Moo Squad members enough for their support, encouragement, motivation, and shared passion for the dairy industry! We not only generated quite a few conversations with our race attire (“Where can I buy those cow shorts?!?), but we challenged ourselves and others to live healthy lifestyles and embrace dairy in our diets. Thank you all for making 2016 so memorable, and cheers to a happy, healthy, dairy-filled New Year!