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“25 Days” Challenge

Growing up, ABC Family‘s “25 Days of Christmas” was the most highly anticipated event of the year. Each night from December first until Christmas Day, the channel featured a different holiday movie – and no, there are not 25 good holiday movies in existence, but that didn’t stop ABC Family from showing them or us from watching them. Around eight pm or so, my family would gather in the tv room with mugs of hot chocolate and delve into a world of glowing reindeer, sentient snowmen, and miraculous holiday wishes come true. These nights were what made the holiday season so magical for my young self. What more could a child want than an excuse to consume sugar and watch tv, and even better, to do both at the same time?

Now, at 22, the holiday season has lost much of its magic. ABC Family no longer exists, my family is spread out across the country, and the past few years we haven’t even always gotten a Christmas tree. For a while it seemed like the magic of Christmas was lost forever, but I recently started to consider – what if there was a way to get it back? What if I created my own countdown to look forward to, marking the 25 days that used to bring me so much joy?

Here is where we arrive at the title of this post, the “25 Days Challenge.” For the next 25 days, I am committing myself to a concrete goal that will help me be more focused and intentional going into the new year. Often, the month of December spirals into a free-for-all of stress and poor decisions, qualified by saying “I’ll change on January 1st.” What I’ve found, however, is that when the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve, my patterns do not change. And even worse is the added pressure of altering so much about yourself and your routine at once, along with the knowledge that everyone else in the world is probably doing the same thing. It begins to feel like a race of “who is going to fail first?”

So, the challenge. It goes like this: think of your broad goals for the coming year. Do you want to be more organized? Get a new job? Make more time for creative pursuits? Then pick one of those goals and create a concrete challenge for yourself that will establish a constructive habit before the year is even over.

I personally have many goals for the coming year, but one that I can easily measure is that I want to write more. As a college student, most of my time is spent doing academic writing, and other writing projects tend to fall by the wayside. The hardest part of this goal is simply making the time to sit down and do it. My challenge to myself is to write 500 words a day for the next 25 days. The words can come in the form of blog posts, creative writing, or even journal entries. All that matters is that I take the time to sit down and put words on a page.

This goal:

  • Takes 30 minutes or less
  • Establishes a constructive habit
  • Is measurable
  • Moves me towards my larger goals for 2020

Other possible goals include:

  • Meditate for 10 minutes every morning
  • Make and complete a daily to-do list
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Do something kind for someone else

There are no rules to the scope of your individual goal, what matters is that you create a small shift in your daily life that brings you closer to the version of yourself you want to be.

Though I look back fondly on the days of ABC Family‘s 25 Days of Christmas, I’m more excited for the upcoming 25 days of writing and reflection. What better holiday gift to yourself than an improved version of you?

xx, Morgan

(Note: this post is ~650 words – Day 1, complete!)

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Welcome to New York

Another month, another city. Just over a week ago I moved to Brooklyn, NY for a two month stay while I complete an internship in Manhattan. Five months ago I had never lived in a city before, let alone a major city like Paris or NYC. My head is spinning from all the new sights and sounds, the new street names and train routes I have to learn, and the possibilities of what this city has to offer.

I have wanted to live in New York City since I first visited when I was around 13 years old. Like so many others, I was caught up in the magic and opportunity of this concrete jungle, heightened by my limited experience growing up in a town of 7,000. To me, New York promised the freedom to do and become anything I wanted, which around that time was probably a fashion designer or artist. I was enthralled by the people walking down the street, so different than the people I saw at home, wearing outfits as art, speaking different languages, going about their lives in a frantic rush. Now, at 21, my vision of New York is strikingly similar. Catching that first glimpse of the skyscrapers in the distance on the drive down is no less exciting than it was eight years ago, and the opportunity to actually live here for a short while is almost incomprehensible. Yes, it is loud, it is dirty, it is expensive, but it all adds to the feeling that New York is a city alive and without pretense, just waiting to let you in.

(update: since I wrote this post I got on a train going the wrong way, saw a rat on the subway, and was yelled at by multiple people on the street but hey; welcome to New York!)

My brother Jack and I at Rockefeller Center during one my first visits to NYC.
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Currently: Far from the Sea

According to Google Maps, I am approximately 193 kilometers from the nearest coastline. After conversion (thanks again, Google!) that is about 125 miles, give or take a few. I had to approximate the nearest coastline, but that seems like a fair estimate. In comparison, school (Skidmore College, NY) to home is about 200 miles, so technically I guess I’m nearer to the sea in Paris than I am in Saratoga Springs. I don’t know if that means I’m not allowed to use “she who lives by the sea” anymore, but I’ve lived by the sea far longer than anywhere else, so I’m not going to cast it off just yet.

I made my instagram account when I was 15 under the name @shewholivesbythesea (not a promo but…feel free to throw me a follow). I didn’t use my real name mostly because my mom had warned me that stalkers could find me if I did, and also partly because I was 15 and obsessed with being “different.” As with everything that we make when we’re 15, I’m embarrassed by the username when I give it out (though it’s better than my first email address, “ireadallday”), but I don’t see myself changing it anytime soon. It’s the first name that came to mind when I was given the idea to start a blog (thanks, mom), and I’m only a little bit embarrassed by it. Frankly, I still think it sounds cool and says something important about me, even if I am over a hundred miles from the sea at this current moment, and have been for the majority of the last three years.

I should probably also mention that my name, Morgan, means any variation of “sea dweller,” “sea-born,” “sea chief,” or “of the sea” in Welsh. For the first 18 years of my life I lived less than 10 minutes from the ocean, so the name fits well. Over that time I have engaged in any number of ocean activities including sailing, rowing, sea kayaking, and coastal drives- my favorite. However, I wouldn’t consider myself an “ocean person.” Given the choice between the sea and the mountains I would face a difficult decision, seeing as I love and grew up with both, but I like to think of it like this: if I lived by the ocean for the rest of my life I would not crave the sight of a mountain range. If I were to settle down in the mountains, however, I would miss the smell of the sea. I came to this realization recently on my spring vacation to Nice, France, on the Côte d’Azur. I love Paris. I love cities. But the second I saw the ocean slide into view outside the train window, my heart jumped. Salty air! Seaglass! Waves crashing! I missed it. I left Nice four days later sunburnt and rejuvenated, salt crusted on the back of my jeans.

So. That’s me. Morgan, the-one-who-sometimes-lives-by-the-sea. Stay tuned as I recap my three months in Paris and prepare for the imminent journey home, and throw in some other thoughts along the way.

Quick anecdote: My mom recently bought me a t shirt at a chain store in Paris that reads “Larguez les amarres.” It’s a cute shirt, but upon receiving it I had no idea what it meant. After an explanation from mom and a double check from trusty Google Translate, I learned that it means “cast off,” in a nautical sense. It is a phrase that a sailor would yell to shore after untying the ship’s moorings and hoisting the sails to head off on a sea voyage. It feels apropos to use after this explanation of my connection to the sea, and to mark the beginning of my voyage into blog-writing.

Thanks for reading- time to larguez les amarres!

Morgan

A snapshot from my trip to Nice, Côte d’Azur.