Life

26 Small Wins from the Year I Turned 26

I am not here to humblebrag. Although I did accomplish a few epic things this year, now is not the appropriate time to write about them. Instead, it’s time to celebrate the easy wins in life and slowing down to admire what’s right in front of you. I’ve been running at 100 miles an hour since the spring semester of freshman year, and seven years later, the pandemic has oddly been a blessing in disguise. Yes, that pun is also a nod to my maiden name. 

Here are the 26 things that I consider small wins from the year I turned 26. 

Beauty

  • I bought the Holo Taco Multichrome Collection as a well-deserved gift to myself. I was so excited about it because I had been waiting my whole life to purchase quality multi-chrome nail polish.
  • I’ve had more makeup-free days for the first time in 10+ years. The last time I recall going this long was when I was 14 before using my high school theatre makeup as everyday makeup. My skin is probably thanking me for the break. 
  • I grew out my bangs and started tinting my hair red. I just wanted to try something different since my day-to-day life was so dull — and I was always curious to see what my hair would look like if it were a different shade. This hair tint gives me the satisfaction I wanted. I also didn’t have the patience for bangs anymore. 

Entertainment

  • I built a pillow fort with my husband and watched movies all day. Sometime in college, we made a list of things we wanted to do as a couple. A pillow fort was finally something we could cross off our list this year.
  • Same with white water rafting. But instead of rafting through Richmond, I’d rather take on some more challenging rapids in West Virginia. 
  • I watched 115 movies.
    • My favorite movie I saw for the first time this year: The Sound of Music. You would think I’ve seen this one, but the only reason why I haven’t was because The Disney Channel advertised it so much when I was a kid and it was on so frequently that I refused to watch it because I was annoyed by it. 
    • My favorite re-watched movie of the year: Anastasia. I nearly cried one night when I was surprised that it was on Disney +. Anya is finally a Disney princess. 
  • I watched 53 TV shows. 
    • My favorite returning TV show of the year: Supernatural. After 15 seasons, we finally said good-bye to Sam and Dean, who got the most perfect ending they could deserve. Though I was annoyed by a few things in the final two episodes of the series, I think the finale stayed as true to the storyline and the characters as possible.
    • My favorite new TV show of the year: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. You’ve got Skylar Astin from Pitch Perfect, Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls, Mary Steenburhgen from Elf and more in this musical TV show. It’s nothing like I’ve seen before. New episodes will air on NBC (or Hulu) in the new year!
  • I read 17 books. The last time I’ve read that many books for fun in a year was probably middle school.
    • My favorite book of the year: Love at First Like by fellow Her Campus alum Hannah Orenstein. I breezed through this read so quickly! Please order from your local bookstore, not Amazon.

Health

  • I signed up for a gym membership for the first time in my life. I desperately needed something to do over my lunch breaks since I commuted 45 minutes to an hour and worked in a small office. Walking around local neighborhoods was a productive thing to do for my body, but it wasn’t so great when it was cold as ice outside! Luckily I had a gym within a five-minute drive of the office, so I walked the treadmill for a half-hour over my lunch breaks when I was still working in the office. I don’t use the membership as much today for obvious reasons, but I hope to continue that habit when I’m in the office again.
  • I got a personal trainer and consistently went to weight lifting sessions once a week. I felt better and stronger — and was very surprised with myself when one day I was able to lift a 45-pound box of cat litter and cat food up my steep apartment complex stairs all by myself.
  • I increased my step goal to 8,500 steps per day. What felt like an impossible goal in April of 2019 when I first got my Fitbit has somehow become achievable, even though most of the time I’m pacing 20 steps back and forth in my apartment or jogging in place. I meet my goal usually five days a week. Extra yoga pants, podcasts, new music, new sneakers, an ear warmer headband for cold weather, and a pair of Apple Airpods has helped me get there. I’m due for a step goal increase to 8,750 starting next week. 
  • I started tracking my water intake, and I’m drinking more water. I legitimately took the time to measure how much liquid my glasses, mugs, and cups hold, then created custom stickers for my planner to keep track of my liquid intake.
  • Read a book to encourage me to get off birth control and stopped taking the pill in September. I feel lighter and happier.
  • I bought a pillbox and started consistently taking various vitamins and minerals to keep me healthy and ward off my menstrual cramps (see the previous bullet).
  • I deleted my Twitter account. I don’t miss it. At all. 
  • I discovered some healthy-ish recipes
    • Yes, it’s possible to have a banana split for breakfast
    • Or “ice cream” for lunch. A simple blend of frozen bananas, chocolate protein powder, peanut butter, an ice cube or two, and just a dash of milk was my go-to lunch over the summer. It had the consistency of a Wendy’s Frosty. 
    • Note to self for the next cauliflower crust pizza: If you’re going to use a frozen microwavable bag of Birdseye riced cauliflower, let the cauliflower cool completely before adding it to the egg mixture, so you don’t end up with bits of scrambled egg. 

Home and Life

  • We bought a giant Roman numeral clock as a statement piece for our dining area. It will likely remain one of our favorite home decor pieces EVER. 
  • I tackled some semi-challenging bakes inspired by The Great British Baking Show. Cheesecake, challah, and beignets weren’t THAT hard. 
  • I gained an appreciation for nature in my backyard. I love the smell of a new season in the air when I walk out my front door, walking down tree-lined streets in my neighborhood, and being near the water with trees surrounding me. A few of these spots I discovered were at Core Creek Park, Tyler State Park, or on the Delaware River’s beachy shores at Neshaminy State Park.
  • I paid off one student loan. I have five more to go! Sigh. 
  • We adopted Benny, and he has brought such unexpected joy to our household. Our cats are very dog-like, and at times, it can feel like we have two children instead of two animals. The sheer number of times I have said “Nola, get down,” or “Benny, leave Nola alone” is more than I can accurately count. 
  • Somehow I fell more in love with my husband, even though we’ve been trapped together in a 1,000 square foot apartment for nine months — annoying each other.

Travel

  • I saw the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Desert from the air for the first time when travel was still a thing. 
  • I won $30 on the Vegas slot machines. It didn’t matter how much I won; I just wanted the claim that I won something.

Work

  • Handling my most challenging client in general and only crying a small handful of times. I am a magnet for difficult clients. 
  • I learned some new Instagram story tricks. I don’t think I’ll be using them, but they were still cool to know.

What are your small wins?