Looking Back, Looking Ahead


January 1, 2023 by Jean

happy-new-year-clipart-1Like many people, I find the turn to a new year a time for both looking back and looking ahead. In some ways, 2022 is a year I am happy to put behind me: it included two deaths in my circle of family and friends, my first serious car crash in 58 years of driving, and some pesky new health issues.

In other ways, though, 2022 was a year of progress and accomplishments. I crossed several long-standing house maintenance issues off my to-do list, and I got back to in-person teaching with two new courses at the Senior College. Eight years into my retirement, I finally made headway on my retirement goal of sewing my own clothes. Once I realized that I was being held back by both my very rusty sewing skills and feeling intimidated by modern sewing machines, I scheduled three private sewing lessons with a local dress designer and seamstress. By the end of the first ninety-minute lesson, I was feeling comfortable with the electronic sewing machine and was recovering the muscle memory of long-unused sewing skills. By the end of the third lesson, I had read some reviews of sewing machines and picked out the one I wanted, I had been to a local fabric store to buy some fabric, and I had completed the creation of a pretty spiffy tote bag. (You can never have too many tote bags!) In the weeks since, I have purchased several clothing patterns. I yearn for well-made, high-quality clothes that fit me well, and sewing clothes from these patterns is one of the things I am looking forward to in the year ahead.

I have several New Year’s Day rituals for marking the transition from one year to the next. One of these is taking down old calendars and hanging new ones in various rooms of my house. Another is balancing my household accounts for the old year and setting up my budget for the new year. Many people would find this latter ritual tedious, but I am a data geek who enjoys working with numbers, and, in retirement, I find it reassuring to know how much money I have and where it is going. Decades ago, I set my personal budget up in a spreadsheet that, among other things, keeps a running balance and an average of how much I’ve spent each month. This means that I can quickly compare how much I budgeted per month this past year with how much I actually spent and make adjustments as needed. In 2022, I slightly overspent my budget in food, taxes, and health care; in most other categories, I spent less than budgeted. Once I figure out how much money I’ll have coming in in 2023 (Social Security benefits plus required minimum distributions from my retirement savings), I can decide where I should increase my monthly budget, where I should reduce the budgeted amount for underspent categories, and where I want to splurge more.

I am not one who makes formal New Year’s resolutions, but I do find that any new beginning leads me to reflect on ways that I want to recalibrate my life. This year, I am hoping to get back to writing regularly (including in this neglected blog), set up my sewing room and sew some clothes, be more socially active (especially in the winter months), and plan some travel adventures.

6 thoughts on “Looking Back, Looking Ahead

  1. Penelope says:

    I really like to hear your observations and plans. Thank you Jean🙏😊❤️

  2. Brenda says:

    I hope the New Year will be good to you Jean! I’m looking forward to seeing the clothes you will be sewing.

  3. The Misadventures of Widowhood says:

    You have given me a new goal. I bought myself a new sewing machine around Thanksgiving and haven’t used it yet. Like you was, I am intimidated by it and the lack of a physical manual doesn’t help. I, too, planned to start making tote bags because, 1) I love them and 2) I visualize quilted art on the totes. I will take a page from your book and look for a place to take a few classes. Congratulations on reaching one of your retirement goals!

    • Jean says:

      Jean, I love the idea of tote bags with quilted art on them. I first looked for sewing classes near me, but when I learned that the woman who teaches the classes also does private lessons, I realized that was the right option for me. Because I already had a lot of sewing experience and skills, I would have been bored silly in her beginner classes. But because my skills were so rusty, I would have been scrambling to catch up in the intermediate classes. I still haven’t bought my new sewing machine, but it is on my to-do list for this month.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

Please join me as I step into my future.

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