Kaitlin Ugolik is an award-winning journalist based in Brooklyn. She writes and edits stories about the law, health, finance, technology and the media.

On resolutions and banana bread

I made a lot of New Year's resolutions this year. I know that's not cool. The cool thing now is to announce that you are not making any resolutions, because you are above resolutions. You have come to understand, through trial and error and reading many think pieces, that resolutions are impossible, unhelpful, and ultimately silly. I might have jumped on that bandwagon once or twice in the last few years, but I secretly always made a list of goals, hopes and directions. I can't help it. I love lists.

My list almost always includes finding or creating more time for things that bring me joy, thought not always in so many words. That's on there this year, but I feel like I've gotten a lot better at that in recent years, so it's a bit lower on the list than usual. Above it are a lot of professional goals, and some stuff about health - you know, the cliche resolutions - plus a lofty (for me) objective of reading 24 books in 2016. Oh, and trying to enjoy the rest of wedding planning, and the festivities themselves, with minimal stress. That one might be a long shot.

So far, so good. It's day three and I've written something and read something every day so far. I've also taken time to be thoughtful and meditative, and I even went to the gym today! I've been extra nice to my fiance and taken the time each night to actually wash my face before going to bed. Check, check, check.

On December 28 I bought a bunch of bananas. This wasn't in preparation for any of my resolutions, I just love bananas. Unfortunately, I'm not great at eating bananas. I will usually buy a bunch, hang them up on my cool little banana hook in my kitchen, use one or two for smoothies or as a snack with peanut butter and a rice cake (I'm seven, I know) and then notice a foul odor and fruit flies in the kitchen a few days later. Oh right, the bananas.

I had all last week off from work, so maybe it was the free time or the fact that I was in and out of the kitchen a lot, but I decided to make banana bread. Banana zucchini bread, specifically. I was not going to let these bananas go bad, not this time! I actually put it on my to-do list a couple of days in a row. Yesterday, Saturday, I finally got around to buying the missing ingredients, and as I drifted off to sleep while reading last night I made a mental note to make it in the morning.

Then I woke up at 1:30am with a run of heart palpitations (it happens, I've been cleared by a cardiologist, nothing to see here) and I didn't get back to sleep until 4:30, because I am the type of person who is simply up once she's up. There goes the banana bread, I thought. And the gym. And anything else I was going to do on Sunday.

When I finally got up around 10am, though, I actually felt OK. I dragged myself up, put on some gym clothes and pulled my fiance away from Fallout 4 long enough to do a quick workout - both of our first in way longer than either of us are willing to admit. We were feeling pretty great after that, so we got some bagels (baby steps, OK?), showered, and headed out for the other main errand of the day: picking suits for the wedding. I tried to stay positive, but everything wedding-related, even seemingly benign things like choosing suit colors and getting measured, has an extra layer of tedium and intensity to it, at least for me. Thankfully the woman who helped us at Men's Wearhouse (in Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn) was extremely calm and helpful. Still, it took a long time, and by the time we were finished we needed a beer.

It wasn't until a couple of hours later, halfway into my mushroom sandwich and amber lager and going back and forth with Reid for the millionth time about whether the men's vests would clash with the bridesmaids' dresses, that I remembered the banana bread. I had a headache. I was exhausted and stressed. (Told you that resolution would be a long shot.) I wanted to go home and get in the bath, not the kitchen. Then, another palpitation. Sometimes I think my conscience, or the universe, or whatever, gives me a literal kick in the heart, instead of the metaphorical one in the butt, to get my priorities in order.

We walked the mile home, I pulled up the recipe, and peeled the bananas. While I mashed them with the other ingredients, I realized this might be the first time I'd actually used an entire bunch of bananas in at least a year. What a waste. Sure, I'd given some away to people who asked for food on the subway or the sidewalk, and I'd eaten most of them, but how many had I thrown away? And when it was this easy to take the overripe ones and mash them up into something new and delicious?

As I rhythmically mashed and mixed, something that is often quite meditative for me, I started to realize that a lot of my New Year's resolutions could be summed up in the idea that I want to be more resourceful this year. Thinking about my list, it seems to show that I have a desire to take all of the things I've learned over the last few years and put them to better use. I want to pay closer attention to what's already inside me, what I've always had but only recently started to notice, and make it work for me. Forgive me for this, but yeah, I want to use all the bananas.

This bread smells amazing. I'm sitting in my living room right now typing, and I'm just enveloped by the warm, sweet promise of soft, gooey, filling bread. Bread like my mom used to make when the bananas started to go soft, and we'd eat it for breakfast on the weekend with a pat of butter. Bread that came into existence by necessity, because it was either that or let the fruit go to waste.

I'm taking another look at my list of resolutions for this year, and while I'm still motivated and excited by each bullet point, I can see a clear theme for myself for 2016: don't waste a bit.

 

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