21 Ways to Change Your Life

Photo via Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Finally Follow Your Passion

Hey, you—yeah, you, the one staring wistfully at your friends’ Instagram feeds, wondering how they got lucky enough to lead fitness classes on the beach or bake fluffy cupcakes and scones for a living: It’s not too late to turn things around. All you need is a little training, and a healthy dose of courage, to finally transform your lifelong hobby into your day job.

If you love animals…

Try: To get experience with animal handling, you’ll first want to volunteer somewhere like the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center or the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

When you’re ready to get serious: MSPCA-Angell in J.P. was recently looking for full-time veterinary attendants. Tasked with walking, feeding, and caring for the animal patients, the beginner role requires only six months of previous animal handling experience. The positions are so needed, in fact, that people who are hired as attendants in the center’s emergency room or anesthesia department have received $5,000 sign-on bonuses.

If you love cooking or baking…

Try: Learn how to craft the perfect soufflé at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, which offers four programs in culinary and pastry arts. Opt for a shorter 16-week certificate program, or take the professional track with an intensive 37-week course.

When you’re ready to get serious: Local families living and working at home need help with meal planning and cooking—and private chef jobs are in demand. Consider joining the Boston-based app MyTable, which connects households with cooks.

If you love fitness…

Try: Thanks to COVID-19, you can now get your yoga teacher certification online at registered schools such as YogaRenew. Education aside, the 200-hour program is a restorative way to spend a few weeks.

When you’re ready to get serious: Laptop warriors with clenched jaws and stiff necks are more than willing to pay for virtual yoga classes. You could start your own business with Zoom sessions, or apply for a teacher position with national chains like YogaWorks and YogaSix, which were hiring instructors in Greater Boston this year.

If you love writing…

Try: November is National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo. Get your creative juices flowing with the organization’s free online program, which helps writers by giving them the structure and encouragement to push forward. Even if your story isn’t perfect, you’ll have 50,000 words under your belt—which you can celebrate at the Boston Public Library’s virtual event with other local participants in December.

When you’re ready to get serious: If you don’t sell your book on the first go-around, you might want to consider breaking into freelancing on platforms such as Upwork, which offers a range of contract writing jobs for beginners. According to the job site Zip Recruiter, open temporary positions in communications increased fourfold between March and April this year.

How do I know if I’ve found my passion?

Passion isn’t some wild thing you need to chase: According to Back Bay–based
psychoanalyst and executive coach Rachel Kalvert, it can be quite simple to find, as long as you’re honest with yourself about what you want out of life. Single out your most important priorities. If you’re checking your own—and not anybody else’s—boxes, you’re on your way there. —Madeline Bilis

Photo via Joshua Zuckerman/Getty Images

Start a Community Garden

One tried-and-true way to begin fresh? Planting a garden with your own two hands. But if you want to get down in the dirt this coming spring, it pays to start planning now. Ahead, a step-by-step guide to planting the seeds for a more fulfilling (and delicious) tomorrow.

1. Round up your fellow planters. First, form a group of people interested in building a garden in your neighborhood. Then, establish the basics: what you’ll plant, where the veggies will go when they’re ready to harvest, and how it’ll be managed. It may be helpful to create a set of guidelines and rules at the beginning so you’ll know exactly where to donate the extra heirloom tomatoes later.

2. Scour the neighborhood. Depending on where you live, finding a garden site may be the toughest task. Identify a spot, whether it’s an empty lot between triple-deckers, part of your own backyard in J.P., or a parcel of land for sale, and work to create a lease or an agreement with the land’s owner.

3. Tap into local resources. See if you can secure a sponsor to help with things such as tools, seeds, and fencing. Some community block associations offer grants, as does the city of Boston’s Community Grown Program. Be sure to alert the neighbors to the creation of the garden, and invite everyone who’s interested to get involved.

4. Start planting. As winter slowly turns into spring, do a soil test on the land for contaminants and figure out how much sunlight the spot gets: According to the American Community Garden Association, veggies need at least six hours of full sunlight each day. Then, you can finally begin putting seeds into the earth—try hardy vegetables like cabbage and carrots to start—and watching your garden grow. —M.B.

Say Yes to the Medspa

Beauty may be more than skin deep, but sometimes, a little improvement on the outside can do wonders for the inside. When you’re ready to take the plunge, consider one of these minimally invasive treatments recommended by local MDs.

The Lunch-Hour Facelift

A new-and-improved visage in less time than it takes to eat a sandwich: That’s the promise of the nonsurgical Y Lift. In about 45 minutes, Dr. Rosy Sandhu administers a local anesthetic, inserts a titanium instrument under the facial muscles, then injects and sculpts a hyaluronic acid filler to pull everything up and back.

Neem Medical Spa, Downtown and other locations, 857-265-3681, neemedicalspa.com.

The Rewind Button

Time usually has a way of making us look older—unless you’ve recently tried RF-Microneedling at plastic surgeon Dax Guenther’s office. The procedure uses targeted energy waves to reach the deepest layers of the skin, resulting in a profoundly rejuvenating effect previously achieved only through aggressive laser and peel treatments.

Coastal Plastic Surgery, Hingham, 781-740-7840, bostoncoastalplasticsurgery.com.

The “Did They or Didn’t They?”

Looking for the subtlest of glow-ups? Dermatologist Papri Sarkar recommends Micro Facial Optimization, a conservative “tweakment” that uses precisely placed microdroplets of hyaluronic acid filler and Botox in small quantities across different parts of the face to harmonize features. The outcome? A look that’s “balanced, but not symmetric enough to look like a cyborg,” Sarkar says. —Todd Plummer


Photo via Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Know When to Say Goodbye

This year, we’ve all had plenty of time alone to take stock of what’s working in our lives and what isn’t—and that includes our relationships. Considering kicking a toxic partner to the curb and starting fresh for 2021? Monica O’Neal, a Boston-based clinical psychologist and star of Bravo’s Camp Getaway, suggests keeping these four things in mind.

1. Gaslighting—not just the theme of a Chicks song. Your partner shouldn’t be dismissing your experience of what’s real or questioning the validity of your emotions, O’Neal says. And if he or she makes you feel insecure, “or like you’re hard to love,” you don’t have to put up with it.

2. Halfway is not enough. Especially in a marriage, it’s not about meeting halfway—“It’s about going 100 percent to meet your partner,” O’Neal explains. If you’ve asked for that repeatedly, and your SO still isn’t doing it, you might want to consider a change.

3. Is it just a blip? Or something more? Tensions can run high when you have kids who are learning from home or you’re living together in a tiny space. But ask yourself which is more consistent: your negative response to stress, or your negative response to your partner? If it’s the latter, it could be a sign that you have work to do, O’Neal says.

4. And remember…it’s 2020. Most of us have never experienced a pandemic before. “You’re both going to learn new things about yourselves and how you handle this intense upheaval,” O’Neal notes. A little grace can go a long way. —T.P.

Show Up for Racial Justice

The renewed fervor of the Black Lives Matter movement cannot—and will not—let up. If you’ve previously only been an armchair activist this year (we see you, black-square Instagram posters!), there are still plenty of ways to get involved in the fight for racial justice. First, donate. But before you reach for your wallet, identify local organizations you can help, rather than national ones that likely have no shortage of funding, suggests Mark Martinez, a member of Beacon BLOC, a group of Black State House employees advocating for an anti-racist workplace. “Local investing and local donating is really where you see the lives of your neighbors and the people around you improve,” he says.

Next up for those who need to listen and learn: Understand the demands that Black and brown populations have been making for years, then fully commit to dismantling the white supremacy that’s baked into systems from education to housing. Racial injustice in Boston and beyond is nothing new, after all. “In Boston, there have been people in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan talking about all of these issues for decades,” Martinez says. “There’s going to be a lot you’ll mess up on if you haven’t been doing this work. When people correct you, it’s not an attack. It’s not meant to get you to stop doing what you’re doing. It’s really important that people finally…put the well-being of others before their own discomfort.” —M.B.

Get Ready to Make a Move

If you’ve ever stared at the white wall behind you during a Zoom meeting and wondered, Why am I here when I can be pretty much anywhere?, it might be time for a new backdrop. Before you pack those bags, take this quiz to see where you should land. —M.B.

Change the City

As one of the most turbulent years in recent history winds down, the transformation we’re all seeking isn’t just internal—it’s external, too. When you want to make a big difference in your own community, here are three ways to get started.

The issue

Making Housing Affordable for All

What to do

Though soaring demand and little supply to meet it has put Boston in quite a bind, increasing the number of available homes is key to making living here more affordable for everyone. But you don’t have to be a real estate developer to make an impact. If you live in a city or town considering new zoning laws, “make sure to contact your mayor or town committee to support changes that will make it easier for developers to build multifamily housing in your community and add ‘in-law’ apartments to existing single-family homes,” suggests Barry Bluestone, professor emeritus at Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.

Where to donate

The Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association encourages the production and preservation of housing that’s affordable to low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

The issue

The Opioid Epidemic

What to do

The problem has touched every part of the city, but the place to start may actually be by getting the drugs out of your own bathroom. “A very common way for people to obtain their first opioids is to get them from a family member or friend—often by taking leftover opioids from their medicine cabinet,” says Miriam Komaromy, the medical director for Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction. You could also consider organizing a donation drive for the Boston Public Health Commission’s wish list of critically needed items for shelters along Mass. Ave.

Where to donate

RIZE Massachusetts strives to end the opioid epidemic in the state by providing grants to initiatives working to reduce overdoses and addiction.

The issue

Climate Change

What to do

Rising sea levels will not spare Boston’s coastline over the next 20 years, which means now is the time for action. Chris Cook, the city’s chief of environment, energy, and open space, suggests joining an open house or community meeting for the city’s Climate Ready Boston and Resilient Boston Harbor planning initiatives.

Where to donate

The Massachusetts Climate Action Network works to fight climate change town by town, teaming up with local affiliates to implement its agenda at a municipal level. —M.B.

Go for a Grant

Money can’t buy happiness, of course, but it can buy you resources to get your most ambitious ideas off the ground. Whether you’re looking for a cash infusion to keep your creativity charged or a grant to launch your own nonprofit, these organizations can help.

Want to keep growing as an artist over the next year? The New England Foundation for the Arts offers programs that support dance, music, public art, and theater. Regional artists can apply for a grant from the Public Art Learning Fund to receive between $500 and $2,000 for professional development opportunities such as attending conferences, workshops, or training sessions. The deadline is November 16, 2020, for events that take place between January and December 2021.

Did you launch your small business before a literal plague hit the earth? Local relief programs received a tidal wave of applications this spring, but the Reopen Boston Fund is still offering grants for small businesses in close-contact industries such as childcare, dining, and retail that need help getting up and running again.

Hoping to get your grassroots organization off the ground? The Boston Women’s Fund awards a range of grants to women working to address racial, social, and economic injustice. Grant cycle information and deadlines for 2021 are on track to be released soon. —M.B.

How can I stand out from the pack when applying for a grant?

“We talk a lot about making sure you’re grant ready,” says Kelton Artuso, the programs and services manager at Philanthropy Massachusetts. That means having a clear mission statement, a brand presence, and a strong organizational structure before you send your application in. “I encourage people to have a readily searchable website or social media,” Artuso says, “because a lot of grant officers are Googling, just like the rest of us.”

Play to Win

If all else fails, you could always…buy a Powerball ticket?

Playing the lottery can be a nice distraction from the festering dumpster fire that is 2020. But if your goal is to win big, says Mark Glickman, a senior lecturer on statistics at Harvard University, “the first thing any statistician will tell you is don’t count on it.” Even with careful strategy, your odds will still be infinitesimally low. Still feeling lucky? Since Massachusetts lotteries are parimutuel systems (that’s statistician speak for “if there are multiple winners, they share the prize money”), the smartest thing to do is try to maximize your winnings. That means avoiding patterns, dates, “lucky numbers,” and anything that someone else might also choose, Glickman says: “The more random you can be in your selections, the better.” —T.P.

Learn from the pros: I changed my morning routine to change my life

Illustration by Peter Sucheski

Jenny Johnson
Host of NESN’s Dining Playbook

Prior to quarantine, I had tried everything to deal with my anxiety and digestion issues, but as everything started to fall apart with the pandemic, I was ready for something all-encompassing to take back control of my well-being. That’s when I found Ayurveda, an ancient Indian healing system dating back 5,000 years.

A really key component of Ayurveda has been the restructuring of my day. Whereas I used to wake up maybe around 7 (or whenever my kid would cry, basically), I now wake up at 5 in the morning to practice my dinacharya, or daily routine. It sometimes begins with tongue scraping to remove undigested toxins from my tongue. Then I drink six cups of warm water to hydrate and wake up my digestive system, and finally start my day with some chanting or meditation.

In mornings before the pandemic, I used to fly out of bed to get through my to-do list. It was chaotic: Stuff would spill, I’d be bumping against things, I’d have to scramble to make breakfast for my daughter. But my dinacharya has given me more space to enjoy each moment and interaction. My digestion has improved. My sleep has improved. I feel more present with my family. It’s taken a lot of discipline to get to this point, but I can’t fathom being without my morning routine now.

I ditched my apartment and bought a farm in New Hampshire

Illustration by Peter Sucheski

Mark LaVoie
Vice president at Prosek Partners

During Friendsgiving at my Beacon Hill apartment last year, packing 12 people into 500 square feet felt extremely tight. And then when news around COVID-19 started to break a few months later, I began to feel paranoid about shared hallways and shared air systems.

I had always dreamed about living in a big old house in the country, so one night I was perusing Zillow for fun and happened to find a place in a town that I had never heard of or visited. For less than what it would cost to buy the apartment I was renting in Boston, I could buy a 3,600-square-foot home with an enormous barn on 5 acres in Newton, New Hampshire. It was the home of my dreams—historic, plenty of space to entertain, and even more space to socially distance as we ride out this pandemic. I took the plunge and moved in earlier this year.

If you’re thinking about leaving the city, my best advice is to just do it. Sure, I miss having so many restaurants at my fingertips, but living here is very therapeutic. Now, I’m not worried about noisy neighbors or being cooped up in an apartment breathing everyone else’s air—although there is a very disruptive groundhog in my yard that’s been wreaking havoc on my taller flowers, and I definitely think my front bedroom is haunted.

I lost my sales job and started my own company

Illustration by Peter Sucheski

Jadine Greenaway
Cofounder of Dove and Donkey and Tardy Donkey

There aren’t many people who can say they worked from opening day to the final moments of Barneys New York’s Copley location, but I’m one of them. I had emotional equity in that company. So when it came time to liquidate the shoe department where I had worked almost 14 years to the day last winter, I knew it was time to channel everything I had learned into something totally new—even if it was when it felt like the entire world was melting down.

Interior designer Sheila Galligan, who was actually my first client at Barneys, had been asking me for a while if I wanted to start a company with her. Together, we decided to start not one but two businesses: Dove and Donkey, a line of consciously crafted, sustainably sourced home textiles; and Tardy Donkey, our apparel company of elevated basics.

I still can’t believe we launched in the middle of COVID, but we did, and it ended up working out in our favor. Established companies had to struggle to figure out how to adapt, but we got to hit the ground running with the new normal. It’s invigorating, it’s fulfilling, and it’s a little bit scary. But most important, I get to make decisions I know aren’t only the best for the company, but also best for me.