For the past six years I’ve spent the week leading up to my birthday reflecting on the year and looking forward to what’s ahead. This cadence came from the realization that new years resolutions were seldom kept, but there were so many things that I wanted to do in my life. I started creating these lists of things that I wanted to accomplish or try within the coming year, with the expectation that each year the list resets. My hope was that by the time I am in my 60’s, I’ll have completed thousands of list items that align directly to my hopes, aspirations and dreams. On the other hand, I anticipate having goals like “don’t wet myself” or “stay up past 9PM on a weekend”. Classic YOLO moments.
The year of 27 was a bit different than the others. Rather than pre-creating a list of expectations for my year, I challenged myself to let the list build organically. I filled in the gaps as things happened, inspired the phrase, “don’t let the list define you”. And when I look at some of the experiences, challenges and memories from the past 12 months, I can say with great confidence that by not living by the list, a whole lot of living took place. A few examples:
- I took another solo vacation and went snowboarding in the Rockies, creating a new tradition that I hope to continue again come March.
- I spoke at a variety of events including the challenging pecha kucha presentation format.
- I added an additional member to my family in the format of a stubbornly adorable puppy named Penelope.
- I paid off all of my college debt, which has been a haunting anxiety-driver since graduation.
As I look to my “29 Before Turning 29”, I think the idea of wrapping up my 20’s is getting scarier and scarier. I’ve always preached that I think 30 is the new 20, but as I write this I notice that the pounds are shedding a bit slower than they used to and my hair line is certainly not getting any better. I’m not letting go of myself by any means, but the small signs of aging are beginning to appear. Jess spotted a gray hair on my head a few weeks ago and I’m realizing that it may be time to throw away some of those “goal clothes” that I’ve held onto since the age of 23 in hopes that they’d eventually fit. I understand that 28 is hardly old but regardless I am holding myself to the acknowledgment and self-awareness that what is coming as good. In my early 20’s, it felt as though I would never grow up as I watched every friend, colleague and peer do things a few years quicker than I had; people were buying homes, getting married, having kids and developing careers. Along the way, I’d struggled to identify my story as my own, feeling the insecurity that maybe I messed something up that put certain things on delay. It’s only in these last few years that I’ve come to understand that this season of movement and exploration was hardly a detour or a pit stop, but instead an essential part of figuring out who I am. And now growing up and ‘adulting’ is a process that I’ve truly come to love, primarily because I am now able to do so with a lens of exploration and discovery rather than complacency.
This last year, I’ve spent more weekends at home than ever before and have found a new form of rest that originated as pure boredom. I spend evenings paying utilities and cleaning up my yard; waking up later than 8AM is a gift, not an expectation. And to be honest, I actually kind of like it. So as I look to my year of 28 I am committing to a year dedicated to practicality and service. What does this mean? I’m still figuring that out and have a year to do so, but I think it means more doing and less theoretical ideating. It’s less talking about what I want and more time pursuing it. It’s acting like an adult but never letting go of the adventurous spirit that brought me this far. It looks like a people-first mentality, even when that makes things more difficult, more stressful or tougher to navigate. We’re all guilty of taking the easy way out, whether by avoiding conflict or by letting anger boil up to an irrational moment of exhaustion, but I’m convinced that we’re at the wheel and have the ability to drive through tough situations, potholes and all. I’m attempting to define what this may look like, but have given myself permission to edit and adapt pending the results. So here’s the list:
29 by 29: A year of practicality and service
- When I want to do something for me, go and do that same thing for someone else.
- Learn how to fix something new.
- Build something that helps someone else.
- Enable someone else to travel.
- Pick a weekend for writing.
- Surround myself with more mentors.
- Give it away for free.
- Get rid of things that I don’t need.
- Surprise someone.
- Sell something big.
- Experience strong listening as opposed to simply hearing.
- Commit to frequenting a local business to establish relationships.
- Ignite someone’s passions.
- Take ownership of something I’ve avoided.
- Teach someone how to handle conflict.
- Be neighborly rather than just a neighbor.
- Create space for stillness.
- Take someone else to a baseball game.
- Publish it.
- Teach Penelope a new trick.
- Attend someone’s 100th birthday party (Life list)
- Read about something new.
- Practice compassion.
- Invest into efficiency. Track and apply savings accordingly.
- Eat a meal or drink coffee with a stranger.
- Don’t retaliate.
- Rally a roundtable topic group for proactive conversation.
- Finish everything I needed to get done before it is light out.
- Take a calculated risk, but then measure the results and respond accordingly.