one thousand and one days ago

The Irish sky was black outside the window, which was fogging with condensation. The air outside was chill, though mild by the standards of a Canadian January. However, what Ireland has in more temperate temperatures, it makes up for with its complete lack of central heating. My tiny apartment was furnished with a wall heater in the kitchen, and that was it. So most nights you could find me, kitchen door closed, cuddled under a blanket on the couch or at the table, heater blasting for 30 to 60 minutes, making the room toasty warm before I felt compelled to shut it off and save energy (i.e. money). It was awful when I had to go to the bathroom; not only was the bathroom outside the nexus of heat, forcing me to escape into a horrible chill just to pee, but I had to open and close the kitchen door as quickly as possible, to prevent too much heat from escaping. But a bathroom trip meant an inevitable and quick decline from cosy nest to cold kitchen once more, at which point I would have to retreat to my bedroom and huddle under the covers.

It was in this atmosphere, accompanied by heart-crippling homesickness, one thousand and one days ago, that I sat down at my kitchen table across the ocean to craft a list of 101 goals. I didn’t achieve them all. But I certainly achieved a lot, and learned a lot, too, the biggest of which is this:

Goals should be suggestions, rather than commandments set in stone.

People grow and change. Their priorities grow and change with them. Clinging to a goal because it’s on the list, because it’s always been a goal, because I said I was going to do it instead of because it speaks to my soul, are really silly reasons to do anything. I’ve changed a lot over the past two years and eight months. I would go so far as to say I am a totally different person than I was then. Would it make sense, then, to cling blindly to the goals of that Past Me over the goals that make more sense for Present Me? Probably not.

And so that is what I took away from the 101 in 1001 challenge: allow yourself to grow and change. Be flexible. Be aware. Be ever present. Because when you are those things, you will always be self-correcting, and it will be easier to say, “No, this does not fit me anymore, I am going to let it go.” And then actually let it go.

I have a pretty decent fear of heights. It isn’t insanely debilitating; I can still ride in airplanes (though I can’t think about it too much while we’re 30 000 feet in the air), I can still walk across bridges and stand on balconies (though I do, on occasion, picture them collapsing beneath me), and I can still climb a ladder when necessary (one of my fondest memories is helping my stepfather put up Christmas lights and spending a few minutes just exploring the roof of our house). But heights have certainly been the cause of more than a few near-panic attacks and hurried footsteps to get a little closer to safety.

So for a long time, I had “bungee-jump” or “skydive” as a goal. Despite the fact that my whole body would go numb when I thought about doing either of these things, I felt like it was really important that I face my fear. That I should face my fear (uh oh, should is never a good sign).

But then I started thinking, Okay, but why? Will jumping off a 400 foot platform suspended in the middle of a canyon really do anything for me besides give me bragging rights? The thing is…I am okay with my fear of heights. I push it a little bit when necessary. It doesn’t stop me from living my life the way that I want. And so I said to myself, “I think I am going to let this one go.”

So I am not too perturbed by the fact that “skydive” sits forlornly on my list, uncrossed off and ignored. Sorry, Skydive, but you won’t be on the next list.

My list was a great way to stay focused on some of the things that truly mattered to me: finding a job that I genuinely love, becoming debt-free, and injecting a little more whimsy and fun into my life by doing things like watching a movie in a drive-in theatre, taking a surf lesson, and hosting an old-fashioned slumber party. These were all things that I wanted to do, but I might not have put the energy into actually doing if they weren’t on my list. Which would have been a shame, because they were all great fun!

It has been a long journey, from sitting at that table in my freezing cold kitchen in Cork, Ireland, dreaming of the things that I would accomplish over the next three years, to sitting at this table in my cozy apartment in Edmonton, dreaming of all the things that I will accomplish over the next three years.

They’re going to be great ones. I can feel it.

How did your 101 in 1001 journey turn out? What did you learn? What was your favorite goal that you checked off?

 

one thousand and one days ago

Looking Forward: 2015

how all of 2014 felt *
how all of 2014 felt *

For 2014, I wanted to focus on authenticity. When December was winding to a close, I was working a job that seemed to be sucking my soul out through my eyelids, and I didn’t like what it was doing to me or my life. I was bored and listless, angry and sullen, lethargic and unmotivated. I was not doing any of the things I loved because I was simply too tired to even consider doing anything besides sitting on the couch and staring at the TV. Bryan and I fought a lot because I was very unhappy, and that unhappiness seeped into every aspect of my life, most especially my home life.

By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, I knew that I had to make some changes, that the life that I was living did not look anything like the life I wanted to be living. Where was my joy and spontaneity, my creativity and travel, my quality time with the people that I love?

I wanted to focus on creating a more authentic life for myself, focusing on the things that I wanted and needed, rather than the things that people expected of me. I stayed in that job longer than I should have in large part because I knew that some people would be disappointed in my choice if I quit. And guess what? They were. But it didn’t matter. Because they were people who loved me, and when they saw how happy I was after I made that change, their disappointment disappeared.

I quit that job. I got a job that I love. I am working in a field that I love, that I find desperately, wonderfully challenging, that keeps me on my toes, happy and engaged and exhausted in a way that still allows me the time and energy to participate in the other activities that I love the best: spending quality, unangry time with Bryan; painting and drawing; writing; doing yoga; reading; traveling. My creativity has soared in the last year. With each decision that I made for myself, for all the right reasons, I have found it easier to be true to myself, easier to make tough decisions, easier to tell people what I need and why. I have accomplished more this year than I think I ever have: finishing a novel, starting a new blog, going on four different trips to six different places, downsizing to a smaller apartment, completing a half-marathon, getting married (!!). Making the decision to remove myself from a bad situation and to pursue what I actually wanted in life was an empowering decision that set off a chain reaction.

2014 has been the best year yet.

I want to carry that forward into 2015. This year, I am still going to focus on authenticity, because I think that it is an important mindset. I cast around for a while trying to figure out what my focus for the following year should be. At first, I thought creativity, then I thought connection, and then I realized that the thing that has been holding me back in both of those arenas has been my unwillingness to be vulnerable. Click. There it is.

My focus for 2015 is vulnerability, which I hope will marry nicely with my focus on authenticity, and continue the upward trajectory that I have been riding.

Goals for 2015:

  • Health and Fitness
    • beat my half-marathon time of 2:57:30
    • take a circus aerials class
    • do a 30 day yoga challenge
    • complete the New Rules of Lifting for Women workout – 6 months
    • cut out sugar completely
    • cook one healthy new recipe a week

     

  • Adventure
    • make it to one new country
    • purchase a camper van
    • go on three trips
    • take surf lessons

     

  • Creativity
    • edit NaNoWriMo 2013 and 2014 drafts
    • complete NaNoWriMo 2015
    • learn to draw people
    • take a writing class
    • learn some new painting techniques
    • start a creatives’ circle
    • complete a 365 photo project
    • write and illustrate a children’s book

     

  • Finance and Career
    • save $10 000
    • be debt free
    • get a second job

     

  • Spiritual
    • attend a meditation retreat
    • practice daily meditation

     

  • Friends and Family
    • host a dinner party
    • say yes to more invitations than we say no to – say yes at least once a week
    • work on healthy argument resolution
    • attend 3 sorority events

     

  • Personal Development
    • read 150 books
    • become conversant in a language (Spanish? French? Italian?)
    • learn how to change a tire
    • learn to drive a standard transmission vehicle
    • take piano lessons (or voice lessons?)
    • be in a play or do an improv workshop
    • complete 75% of my 101 in 1001 goal list
    • create a new 101 in 1001 goal list
    • learn a new hard skill

Do you have a watchword or theme for 2015? What are your goals?

*photo by Kaihla Tonai Photography

Looking Forward: 2015