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?