So those that know me know I like lists. Like I reeeeeally like lists. I like them the way people like Netflix. I pursue them the way some people scroll Instagram. I read and reread and order and reorder them. Honestly, I don’t know how people function without them.
My brain simply can’t hold all the stuff I need/want/probably shouldn’t do.
(Note: In finding this image I went down a rabbit hole called “Exploding Brain Syndrome”. This is a thing.)
Arguably the mother of all lists is the BUCKET LIST. Like Google, it has even been “verbed.” But a bucket list is a problem for me because it indicates a plan to do things someday, preferably before you die. And who knows when that is, right? Continue reading →
Many moons ago, I was a bright-eyed go-getter, bent on squeezing every drop from the gristly lime of life. I had a lot of things I wanted to do and I was in a big hurry to do them.
And then life happened. Every now and then, it occurred to me that the ME I had designed in my twenties was a long gone blueprint, some imaginary being the lab had given up on.
My priorities were unwillingly rearranged with children and societal pressure to normalize and the constant need to pay for some life necessity or another. The nerve.
Then comes 40. I’m on the countdown and it’s time to regroup, assess, question whether all that party planning and crafting really counts as moving forward in life. (Existentially, it is also time to question whether moving forward is the real goal.)
Have I lived enough? I asked myself. Have I accomplished enough? Have I adventured enough? I’ve never even been to India!
This anxiety sent me straight to list making, because making lists is every Type-A’s therapy. A well-written list can solve any problem.
Now, while I’m still ruminating on the existential meaning of life, I’ve constructed a really scintillating list. 40 things I want to do before I turn 40. Because if there’s one other thing a type-a likes, it’s a deadline. 😉
So, if anyone is so inclined… jump on board and do a 50 before 50 or a 30 before 30 or a 47 before 47 (although it, admittedly, doesn’t have the same ring).
(Legal disclaimer: I got a version of this idea from Gretchen Rubin, who on her podcast appearance with none other than Tim Ferriss, talked about her 18 for 2018 resolution list.)
Here’s my 40 Before 40…
Publish book – Come hell or high water
Sing karaoke – IN PUBLIC
See the Northern Lights – I was born in Alaska and don’t even remember ever seeing the aurora borealis. poo.
Do the splits
Take Scottish dancing class – Seems random but I am Scottish, did Scottish dancing as a teenager (see how cool I was?) and am thoroughly obsessed with all things Scottish.
Do 10 pull-ups
Take a painting class
Take a hip-hop/dance class – Maybe improve my Elaine-from-Seinfield moves. Maybe not.
I had to.
Go tent camping – Glamping doesn’t count, much to my city-boy husband’s chagrin.
Take a pottery class
Buy a Motorhome
Motorhome across the country
Go to a horse ranch
Organize/print digital photos – Honestly, this may be the hardest thing on this list.
Go whale watching
Go to Iceland
Try aerial yoga
Try acro yoga
Ride a skateboard – Friends are trying to talk me out of this due to potential physical injury to my middle-aged body.
Learn to ski
Meet Tim Ferriss – Tim, if you’re out there, I’m a total fangirl and will likely have nothing intelligent to say due to nervous paralyzation.
Do a handstand
Get back to my college fluency in Spanish
Remodel our home office
Go rock climbing – Indoor is ok. I’m not a snob or anything.
Learn how to swim strokes – like real swimming, not bobbing and flapping
Play the ukulele
Go to a poetry reading
Read the Harry Potter books – Because I have heard this should be on every bucket list and apparently I’ve been living in a barn having not read them.
Organize travel memorabilia – Hmmm, what to do with train tickets from Belgium, coasters from Peru and sugar packets from Morocco…
Burn music to hard drive – I literally do not have a CD player
Teach my kids to play chess
Teach my son to read
Go to a trampoline gym – I’m thinking without my kids. Would that be weird?
Be vegan for a week
Make a good (thai) curry
Make a scrapbook for my husband’s last birthday – I’m such a giver.
Take self-defense class
Get laser hair removal – because shaving sucks
Ride a jet ski – I have never done this and stole it from my friend’s bucket list because I was like “Oh yeah, I HAVE always wanted to do that.”
So there. I’m about to get at it.
P.S. If any writers out there are feeling mid-life crisis-y like I was, be comforted by the statistic that 95% of great writers are over the hump of 40. Like fine wine, apparently literary success improves with age. One in the pro column for getting older.
I once did a pie chart of my day, down to how long it took to eat, groom, commute, etc. Beyond trying to creatively multi-task (one should not do squats while brushing ones teeth, FYI), I discovered that apparently, I have a finite amount of “free” time. You know this, yes. But when you do a pie chart, you reallyknow it.
With that sadly small sliver on my pie chart of “free time”, I had to decide how it was spent. TV? Long hot bath? Workout? Read? Write? Troll Instagram? Work on backhand? Clear out overcrowded inbox? Read magazines? Take up wood carving?
2. What is worthy of that time?
Have I ever mentioned that I want to speak like four languages, play the violin, become a black belt and a ceramicist?
If you have seen Tangled, (Yes, the children’s movie. Don’t judge!) you have seen my life’s aspiration.
So many skills, so few hours in the day. *sigh* How, with this finite amount of time, could I ever do all the things I want to do?
I could work on each project/hobby/goal for 5 minutes a day and likely never become proficient at any of them.
I could spin my wheels on day to day stuff and put the big goals onto a different, less visited list.
Or I could devote and invest time into a single life goal and see it to fruition. Singular purpose. Multi-tasking is a no go here.
3. Is being busy and productive the same as accomplishing?
Being busy feels like being productive, right?
But the little stuff is usually not connected to the big stuff. For example, having a detailed car, washed dog and organized garage has little to do with my life goals. And a lot of the time, we DO have to choose. (Yes, even acknowledging this, I choose wrong.)
It’s tempting for us Type A’s out there to just put it all on the to do list and start pounding the pavement. We can do it all. We MUST do it all. WE WILL DO IT ALL!
Beyond the usual advice about burn out, the fact is, with an uber long to do list, you’re less likely to accomplish the things that matter most. The goal becomes shortening “the list” as opposed to working long and hard on a single project (with the reward of a single notch on said list). Guilty. At the end of the day, it’s easy to see a lot of little things done and harder to see a little of a big thing done.
But it’s fake productivity! Big things often don’t look like accomplishments until they are. And true accomplishment is only the big things. In 5 years, no one will care how busy you were, how clean your dog, pristine your garage, or tidy your files. What will you show for all that busy-ness? (if you think this is an excuse to not clean the garage, you wouldn’t be wrong)
Choose your biggest priority, the one you will care about in 5 years, for instance. Then, use those little slivers of pie time for it. As much of those pockets of time as you can for AS LONG AS IT TAKES.
Yeah, sure it’s not terribly gratifying when someone asks how a project is going and the answer is “still working on it” again and again. But one day they’ll be like, “I don’t know how you did that.” But you will know. You will know.