I'm actually pretty excited. I don't have sweaty palms or hear any (real or imaginary) voices chanting you're getting ollllllld. (Plus, now I can rent a car.) It feels like a big deal to reach my quarter-century, in a good, full way.
Okay, first a list and then some reflection on this last evening of my early twenties. (Yes, you're talking to That Sappy Nostalgic Girl. Coming to you live since 2002.)
My fellow Davidson alumna Rosie Molinary is as inspiring as all get-out with her books, her workshops, her programs and her blog. This week she wrote about her birthday tradition of making a list of "x things I want to do before I turn x+1" (that's math I can do right there).
Rosie writes: "The point of the list is inspiration. I don’t strive for perfection with this list. With every item crossed off, I think of what’s been added to my life. Not scratching something off isn’t a fail, it just didn’t work out for whatever reason – time, money, memory, or maybe it just sounded more good on paper than in my mind when I rolled over doing it. What I do with the list is look at it periodically and try to plan my days with achieving some of its challenges in mind."
So here's my list.
TWENTY-FIVE things to do before TWENTY-SIX.
(Or, um, twenty-eight things. Because I got on a roll! But no pressure, self.)
- Continue to write my morning pages (see reflection below).
- Be intentional with my time.
- Take a photography class.
- Begin building writing and photography portfolios.
- Get a library card.
- Read 25 new books.
- Write for National Novel Writing Month in November. (Thanks, Carol S.!)
- Write morning prayers as a devotional practice. (Loved using this book this summer.)
- A 3-year-old co-writing/editing project: either complete it, or let it go.
- Get an online subscription to The New York Times.
- Cultivate deeper self-compassion. (And when I struggle, explore why.)
- Pull out of my ruts of cynicism. (And when I struggle, explore why.)
- Redesign my blog.
- Gain at least one significant mentor for my writing.
- Go camping/to the mountains.
- Go on an out-of-town adventure with my boy.
- Begin planning a trip out of the country.
- Champion a feasible reunion with my friends from Study Abroad.
- Try out new recipes.
- Find and use a dining room table. (Mom will be so proud!)
- Host a dinner party at my house. (Not necessarily fancy, just fun.)
- Make or find someone to make a youth group t-shirt quilt.
- Create 5 original pieces of art.
- Walk to work 5 times.
- Push myself to swim one mile.
- Be aware of my health.
- Accumulate $x in savings.
- Choose what graduate school degree I'd like to pursue, and begin exploring options.
This year, especially this summer, has felt formative in terms of creating new habits and working towards something... Something that I still haven't finished wrestling with, and feel far from unmasking. The future, I guess. What I strongly and solidly feel called to do in my life, yes, that's part of it, that BIG BIG QUESTION but also, maybe more importantly - what I want the little dailies to look like, the everyday bits, the mornings and afternoons and evenings. What I hope to feel within them and how they will become separate and significant and sole, how single and strung-together days impact and transform. And maybe someday help answer that BIG BIG QUESTION.
So anyway, I've done some cool things.
I started taking a spin class a couple times a week. This might sound lame to some of you, but I've never understood the phrase "sweated buckets" until now. But I've found it to be uplifting and satisfying for my body and my mind, to have a place to go at certain times and an active task set before me with a community and an iPod. And now I feel like one of the regulars, though I know hardly anyone's name. Our fantastic instructor, upbeat but never beat-you-down, reads us a Thought Of The Day at the end of every class. Yesterday's was about making step-by-step shifts, small changes, which will slowly add up to those BIG BIG ones. I like hearing these uplifting words as I stretch my hamstrings. Good combo.
I attended an amazing writing workshop. For a week I got to hang out with folks of all denominations and backgrounds and ages and geographical locations and we shared writing and meals and prayer and Youtube-ing '90s pop and R&B music videos and time wandering through the warm (non-humid) breath of late summer Minnesota. It was a recharge that I desperately needed and joyfully embraced. I was challenged but I also felt that the retreat re-voiced me, gave me time and space to re-explore my voice and story, and gave me people to support me through it.
One early morning that week, sitting in a chair looking out over the sunlit lake, I decided to pull out my copy of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. A couple of people had recommended it to me and I bought it nearly a year ago but had not had the courage to open it until now. It's a 12-week guide to creative recovery and self-discovery. I'm currently in the midst of Week 8. There are a lot of questions and exercises and thought processes to go through, and I've always enjoyed that type of stuff. Most importantly, this program has taught me to write morning pages. Three pages every morning of whatever spills out of my mind. Even though I've journaled continuously for ten years, this is probably the most honest writing I've ever allowed myself to produce. And I feel like it's opened me up off the page too, with the desire to talk and laugh and be earnest and true with myself and others. Easier said than done, but it's a start. Also, I'm not freaking out at 11:30 p.m. trying to catch up on the day's events in my journal; I write in the morning now. Feels much more continual and refreshing.
And now I am in the midst of a six-week mindfulness course. We are learning some meditation techniques and yoga and simply discussing what it means to be mindful of the moment, of ourselves. We sit in a circle and we go around and take a calming breath and say our name and one word to describe how we're feeling - and we're not supposed to plan the word, just let it rise out of us. It's HARD. But cool. It feels right to do and learn and work on.
In The Artist's Way Cameron talks a lot about the concept of synchronicity, urging us to notice how elements and events and relationships in our lives become intertwined or connected in ways we did not expect or plan. I feel like this time in my life has fallen together to be just that - finding ways to work my body, mind and spirit even in the midst of what can still feel like a transitional time. Sometimes it seems like my exercise, writing, and mindfulness instructors have been getting together for coffee each week or something. There's a lot of overlap that just feels right.
So around 3 a.m., 25 will come, and I'll be sleepily grateful. I already am.