52 for 50

Come February, I will be 49: in the fiftieth year of my life. I’m not dreading anything at all about it. But I am pausing for thought. About where I am, what other lessons I’d like to teach myself, and how I want to enter my fifties. Maybe it’s time for a list.

But NOT a bucket list.

I’m not in the market for a list of things I need to accomplish or places I need to see or shit I need to get done before I die. There are already plenty of those lists out there and many of them are beyond daunting: go to carnival at Rio, stand at the North Pole, become fluent in Greek, ride a camel across the Sahara, get a Doctorate, climb an active volcano… Face it: some of these folks are going to need far more money, vacation time and balls than most of us will ever acquire in a lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong: bucket lists are grown-up, Sears Wishbook Christmas lists that serve an important purpose. We need to own these dreams and aspirations in order to balance the day-to-dayness of our lives. And like that Wishbook list, we know we won’t get everything… but we cling to the possibilities.

No, I don’t need a bucket list: what I’m deriving is about something different… it’s about turning 50.

Starting on my 49th birthweek, I’ll be working from a list of 52 new things to try, one a week, up to my 50th birthweek.  All reasonable, simple things.

I’m calling it my Beach Pail list. Beach pails are smaller, easier to handle and much cheaper than buckets. Just like the items on my list.

Here are the rules for what can’t go into my Beach Pail:

  • No more than $30 and a few hours’ time per item… less if possible (thus, learning to Tango is out).
  • No practice needed for the initial attempt (such as sky-diving, which I have already done, by the way…).
  • No ongoing lessons (like those needed to learn Japanese).
  • No permanent body marks (such as a tattoo or dying my gums blue, for example).
  • Nothing that would normally need to get done (writing my will goes on the TO-DO list: not this one).
  • No extensive travel required (seeing the Pyramids is out).
  • Nothing that smells like a dare (for me, that would be something like swimming with sharks).
  • Nothing that borders on silly (like making fire the old-fashioned way).
  • Nothing that, frankly, can never happen without bending the rules of the universe (such as levitating or no longer eating chocolate).
  • UPDATE: nothing I’ve ever done before.

Here’s a small sampling, in no particular order, of what can go into the Beach Pail:

  • Eat tofu
  • Try Haiku
  • Plant peonies
  • Bet on a horse
  • Go target shooting
  • Learn to spit.  Really well.
  • Play Bingo at a Firehouse
  • Bake authentic, crusty French bread
  • Watch the Director’s cut of Bladerunner
  • Sleep in a hammock
  • Blend the perfect Bloody Mary
  • Ride on the Kank Train during peak foliage

So, why this Beach Pail list, you ask?  What’s the point?

I want to infuse more moments of surprise, joy and variety into my life. I need to remind myself that I’m not too old to try new things.  I want to create new interests and experiences without investing large amounts of time and money.  I want to know that these small excursions beyond my normal self can happen freely (and often free) when I am more open and willing. I want to add interest, invite possibilities, take baby steps outside my element. To challenge myself on small levels. And create new stories to tell as a result.

I think you get the picture.

The world is filled with new and exciting things to try that take only minutes to experience.  And I’m marching head-on into my fiftieth year, ready to try 52 new things.

My Beach Pail list springs into action in February. Join me!

Or at least send along some suggestions for me to try, keeping in mind my rules…

UPDATE! I finished my Beach Pail list on February 20, 2012.  To read the final list of 52 items, click HERE.



  1. I found you through Kim, Queen of Arts, and I love this post, and love that you chose a beach pail. Anything to do with a beach makes me grin. Here’s a maybe for your list…find a good used book store and spend a few hours wandering through it. We have an awesome one here, and I can get a ton of books for $30…..and then turn them back in for some store credit! Oh, and find yourself a really cool glass for that Bloody Mary!

  2. I think this idea is pretty neat – I’m going to make my own Beach Pail list.

    I’m also borrowing the whole ‘learn to spit’ thing. How come girls never get to learn how to spit?

  3. I’ve built sandcastles before (and adore the process!), and painting the bedroom black would drive the hubby right out of the house, so that’s not something I can rightly consider…

    but I simply love love LOVE the idea of spending an entire day naked! This is sooooo going on my Beach Pail list – thanks bunches, Clara!

  4. UPDATE: ADDED RULES for BEACH PAIL LIST: Nothing I have already done, and nothing that would drive the hubby from our home…!

  5. oh I love this! Can’t wait to follow along. As for suggestions, seems you’ve got a pretty clear idea where to start. I imagine one thing will lead to another and the year will fly by.

  6. Go to the beach in the winter time, no people (unless you bring your husband) just you the sand and the waves .. . great place for reflection.
    p.s. make sure you dress warm .

  7. Something I know you have done before, but needs to be done again & again by everyone.
    Find someone that can make you laugh uncontrolably, then spend the day w/ them!!

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