Fifty-two weeks ago, I began a challenge: try something new every week for an entire year. The goal was to marinate myself in new experiences and remind myself that I’m not too old to try new things. I wanted to add interest, invite possibilities and take baby steps outside my element to stretch myself on small levels. It started out as a challenge for my upcoming fiftieth birthday (today!), but it turned into something so much more.
To be clear, this list of 52 items was not a bucket list. Bucket lists are crammed with things to be done before you die and typically involve large-scale, expensive, time-consuming ventures. My 52 experiences were smaller, easier and far more manageable. Things to try that didn’t involve lots of time, money or planning. So I called it my Beach Pail List. Why? Beach pails are smaller, easier to handle and much less expensive than buckets. They are also, not coincidentally, funner. Just like the items on my list.
You can read more details in my original post, but here’s a quick overview of the rules: each experience on my Beach Pail List could NOT -
- Be something I’d ever before done
- Cost more than $30 (like going to Tahiti)
- Take more than a few hours’ time
- Require ongoing lessons (like learning to speak Japanese)
- Involve permanent body marks (like a tattoo)
- Need to be done (like writing a will or organizing a closet)
- Smell like a dare (like swimming with sharks)
- Border on silly (like making fire the old-fashioned way)
- Bend the rules of the universe (like levitating or giving up chocolate)
So, what’s gone into my Beach Pail? What have I done these past 52 weeks? In no particular order, here’s the whole dang list:
- Eat tofu
- Bet on a horse
- Go target shooting
- Learn to spit well
- Bake authentic, crusty Baguettes
- Watch the Director’s cut of Bladerunner
- Blend the perfect Bloody Mary
- Make mozzarella cheese
- Roller blade
- Learn to play Mahjong
- Attend a live opera
- Try Haiku
- Learn how to swear in several languages
- Build something using power tools
- Master Bolognese sauce
- Jump off a high diving board
- Ice fish in a bob house
- Read One Two Three . . . Infinity
- Witness an authentic PowWow
- Try Pilates
- Learn a card trick
- Try line dancing
- Meet my State and Federal representatives
- Learn to whistle with through my fingers
- Play the harmonica
- Try out a batter’s cage
- Join a Fantasy Football league
- Take a hula lesson
- Go snow tubing
- See the Clydesdales
- Sit in a courthouse during a trial
- Drive a snowmobile
- Spend an entire day naked
- Learn to watercolor paint
- Try meditating
- Read Dante’s Inferno
- Nap on a hammock
- Design a house
- Read The Federalist Papers
- Prepare homemade ravioli
- Brew my own beer
- Batik my own fabric
- Sculpt something
- Write a song
- Take an acting class
- Join a Scrabble match
- Have little, tiny hair*
What were the highs (and lows) on the Beach Pail List?
TOFU: I’ve tried it three times, only because several friends insisted that I didn’t sample it properly prepared. Thanks very much, but I do not like tofu, no matter how it’s prepared. In fact, I detest it.
HAIKU: It’s fun when it’s snarky! And following the 5-7-5 beat makes the process feel lots like a word puzzle. Fun with poetry… who knew?!
HARMONICA PLAYING, WATERCOLOR PAINTING, ACTING CLASS: I pretty much suck at these things, but I don’t care because I had a ginormous quantity of fun trying!
BOLOGNESE, BAGUETTES, CHEESE: I am a Food Preparation Goddess – the Master of All Things Culinary in my Cucina! Everything I cooked was orgasmic. Alas, as I write this I am wearing my fat pants…
ICE FISHING: You need to drink lots to stay warm. I didn’t catch anything except a cold and a serious buzz (that, not surprisingly, later morphed into a serious hangover).
DANTE’S INFERNO: Holy crap. I needed Cliff’s Notes to get through most of it. Honestly: what was he on?
What have I learned? Soooooo much:
Like many of us, I thought all the fun things were a plane ride away, requiring an investment of both time and money. I was wrong. And I’m grateful to have finally realized this.
Looking for new experiences that fit within the rules of my list initially took time and thought. But not too far into the year, I discovered them with more ease. In essence, I was retraining my brain to watch for these opportunities and, in little time, the process became more intuitive. So many things to experience, try and learn! I have immensely benefited from this lesson.
Learning something new does not mean you’ll end up being good at it. Once you accept this, the goal swiftly moves from the DONE to the DOING. For me, this made an amazing difference.
Letting go of your expectations changes everything. When you stop worrying about what other people think, how well you’ll do or whether you’ll make an ass of yourself, you exponentially increase the happiness factor of any given experience. I’m not kidding.
I thought I would learn my limits. Instead, I stretched them. I now feel as though I can do nearly anything, and I don’t think I have ever before felt that. I presumed that this feeling would arise only from a life-changing, all-encompassing, incredibly amazing adventure… not from something so simple as trying a batter’s cage. Silly, naive me.
This Beach Pail challenge is the best gift I’ve ever given myself. I’ve loved it. And I’ve learned lots about so many things… mostly myself.
Happy Fiftieth Birthday to me!!!!!
*This is happening TODAY. And we’re talking holy-shit, hoo-rah, Marine-recruit buzz-cut tiny. Here’s hoping I don’t end up wearing that Beach Pail…!