My next 30 years…

30th birthday

I’ve always loved birthdays. So of course, I started thinking about the upcoming milestone of my 30th birthday several months ago…okay, maybe a year ago. Thirty is that nice round year when I’m supposed to be solidly into a career, perhaps be married with kids, and own my own home. So they say.

As I turn 30 today, the most I can hope for is that people will stop thinking I’m still in college, or tell me that I still have plenty of time to find my soulmate. But then again, I don’t think that will change anytime soon, either.

On a serious note: I may still be in between careers, I may be living with my parents, and I may still be single — but these are all actually extremely wonderfully great things. They also say that 29 is supposed to be that crazy, upside down year, and I think a lot of it was. But it (and some of 28) was a year that could have gone differently had I not had the support of my parents, and had I not taken a giant leap out of everything that was comfortable in my life and looked for something more. So for that, I am grateful, and I am thankful that I am turning 30 with two amazing, inspiring, and devoted people at my side, urging me to create a fulfilling life on my terms, and no one else’s.

A few years ago, a friend of mine encouraged me to make a 101 Things list, or as he calls them, Life Lists. I never finished making the list, but when I came across it a few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover how many of the 50+ items on it I had completed already, and even more surprising, how many just in the last several months. To name a few: learn to make beignets, join a running group, become a tutor, see the Walk of Fame, visit the San Diego Zoo, visit California (I think I went overboard on that one), learn to create and edit short videos (thanks, Dad!), plant a garden (thanks, Mom!). I was glad to see I had checked off some of the important to dos in DC, and was okay with deleting a few items that no longer held significance.

So, now comes the next part: updating the list and getting it to 101, and then working through it, perhaps this time with a plan. But perhaps more important than the list is focusing on the big picture. Creating memories and experiencing life’s moments are more than just checking off an item on a list. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last year — heck, in my 30 years — it’s that it’s within your control (mostly) to create the life you want. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get there. Sometimes it takes fallings out with friends and family and lovers, and sometimes it takes rediscovering why you are meant to do something, or be with someone.

Some things never change, like the fact that I still like lists. So with that in mind, here are a few things I’m looking to accomplish in my next 30 years:

  • Run a marathon
  • Publish a book
  • Sew a quilt for my future child
  • Meet Tom Hanks (I am dead serious)
  • See a show on Broadway
  • Do a literary tour and and royal castle tour in England

Celebrating six years in DC

A sampling of DC goodness.
A sampling of DC goodness.

Just like that, another year has gone by. One year ago, I made revisions to my bucket list that I started for my fourth anniversary of moving here, and in the last year I didn’t accomplish very much. I guess I need to give it another go, and set some hard deadlines for myself.

In the past year, I wouldn’t say that much big has happened in my life, but I feel I’ve grown even more as a person. Okay, I ran my first half, and my second 10-miler (pats on back). I went through a personal traumatic experience and had the support of friends and family to get me through it, and saw my family come together in tragedy and in celebration over renewed health. I took an absolutely amazing trip to Italy with my parents, and smiled through tears as my youngest cousin got married. I witnessed the joy of two different friends who got the proposals they’d been waiting for, and had to finally let go completely of someone who had been an important part of my life for years, as I reconnected with others I had been apart from for years.

So yeah, I guess that’s a lot. And if last year was about No Excuses, I think I followed through on a lot of that. I set goals for myself and accomplished them, whether it was at work, through races, or my 30 day paleo challenge. I shifted priorities as life happened, and learned to start setting boundaries for myself so that I could fuel my happiness. Most of all, I pushed myself to be fearless and to challenge myself to new adventures, new habits, and new perspectives.

As I begin my seventh year in DC, now only will I pursue my declaration “Here’s to love,” but I will remember that to get to my place, all of these experiences and moments of reflection are necessary. I will need to cry and get angry and frustrated, and I will need to question myself and others, and I will need to explore and discover and experiment, and I will need to reach and connect and take a leap of faith. I will need to trust that time does heal wounds, and that time also brings new opportunities, and a new chance at love. I will need to remember that being me, and celebrating me, is the first step at getting to where I want to be in life.

And while I’m at it, yet another revised bucket list for DC to work on this year:

  • Visit Mt. Vernon & Monticello
  • Go to Shenandoah
  • Read at the Library of Congress and the National Archives
  • Eat in a neighborhood I haven’t tried
  • See a play at Folger’s Theatre (I am this coming weekend with Sarah!)
  • Catch a show at the 9:30 Club

I think that’s a good start for now…

Thanks for being a part of my life in DC.


DC Bucket List Redux: 5 year anniversary

The view from Sugarloaf

A year ago, I created a DC bucket list for my fifth year here, as a I celebrated my fourth anniversary of moving to the city. Below is the original list with the items I’ve completed crossed off. So I still have the remaining items to check off, and I’ve also added a few more things I want to do as I embark on my sixth year in DC. Thanks to all who have joined me in my bucket list adventures (and sorry to those that I haven’t yet arranged something with!) – I’m now accepting rolling offers to complete the rest and ideas to add to it! This year I will be much more diligent; I learned my lesson from the 11 things by 11/11/11 journey. And check out my Top 11 of 2011 for a short recap of what happened in my fifth year.

Must Do for Year 5

  • Go to the top of the Washington Monument
  • Eat at Art & Soul
  • Visit Ben’s Chili Bowl (I’ve only had it at Nats Stadium)
  • Attend a Caps game
  • See a concert at Verizon Center
  • Hike the Sugarloaf trail (thanks, Kim!)
  • Visit Mt. Vernon
  • Visit the Library of Congress
  • Visit the Supreme Court
  • Run the Capital Crescent trail
  • Do a night monument tour  (technically complete as I did a night run around the Mall.)
  • See a full show at the Kennedy Center (only saw a Millennium Stage show once)
  • See a play at the Shakespeare Theater  (ahh- I came so close to this!)
  • Eat at Ray’s Hell Burger
  • Visit the botanical garden
  • Visit all the museums that I’ve missed so far
  • Visit the National Archives

In addition to the yet-to-do above, here are some new ones for the list for year 6:

  • See a show at the 9:30 Club
  • Go ice skating in the sculpture garden
  • Attend a DC United game
  • Eat at all the Jose Andres restaurants that I haven’t covered yet
  • Eat at Old Ebbitt Grill
  • Fly a kite on the Mall
  • Visit the Goethe Institut
  • Attend an embassy event

I have my work cut out for me! Thanks DC for another great year, and I look forward to another amazing one!

27 on 11/11/11

Sugarloaf Hike: thanks Kim for helping me cross of an item for my DC 5th year bucket list AND my 11/11/11 list!

So, it’s finally here: 11/11/11.  I’ve made it a pretty big deal – the birthday piece of course, but also my list of 11 things by 11/11/11. Many of you have been a part of this little two-month experiment, either by sending me recipes, receiving my letters, or taking me to new places. Thank you to each of you — what good is growth and attaining happiness if you can’t do it with others?

And now for the big question — did I actually achieve my 11 things by 11/11/11? Here are the results:

1.   Try 11 new recipes.
I can’t remember all of them, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made more than 11 new things, whether they were recipes or impromptu ingredient mashups. Favorites were an apple crumble and a chicken and tomato crock pot creation.

2.   Give a handwritten note to 11 people.
I believe the number is about eight.

3.   Run at least 11 miles each week.
Some weeks this happened, many I wasn’t even close. I’m running a 10k on Sunday, so I’m feeling back on track.

4.   Write 11 blog posts.
Eh…only banged out five.

5.   Do something nice for 11 people.
I didn’t really do a good job at keeping track of this – but I’d say it happened – all the little things add up.

6.   Do/visit/eat at/try 11 different places, restaurants, or things to do.
Absolutely happened. Can’t even remember them all, but they were all fantastic! Seeing my first TEDX, going to Churchkey, hiked Sugarloaf…and lots of other things.

7.   Reach out to 11 people not expecting to hear from me.
Didn’t do this that well, but did make a few phone calls that were great!

8.   Read 11 books.
Somehow, I thought I would fly through this, but not so much. I read four books. Two of them I read in a day each, the other two I let drag out.

9.   Meet 11 new people.
Hmmm…I suppose this could be true from various meetups and things. I couldn’t name them all, though.

10. Learn 11 new things.
If you count random wikipedia lookups and all the things I read for work on a daily basis, then most definitely yes. But I didn’t learn anything new that was tangible, like knitting or skateboarding. This is probably one of the biggest things I want to work on.

11. Be happy with who I am.

So all in all – it was a fair shot, but nowhere near “successful” if I go by the raw numbers. But the bigger picture here is that #11 seems like it is contingent on the other 10 things, but it isn’t that straightforward. There are so many factors that contribute to our happiness, but as Gretchen Rubin realized for her First Splendid Truth: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

That means there are good days, and bad days. That some things make us really happy, and some only moderately so. There are things that should make us happy, but all we can do is think about the things that make us sad. But to get to happiness, you’re constantly growing, and working toward things that you choose for you. For me, it’s reading more books, and cooking as much as I can, because those things make me feel the most at peace, the most me. It’s avoiding things and people that make me unhappy – not always an easy task, but within our control for the most part.

On 11/11/11, at 27 years old, I know that today isn’t really the deadline for this list and more – it’s just the start of the journey.

Four years in DC and still so much to do!

Tidal Basin
Out enjoying DC, year 1

This week marks my fourth year in DC. I’m a big milestone person, noting anniversaries, birthdays, recognitions, etc, as if I work for a card company or something. (Thankfully, I have friends who do the same, so I know I’m not alone in this.) As I think back on the four years I’ve spent here since I left school and Ohio a semester early, I realize I’ve been through a lot, but that I have so much more coming my way. Journey with me?

Since February 2007:

  • I’ve lived in three apartments and had four roommates
  • I’ve had two jobs, three titles, and six (and a handful of dotted line) bosses
  • I continued a long-distance relationship, and broke it off
  • I’ve rekindled old friendships, made many new ones, and lost friends I thought were for life
  • I’ve consulted for 2 amazing entrepreneurs whose companies I believe in
  • I’ve held five parties, all but one Cajun-themed
  • I’ve watched the Saints win the Superbowl and LSU win the BCS Championship
  • I’ve gone through two couches, two mattresses, two comforters, two shower curtains, and two lamps.
  • I’ve gone kayaking, hiking, museuming, and attended tweetups
  • I’ve run my first three races here and scheduled my next two
  • I’ve watched the July 4 fireworks every single year, either on a rooftop or on the Mall
  • I heard Ted Kennedy speak, voted in person for the first time, attended President Obama’s presidential inauguration, done a West Wing tour, and a Capitol tour.

Read more