Sunday, December 9, 2012

On Surviving and Loving 25

"You should draw a picture of Terabithia for us to hang in the castle," Leslie said.
"I can't." How could be explain it in a way Leslie would understand, how he yearned to reach out and capture the quivering life about him and how when he tried, it slipped past his fingertips, leaving a dry fossil upon the page
"I just can't get the poetry of the trees," he said.
"Don't worry," she said. "You will someday."
-The Bridge to Terabithia

Tomorrow I will be 26. Years old.

I'm confused about how it happened, really. Didn't I just turn 25? Though the fact that time is going at some kind of sprint recently is beside the point.

The point is that unless you haven't spoken to me, read my blog, or basically been in my general vicinity for the past year, you probably know that about 2 months before I turned 25, I had a freak out. I had just graduated from grad school a few months before, I was still trying to find my little place here, and I was just going through a thing. So turning 25 was something I could hold on to and obsess about. Around this time, a friend of mine (whose blog here is fantastic, by the way), was telling me how she made a list of things to do while she was 25. And I loved the idea. And of course, being who I am, I took it further than I probably should have. But here we are, one year later, and I survived being 25, with many (but not sole) thanks to the epitomic "list" that you're all sick of hearing about.

So, what did I do? It took me a month, but I came up with 19 goals. I put them on a spreadsheet. I saved it as "25 Goals of 25" (25 goals was going to be too many, but I was hopeful for a while!). I made columns for things that were able to be counted (beers, restaurants, letters, books). I started. That's it. Simple as pie. (Well maybe not that simple, but keep reading and I'll give you tips on starting your own list if you're interested!)

So of course, I want to talk about it. And I want to tell you what I did and what I didn't do.

If you want an intro to the list and to some of the things I accomplished early on, see this post here.

I'm not going to share with you all of my 19 goals because some are personal, some are boring, and some are embarrassing, so I'll spare you and just talk about the cool/interesting ones.

Goals That I Accomplished:

Goal #1: Try 25 New Beers
Giiiirrrlll, I finished this goal back in March. I mean, I annihilated this goal. And I continued to annihilate this goal to the point where this year, I tried 66 new beers. That's right. I could tell you about my favorites and least favorites, but frankly, I have never been good at describing why I like the taste of something very well, so I'll only say this: I'm glad I had this goal for two reasons. 1. It proved my theory that I just frankly love a good IPA. 2. It gave me an excuse to be and have fun. Honestly most of this list gave me a reason to let loose a little and try new things, and this is just one example. Now, that doesn't mean I'll ever try and drink Tetley's Ale ever again, but you can bring on the Full Sail IPA! Honestly, I think that this goal can be summed up by this photo:

Goal #2: Read 5 Books From My To-Read-Before-I-Die List
My list is about 30 books long (and constantly growing) and it's very intimidating. There's so much that I haven't read (and I know I'm kidding myself when I say I'm one day going to read War and Peace) and keeping that list helps me take care of some of the gaps in my knowledge. The five books I chose this year were Of Mice and Men, 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Flowers for Algernon, and To The Lighthouse.  Actually, I thought I was being really diverse in my choices, but I realize now that I was very much on some kind of science-fiction-y, moral-y trek. Each one of these books made me think about some aspect of my life and the world around me (which of course is what reading is supposed to do) and they (well, most of them) did it quite beautifully.

Goal #4: Write One Letter A Week
I'll admit that I'm not done with this goal because I actually began it on January 1, so I have a few weeks to go yet, but this has been my favorite goal.There is nothing, nothing better than a good letter. And in this day and age, a good letter takes skill. It takes time. I spent a lot of time writing a lot of letters. My original intention with this goal was to write 52 different letters to 52 different people, but frankly, I think I was being a little optimistic in thinking that there were 52 people I wanted to write letters to. At Week 41, I cycled back and started picking people who I thought needed, would appreciate, or asked for a letter. These letters came in all different sizes and shapes--stationary, Hallmark cards, notepaper. And all in my very small, not that nice handwriting.  Every week (well, sometimes I'd skip and have to write two letters the next week to catch up.. I'm busy, okay?!), I got to sit down and think about the person that I was writing to and write about whatever I wanted. Only about 5 people wrote letters back (and they have no idea how I appreciate that), but it wasn't about getting letters back. It was about letting people know that I was thinking of them, even if just for the 30 minutes it took me to jot off a letter to them. Honestly, it became more about me. I got to sit down and spill out what has been happening in my life and became almost like meditation. I had to sit and breathe for 30 minutes. It was lovely. It was a lot of work, so I don't think I'll keep up the weekly letter, but it's nice to know that it can act as a very inexpensive and important therapy.

Goal #8: Try 5 New Restaurants
I laugh in the face of this goal. Bahahahaha! I accomplished this goal by the end of January and it was so easy for many reasons. 1. When you start dating someone, all you do is go out to eat. (And actually, Traber's and my first date was at my first restaurant and was right after my 25th birthday!) 2. Since I had been so very poor in grad school and didn't have that much time for too much cavorting about, I never went out to eat. So even basic places, like the two places that are right by my apartment complex, had previously gone un-tested. Though this goal was expensive, I loved it. And here are my top 5 restaurants that I tried this year:

1.  Jaleo (Chinatown) (Oh. The asparagus.)
2. Alewife (Baltimore) (Best burger I've ever. had. ever. Please go there)
3. Zaytinya (Chinatown) (Get the apricot dessert thing. Oh my GOD.)
4. Bier Baron (Dupont) (You can't get much better than 10$ for a burger AND beer.)
5. Biergartenhaus (H St.) (The food is meh, really, but the beer. The beer!)

It's hard to choose my top 5 really, though, because most of the reason that I loved going to these places was the company that I was in and the fun times that we had there. But the food is awesome too. I ended up trying 45 new restaurants. Ridiculous. And awesome :)

Goal #11: Fix Teeth
Yep. I have braces. The appearance of my teeth have bothered me for several years now. Things were just out of place and getting a little scary. I had some money saved and this is what I wanted to do with it. So I did. I am a 25 year old with braces. I perpetually feel 12 years old. Though the braces are clear and you might not notice them unless you got close, they are there. And they screw with everything. But I am so beyond glad I have braces. I feel more confident, I lost a little weight (because I wasn't eating as much... it's a pain to brush your teeth every time you put something in your mouth!), my teeth are looking great, and it was a really big decision that I made all by myself (with input from others, of course). The best part? I thought I wasn't getting them off until July, and it turns out it's going to be more like APRIL!!! :)

Goal #14: Update Blog Once A Month
You're a witness. I've been doing it! :) Sometimes twice a month! When I first started this blog, I was so excited, but then life gets in the way and you forget about it. But I love talking about books and reading (and myself.. of course) and I love having an outlet for that (it also helps to divert some of my boring book talk away from my poor friends and people who really don't care!). Not only that, but since I started back on the blog, I've gotten a chance to write some reviews for HarperCollins (which you can read here and here) which is so fun and challenging! I know that there aren't a ton of people out there who read this, but it's kind of nice to send this stuff into the void and see what comes back. So thank you for being a reader and for visiting! :)

Goal #16: Learn to Play the Ukulele
Have you met my ukulele Babette? She's awesome. Me? Eh... I'm not so awesome. But I know a few ditties and I love being able to play the uke. It's a fun (yes, I know, and hipster) distraction.I wish I took lessons and didn't just teach myself using Youtube, but alas. I'm sure you thought that I forgot all about Babette since my post about her, but I've been working extra hard just so I could show you this. Before you watch: I know it's not perfect. My singing voice has deteriorated immensely since high school. If you catch it, you'll see the product of Goal #13: Find the Perfect Lip Color (and I wish that I had recorded this a few days later and I would have worn my new spoon ring [from my lovely, fantastic boyfriend] which was Goal # 10: Find a Spoon Ring).


Yes. That happened. Obviously, I need a lot more work and I'm not great, but it's so fun anyway! (It also took literally 20 tries to get it to be not more horrible than that).

And now on to...

Goals That I Did Not Accomplish (And Regret in Some Way):

Goal #6: Visit a New City
Technically, I did complete this goal. This year, I went to Indianapolis, Long Island, and Sandbridge, Virginia, none of which I'd ever been to before. But they were all because I had to go (okay, had to is the wrong word.. most were for weddings and Thanksgiving which were awesome, so it was worth it!) not because I said, "Man, I really want to go there." I am notorious for not taking vacation and I wanted to break out of that mold, but time and money were not kind to me. What I wanted to put on the list was "Go to a foreign country" but I knew the likelihood of that was even less and so I didn't want to test the fates. So I settled for hoping for Charleston, SC. Alas. A dream to be realized another day.

Goal #7: Write a Short Story
I'm more sad that I didn't even try to do this one. I've never been an excellent writer and my creative writing is even worse. But I have an idea for a story, I just didn't force myself to find time to sit down and lay it out there. And I think I was scared (which was part of what this whole list was meant to overcome). It won't leave the perpetual "to do" list in my brain though.

Goal #15: Have a Dinner Party
Again, time just got away from me. What this was also supposed to make me do was to branch out with my cooking and try new things and it just didn't happen. I have all the elements for a great dinner party (I even have cloth napkins!), but things got busy and it fell through the cracks.

Although there are several more goals that I didn't cover, I can tell you that of my 19 goals, I accomplished 14 of them! Not too shabby!

With any kind of big project like this, there are bound to be things that come out of it, and some of those things certainly weren't expected.  For as much as I was truly dreading being 25, this has turned out to be the best year. Ever. And that's really not an exaggeration. I have had more fun this year than ever before and I think it was because I let myself. In the past, I've not been very good about letting myself have fun, but I was bound and determined (and armed with fun goals to accomplish, dammit!) to have fun. My bank account, liver, and waistline probably aren't thanking me right now, but it's worth it. Every second has been worth it.

If you're thinking about doing something similar to this, first of all, let me know(!) and second of all, here are some tips that I figured out along the way:

1. A spreadsheet (though your mom makes fun of you for it) is a great way to remind yourself what you've accomplished, what you need to do, and helps keep all your info in one place!
2. Put both fun things and not fun things on the list. The not fun things suck, but you feel an extra hit of accomplishment when you do something you don't want to AND you get to cross it off the list.
3. Don't put more than you can chew on there. Really, this isn't about making yourself crazy, it's about figuring out what you want to accomplish and trying to get through it strategically, not killing yourself to run a marathon (unless you want to) just because you think you should because of whatever reason people tell you. This is for you. And it's so much better when you can embrace it for that.
4.  Don't stress out about not accomplishing something. First of all, you don't have to share your goals with the world (my friends probably wish I hadn't shared with them!). Again. This is for you! Second of all, goals don't go away. I still want to write a short story. It's gonna happen. It just... hasn't yet.

Perhaps the biggest thing is that you have to put yourself out there, but not let the goals shape your year. Let your year invite your goals.

This year has surpassed my wildest dreams and there are so many people to thank for that, and you should all know who you are. (Tip #5 should be that you have to have people around you who will remind you of your goals, text you beer names, and take you places :) )

Thank you all for helping me make this year beautiful.

On to 26!

PS - Back in a few weeks with my Top 10 of 2012 (see some of my past "Top 10 of 20__" posts here, here, and here)