40 By 40

(Updated! Still not quite complete…)

Today is my 39th birthday. I have lots of feelings about the year to come and the next birthday that will end in zero, and most of them aren’t necessarily bad, just… ambivalent. I feel like I should have accomplished more by now in nearly all facets of my life: family, relationships, and career. I see my peers (and those younger than I) who have done so much and I start to feel insignificant and inadequate and a lot of other words that mean I am ashamed of how small my life is, how short my list of achievements, how empty certain chambers of my heart. Then I stop and think: I’m going to be 40. Forty! I never thought I would live this long. There have been days and months and years when I was counting the hours to get through and suddenly it’s all going to add up to 40! On my good days, I try to recognize how much that really means and celebrate the fact that I have survived years of my own brain trying to kill me and I’m still here. On that note, I am making a list. Things I would like to make, do, or see over the next year to celebrate all of the times when I didn’t think I would ever do those things again. Some of the things are small and easy, but I want to make a point of doing them regularly. Some of the things I have done before and wish to do again. Some are completely new and a little scary! (Obviously, this list is going to be pretty self-centered and navel-gazey, so please excuse the indulgence.) In no particular order:

  1. Knit a pair of socks, a set of mittens, and a hat for myself. Sometimes I get so caught up in gift and charity knitting that I forget to make things to wear and all of a sudden my hand knit sock collection is looking a little careworn. I did make a hat and mitten set last year, but once it was complete I ended up not really liking the color as much as I thought I would and ended up giving them to my mom, who lives in Connecticut. Clearly, she will also get more use out of them than I will! I plan to make my set from a lighter weight yarn to get more use out of them in Texas’s so-called “winter.”
  2. Write 52 quality blog posts. That’s an average of one per week, of course, but I’m allowing myself a little leeway by not holding to a specific schedule.
  3. Write 12 “Book Reports”. These can count as blog posts too; I’m not trying to make things difficult. The idea here is more to really focus on at least some of the books I read: think critically, analyze, and record my own thoughts. Sometimes I plow through books so quickly that I even forget the titles and end up checking them out of the library again, forgetting I have read them. I’m not going to write about everything I read, although I should clearly at least keep a list, but I do want to give myself the assignment of spending more time with the special ones.
  4. Complete a “Project 365”. This is a photo every day for a year. It used to be a Flickr group/project years ago, but I’ll be posting mine to Instagram. In theory, I’d like them to be with my DSLR, outside of the house. In practice, I’m sure there will be plenty of last-minute iPhone shots of my dinner. (I will say one rule is that, while I can take as many selfies as I want, they can only “count” once per month.) Really just trying to get back into the photography habit with this one. I’m @soonjung if you’d like to follow along. Already kind of failed at this… I’ve *posted* a photo every day, but have not *taken* one every day. We’re gonna go with the spirit of the thing and just keep going. Also, I may transition this to Flickr after all! It was just purchased by SmugMug and they seem to have the best intentions for making it great again. Instagram is owned by Facebook and even though I mostly treat it like a separate thing, there’s always that fear that it will just become too creepy.
  5. Complete Couch25K and actually run a 5K race. Completing the program is something I have done and know I can do again. Actually registering for and completing the actual event is the real challenge!
  6. Become a Shift Lead at work. Not going to write much about this, as I’ve fully absorbed the Dooce Commandment from Ye Olden Tymes: Thou Shalt Not Write About Thy Job on the Internet, but, in general terms, this is a solid goal. It is reasonably attainable with excellent effort and would represent a great step (and pay increase) in my new field.
  7. Adopt a dog or puppy. Pretty self-explanatory. Has been on a wishlist for years and I finally feel like I am stable enough to make the commitment.
  8. Start making bread from scratch again, and maybe try a sourdough starter. I won’t have a bread maker or mixer this time around, and our oven is kinda uneven, so this could lead to a lot of feeding the birds. I have a whole bunch of “from scratch” and “DIY” stuff, though, for health and environmental reasons, so you’ll see a few more like this.
  9. Record 2.5M steps with my Fitbit/Apple Health. This is basically hitting my 10K step goal five days per week for a year, rounded off. Based on the amount of steps I get at work, this should not be a problem at all, but it feels kind of fun to set a goal measured with such a big number.
  10. Feel comfortable wearing a bathing suit in public. I am actively trying to lose weight, but I don’t like relying on the scale for progress, and I don’t really have a reliable way to track body fat or anything like that. While measurable goals are usually better, I feel like this actually captures the spirit of the goal pretty well, either because I will have the body I think makes me feel comfortable or I will grow more comfortable with the body I have. Either one is a win!
  11. Explore a new city. Depression and anxiety have robbed me of the will to travel much of the time, and I want that sense of adventure back. Not making this too lofty; it can be something as close as San Antonio or Houston, but the idea is to really spend time poking around and finding things outside of the big tourist attractions. (Although, if I do go to Houston, I have to see the Space Center.)
  12. Go to a Patriots game, preferably at Gillette, but an away game if I have to. I want one more chance to see Tom Brady play in person. (Yes, I made this #12 on purpose.)
  13. Limit hair-straightening to 12 times per year. (Similar to the way 52 really means once a week, this is roughly once per month, but I’m going to be a little looser and avoid the timetable.) I started to write an explanation for this and it got to be super long. Apparently, I have a lot of feels about my hair, so I think I’ll save it for one of the 52 blog posts.
  14. Related to the above, fully commit to sulfate-free shampoo and silicone-free conditioners. I’ve been back and forth on this a few times, but now that I won’t be heat-styling often, there’s really no need for silicones and, thus, no need for harsh shampoos to clear out the buildup.
  15. Make hand, body, dish, and surface cleansers using DIY recipes. This is both to reduce the chemical load on my body and reduce the amount of plastic containers I buy and use. Goal is to test options and have a reliable recipe for each category as soon as possible, but at least within the year.
  16. Start composting kitchen scraps. This is another one I have done in the past and just need to get into the habit again. I am not great at gardening, but I do like to at least grow herbs, so I will have a place to use the compost once it is completed.
  17. Join a CSA. Luckily, there are several options in Austin, and one even includes an option for fresh eggs!
  18. Buy a used/budget sewing machine and learn how to use it. I want to reduce my reliance on cheap clothes from unethical sources, but I also cannot afford a completely artisanal wardrobe. Learning how to make clothes, or at least modify thrift store finds, is a good compromise. To put a number on this, let’s say the goal is to make or tailor at least one top or dress and one skirt or pair of pants.
  19. Institute a two-week waiting period for all purchases over $15. (Excluding necessities such as groceries, gas, medical expenses, etc.) This is especially aimed at clothing, accessories, and sport/hobby equipment. Not that I can’t buy it, but I need to curb impulsive and “retail therapy” spending.
  20. Try soap nuts and wool dryer balls for laundry. I already buy a particular type of laundry soap due to my reactive skin, and soap nuts seem like an even more natural solution. As a bonus, I will also be able to use them in a lot of homemade cleaner recipes for #15.
  21. Get back into coloring and drawing. I’d like to take at least a couple hours each week to unplug and settle in with my colored pencils.
  22. Yoga! Once per week, at least! In-person or video classes are both okay due to my fluctuating work schedule, but I hope to prioritize studio classes as long as I can afford them.
  23. Continue to explore yerba mate as an alternative to coffee. I’ve massively cut back on all caffeine, but even decaf coffee bothers my stomach a bit. I’ve yet to find a yerba mate blend I really like, but there are so many that I’m sure it’s just a matter of trying enough of them.
  24. KonMari the crap out of my closet. I am guilty of hanging onto things for way too long, getting fed up and doing a purge, and then finding myself back in the same spot three years later. I am going to try putting some items in “purgatory,” i.e. store them out of use and out of sight, but not donate them, just to prevent my feelings of “what if I need this” and also to protect myself from having to re-buy a winter wardrobe when I move back to a place with civilized seasons.
  25. Related to that, I want to try out the capsule wardrobe concept. Since I work with dogs and get really messy, I may make two mini-capsules instead: one for work/exercise and one for “regular” clothes.
  26. Do not buy any new clothes (other than emergency necessities, such as shoes that start to hurt or a bra that pops an underwire, etc.) until AFTER completing the capsule project for a season. I want to see exactly what I use the most and what I could live without and actually plan my wardrobe instead of just randomly collecting things I like, but never feeling like I have a complete outfit.
  27. Carefully curate the time I spend online. This is a wibbly-wobbly concept and not really measurable enough to be a true goal, but I’m not quite sure how to quantify it yet. There will be updates on this for sure, but the main idea is to avoid just clicking and scrolling when I’m bored. (Unless I have set aside time to do that! Discovery is great. I just want to be doing it consciously.)
  28. Write an actual paper letter to a friend each month. (I guess we’re just gonna start this one in May. ;)) I would of course like it to be more frequent than that, but I’m trying to start small. I arranged a Secret Santa gift exchange with a big group of my best friends last year, so I even have their addresses!
  29. Write an actual paper letter to my mom each month. (This is in addition to the friend letter!) She doesn’t really use texting or email that much and I don’t like to talk on the phone, so we don’t communicate as much as I would like. Hopefully this will be a nice step in the right direction.u
  30. Try a ballroom dancing class! I have a friend who has started lessons and really enjoys and gets a lot out of them and I want to at least give it a try. I took ballet/tap/jazz for ten years and still miss dancing sometimes. (Hi Allie! Get better and come to the Austin studio with me!)