The Final Countdown

Something rather alarming came to my attention over the long weekend.

Friday, in addition to being my lovely Dad’s birthday, was an alarming reminder: a single month was left in the biggest challenge I’ve ever set myself. An ongoing theme over the last year has been the 26 before 26, the list of things mostly comprised of everything I’ve always wished I could do but had always been too afraid to try. Some of them were simple no-brainers. But the majority revolved around the decision to tackle those things I felt drawn towards yet scared of, and choose fight over flight. Certainly, the former may involve risk, pain, and discomfort. But I’m desperate to be able to one day look back on my life without regret and confidently say that my life became what I wanted it to be the day I decided that fear was no longer an option.

So I have less than four weeks left, and I’m not going to lie: with some of the stuff that’s cropped up over the last few weeks, I’ve fallen off track. But what’s a tight deadline in the grand scheme of things if you’re positively determined to succeed? I may run out of time, but it’s not going to stop me trying. So what have I crossed off so far?

#1: Get in crazy good shape. When I made this list, my level of physical activity was pretty much zero. I never did any form of deliberate exercise, and my weight wasn’t healthy either (too low; not too high). While I may not have maintained the initial level of commitment (a wedding does wonders for your treadmill motivation!), I am proud to say that for a while, I ran three times a week, I became stronger, pushed my endurance, and altered my eating habits. I put on a few more pounds in the healthiest way I could, got my BMI back into the “normal” range, and crossed off #2 in the process – starting hot yoga – as well as #9 – planning meals, eating better – and trying that ominous green monster once and for all.

#6: Write non-blog or magazine material. I really found a passion for creative writing last year, and I think what had been putting me off committing to doing it regularly was the fact that I didn’t feel I really had any worthwhile creative ideas. But then… I did. And I’m diving straight in. I converted our spare room into a “writing room”, attended conferences, and managed to cross off numbers 13 and 20 in the process!

#7: Meet new people. My goodness it feels strange to say that this time last year, people I consider absolute friendship soul mates weren’t even in my life yet. Looking back, I can’t help but feel the universe was at work when I put it out there that I was willing to make myself vulnerable. I was so used to living within the confines of my social anxiety “disorder” that the thought of voluntarily going to a massive meetup, on my own, full of strangers, was enough to make me want to throw up. But in deciding to take that leap, I met some of the most incredible people I’ve ever had the blessing to know, and been lucky enough to call a friend. The acts of attending one meetup group and messaging one stranger on the Internet were the turning points that shaped the path of the last year enormously, and I can’t imagine how different life could have been had I not met these wonderful souls. This one kind of went along with #25: Stop being scared of talking on the phone, and I am happy to say I am no longer one of Those People.

#8: Do real karaoke. I wasn’t sure whether I tackled this one or not, but in talking to a friend this weekend she assured me it definitely did count. I looked back on the original list, and the original goal was to “break into song in front of live people, and not just people on the Internet.” (Please don’t ask for the URL!) It may not have been on a stage in front of strangers, but it was in front of about 20 of my closest friends, and ended up being a totally brilliant night 🙂

#11 was the most frightfully boring and easy item on the list, and barely deserves acknowledgement, but even if it is just for my dental hygienist friend Dani, I have fully implemented flossing into my daily routine. 🙂

#15: Teach a class full of people. Comfortably. It’s amazing to be able to look back on something that’s become so routine and remember how it felt to be absolutely powerless to the same thing a year ago. This was probably the biggest challenge: practising being on the spot, in front of people, and speaking publicly to an audience. I’ve struggled with questions from others as well as myself – why do something that feels so unnatural (Peter Gabriel – sorry, couldn’t help it; bonus points for getting that) when you could focus your time and energy on something you’re good at? I look back on my initial motivation: “I just want to thrive on it instead of being scared, and fuel the nerves into enthusiasm, focusing on the fact I’m in a position to relay information that will help people. Which is way more important than fear.”  It’s not an easy task for anyone to change thought patterns that have been established for such a long time, but the thing that’s helped me most is trying to focus on the big picture. Catching myself slipping back into old tendencies like fretting, worrying about things beyond my control, being too quiet… and just deciding that something else is more worthwhile. Like the fact that I at least tried, or the fact that just maybe, something I say or do might actually help someone else in the process. Speaking to groups has now become part of my job, and I think this is a perfect example of putting something out there into the universe, and having it deliver. 🙂

#18: Go on a blogger meetup. Last year I was absolutely blessed in being able to meet up with amazing people all across the world. I met fellow local bloggers, explored a beautiful city with people I’m honoured to now call real-life friends, and even enjoyed breakfasts and explored science museums with bloggers internationally. As much as I harp on about trolls, the Internet is genuinely a wonderful place, and I’m so lucky to have been able to meet some incredible people off-screen as well as on.

#19: See more of the world. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the above, but I definitely saw some new places over the course of the last year. Mexico, Chicago, new places in England, as well as Spain are all crossed off my list – too bad that wipes my travel budget for the next two years!

I was pretty sure #22 (forgiveness) was going to be the toughest one on my list, but the moment it became reality, I felt the biggest weight lifted off my shoulders. Forgiveness is something I’ve learned is at the forefront of how I want to live my life, and goes hand in hand with the practice of “big picture thinking”.  It’s a tough one to implement when accompanied by the stranglehold of memory, but at the end of the day, the past has already happened, and the only thing I can control is how I face the future from this moment on. Ultimately, holding onto past grudges and baggage is contrary to how I want to live my life, and though pride can be a bitter pill to swallow, I think at the end of the day, it’s way more worthwhile than maintaining any sort of vendetta.

#23: Do something drastic with my hair. I’d had mid-length, boring brown hair for the longest time, so this was the year to step outside the comfort zone. I went jet black, added near waist-length extensions for a few months, then chopped it all off and started going red again. Now I’ve got the bug, I’ll probably end up with something completely different by summer 🙂

#24: Become more spiritual. This was one I was really hoping would come to fruition this year, and over the last few months, I think I’ve really found a belief system that works. I’m still learning, still reading, and still exploring different avenues of expressing faith in a way that makes sense for me, but it’s something I think that’s helped me grow, as well as strengthened already existing relationships.

#26: Set up a professional website. I revamped my writing and design portfolio, and made some snazzy business cards to go along with it. It may not be a thousand-dollar investment, but it’s a long way from where it started!

I’m beyond thrilled I decided to stick to this list – and I’m glad I did it in a way other than New Year’s Resolutions, which have the tendency to evaporate mid-January along with the last of the mince pies. I can honestly say it has contributed immensely to the shaping of this past year, which was genuinely my best one yet, and I think the biggest lesson is that life really can be exactly what you want it to be when you make the decision to become an active participant in shaping it, and hold yourself accountable to the words, actions and thought patterns of the person you’ve always wanted to be.  That being said, I still haven’t finished. I have just over three weeks to check off the remaining nine goals:

#3: Learn a choreographed dance
#4: Do a cover of a really popular song in a completely different style
#5: Get my driver’s licence, or at least take lessons
#6: Make traditional English food
#12: Stop hating how I look
#14: Perform something in front of my coworkers
#16: Become entirely debt-free
#17: Volunteer somewhere
#21: Finish my back tattoo

I realise that some of those are pretty much impossible to complete in three weeks – there’s a year waiting list and a thousand dollar deposit required to fix my tattoo, which probably isn’t happening this month, and I’m not sure anyone can get a full on driver’s licence in twenty-four days – but I’m absolutely committed to at least trying everything before the clock strikes midnight and I turn into a pumpkin turning 26. I’m not a hundred per cent sure how just yet, but the countdown is most definitely on!

If you’ve set goals or resolutions over the last year, how are you doing with yours?

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53 comments

    1. Aw thanks, I could say the same thing about you lovely! though I don’t feel like I can even entertain the idea of feeling remotely accomplished until I’ve tried everything…

  1. You could get a driving lesson in that 24 days couldn’t you – or do you need to apply for the license before you learn? I know how the UK system works don’t know about the Canadian though.

  2. woah… i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it again… your positive mind attitude and desire to thrive and push your limits completely blows me away. you’re really going places, em- and the fact that you’ve accomplished so many goals on your list is awesome.

    xx

    1. ❤ ❤ ❤

      Thanks so much, but I still don't feel like it's enough!!

      Speaking of going places, I was at the cinema the other day and thought of you when they were talking about how in our lifetime there's going to be moon tourism 🙂

  3. whoa. you’ve done a lot of accomplishing. 🙂 good for you! i’m really happy about how cheery you’re sounding this week. very very.
    i haven’t sat down and made a challenging goals list in forever. maybe i should…

  4. Goals are totally the story of my life right now! My 101 in 1,001 is being accomplished wayyyy too slowly, so I’m excited for June to roll around, which gives me a good excuse to review my list and find new ways of crossing those things off!

  5. Em, even if you don’t accomplish all of these by next month, you’ve seriously made a huge dent in your life and done so much more than the millions of people (myself included) who attempt New Years Resolutions only to forget about them within the middle of January. So you should be proud of that alone, because looking at what you have accomplished, you’ve really done a TON. You can definitely tackle about 5 of them in the last 24 days and I have faith that you’ll push through. Even if the deadline passes and the clock strikes midnight, I’m sure you’ll still try to get that license and finish the tattoo 🙂

  6. LOVING that you’ve nearly completely finished this list. i’ve seen so many that get chucked or forgotten after only a few things. you are such an inspiration! my life list is more future focused, but i’m getting my shiz together to get things done 🙂 ❤

  7. I think that number 22 is the an ever-growing goal, and I also think that social anxiety disorder is actually bursting-with-love-and-compassion-condition-that-hasn’t-quite-reached-refinement. It’s a good list you made for yourself!! One that truly made you come alive. I was hoping to see something like skydiving on here, but my hope is that you’ve already done it!

    My goals list, there hasn’t really been one. Although there has been ONE goal in my life for the past few months since I came back from China: MINDFULNESS. Although I can’t really say it’s a goal as much as it is an ever growing journey to awaken to the miracle of my life and cultivate peace in every step I take. A little abstract for sure, but I’ve taken some steps to get there. I meditate much more regularly now (almost everyday, and it will be soon), I am a part of an Insight Meditation community here in Atlanta, and I’m looking to join a work retreat at a wonderful place called Spirit Rock. Another great thing that happened is that I was accepted to be a part of a ten-day retreat at a meditation center in southeast Georgia. I will talk all about it an upcoming post!

    1. I love love love your definition of “social anxiety disorder” 🙂 And you’re right, #22 IS an ever-growing goal – there was a certain person in mind when I made it a goal, but it’s definitely something to keep practicing throughout life, I think. I love the journey you’re on and can’t wait to read all about your journey of mindfulness!

  8. Wow, you’ve been busy!!! I like to tell people I have a “30 before 30” list – but I really only have 2 things on it. I’m terrified to commit to a REAL list – I’m the type of person who will drive myself crazy trying to get everything crossed off as quickly as possible – and I really don’t need any more stress in my life 🙂 Good luck finishing your last few items!

  9. Kudos to you for accomplishing SOOOOO MUCH this past year!! Doesn’t it make you feel good to realize that you’ve been able to check off so many goals? You ROCK!! I have every confidence that you will knock the other to-do’s off your list in short order!

  10. I really admire your list, Em. I wish you luck on the remaining items, but whatever you accomplish between now and 26, you’ve certainly come a long way. And inspired me! I turn 26 this year too. I think I’ll make a list of things to do before then (probably won’t get to 26 this year, but now you’ve got me thinking 27 before 27?).

  11. It sounds like it has been an amazing year for you!

    Contacting strangers to meet up scares me too but I met Kyla the last time I was in Winnipeg and she was so sweet and kind. Maybe next time I’m there we could get together!

  12. Ah, #7 is something I need to work on and it’s inspiring that you’ve had such a great experience with meet-ups. Sigh. I guess I should get on that!

    You are doing AMAZING with your goals! Way to go, lady!

  13. Hey, you’re doing amazing, so don’t discount all you have done, especially if you don’t plan on quitting just because you turn 26. My wife is 28 and just passed her learner’s permit written test yesterday for driving. Too bad, she failed the eye exam, so now its off to the eye doctor. I, for one, am super proud to call you my friend.

  14. this is such an inspiration. you’ve done so many amazing things during this past year and should look back proudly – even if you won’t complete everything… great job!

    PS: i just gave you an award on my blog. you’re welcome 😉

  15. I think you have accomplished alot – esp considering the fact that you go tmarried this year! I finished about 1/2 the stuff on my 30 before 30 list, but I did more than i would have had I not made the list so i considered it a total success!

  16. I’ve tried bikram yoga and few times and even bought a pass for it, but I yet to go back in ages. I love how I feel when I’m done, but it’s just getting my butt to the place that I can’t seem to manage!

  17. I find it odd how I randomly come across some blogs but I am really glad I came across yours! Can I just ask (as a 26 year old turning 27), why is 26 the age? (Or did I miss that somewhere?). Anyway, your post made me think because although I pride myself on being a good person and really caring about other people, I don’t know if I could even give myself a C! I think I am just a bit scared of people knowing my opinions and I suppose I feel that as long as I do the ‘right’ thing it doesn’t matter if people know what I think. Hmmm…but that doesn’t seem right either. I spend so much of my life worrying about how I come across, trying to be what I think people want (e.g. say the right thing, do the right thing) and in the process I don’t think I know myself very well. Your post has inspired me to keep at it! And to try remember one of my favourite quotes “Fear is the original sin” L.M. Montgomery – Blue Moon

  18. So happy for you! It’s inspiring to see someone stick to their goals like that. Maybe you won’t complete the remaining 9 goals in the next few weeks but I’m sure you’ll complete them. You’re smart and positive and you’ll make it happen. Best of luck!

  19. Awe, this is so cool. Last year I made a 29 Before 29….and I accomplished a fair bit. And now I am just finishing finalizing my list of 30 Before 30. I love that you did the same kind of list. GREAT goals on your list too! ^_^

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