Have you ever been driving for so long that you start to tune out your surroundings? Maybe fatigue, monotony, and boredom have settled in as your mind maunders in thoughts of the past or the future. You completely ignore your present while you are propelled forward by inertia and through no motivation of your own. Then, abruptly, without realizing the subtle swerve you just maneuvered, the rumble strips shock you into alertness. Suddenly, your heart rate has shot up, your mind refocuses, and you are immediately filled with dread of what might have happened had it not been for those uncomfortable bumps on the emergency lane. You’re awake now and, the question is, for how long?
That is what turning thirty felt like for me. Inertia had taken over and I was in a continuous forward motion but through very little effort of my own. In an attempt to shock my system into alertness, I created this list. The list of things I wanted to enjoy before taking that exit to my thirties.
It turns out that raising my heart rate, challenging my fears, and indulging my senses taught me some things about getting your feet dirty and standing up on your own:
- Open yourself to others; you may glean amazing things from the most unexpected people. Whether it is having your hair braided by an angry teen living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Miami or running a 5k alongside a Holocaust survivor in her nineties, every single person that crosses your path can teach you something.
- Confront your past as well as your mistakes; this may prepare you for your future. You can go ten years avoiding the mistakes you made, or you can face them heart first and come out of it without regretting the things you never said. “I’m sorry” being at the top of the list of things that should never go unsaid.
- Be a force of kindness to those around you. I learned that dignifying a homeless person and complimenting a complete stranger can be both humbling and necessary to your own happiness as an adult.
- Life should be fun. Sometimes spontaneity can yield opportunities you could never have planned for. So when the moment arises, say yes! Take that trip, dance in the rain, and finish that beer.
- Solitude is not synonymous with loneliness. You are allowed to disconnect from your phone or social media long enough to enjoy your own company; in fact, I encourage you to. You might find that life went on and people continued posting with complete disregard to your timeline. Or, you might notice that you went on living, with complete disregard to theirs.
- Be content with having food and shelter. It can be easy to rely on more and more material things with age because you’re more in a position to provide these for yourself. However, you can be equally content sleeping in a tent, next to a cozy fire, with some wine and marshmallows.
- Surround yourself with people who support you and you will get more done. Some of my ideas seemed unfeasible and I was not confident I could manage it all. To my surprise, there was a surmounting amount of supporters that helped me complete this list. Their backing taught me that if you surround yourself with people who will organize a trip on a moment’s notice, accept your apologies, and cheer you on as you make a fool of yourself while singing completely off-key; then you can accomplish anything.
- Enjoy the outdoors. We are such an indoor society. We can communicate, create, even educate without ever leaving the confines of our home. If you ever do, however, you will find that your surroundings are filled with beauty yet to be discovered. You may find the tiniest of creatures in the open ocean and learn that we are all interconnected. This may make you feel responsible for the role you play in the ecosystem in which you live.
- Make time for the things you love. The three things I was not able to accomplish on this list are three things I truly love: service, reading, and art. Yet, I could not manage to complete them. The void these have left on my list and heart is immeasurable, which leads me to…
- Give yourself extensions. I was holding myself up to an unattainable standard and unreachable deadline. I bargained with myself that completing 90% of my list and rescheduling the other 10% just gives me an incentive for next weekend. So when you did not manage to cross everything off the list that is life, just start a new list.
What’s on your list? If you haven’t already, don’t wait to be shocked into creating one. Write it down, share with people who will encourage you, and then get to work!