Progress made


The day after my 30th birthday—February 8, 2014—I published a list. Forty things I hoped to accomplish, see, learn, acquire, before I turned 40. In a little more than two weeks I will be turning 32, meaning I am roughly one-fifth of the way through the time I have to complete these tasks.

Did I actually think, while writing it, that I would manage to do it all in 10 years? Maybe not. But it was an effective method of focusing my energy, of deciding which of the many things I wanted to do were the most important.

I decided to revisit this list, to assess how I am keeping pace with an imagination and ambitions that could challenge just about anybody.

Here it is:

  1. My pilot’s license. My grandmother was a pilot. My grandfather was a pilot, and for the last 10 years or so, I’ve really wanted to start flight training. It’s expensive, but not as costly as regret.

Progress made: None.

  1. India. When I was very young there were three countries I most wanted to visit: India, Ireland, and Peru. I’ve now seen Ireland and Peru.

Progress made: I’ve got plane tickets to India in September so I’m going to call this a win.

  1. My third book. The idea came to me when my mom and I were on a plane flying over Fairbanks in winter. This is the weird book, the artsy book, the one I’m so freaking excited to start writing, hopefully later this year.

Progress made: Written. In fact, it’s been submitted to one publisher thus far.

  1. A house. There. I put it out there. I want one very badly, and hope to find some means of acquiring one.

Progress made: This was the one I really didn’t think would happen, the one I most wanted to happen. And, as it turns out, all I had to do was move 1,000 miles to make it happen.

  1. My fourth book. I’ve already got the basic premise. I just need to finish and polish the second, write the third, and I’ll be able to focus on this one.

Progress made: I’ve got a rough sketch in my head. I expect to start writing it this summer.

  1. That pesky literary half-sleeve tattoo that has eluded me thus far.

Progress made: Done, thanks to Jillian Weffald. About two months after writing this I had my first appointment. Ultimately, three appointments and about 10 hours of work later, I can happily state that I’m a tattooed lady.

  1. Antarctica. I know it’s expensive. I know it’s cold. But ever since I watched Encounters at the End of the World, I’ve just got to see it.

Progress made: None.

  1. My fifth book.

Progress made: I know what it will be about. I really wish I could spend all of my time writing novels. Really.

  1. Dog mushing. Again.

Progress made: None.

  1. Roller derby. I keep thinking “next year, next year, next year.”

Progress made: My boyfriend bought me roller skates for Christmas a year ago but I have yet to master the art of skating. Hitting people I think I can do.

  1. Belonging to a dog as an adult. This is where having a house would be helpful.

Progress made: Technically, we haven’t gotten the dog yet. We planted grass in the backyard and have been waiting for it to grow. But come March, we’ll be at the shelter picking out our new forever furpanion. I’m calling that a win.

  1. Getting my ulcer under control. I’ve always been very bad (negligent) when it comes to my health and as I get older, that’s an attitude that needs to change.

Progress made: Turns out it wasn’t an ulcer. But, I did get a successful diagnosis and medication and am happy to report it’s now under control.

  1. Learning to drive stick. I’ve had a couple lessons in the last month or so, but I mean confidently, with other drivers around, possibly even on a highway.

Progress made: None. I hate driving stick.

  1. The Transsiberian railroad. Russia, Mongolia, and China all in one go. Assuming Russia gets its head out of its ass about gay rights.

Progress made: None. There’s only so many countries you can visit in a single year.

  1. New York City. I’ve never been, and always wanted to go. And it doesn’t count unless I see a Broadway show.

Progress made: None. There are only so many states you can visit in a single year.

  1. Be in a boxing match. Not professionally. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do just to test myself.

Progress made: None. I have hope though.

  1. Contacts. Don’t get me wrong, I like my glasses, but sometimes they seriously get in the way (like with that boxing match I mentioned above). I’ve never been able to get contacts in my eyes and it really does feel like a limitation.

Progress made: None. I’ve actually been leaning toward LASIK, eliminating the need for contacts altogether.

  1. Learn a foreign language. Fluently. Hablo espanol. Pequito, pequito espanol.

Progress made: None. I did, however, add to the small pool of random words I know with a trip to Turkey. Merhaba. 

  1. Visit the pyramids in Egypt. Also, work my way down the Nile.

Progress made: None. I’m sort of hoping that whole area will calm down a bit before I visit.

  1. Get Clyde fixed up. Clyde is my ’55 Dodge Royal and he could really use a little work.

Progress made: None. In fact, Clyde is in California and I am in Seattle. I’d say that complicates matters.

  1. My sixth book.

Progress made: None. There are only so many books I can write in a year.

  1. Being able to put on a dress without having a panic attack. I’m not sure how I’m going to get there mentally, but I will.

Progress made: Some. I’m finding Seattle is much less image conscious than California, which is allowing me to relax a little bit.

  1. LASIK. I don’t mind having glasses, but I get tired of being the girl with glasses. It would be nice to ditch my dependence on a fragile piece of plastic.

Progress made: None. Unless you count thinking about it a lot.

  1. See the Northern Lights. They eluded me in Norway and Alaska, but I’ll hunt those gaudy suckers down.

Progress made: None. I’ll get them though.

  1. Ride a motorcycle. Considering the fact that my grandfather and mom both owned and regularly rode motorcycles (before I existed) the fact that I’ve never even been on one seems a little bit embarrassing.

Progress made: None.

  1. Make the acquaintance of new and challenging authors, including the ones I wouldn’t usually read for pleasure.

Progress made: I’d say I’ve succeeded at this in the last two years but I’m not going to cross this out because I consider this an ongoing effort. Among some recent favorites: Tana French and Brandon Sanderson.

  1. Visit a psychic. I don’t believe in it, but I’m curious as to what they’d say and I think it would be an interesting experience.

Progress made: None.

  1. Ride in a hot air balloon. I booked one once, for a friend’s birthday, but it was too overcast the day of our launch and they just gave me my money back instead.

Progress made: None. In fact, I booked a hot air ballooning trip in Turkey three days in a row and all three days were too windy to go up, although the day before was fine. I’m convinced I’m cursed.

  1. Learn how to apply my own makeup. I never wear it. I don’t want to regularly wear it, but it would be nice not to have to rely on someone else for special occasions. Also, this fits with the overall theme of being comfortable with yourself.

Progress made: None.

  1. The Dune Forum project.

Progress made: None.

  1. Do whatever it’s going to take to consider myself an author. I don’t know what it will take to silence that inner critic, whether that means finding a real publisher for one of my future books or writing 100 of them in rapid succession.

Progress made: I think what I needed here was time and it turns out that two years was sufficient time. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve now written three books, published two, and been through this cycle enough times to trust myself a little, but I don’t question whether I’m a professional author or writer anymore. And that’s pretty darn cool.

  1. Learn to take proper care of my car (putting air in the tires, removing the tires, checking the oil), which I really should have learned awhile ago.

Progress made: None.

  1. A retirement plan. The truth is, everything pertaining to money terrifies me, in part because I have so little of it. But burying my head in the sand is only going to hurt me later. It’s time to face my financial fears.

Progress made: I actually started regular contributions to my retirement account through work, which isn’t much, but it at least indicates that I’ve gotten past the mindset that “not much” is no better than nothing. I’m convinced that I will continue to improve on this front.

  1. Karaoke. It’s completely lame, and I have a terrible voice, but isn’t that kind of the point?

Progress made: None.

  1. See more of the United States: New Orleans, the east coast, Philadelphia, Boston, Austin, and the Grand Canyon specifically, but hopefully more than that.

Progress made: I now live in a different state, and have driven across two states twice in the moving process. But I’m definitely not ready to tally this as a complete victory.

  1. Watch the Olympics in person. Preferably, the summer Olympics, preferably track & field, but I’d make an exception for a combination winter Olympics/ dog mushing/ Northern Lights adventure.

Progress made: None. Rio in 2016 is out but I’ve got my eye on Tokyo in 2020. 

  1. Go on a safari in Africa.

Progress made: None.

  1. Volunteer. I don’t just mean a day here or there assisting with a special event, but a regular commitment to a non-profit.

Progress made: None.

  1. Participate in Ramadan. I’m not Muslim, but when I was in Morocco a friend I met there explained the significance of fasting for a month as truly understanding what it means to be hungry and thirsty in the world. I don’t have any concept of that, and think it would be beneficial for me as a human being to understand it better.

Progress made: None.

  1. Eliminate fish from my diet. I’m starting to feel guilty about the fact that I eat fish, and it’s been long enough since I cut other meat out of my diet—three and a half years—that I feel like I can cut back further and still maintain control.

Progress made: After returning from Peru where I ate my weight in ceviche, I successfully eliminated fish from my diet. It was actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be and I still find myself craving sushi, and especially tuna, but I’m glad I did it.

So how did I fare overall? Strangely, and I swear I did not plan this, I accomplished eight of my goals which translates to 20 percent of the list, which also happens to exactly match the amount of time that has passed.

I’m not sure whether the list is going to get easier or harder. On the one hand, you might argue that I’ve simply accomplished the easiest things on the list—except that I thought buying a house was probably the least realistic thing on the list and I managed that. A lot of this list is about pacing—one book at a time, one country at a time. And in order for that to happen I just need to keep moving.

Whether I accomplish this all by my 40th birthday or not, I think the fact of constantly striving for something is what is important.


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