My birthday stalked me like a catamount this year. Following my footsteps and tire marks across the Green Mountains and through the midwestern plains. I’m a little surprised it found me at all.
Do you know they say the brain doesn’t fully mature until age 25? Have you felt it – your gray matter settling into one place? The connections solidifying, their assertions becoming fixed? The simple fact that you really don’t do stupid shit anywhere near as often anymore? I’ve felt it. I swear.
So. My birthday list. 27 things I’d like to do this year for no other reason than Why Not.
1. See divvi (my primary freelance obsession project) launch
I’m coming down from the high of Wanderlust-Stratton. While I’ve worked every day since the 16th, supporting the festival was hardly labor. As my first festival experience, I spent the entire four-day period wrapped in wonder, exploring. I’m sad to say I didn’t suck the marrow from the festival, but I’m also not surprised. I didn’t know how much I would be needed in the office, so didn’t sign up for many classes or lectures. I popped in on a few, but found that my body was so out of yoga shape that I was nearly crippled by day four, conveniently when I decided I wanted to do a Chi Running workshop.
Suffice to say I did not make it to the workshop.
But, even without the Chi Running coaching, I still feel kicked out of a weird little funk. See, I was not built for sitting still or windowless rooms. To remind myself of this, I want to write down my Wanderesolutions.
Move every day.
Explore, with wonder.
Write where someone else can see.
Appreciate the wealth in simplicity.
The first two points need no explanation. They come from Wanderlust directly. To move one’s body and explore everything, inside and out.
The second two merit, I think, some introduction. To write where someone else can see is to write bravely. Which means, mostly, writing here. But also, I’d like to write for publication. I’ve said this for years. Now that I’ve claimed my quiet places in both the woods and our house, it’s time to make time for that. To do it, perhaps with shyness, but to do it anyway.
As to simplicity. In middle school, I bought a copy of “Walden.” I started reading it, as evidenced by a few underlined passages. Past the pencil lines, I see a self-conscious un-understanding; knowing these things were personally significant while being uncomfortably aware that the words were not really significant yet. Like an premonition. It makes way more sense now.
In short, between now and next year, I have an awful lot of Wanderlusting to do. Let’s go.
Last year I started a tradition of making birthday resolutions. The goal is to complete a number of tasks or goals in a year. The number of tasks equals my age. I didn’t even manage half of my resolutions from last year, but I find something soothing about this list-making and goal-setting practice. More satisfying to me than accomplishing things on this list was seeing how many of the items were simply… no longer important. Accomplishing them was just frosting – a nice perk to the last 365 days of my life rather than an imperative need.
Here it goes: my 26 in 26. (In no particular order.)
1. The latest technology will not solve your problems.
Being a gear head is fun. You reap the benefits of a multi-ski quiver, gloves with touch-tech, your phone’s fitness tracker, and goggles with snap out lenses. But none of these things are really going to make you a better skier.
There are fantastic skiers who rode straight skis long after parabolics became the norm. They lose their toenails every winter because their boots don’t have a walk mode. DIY slipboards with the graphics peeling away from the core.
Shiny new gear can help, but it won’t really fix anything.
To be a better rider, you have to put in the time, energy, and focus to build flexibility and strength. Experience is what makes you better. It’s the same in life. Chances are, you don’t really need the newest car, the latest iPhone, the fanciest college degree. These things are nice, but having them doesn’t change who you are or what you’re capable of. You are the most important thing you have. Put in the time. Be awesome.
2. If you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough.
Fresh and boastful after my first winter at college, I bragged to my dad that I hadn’t taken a single nosedive all season. Can you believe it? A full winter without falling over, crashing, or yard-sale-ing in full view of the lift operators. Dad shook his head and said, “Then you’re not trying hard enough.”
It was true. I was cruising through ski season without challenging myself. I wasn’t hitting anything that scared me, and definitely not pushing myself. I was really just bumbling along, cocky as a crow. The next year? I pushed harder.
Last year, I worked the hardest I’ve ever worked on skis, and you know what? I bit it. A lot. I had some really spectacular falls, but I also had a spectacular amount of fun and learned more than I have in a long time. Absolutely worth it.
Guess what? It looks like life’s the same way. Cruising doesn’t get you anywhere interesting. If nothing else, pushing the envelope makes for an excellent life story.
3. There is a world of difference between a ski buddy and a ski partner.
This comes from an old Warren Miller VHS, the one I watched over and over again growing up. The lesson is remarkably simple: ski buddies are people you can go out and rip with. Ski partners are the people you trust with your life.
With a ski buddy, you go out and rip. You have fun all day tearing up the slopes, then sit in the parking lot and cheers your PBR tall boys. You have a blast.
With a ski partner, you explore new terrain and push the envelope. These are the people who you trust. The ones you rely to help out when the going gets rough, scary, or injured. They talk you through the icy pitch, coach you over the drop, and could probably turn your skis into a makeshift sled to haul your ass out of the woods.
It’s very important to know the difference between the two groups of people. Cruise the slopes with your buddies. Do Tuckerman Ravine with your partner.
When it comes to off-slope life, have fun with your buddies. But trust your partners with your heart and soul.
4. If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.
I was raised on a steady diet of Warren Miller movies, and at the end of every one, Warren’s soothing voice warns: If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.
Thanks, Warren, for imparting a premature, morbid understanding of mortality in a 9 year old.
At first, this saying echoed in my head to chastise me for cowardice. No, I didn’t follow my brother off that jump because I’m 9 years old. Next year, when I’m 10, maybe I’ll do it. Emphasis on the maybe.
Now that I’m in my twenties, I’m starting to see it in a different light. I’m not yet old enough to worry about my physical health, but I do realize how quickly life changes. If I don’t drop this chute this year, I might not have a chance next year. Why? I might have a pass to a different mountain. I might have packed up and moved, or the friend who has been dreaming of this line might move. Without him or her, dropping in won’t feel as special.
At the same time, there are definitely things worth waiting a year for. Last year, I didn’t make it to Tuckerman Ravine due to a recurring knee injury. But you know what? Next spring, when I’m one year older and wiser, I’ll be more prepared. My knee won’t let me down.
I have no idea what the rest of this year will throw at me, let alone next year. Life, love, family, friends, work. Anything can change in an instant, so listen to that voice that says “you’ll regret it if you don’t go.” If you don’t go now, for better or worse, you’ll be one year older when you do.
5. Relax. It’s just skiing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, an expert, or a professional freeskier, in the end, it’s just skiing. It’s supposed to be fun.
I remind myself of this often – to step forward with a shrug and a smile.
Go out and enjoy wherever your ride takes you.
What life lessons have you learned from your sport? Tell me about it in the comments!
Have you gotten the sense yet that spring is not my favorite thing? My roommate certainly has. It must get tiring listening to my nonsensical rants against the warming of the world. Between the loss of snow and the rise of allergies, these months get me pretty ornery.
But, there is nothing less constructive than raging against the weather. Instead, make the best of it. Focus on the seasonality of things.
Now that I’m out on my own in the mogul field of adulthood (exciting, repetitious, hard on the knees), I’m not able to travel very far in search of new mountains and aventures. Don’t get me wrong – I’m having a blast exploring my Vermont backyard and being a real local for the first time in my life… But I can’t help but dream of mountain ranges a little off the beaten path.
For years, my dream To Ski List included just three locations:
The week before I set up this blog, a challenge was issued. Write a blog post every day.
I protested half-heartedly. “Every day? That’s ridiculous. I can’t come up with good content every day… And then to do a good job editing…!”
“It doesn’t have to be good writing!” was the retort.
Now, I’m keeping a blog. This blog. I don’t write in it every day… Because some days I chicken out. Some days I’m distracted or busy or I completely forget. But I’m remembering more often already. And growing more comfortable with the idea that I’m chatting away to myself where you can hear.
This is all good practice, and I realized that practice really takes practice. I wrote about it over here not to long ago, but I’m writing again to remind myself.
I’m impatient when it comes to matters of my being. I expect myself to do well the first time. To succeed immediately and move on to the next task. Sometimes, this approach is awesome. I get shit done. But, there’s something to be said for the slower approach. Imagine taking a bite of your favorite food (mine’s steak); do you close your eyes and savor the sensations? From your tongue and teeth to your nose… the fork heavy against your fingers…
Practice can be like that. It’s a way to be aware of the sensations… The peculiar way I hold my breath as a write, as if afraid of blowing the words off the screen on an exhale… How my voice seems to change if I write rough drafts on a computer versus paper, or even between types of pens.
It’s a really cool process, and reading other peoples’ resolutions only reminds me of my list of 25 things to do before I turn 26. I wish “practice” was on it.
Maybe that can be my New Years Resolution – to practice practice and to savor every bite.
What about you – what are you practicing right now/this week/this year?
This was originally posted over on my tumblr, pre-WordPress, but I think it deserves inclusion here. I turned 25 last month, and drawing inspiration from Christina Rosalie’s blog, I decided to start making yearly goals for myself. I’m doing this for two reasons – One, to make more meaningful the passage of time. Two, to help me remain focused, energized, and inspired to do the things that matter most.
Here you go – my 25 in 25. Keep me honest, okay?
spend at least 24 hours exploring somewhere new all by myself Done.
freelance To my shock, done!
screen print the liquids series (or the mountain series)
do yoga through the winter
run the full Spartan Beast As you know, attempted.
finish reading Ulysses I gave up.
run a sub-9 minute 5k race without wanting to vomit afterwards (unless it’s a really sub-9 minute 5k in which case, go ahead. vomit all over your shoes. you deserve it.)
finish writing #muse
hike Mt Mansfield
make a website
get on a plane & go visit someone you haven’t seen in a long time. hug them.
learn to sing & play one song on the guitar. play it for someone.I actually completed this the day after my birthday. I played Crane Wife 3 for Rebecca.
ski Tuckerman Ravine again. without falling this time.
find another 4-leaf clover
remember the birthdays of everyone in your immediate family
brew more beer
take an art class
get business cards
paint. start small.
submit an article to a magazine
attend a poetry slam
work on that “not being a morning person” thingI’m still no morning person, but enjoying early hours more and more
bike 20+ miles
stop being on ‘income adjusted’ student loan repayment plan
get a dog
Obviously “get a dog” is the most important thing on this list.