Recently I was going through an old folder of random papers in my file basket when I came across a partially completed list titled “100 Things I want to do.” Written sometime around 2003 or 2004, I almost threw it in the pile to be recycled when I decided to glance over the list one last time. While I only wrote down 28 things, I was amazed as I read over what my hand had written almost 7 years ago. Over the years, I forgot 80% of what was written on that list yet I had completed 6 of them in the last 4 years. It’s funny how life works that way. When I wrote the list, I was desperately looking for a new job and it was a very difficult time in my life. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing and life certainly wasn’t going the way I had imagined it would at that age.
I was astounded to be looking at what I wrote.
Some of my favorites:
- Move away from my hometown
- Own a gray, fluffy kitty
- Learn to be happy/content/settled
- Go to Lake Ohrid, Macedonia again
- Own a small, “homey” brick home
- Take road-trips a lot.
- Buy a Jeep Wrangler
While I haven’t forgotten that I wanted to move away from my hometown or my dream of owning a red brick home with a white porch to sit on in the summers (front, back, wrap-around — doesn’t matter), I did forget that that at one point in my life, road trips were merely a dream for me. And I laugh to think that when I found Stella at the Bellevue Humane Society, I had wished for a gray kitten years before as a broke college graduate trying to make her rent of $265 a month.
Yes. You read that correctly, $265 a month. My landlord was a Godsend.
Since I was in high school, I have read thousands of pages on how to live life and live it well. Some call them self-help books, I prefer to call them by their titles. When reading those books wasn’t enough for me, I found someone that I could pay to tell me how to do it. And when I got desperate, I got a degree that studied other people’s ideas of what a good life looks like. Changing, evolving, creating and being are things I have spent my entire life learning how to do.
Life is really difficult. Really difficult. And for my own personal reasons I choose to leave much of those parts of my life off the internet for now. But I will acknowledge that beyond the cute couches and new J. Crew outfits and fun little posts about my Seattle happy hour adventures, I have things that hurt, that ache and that don’t go the way I planned for them. Perhaps one day I will engage them online and use it for something greater than myself. Yet while life is hard, I do believe that beauty can come from those difficult places. When I go through a difficult time, almost always there is something good that grows from that place and I have finally learned to be grateful for what I am taught, though I do not believe it means the bad things were supposed to happen to me. In the midst of death, lost friendships, break-ups, moving and sadness, I have learned that even in my loss and pain, there is hope that something redemptive will come from it. So sitting on my bed on Alden Avenue in a small town in south Georgia, I had no idea where my life was headed. I had a college degree, six months abroad as a missionary and no prospects for a job except for part-time work as a babysitter and front desk receptionist at a fitness facility. While I knew I was created to do more that those two things, I had little direction or conviction for what was next. So I wrote a list to help me dream.
I am grateful beyond grateful to be where I am today: mostly happy, very healthy and feeling the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in my own skin. I still have difficult times, unfulfilled hopes and dreams that feel like they will never come true. But I am mostly content and grateful to have experienced the things that have happened to me in my 20s.
Psychologists, executive coaches, financial advisers, artists and wild dreamers all agree on one thing: There is something that happens when we write down our goals, dreams and ambitions. Whether you are writing down a debt repayment plan, your career goals, your broad life ambitions, places you’d like to travel or things you’d like to own — there is something that happens when we take it out of our thoughts and into the concrete pen and paper. Something changes in our psyche and we are suddenly aware of how those things are already happening in our life. So you write down a random desire to travel to Africa. Next week a random friend hands you a travel book on Kenya. Reading the book at a coffee shop leads to a conversation about another patron’s recent trip to South Africa. Exchanged email addresses with that person lead to a new friendship. And that friendship leads to a travel partner two years later for an African safari to stay at their aunt’s place for free. Things happen when we write them down. And I believe it because I’ve seen it happen in my own life.
Tell me, what is it you wish to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver