If you know me at all, you know I spent the last year conducting an informal verbal survey; the Birthday Question. Every time I am with a friend on their birthday, I ask: “What is your goal for your next year of life?”
Largely, this is because I believe one of the most important aspects of life is helping my friends accomplish their goals. Knowing what is important to them, and how I can check in on them throughout the year to be supportive – I find this to be a really valuable aim. Sometimes people are so wrapped up in the ambiguity of life as a 20-something that it can be difficult to define a goal. I understand “figuring it out,” but I also think a great way to expedite the figuring and provide focus and direction is to articulate objectives for yourself and your life. Hearing others think out loud about their goals and then confess them is pretty powerful. I am so thankful for the people in my life who keep me accountable to a higher standard, so if I can assist in this with this for others, I’m all about it.
If I am being honest though, there is another big reason for my Birthday Question survey. It’s much more selfish.
I need inspiration.
I declared 23 as the last year I would be happy and excited about getting older. It was my golden year birthday – 23 on the 23rd. It was a FANTASTIC year. 24 came around, and I referred to it not as my birthday, but as the Golden Year Funeral. It was half serious and half joking.
Now that it’s July, friends be like “OMG BIRTHDAY WAT R U GOING 2 DO?!”
So far my answer is “SHIT! Hide from all the people who I pressured into setting goals for their upcoming year because they are going to ask the same of me and I have NOTHING to say and I am about to be exposed as a major fraud.”
Jokes aside, I’m really not down with being 25. To me, this feels so old to look at where I am in my life and all that I have not accomplished. I have so many insecurities – from my status as single – to the wrinkles deepening under my eyes – to being irrelevant to the people who have been my best friends because they are at such different points in their life that I can’t relate to – to not furthering my education in any meaningful way – to not being fiscally focused on my future – to not contributing to the world in any meaningful way – to not really investing in any communities – to feeling unworthy of happiness – to feeling like the love I have within me is not being added to or recognized by the world – I could go on. I am not sure when and how it happened, but it’s like life hit a switch and now instead of a new age presenting more to look forward to, a new age exposes all of the areas of life I am failing at. 25 is not telling me “look at the grand new possibilities of life you have to look forward to!” It is telling me, “you are failing at living well.”
I know some people would look at my life and say “but you ARE living your life well.” To which I reply: “the year between 24 and 25 just flew past me and I accomplished nothing.” My dad the other day tried to counterattack this argument by saying “well…you stayed employed!” In my eyes, that is not a grand achievement that is your sole aim of an entire year – it is a given. There has to be more to life than staying employed.
So, I have been agonizing about the looming answer to my own question. It seemed like too much pressure pick a singular goal. I want to actively better myself in all areas of my life – spiritual, physical, relational, emotional, intellectual, occupational – but what singular goal can address all these realms simultaneously? I thought about what it would look like to choose a goal for each realm, and began listing out some ideas. What I came up with was a 26 Things to Accomplish Before Turning 26 list.
Allow me to veer off on a maj tangent here: those bullshit lists that circulate around Buzzfeed and Elite Daily and other millennial click bait websites that make money off of feeding into fears and telling people what they want to hear? THAT IS NOT WHAT THIS LIST IS. I do not need to feel better about myself by reading a list that tells me it’s okay if I go out and get totally shitfaced and have fun with one night stands and default on my student loans as a lifestyle and dramatically quit my job because GUESS WHAT if I thought that was an acceptable way to live I would just do it and not feel insecure about it then redeem my security by defaulting to internet validation. I do not feel like I need a list to learn about myself or align me with normative societal standards.
No, my list is a little different. It is entirely personal. I do not think all these things are something every 25 year old should accomplish, nor do am I doing it for an sense of collective validation. They aren’t major things like “swim with sharks” or “sky dive” because I am not doing this to impress anyone with my diverse life experiences, and I am not doing this to feel like I am “living life to the fullest” by participating in adrenaline filled activities.
Instead, it is a way of giving me direction and accountability to actively better myself in a well rounded way. When I am focused on reaching achievements, I have less time for self deprecation. When I am surrounding myself with creative, physical and intellectual pursuits, I am able to keep my anxiety and depression much more toned down. I do not want to spend another year focusing on my myriad of unaccomplishments, and I do not want to dread or fear getting older. While the things I have chosen may not seem like big achievements or milestones that people would look at and say “WOW GOOD JOB AT LIFE,” what they will do is redirect my focus and put me in a mindset to be able to discover more of those big achievements. So, without further ado (because this intro just exponentially surpassed the 8 second attention span of the average person and odds are you only skimmed 28% of it anyway) –
26 GOALS TO ACHIEVE BEFORE TURNING 26
1. Run a 10 K
Chelsea Kerr, lookin’ at you, boo! April 2016 is our Temecula Run Through The Vineyards 10k, where we complete our run then kick back to rehydrate with wine. This is not because I feel like I need to get into shape – my physical fitness is actually one of the more satisfying areas of my life and I already run 5-7 K a few times a week as part of my gym routine. It is more about the organized declaration of commitment aspect, and following through with a silly hot tub wine night dream that Chels-o and I invented. When your goals align with your pals and give you the opportunity to encourage and support others, that is pretty great.
2. Start An Investment Portfolio and Learn The Stock Market
Yo Millennials, did you know you are supposed to be putting like 15% of your paycheck towards your retirement? Did you know social security is probs not going to exist for us? Did you know that as a single woman, the statistics are even scarier and more intense? YEAH well I know these things because lately they have been keeping me awake at night. Nobody is going to do this for me, and I can’t keep saying “oh, once I get my school debt paid off I will start.” Procrastination is deadly when it comes to retirement, and I know that I have already lost so much time. It all had me so panicked that even though I am not yet to my 25th birthday, I talked to my accountant pal and opened up some aggressive growth stock investments with dedicated monthly contributions because I just needed to feel better about my life. So, the goal for 25 is to continue this, learn more about my options, become stock savvy, have a 401K on fleek and overall inspire a sequel to the Wolf Of Wall Street called the Wench of Wall Street or something (only hugs not drugs).
3. Take A Class
Whether it is a one time Groupon pole dancing or pottery class, or an ongoing weekly skill based course, I want to challenge myself to learn something new outside of my comfort zone. Bonus points if I bring a friend or make a new one on this goal.
4. Read 20 Books
I guess this sounds ambitious to some people, but not really me. If I have no weekend plans, it is pretty typical of me to read something cover to cover. Basically every other week my mom is mailing me books about the most bizarre variety of subjects (survival guides, Seattle, failing at falling in love and other painfully relevant things). I got together with an old friend the other night and he provided 5 titles about self awareness and psychology and spirituality, which is all the stuff I LOVE to immerse myself in. So, the books themselves are not the issue – I have plenty of books to read, I just am not always the best about dedicating the time. If I challenge myself to write them down, I absolutely will be.
5. Write 3 Poems
I used to write a lot of poetry. If you stalk back on my archives you’ll find some. It was a therapeutic way of understanding the world. I love how everyone can interpret poems in differently based on their experience, and how it provides a place for learning more about how others process the world. When I am examining the world through a poetic lens, it inspires me to be more creative and have better ideas everywhere else in life.
6. Write 3 Blog Posts / Essays
I think this strikes a balance between combating my sporadic blogging nature, but not forcing anything. I should be able to discover and flesh out three profound (to me, anyway) patterns of thought in the span of a year, but I do not have to feel like it is an obligatory mandatory monthly minimum or anything.
7. Write One Line A Day
After the Daily Positive experiment, my personal journaling died down. Then, for my last birthday, my dear soul friend Amy gifted me a journal that is one line a day for 5 years. I started it in August of 2014 and have record of every day since. The cool thing about the year ahead is that I will see where I stood a year prior, so I can self-improve and reminisce on the purpose of things passed in the greater scheme. Maybe this is more a continuation of an existing habit than a new goal but it’s my list so I can do whatever I want.
8. Sew 10 Projects
While on the subject of numerical requirements / goals, I’ll throw this one in. Like poetry, sewing encourages a creative spirit that allows for increased positivity and inspiration in other areas of life. How did I settle on 10? Well, based on my skill level I figure it will probably take 10 different projects to come up with ONE wearable item. GOAL 8.5: add something I have made to my wardrobe rotation.
9. Love Thy Neighbor
On Friday, I spent the morning of my one day off all summer dropping Sterling off at the collision center and picking up a rental car because my next door neighbor smashed into my parked car on the street, causing $968 worth of damage. Thankfully their insurance covers this all. However, though I was not even in my car when it was hit, I still have to foot $30/day for rental car insurance for the next week while it is in the shop which is just frustrating. So, I live next door to Car Smasher, and I live above Nocturnal Baby – a newborn that is crying ALL THE TIME. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I am woken up multiple times per night / morning because of IT (that is my nickname for it rather than calling It by its real name which it shares with an ex-boyfriend). I actually love my neighborhood but I was laughing on the phone to Amy the other night saying, “OMG my neighbors suck maybe God is telling me to move….OR, actually, maybe God is presenting me with a very literal urging to LOVE THY NEIGHBOR.” I think as much as this looks like not getting frustrated with Car Smasher and It, this also feeds in to my desire to volunteer more. I have, to quote Earl Sweatshirt, “hella love in my heart.” The problem is nobody really needs or wants my hella love because all my friends already have hella love to and from their spouse/sig. oth. I think volunteering is a helpful way for me to feel like my hella love is being presented to the world in a way that needs it. Whether I’m buying coffee and sandwiches for all my homeless pals downtown, or participating in organized volunteer outings with church, Imma hella love thy neighbor this year.
10. Be More Gentle and Compassionate in Spirit and Action
Last time I saw my mom she said, “I fear that I ruined you because you are too blunt and aggressive.” This is a really appropriate time to laugh, because CLEARLY the apple does not fall far from the tree. I know that this is one of my downfalls. More lately I ask friends for a reality check when I feel passionate about something – “hey, would it be too harsh to respond to situation X in X way, or am I spot on here?” which I think is a good start towards realizing there are times I need to tone down my judgment, defensiveness and habit (sometimes good but sometimes bad) of calling others out when I feel like they are not being a good person. But what good is realizing it if you are not implementing it? So, that is the next step.
11. Live Less Fear Based
I’ve probably written about this before, but I grew up in a household that taught me to be suspicious of everything, assume the worst case scenario and be very skeptical. It is an ongoing journey to try and overhaul this worldview because it leads to missing out on growth experiences. Being afraid of everything is a very good excuse to never interact with people of different walks of life and to have narrow-minded viewpoints, which is not in any way, shape or form who I want to be. Logistically, I can’t fully tell you exactly how this looks in day to day life, but I guess saying yes to more opportunities and being aware of the root of my feelings of uncomfortableness in various situations. The cool thing about goals is that you do not have to completely understand them when you set them – this is one that I can let take shape and transform me as I go along.
12. Make A Career Change
Whether it is a new title at my current company, or a new title at a new company, I need to make a change. I am not content with a stagnant resume. It will be a matter of figuring out what is the exact right next step to take, and I know it will come later in the 25th year rather than sooner, but I’m looking forward to it when it does. If there is one thing I have learned working in the crazy LA fashion industry it is absolutely follow your gut, and I feel like I am now discerning enough in that sense to be able to recognize the right next step once I find it.
13. Salary Goal: $xx,000
I was reading an article that said most women’s salaries plateau or significantly slow in growth in their 30s. I came up with a number I was comfortable plateauing at, subtracted my current number, and divided that by 10 to see the increment I have to increase each year to get to my goal by my mid 30s. It’s slightly aggressive, but you know that whole bit about shoot for the moon and land in the stars.
14. Visit Seattle
In my 3 years in California, I have been back twice. I miss it so, and some of my favorite people are still there, though for all of them I am not sure how much longer, so I should stop procrastinating!
15. Visit Michael in San Francisco
When a dear friend moves to a favorite city, it’s a given. #TripleThreatTakesTheBayArea
16. Leave The Country
This is my goal for every day of life, but easier said than done. With pretty much all vacation time being wrapped up in upcoming weddings, I never have enough time to devote to a couple days out of state for myself let alone a significant trip overseas. So, even if it comes down to July 2016 and I have to call up some pals and be like “hey anyone wanna go get some tacos in Mexico today?” I am determined to do it (hopefully border patrol is receptive to the idea of the Birthday Question).
17. Catch A Bouquet
Two years ago when my BFF Morgan got married, there was a moment I severely regret. At the time, marriage and relationships were so far from my mind that when she sent her bouquet careening at me, rather than do the sensible, normal thing and catch it, I ducked down and hid away like a total weirdo. There is photographic evidence of it hitting me square in the face, which is carrying an expression clearly saying “OMG GET AWAY FLOWERS I REFUSE TO BE NEXT.” Since, I have been unfairly cursed with the WORST dating luck and I totally blame my rejection of the bouquet. I mean, what guy tells you the first time you go to dinner that if you allow him to pay, you are consenting to sex? What guy has 6 drinks in the span of 2 hours on a first date? What guy pays for a date #3 with a Groupon at a “wine bar” that only has 5 bottles of wine and is painted royal purple everywhere? What guy thinks it is cool to send you photos of naked female fitness models and tell you to tailor your workouts to look like them? What guy enters a first kiss with a mouth as open as the Grand Canyon? What guy waits 3 months to try and reschedule your dinner date that he stood you up on? What guy approaches you while you are pelvic thrusting in glute bridges at the gym to ask you out, then proceeds to ask if you have hairy armpits because you tell him that based on your feminist perspective that your body is not an object of enjoyment for male gym-goers, you feel like it is a bad time to be approached? MORAL OF THE STORY: ALWAYS CATCH THE BOUQUET, OR YOU WILL FOREVER BE STUCK HAVING THE WORST DATES OF LIFE. Not saying I want to get married next, I just feel like I need to tip the scales back to normality. Since I should have about half a dozen weddings to attend in my 25th year of life, this seems possible. So, brides, if you could help a sister out.
18. Hold More Babies
Any second now my friends are going to start popping out kids. Below is an accurate look of what would happen if I were asked to hold them. My baby IQ is negative 40. However, according to my friends I am supposed to be Crazy Aunt Charlotte who is totally involved with all their kids, so I need to practice at babies. I have to think about how to approach this one, because you can’t just go up to a mom at the grocery store and be like “yo I need to practice can I hold your baby?” But maybe volunteering in the church nursery. If you have a baby HMU.
19. Entertain at My Apartment More
After apartment hunting briefly in the spring when my roommate moved out, I realized just how incredibly blessed I am with a gorgeous, affordable, clean, modern, safe apartment (this is probably why I must tolerate Car Smasher and It, because nothing is perfect, right)? Rather than giving this up, I decided to take a gamble on a new roommate that I have never met before, and use the money I had been saving to move out on a brand new big girl life purchase of a matching living room set. Turns out the roomie is chill, and I seriously LOVE my living room and now I just want to have people over all the time! Except I am the worst about initiating anything because I always am insecure about feeling like I am forcing my presence upon other people. I would way rather have people invite themselves over than me invite them over. This is stupid though. I have the space and I have the desire, I just need the voice. A great idea is to probably invite It over and hold It, and have Car Smasher stop by too, and just have a little neighborhood fiesta to fulfill 9 love thy neighbor, 18 hold babies and 19 entertain all at once.
20. Purchase a Television
I am that bizarre person that does not have a television or cable because I sort of don’t believe in TV and I usually only ever watch sports which I stream on my computer. Friends come over and look at my entertainment center and say in total sarcasm “wow nice TV.” (Disclaimer: the EC was free at the time). I know this seems like a stupid goal because if you want a TV just get one already, but I sort of need to overcome my attachment to being the girl who is like “umm no I don’t have TV and FYI binge watching is not a lifestyle.” I just feel like I could better lure people over to my apartment to be entertained as per Goal 19 under the guise of movie nights, because sadly, nobody wants to come over for coffee and philosophical discussions.
21. Call My Grandma More
Except my grandma. She would totally come over for coffee (or whiskey) and philosophical discussions. My grandma is my favorite family member, and she has no idea that if I called her as often as I think of her we’d be on the phone every day. Since she is in Seattle, the place I never visit, I need to be better about this.
22. Visit The Dentist And The Doctor
I am slightly OCD about brushing my teeth and have never had a cavity. I eat pretty healthy and work out nearly every day. I for some reason feel like this all exempts me from needing to see the doctor or the dentist – I haven’t even found either since living in California. However, at random times I will get a weird pain and be like “OH THIS IS IT. THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS. THE CANCER HAS TAKEN OVER AND I DON’T EVEN HAVE A DOCTOR.” Between avoidance and panic neither approach is healthy, plus “physical” was one of my identified categories for self-improvement, so this seems like a good goal for me to have.
23. Define the Pierre Timeline
If you have not heard about Pierre, then you should not consider yourself my friend. If you are my friend, you are probably so sick of hearing about Pierre. And, if you are not okay with Pierre, then we can never be friends. Here is how goal setting works with me: as I told a friend recently, “all my goals start as jokes.” Many big things in my life begin as silly obsessions that I don’t necessarily take very seriously, but over time, I become more and more invested in the idea of and it ends up coming true. This happened when I decided I wanted to work for H&M, when I decided to move to California and it is in progress with Pierre. Pierre began on a whim when I said “in my future since I am a Francophile I will have a dog named Pierre.” Then, since dogs are best when they resemble their owner, I decided Pierre needed to be a redhead. Also, a prerequisite for dogs for me is ultra snuggly. After extensive internet stalking I decided Miniature Australian Labradoodles are the best curly, snuggly size with the correct hair color. Plus, they are hypoallergenic and so friendly. Ever since, I talk about Pierre way too much and like he already exists. I am getting closer and closer to the time when he can be a reality for my life! Right now, I’m gone from 7AM to 8PM and do not live in a dog friendly apartment. With the potential of career/salary change in my 25th year, I will be able to reexamine my daily routine and hopefully live closer to work, or in an extremely ideal world, be at a company that allows DOGS AT WORK or sometimes working from home with Pierre. While I know this can’t happen while I am 25, I am still planning for our future and in a year hope to have a definitive timeline for his arrival. In the meantime, if you want to be so overwhelmed with cuteness that you CAN’T EVEN, please refer to my friends Penny and Finley who are exactly how Pierre will be, down to their choice in leopard print robes and love for Starbucks. Also, if you ever need a dog sitter, please call me immediately because I am so obsessed with dogs and really love to always be around them.
24. Confidential / Undisclosed #1
Because not everything needs to be revealed.
25. Confidential / Undisclosed #2
Because not everything needs to be revealed part 2.
26. Continue Asking The Birthday Question to Others
So, invite me to your birthday party. Or leave your goal in the comments below. How can I encourage you?