Never Say Never, and Don’t Wait Forever.

I, like so many other people, I’m sure, have this List. The List of Things to Do Before I Die. So important that I even think of it in capital letters. It’s not an uncommon concept, I’ve found. Mandy Moore’s character in A Walk to Remember had one. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in a movie entirely devoted to the concept.

I’ve had The List for years, saved in various Word documents or written on scraps of paper tucked in the back of old journals. But at the beginning of July, I made The List official. I compiled all the items onto one handwritten List that I’ve tucked in my current journal…one that’s devoted to the fulfillment of those dreams.

Six months later, that List has become almost mythical. It’s a guiding force in my life. When The List began, the 50 items that it contained were HUGE. All the big things I want to do in life–mostly travelling–a road trip down all of Route 66, a trip to the Outer Banks, living for a year in Hawaii. Other things like getting my Ph.D. and becoming a foster parent.

Since I first wrote the list, I’ve added 25 more items. It can no longer be contained on one single sheet of paper. And I’ve added more attainable things. I’ve found that if I really want to do something, but I worry that I’ll lack the motivation or that I’ll just get too busy, I’ll add it to the list. And then I’ll think, “If it’s on The List, I have to do it.” Things like going to a minor league baseball game or going to Chimney Rock. Both are small adventures that are easily accomplished. Both are included in the 9 items I’ve marked off since July. Would I have done them without The List? Maybe. Maybe not.

The List allows me to have a bit more planned spontaneity. For example, when I drove home for Christmas just last week, I stopped at Musgrove Mill Historic Site outside of Clinton. I’ve driven past the signs on I-26 for five and a half years and always wondered what it was. I looked it up online a few weeks ago and discovered that it was the site of a Revolutionary War battlefield. I wandered around the site for a little while, looked at some of the displays in the visitors’ center, and then drove a few more miles to hike several hundred years into the woods to a waterfall on the property, in the middle of nowhere. In the hour or so that I delayed my trip home, I marked two things off The List: Musgrove Mill and visiting a waterfall that requires slightly more effort than walking through downtown Greenville or driving onto the campus of NGU. 🙂

Even more than adding adventure to my life, The List has done something else. Having The List has taught me about myself. The things that are important. The things that aren’t. For example, just six months ago, my #1 was to live in Hawaii for at least a year. My goal was to save as much money as possible in order to move to Maui after getting my Master’s. Now, my future seems less focused. I’m back to seeing life in terms of semesters, and I’m not sure where I’ll end up after graduation. Here in Greenville, maybe. Maybe Maui. Maybe somewhere completely unexpected. I have no major plans beyond this next year, even. And my #1 goal from just a few months ago has been starred on the list, relegated to the status of “Things to Do If I Have Enough Time.” If I never move to Hawaii, I don’t think I’ll be heartbroken. I still have every intention of visiting, though. But having The List has shown me how priorities can change vastly in just a short period of time. Life happens.

The List has given me courage, too. Some of the items scare me. Things I want to do, and things I should do, but things that make me afraid. Having The List gives me, in a weird way, a sort of external self-motivation. I’m accountable to myself, in the form of The List. I think about the regrets I would have if I didn’t accomplish certain items. Even if they’re difficult or risky, most often, they’re worth it. It’s empowering and euphoric to do something that I never thought myself capable of.

In terms of My List, a milestone approaches. The Leisters, Harvin, and I have tentative plans to go to Stumphouse Tunnel in Walhalla sometime this week. When that happens, I’ll have marked my tenth item off the list. Very exciting. And I finally have a design in mind for a tattoo; I’m going to think on it for a little while longer, and then hopefully, that will be another item that will require a certain amount of courage. I’m a little worried about the pain, but I think it could be worth it, too. At the very least, it’ll certainly be an adventure. 🙂

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A Plug for Fiction Family

I’m using my blog shamelessly to plug Jon Foreman‘s newest side project, Fiction Family, which is a collaboration with Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek. The first single (“When She’s Near”) is spectacular, and the album will be released on January 20. Additionally, Fiction Family will be in Atlanta on January 29, so if you live near here, then you should consider going with me.

Also, for Hope, my faithful friend in NYC, Fiction Family will be at the Bowery Ballroom on Jan. 20, the day of the album release. If you can manage it, you should go because I totally would if I were there!

And now, for your viewing and listening pleasure…the video for “When She’s Near”:

What’s Happening Here?

Yesterday morning, I finished then emailed a paper to my human growth & development professor. The paper was 12 days late, which is fine, I’m sure, as he told us specifically that turning it in late wasn’t a big deal. We’re adults, after all, and sometimes stuff happens that’s more important than school.

I’m sure he meant work, family, emergencies, things of that nature. But over the past few weeks, I’ve realized something about myself. A significant change, in fact. I’ve struggled to force myself to do homework–write this paper, study for finals, finish up a slew of journals for my world lit class. I’ve sat in front of the computer and found that I have absolutely not been motivated to work at all.

Two separate times, I specifically made plans to go home and work on my paper (this was the week before the paper was actually due). Both times, I turned down invitations from friends . . . once, to go to a class at church, and the other time to go to dinner after church. Both times, I still never made it home to work on my paper. I ended up having really great, and needed, conversations with two separate friends. Significant conversations, even.

Other times, I knew I needed to work on my paper and made other plans anyway. Dinner with friends after church (no, I didn’t turn that invitation down a second time), hanging out at the Silver Chair, crafting with the Leisters. And other than the occassional twinge of guilt at not having finished my paper yet, I regret none of those times.

I’m at the end of my first semester of graduate school, and I’m finding that school has dropped really low on my list of important things. That’s never happened to me before. Ever. I’ve always managed to find a balance before, and only in rare moments before have I chosen friends over homework. Not anymore.

Thinking about this, I realize that I could have two responses to this situation:

A) I could repent and remind myself that it’s okay to say “no” to people; after all, we can always go to dinner in a few days when my homework is finished. School should be more important. And I need to be more focused.

B) I could thank God that I have so many people in my life whom I deeply love and want to spend time with. And obviously, those people are in my life for a reason, and if I truly desire community and relationships, then I need to remember that people are more important.

Obviously, there has to be a balance here, but I’m definitely swinging more toward option 2. Fortunately, my semester ends tomorrow with my human growth & development final exam. Then, I’ll have a month off from school (and two of those weeks, I’ll be off work). And when classes start again in January, maybe my motivation will have returned.

Still, I have to wonder what happened. For 17 years (kindergarten through college), school was my life. My raison d’etre. The year I took off between college and grad school was rough. I even took New England Writers last spring, partially because I missed school so much. So, truthfully, in the past 18 1/2 years, I’ve had one semester off from school, where I took no classes. All that to say–why don’t I care anymore? It doesn’t seem to be some kind of early senioritis or anything. More like my values have shifted, and when I have so much more . . .

Total revelation just now, in the middle of blogging: for the first time in a long time, I don’t need school to feel validated, to be fulfilled. My identity has moved beyond just being the smart girl. I no longer feel like I’m just the girl everyone hangs out with so they can get MLA or grammar help. Maybe, for the first time, I’ve accepted that there’s so much more to me than just good grades. And maybe everyone else realized it all along, and I’m just the last person to catch on.

The Planets Bend Between Us

I like the concept of astronomy. I would actually like astronomy if there weren’t so much science involved. 🙂

Mostly, I just like stars and the night sky. In my room at my parents’ house, I still have those glow-in-the-dark stars covering my walls. And this past weekend, when I was driving to my parents’ house, I enjoyed looking at the stars. I’ve forgotten how big the sky is when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

When I took physical science a few years ago, we had a lab where we went out to the hill where the football field was under construction. Our professors set up several telescopes, and we did a little stargazing. It was the one science lab that I thoroughly enjoyed. That night, Saturn was visible in the sky, and with the telescope, we could make out the rings. It was so beautiful to stand there on the darkened hill and be able to see the outline of a planet millions of miles away.

Tonight, as I drove home after taking my world lit final exam, I had a perfect view the entire way home of the moon. And visible in the sky near the moon were Jupiter and Venus, brighter than any of the stars in the sky. And amazingly enough, today was really gloomy and overcast. I wasn’t sure anything would be visible in the sky, but by twilight, the sky had begun to clear. And the planets were so beautiful.

All this to say, if you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Jupiter and Venus yet, you should walk outside and check it out. Just enjoy the night sky.

Also, I’m adding another item to The List:

#71: Buy a telescope and take up stargazing with someone I really like. 🙂