Before January 2017 slips away completely, I need to grapple a bit with my plans for the new year. I’m not into setting New Year’s resolutions (which is a good thing, because I’d be a month behind already!), but I do think it’s important to set goals, ideally goals that will stretch you beyond your comfort zone. These goals can be something you’ve wanted to do for a long time, or something completely new that falls into your lap unexpectedly. I’ve got my bucket list, and over the years I have ticked things off here and there.
A few years ago, for instance, I finally completed a sprint triathlon, a goal I’d been kicking around for years. It was the swimming that held me back, but I finally committed to getting into the pool regularly and eventually to taking a class to fine tune my technique (in other words, to completely relearn how to swim!). Now, nearly four years later, I’m still working on my swim, especially in open water. But I have come a long way. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night before a swim paralyzed with fear (this happened more than once, I kid you not). And my breaks between laps have become much more infrequent. More often than not, I swim a mile when I go to the pool, and three years ago this would have been unthinkable. I’m still doing that same tri each year (yay for the YWCA Women’s Triathlon!), and I’m thinking of doing a couple more this year. Tackling the swim was (and still is) a work in progress, but it’s been extremely rewarding. And now I have opened the door to a no-impact, life-long sport, simply because I was able to face my fear and try something new.
In a more lighthearted example, I took a beginning ukulele class on a whim last fall. I didn’t own a ukulele, so my first challenge was to track one down; I turned to social media. Before long, I had virtually befriended a friend of a friend (got that?) who was willing to set me up with a uke for the length of the class. In the process, I managed to talk a couple of friends into joining me. I actually signed up for two classes, ukulele 1 AND ukulele 2. Well that was the best $70 I’ll ever spend as far as I’m concerned. I was so completely giddy, I could barely wait for the class to begin.
The class itself had a cast of characters that made me want to sit down and write a short story–and I don’t even write short stories (Note to self: one more for the bucket list). There was a ten-year-old boy who was taking the class with his grandmother, the eighty-something gentleman in a wheelchair who could never find the right sheet music, and the hip, charmingly dressed young mom who had been brave enough to bring her precocious two-year-old to one of the Saturday jam sessions.
The instructor himself was an extremely patient, kind, sixties-something-gentleman, who was instantly likable. He could play anything by ear and effortlessly belted out every one of the classic folk tunes we would attempt to play over the next four weeks. Best of all, he was encouraging. “There are no mistakes,” he would say brightly. Oh, but there were, and for once I didn’t care. Sitting there in a circle, perched on old wooden chairs in the charming 1920s schoolhouse in Prospect Park with a few friends, and many strangers, all of us tentatively plucking away at the strings, was nothing short of idyllic. I’ve never considered myself much of a singer, so I was a bit quiet at first, but by the second or third class (okay, maybe it was the fourth), I was belting out “Down By the Riverside” with the best of ’em. (And the best was probably that ten-year-old taking the class with his grandmother.)
I can’t even begin to tell you how fun this was, sore fingertips and all. Many of the beginners from ukulele 1 didn’t go on to take the second class (including my friends), but that session was a trip as well. The class was whittled down to the brave hipster mom, me and a couple of women in their sixties, all of us crowded around our happy-go-lucky leader in song (same instructor!). Now that we had learned a dozen or so chords, we focused on just playing songs. Can I just say there’s something therapeutic about taking part in a strumming, sing-along once a week? We could all use a little more of that.
So what’s on your bucket list? What is your “something new” to try this year? I’m eyeing a few things, not in any particular order. I’ve always wanted to take a pottery class, and I’d like to recommit to a regular writing schedule (this might involve a class as well-short stories??). I also keep thinking about piano lessons, although we don’t own a piano. Recently a friend and I talked about taking a class at Common Ground Meditation Center, which could come in handy this year in particular. And, I’m itching to take the family on an out-of-the-country adventure. I’ll definitely keep you posted, and please do the same!