Every once in awhile—not too often but occasionally—I feel boring. Like a boring person. Does that ever happen to you? Like everything interesting about me seeped out of me by the time I hit 30 and now I’m just… blah. I used to be fun, spontaneous and even a little wild. Now my sense of humor is more muted and sarcastic, and my most adventurous impulses are to paint my nails blue or to buy a pair of moccasins. And sometimes all I want for dinner is spaghetti with butter and cheese.
The feeling eventually passes. I’m fairly confident in my own dynamism, but everyone has their low moments. One way of fighting the creeping fear of mediocrity is to make a list. I’m a big list person. Once I made a list of 25 Random Facts About Me (as embarrassing as this is to admit, I actually did this exercise first on Facebook in response to a chain). And I tried to think of the most curious things about me that most people don’t know. It’s an exercise I recommend if you ever have a day when you think of yourself as uninteresting. I find that when one’s quirkiest qualities or biographical footnotes are laid out together, just about everyone is interesting. Here are three of mine, just for a taste:
1. My name is two counties in England. Devon and Berkshire. I have never been to England. But my old boss calls me Northampton Somerset (“Northie” for short). He is English and thinks my name is as funny as if an English person were named “Georgia North Dakota.”
3. My parents baptized me themselves in a mountain stream in California, when they were still together. They were big hippies. They got married in bare feet and patchwork outfits. I later wore my mom’s wedding dress as a gypsy costume for Halloween.
14. I once went cliff diving into snake-infested waters. ‘Course, we didn’t know there were snakes in the water until we actually dove into it.
Once I got done with this exercise I was ready to write my autobiography.
I’ve been making lists since I was little. Big lists of lifetime goals and little to-do lists of everyday chores; lists on post-its everywhere and in emails to myself. It used to be one of those tendencies that made me feel boring (too “structured”), but these days I revel in it.
Not too long ago I unearthed a list in my elementary school handwriting that included the item “Appreciate Mom more.” I remembered that I haven’t made a list of my hopes and dreams in awhile. Those kinds of lists, while lofty and abstract, actually helped me keep my eye on the person I wanted to become. Lately it’s all been tasks and expenses and things I want to buy but probably never will.
I was thinking about this as I perused the blogosphere for a little inspiration, and came across the brightly decorated blog of a young woman named Leslie and her list of 25 Before 25. Her list is charming and simple, and includes the finite (“Wear that amazing black dress for the first time”) and the ongoing (“Send birthday and anniversary cards regularly”). It even includes a link to another list (“Read these 25 books”). This is the kind of list I used to write, and this young woman in Texas who I’ve never met reminded me of how fun it is to make lists of not only things that make you interesting, but things that will make you more interesting if you do them. Or at least the little things that will feed your soul.
So, in dedication to Leslie and my young idealist self, this week I’m making a list of 35 Before 35. (Or perhaps 25 Before 35, because 25 is the magic number for a reason; 35 seems like overkill. And yes, I’m still talking about lists and not age.) Maybe I’ll share it when I’m done writing it, or maybe I’ll share it when I’ve crossed everything off. Those are the best lists, you know. The ones that contain only things that: 1) you want to do, and 2) you actually intend to do.
What’s on your list of 25 things?