This past Sunday, I celebrated my 26th birthday. It’s honestly hard to believe. 26 seems old and not old. I remember being a kid and thinking I’d have life figured out by now, and I am getting there, slowly but surely. Birthdays have always been exciting to me, even though they no longer mean big, high octane birthday parties. My birthday this year was super low-key, but that is exactly how I wanted it. I just wanted a day to hang out, relax, and do whatever I wanted. I slept in, I caught up on YouTube videos on the couch, I spent two hours browsing at a local bookstore, I went for a long walk, I ate turkey burgers and chocolate cupcakes, I FaceTimed with my parents. All in all, a lovely day.
Birthdays also mean the start of a new year – I’ll only be 26 for the next 12 months, and while being 26 doesn’t feel any different than being 25, or even 24 for that matter, birthdays always feel like markers of new beginnings, and I think milestones like this are a great time for setting goals and just reflecting on life in general. So here are 26 thing I want to do before I turn 27:
1. Complete my MFA. This will be happening (fingers & toes crossed) in June of 2015.
2. Get published. I’m a slacker when it comes to submitting my writing to literary journals. It’s a scary prospect – letting one of my babies go out in the world, but I need to do it. My goal is to submit four pieces to four different journals this year.
3. Attend more literary events. Chicago is a great city for live lit, and I don’t take nearly as much advantage as I should. I want to start going to readings and supporting local writers.
4. Get my first “big kid” job. Job hunting, well, let’s be honest – it sucks. But eventually I will get a job that I love.
5. Visit Austin. Two of my dear friends live in Austin, plus several of Mr. Man’s friends, so a visit is totally in order. Plus it’ll be the furthest west in the US I have ever been.
6. Unplug. I’m challenging myself to unplug at least one weekend a month, when possible. No Facebook, no Twitter, no phone.
7. Read 26 new books. I have such a huge reading list at the moment. Up first: Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.
8. Go to a college football game. I did this for the first time last year, and I absolutely want to repeat that experience.
9. Stress less. I am an anxious person by nature. I want to learn to let go of the worries and anxieties that tend to hold me back from things I really want to do.
10. Budget better. I’m not horrible with money by any means, but I’m challenging myself to keep better track of my spending, and to begin paying for things with cash. It really is true – debit cards make money disappear so quickly.
11. Craft more. I love crafting of all kinds, and I want to get back into a few craft projects. For some reason, I’ve been itching to get a paint-by-numbers kit for a while now.
12. Get on a blogging schedule. I know. My posts are sporadic and all over the place. I want to sit down and really plan out my vision for this blog and make it happen.
13. Get on a train and go (for a day). There are trains going in and out of Chicago everyday to places nearby in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. I want to pick one and hop on the train for a day trip.
14. Move to a new apartment and neighborhood. Our lease is up in December, so Mr. Man and I will be looking for a new place and a new ‘hood. It’ll be bittersweet, because I have come to love our south side digs, but it’s exciting to think about a new place.
15. Think positive. This goes along with being less anxious. I want to start seeing the good, instead of focusing on the negative.
16. Buy more flowers. They are such a small thing, but they just make me feel so happy when they’re around.
17. Subscribe to a newspaper or a literary journal. Pretty self explanatory.
18. Get on a writing schedule. I have the luxury right now of writing whenever I want, keeping odd hours, but I know it’s not good for me. I want to get on a better schedule. If I want writing to be my job, I’ve got to start treating it like a job and not like a hobby.
19. Find a good church home in Chicago. None will ever replace my beloved Rock Spring Presbyterian in Atlanta, but I want to find a good church home here in Chicago. I visited a few when I first moved in 2012, but I gave up pretty fast, and I miss my Sunday morning services.
20. Take a spin (class, that is). I’ve been toying with the idea of starting spin classes, because they just seem like a lot of fun, and I want to have a regular exercise class to keep me accountable.
21. Visit six new places in Chicago. As much as I feel that this city is home and that I know it well, there are still so many places and neighborhoods I have yet to see. Tops on my list? The Newberry Library and the Chicago Botanical Garden.
22. Get outside more. I think I am reasonably outdoorsy, in that I like to spend time outside in nice weather. It’s so easy to just stay inside in front of the computer or TV though. Especially this fall, I want to get outside for more walks along the lake, before it gets snowy and I can’t.
23. Join or start a writing group. I need deadlines and love having other writers to talk to and share works in progress with. As I transition out of classes and into thesis, I’m gonna need some support.
24. Plan out balanced meals and cook more at home. Eating out is so tempting in such a great city for food, but it’s time to get back to the basics of planning out, shopping for, and cooking meals at home.
25. Do NaNoWriMo. I’ve never done it before, and darn it, it’s time. I might use it to work on finishing up the children’s novel I started in my Middle Grade & YA Fiction class this summer, or use it for something else. Who knows.
26. Be at peace.