A Full Beach Pail for My Birthday

Fifty-two weeks ago, I began a challenge: try something new every week for an entire year.  The goal was to marinate myself in new experiences and remind myself that I’m not too old to try new things.  I wanted to add interest, invite possibilities and take baby steps outside my element to stretch myself on small levels. It started out as a challenge for my upcoming fiftieth birthday (today!), but it turned into something so much more.

To be clear, this list of 52 items was not a bucket list. Bucket lists are crammed with things to be done before you die and typically involve large-scale, expensive, time-consuming ventures. My 52 experiences were smaller, easier and far more manageable. Things to try that didn’t involve lots of time, money or planning. So I called it my Beach Pail List. Why? Beach pails are smaller, easier to handle and much less expensive than buckets. They are also, not coincidentally, funner. Just like the items on my list.

You can read more details in my original post, but here’s a quick overview of the rules: each experience on my Beach Pail List could NOT –

  • Be something I’d ever before done
  • Cost more than $30 (like going to Tahiti)
  • Take more than a few hours’ time
  • Require ongoing lessons (like learning to speak Japanese)
  • Involve permanent body marks (like a tattoo)
  • Need to be done (like writing a will or organizing a closet)
  • Smell like a dare (like swimming with sharks)
  • Border on silly (like making fire the old-fashioned way)
  • Bend the rules of the universe (like levitating or giving up chocolate)

So, what’s gone into my Beach Pail? What have I done these past 52 weeks? In no particular order, here’s the whole dang list:

  1. Eat tofu
  2. Kayak
  3. Bet on a horse
  4. Go target shooting
  5. Learn to spit well
  6. Calligraphy
  7. Bake authentic, crusty Baguettes
  8. Watch the Director’s cut of Bladerunner
  9. Blend the perfect Bloody Mary
  10. Zipline
  11. Make mozzarella cheese
  12. Karaoke
  13. Roller blade
  14. Learn to play Mahjong
  15. Attend a live opera
  16. Try Haiku
  17. Learn how to swear in several languages
  18. Build something using power tools
  19. Trampoline
  20. Master Bolognese sauce
  21. Jump off a high diving board
  22. Ice fish in a bob house
  23. Read One Two Three . . . Infinity
  24. Witness an authentic PowWow
  25. Try Pilates
  26. Learn a card trick
  27. Try line dancing
  28. Meet my State and Federal representatives
  29. Learn to whistle with through my fingers
  30. Play the harmonica
  31. Try out a batter’s cage
  32. Join a Fantasy Football league
  33. Take a hula lesson
  34. Go snow tubing
  35. See the Clydesdales
  36. Sit in a courthouse during a trial
  37. Drive a snowmobile
  38. Spend an entire day naked
  39. Learn to watercolor paint
  40. Try meditating
  41. Read Dante’s Inferno
  42. Nap on a hammock
  43. Design a house
  44. Read The Federalist Papers
  45. Prepare homemade ravioli
  46. Brew my own beer
  47. Batik my own fabric
  48. Sculpt something
  49. Write a song
  50. Take an acting class
  51. Join a Scrabble match
  52. Have little, tiny hair*

What were the highs (and lows) on the Beach Pail List?

TOFU: I’ve tried it three times, only because several friends insisted that I didn’t sample it properly prepared. Thanks very much, but I do not like tofu, no matter how it’s prepared. In fact, I detest it.

HAIKU: It’s fun when it’s snarky!  And following the 5-7-5 beat makes the process feel lots like a word puzzle. Fun with poetry… who knew?!

HARMONICA PLAYING, WATERCOLOR PAINTING, ACTING CLASS: I pretty much suck at these things, but I don’t care because I had a ginormous quantity of fun trying!

BOLOGNESE, BAGUETTES, CHEESE: I am a Food Preparation Goddess – the Master of All Things Culinary in my Cucina! Everything I cooked was orgasmic. Alas, as I write this I am wearing my fat pants…

ICE FISHING: You need to drink lots to stay warm.  I didn’t catch anything except a cold and a serious buzz (that, not surprisingly, later morphed into a serious hangover).

DANTE’S INFERNO: Holy crap. I needed Cliff’s Notes to get through most of it. Honestly: what was he on?

What have I learned? Soooooo much:

Like many of us, I thought all the fun things were a plane ride away, requiring an investment of both time and money. I was wrong. And I’m grateful to have finally realized this.

Looking for new experiences that fit within the rules of my list initially took time and thought.  But not too far into the year, I discovered them with more ease.  In essence, I was retraining my brain to watch for these opportunities and, in little time, the process became more intuitive. So many things to experience, try and learn!  I have immensely benefited from this lesson.

Learning something new does not mean you’ll end up being good at it. Once you accept this, the goal swiftly moves from the DONE to the DOING. For me, this made an amazing difference.

Letting go of your expectations changes everything.  When you stop worrying about what other people think, how well you’ll do or whether you’ll make an ass of yourself, you exponentially increase the happiness factor of any given experience. I’m not kidding.

I thought I would learn my limits.  Instead, I stretched them. I now feel as though I can do nearly anything, and I don’t think I have ever before felt that. I presumed that this feeling would arise only from a life-changing, all-encompassing, incredibly amazing adventure… not from something so simple as trying a batter’s cage.  Silly, naive me.

This Beach Pail challenge is the best gift I’ve ever given myself. I’ve loved it. And I’ve learned lots about so many things… mostly myself.

Happy Fiftieth Birthday to me!!!!!


*This is happening TODAY. And we’re talking holy-shit, hoo-rah, Marine-recruit buzz-cut tiny. Here’s hoping I don’t end up wearing that Beach Pail…!



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