Twenty New Things
Try something new in the New Year
I like new things. New shoes. New restaurants. New wall colors, which is why our house has been upside down for over a year. New wall colors meant new flooring, new trim and lighting, and now we are so behind schedule that we have decided to adapt to the situation until our life slows down. And that is the problem. I really don’t want life to slow down. I like to go-see-do, get up before dawn, get in, get out, and get on with the next thing. Still, now that I have reached a certain age, I feel life slowing down.
I linger over conversations. I don’t feel the need to see every hit movie or accept every invitation. I’m okay sitting and watching others play the game until I leave while I’m still having a good time, even if the final bell hasn’t rung. I knew this time in my life would come. I’ve seen it happen to many others, and while I am not afraid of aging, I am afraid of being old.
Old means I won’t try new things, will only listen to oldies at a moderate volume, and will peek out the shades to spy on the neighbors. Old is being scared to fail, fall, or flatulate in public, even though any one of those could happen to any of us at any time. It seems that after a certain age, fear moves to the forefront, and you calculate every move, every bite, for the ramifications they may have on your image or mobility. All too often, I’ve seen people lose their confidence, their spark, and their willingness to explore beyond the comfort of their own carefully crafted, well-cushioned norms. Old is telling the same stories, over and over again because they are the only stories you have to tell. Ugh. I’ll embrace gray hair, but I won’t accept being old.
In September, Julie Koerber shared an article about a young woman who committed to trying something new every day for a year. It’s the kind of idea I get wound up about and have to try. Still, every day seemed daunting given that I run a business, sit on several boards, and am committed to savoring over consuming this year. Something new every day sounded too big but trying 20 new things sounded reasonable.
First, I set parameters. Only two things could be food-related, as we are already adventurous eaters around here. Half of the things could not cost money and I couldn’t just repackage a hobby by trying it in a new setting and call it good. I wanted at least seven of these adventures to be things I said, over and over, I should try that. I decided to do all of these things alone because I tend to make sure everyone else is enjoying an experience at the expense of getting lost in the moment. That turned out to be the best parameter of all. You see, while trying these things alone, I found out who I am now, what I like, what I want, and that my people don’t need to be involved in every aspect of my adventures because sometimes they are okay having their own experiences.
In case you don’t know, I own Canvas Creek Team Building and Coaching, and I often get to travel to work with teams for their strategic planning or celebration events. In October, I did just that and knocked a few things off my list. On a Friday, I drove through Vale, Colorado, in an Alfa Romeo (I counted that car!) and was awe-struck by the beauty of the birch trees in their fall splendor. After working in Grand Junction, I changed my ticket to allow most of Sunday in Vale. Just thinking about it makes me smile and sigh. It was glorious. The temperature was 65 degrees, the sun was out, the leaves were fluttering in a soft breeze, and there was a craft and farmers market throughout The Village.
I ate on the porch of a German restaurant, ordering only things I’d never tried, including dessert because why not, I smiled as people took my picture because I was sitting at a table near a delightful garden, my silver hair dappled by sunlight. (I say this because they told me, not because I’m vain.) I was smiling because it was a heavenly meal, and I treasured every moment.
After lunch, I stumbled upon a stall with electric bikes, which until then I’d avoided because they seemed like cheating. But, new things! I rode for hours past beautiful homes and mountain vistas. By myself. With no map and my cell phone turned off. It was indeed an incredible experience, one that left me feeling more robust and more grateful than I had in a long time.
I returned home to work and family and this passion to try one thing and then the next. Twenty things were going to be easily accomplished! A new trail to hike, then a bus tour with Big Sky Economic Development, during which I made new friends, saw new businesses and chose my retirement home because of the upcoming project at St. John’s. That was a surprise for someone who isn’t anxious to get old!
While in Great Falls, helping Leadership Montana with their strategic plan, we stayed at a hotel with incredible welded sculptures, and when I commented on them, saying, “I’ve always wanted to learn to weld,” I knew I had to try. A friend offered to give me a lesson. That’s the kind of thing we often neglect to take people up on, letting them show us something they love to do. I decided to take him up on the offer.
And I found my creative home.
I’m not kidding. Since my lesson, I’ve been dreaming about welding, planning my next sculpture, an ambitious project, and each time I walk past something metal, I check the weld.
Going in, it was a little scary. There was heat, electricity, and a mask that made the whole thing seem ominous. But my friend was patient, thorough, and oh-so encouraging. He taught me the three base elements for a perfect weld: distance, speed, and angle. Then, as the best instructors do, he let me discover, for myself, the magic of making two pieces of metal into one. I had taken a Gouache class at Crooked Line Studios in the morning, and one of the kind and helpful employees said, “Often people are afraid to try something they can’t pronounce” (it’s go-wash). I think we are also afraid to try things we don’t understand, like the gasses that make welds happen, the reason a parachute can take us softly to the ground, and the difference between the standard and performance button in an Alfa Romeo (high-speed cornering makes that clear!)
During each of my twenty things, I smiled. I grew. I laughed. I had new thoughts, made new friends, and celebrated that life has so much to offer us if we only let it. But it was welding that made me giddy, made me jump up and down with pure exhilaration of accomplishing something I assumed would be too hard for my brain and hands to coordinate. My friend taught me the rules, and according to everyone who has examined my welds, I did a mighty fine job. Then I did what artists do, and I will do more of it. I broke the rules and created a sculpture that spoke to me, with a welding bead that made me laugh because it was so bad, and that was oh so perfect.
I hope that you will try something new today and tomorrow too. Do it for yourself, by yourself, and if the opportunity strikes, take someone up on their offer to show you what they know, you won’t regret it. Whether you try one new thing or twenty, besides an increased sense of wellness, you will have new stories to tell, over and over again, while listening to oldies at a moderate level.