You didn’t think I was going to leave 35 without recognizing what I *did* do, did you?
While accumulating 13 “failures” and 6 “good efforts“, I also gained 16 wins. And some of them I blew out of the water and/or experienced to their absolute fullest. I don’t discount that at all and am happy to share some highlights below.
Learn about/travel to 15 Bay Area towns.
I’ll start with the weakest. I didn’t do much “learning” about towns in the bay (I really am still bad at knowing which “Los” and “Santa” is where), but I did probably step foot in more of a variety than in past years as a resident of “The City”. The same trajectory existed for my path as a Milwaukee resident (how long did it take for me to differentiate between Muskego, Mukwanago & Oconomowoc?), and completing this with little effort is a testament to settling into an established life here. I’ll take it!
Learn 35 words in German.
Ich kann sprechen Deutsch…ein bischen. Thanks to the wonderfulness that is Duolingo, I finally made great efforts toward improving my German this year. The huge breakthrough was hearing my colleague Claudia ask my friend Gloria for der schlüssel while I was in Berlin and knowing exactly what she needed before the key appeared! Combined with Gloria’s fantastic German playlist, I made huge strides until taking a break after the lay off. Glad to still have the basics and excited about my language learning goals for 36. Seriously, Duolingo y’all. Go download it.
Send mail to 35 different people.
One of the (many) perks of my old job was the opportunity to acquire beautifully designed postcards or cards as swag at various events. I’m sure anyone who’s attended TYPO Berlin can tell you about the last day when vendors are foisting stacks of paper onto attendees. In addition to this, I have an addiction to letterpress cards and tend to stock up on them when I find some to my liking. When the pile gets too big, one of my absolute favorite things is to have a random mail day, either posting to social media or, as I attempted this year, just blindly sending notes off to friends and family using the last address available. Basically, I’m singlehandedly keeping USPS in business. Finally, I selfishly *really* like getting mail, so I like the karmic trade.
Attend 15 separate performances or lectures.
Before I moved to San Francisco and was here on a visit, my friends took me to a NightLife event at Cal Academy and we stopped into a mini-lecture on the environment and I was amazed at the diversity and engagement of the crowd. After moving here, I began to love how many options there were to go see lectures, panels, talks and of course continue to attend events in the performing arts. For some reason I dumped those all into one goal last year, which meant going to Creative Mornings talks in 4 cities (San Francisco, Oakland, Berlin & Los Angeles), two ranger talks in Denali National Park (and keeping it together during the lecture on beavers), a lecture on the “Neuroscience of Zen” at The Nourse, the disturbingly fantastic Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play at American Conservatory Theater, author talks/panels at The Booksmith on topics from music posters to women in tech, Flower Pianos in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and many more. Looking forward to divvying this up into subcategories this year.
See 15 visual arts exhibitions.
One of my favorite things about San Francisco is how much the city itself is an ongoing visual arts exhibition. With the combination of stunning light and perspective, natural and manmade structure, and fascinating and flamboyant characters wandering amongst public and renegade art, it’s 24-7 like living in an art piece that somehow broke through to our dimension. That said, there’s plenty of opportunities to see traditional art shows here as well, and of course I seek them out on my travels as well. Some of my favorites this year included the inspiring Keith Haring: The Political Line at The DeYoung, the incredibly special Ai Wei-Wei‘s @Large on Alcatraz (and in the same week having a conversation with a Chinese political refugee-turned-Lyft driver about helping Ai bypass government-imposed firewalls so he could communicate with Western world), and all of the arts in Amsterdam (Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Van Gogh Museum, de Appel, Amsterdam Art Fair, ArtZuid).
See 15 bands I’ve never seen before.
Moving from visual arts into good ol’ fashioned rock and roll, I continued to make an effort to attend as many concerts as possible this year (which sadly was on the lower side). Not only did I discover bands like Dakha Brakha, see rising stars like Leon Bridges, Laura Marling and Bully, but I also FINALLY got to see Neko Case, Sufjan Stevens (I’d seen him livescore a film before) and The Replacements …TWICE.
Resee 15 bands.
In the past, since time is finite, I’ve shied from making huge efforts to see the same bands repeatedly. Now that I’m 35, I can totally be one of those middle-aged ladies who sees bands of her youth, as long as I offset with “what the kids are listening to these days.” Or so I justify it to myself. Whatever. For someone who didn’t start going to shows in earnest until after college, there’s now some bands like The Decemberists and Built to Spill where I’ve lost track of not just how many times, but in how many cities, I’ve seen them. Bookending my year in shows with Patti Smith, catching The Jesus & Mary Chain again (outside of Coachella), finally seeing Belle & Sebastian again, and of course happily attending the reunion of Sleater-Kinney, made sure that 35 rocked literally if not figuratively.
Visit 15 breweries.
Now for something completely different. A woman can have many passions, and as you can tell from the title of this blog (though I’m a bit stuck with it), I love me some beer. My spreadsheet of Draft Mag‘s 100 Best Beer Bars helps guide my travels, San Francisco Beer Week is like Christmas, visiting my family during Oregon Brewers Festival is becoming a thing, and the proximity to Toronado may or may not have influenced my decision to take my new apartment. Still, despite formerly living across from Magnolia, I hadn’t made a concerted effort in awhile to go straight to the source. Luckily my travels during my 35th year took me to a variety of spots. Overseas I went from the Guinness mothership in Dublin (and, thanks to Facebook, reconnected with a high school acquaintance who arranged our tour) to Brouwerij ‘t IJ and Jopen in The Netherlands. Domestic work travels took me to Night Shift in Boston and a host of Denver breweries (Wynkoop, Prost Brewing, Denver Beer Co, Our Mutual Friend Brewing). Locally (apart from Magnolia about a million times), I made it to Barrelhead Brewhouse, Woods Brewery, Social Kitchen & Brewery, and Triple Voodoo. Finally, in my West Coast wanderings from Long Beach to Fairbanks, I visited California’s Berryessa Brewing, Highway 1 Brewing, and Tap It Brewing; Alaska’s Hoodoo, Denali Brewing Company, Seward Brewing Company; and Oregon’s The Commons Brewery. All this and I’ve still never been to Russian River.
Abstain from alcohol for 15 consecutive days.
Lest you think I’m a total lush, I did manage to do this, without consequence, following Beer Week last February. I felt great.
Visit 15 different San Francisco Parks.
Oh hey, I get outside! I definitely had to challenge myself to break out of the usual suspects of Golden Gate Park/Panhandle, Alamo Square and Dolores Park and I’ll admit, I didn’t do the best job. That said, I was happy to cap the list with a completely new-to-me park of Warm Water Cove, as well as revisit Bernal Heights Park, where I used to run once upon a time, so long ago.
Visit 15 different State or National Parks.
This was one of the checklist goals I was most looking forward to this year and it didn’t disappoint. Spending three nights in Denali National Park is something I’ll never forget, nor is making a friend-for-life atop a glacier trail to the Harding Ice Field in Kenai Fjords National Park. Taking day excursions to two California National parks, Channel Islands and Pinnacles, made me hungry for more, but I also learned to appreciate our beautiful State Parks system. I can’t wait to once again camp in Pfeiffer Big Sur or kayak with otters at Morro Bay. Also, I’ve now made it a life goal to attend a costume party at Hearst Castle.
Go on 15 hikes.
Obviously, visiting all those parks, hiking was inevitable. I cannot express how happy wandering through nature makes me. The day I was laid off, after shedding some brief tears, I headed to the headlands and hiked down to Black Sand Beach. That’s how much it centers me. While I love taking solo strolls, I also love making friends on trails, as I did on the aforementioned Harding Ice Field trail, as well as the Triple Lakes Trail in Alaska. Of course the best is having hiking pals and it was wonderful to explore places like China Camp with Mary Ann, Armstrong Redwoods with Amber, and Watson Lake in Tahoe with my Team India crew. Finally, though it was a short hike, taking my dear, old Milwaukee buddy Ben on a walk through Forest Park when we were both in Portland last summer was an absolute treat.
Bike in 15 different cities
It makes me a bit sad to think that a goal like this would be a little more challenging not traveling for work (note to self: add “travel” to musts list for future jobs). Happy to hop on a bike in Berlin and Denver, and of course my side trip to The Netherlands was full of two-wheeled adventures including a long rainy ride from Haarlem to Amsterdam. Still, lots of biking around the Bay Area, including SF, Oakland, Berkeley and Sausalito. The biggest surprise? How much biking I did in Alaska – hopping on a bicycle at almost every train stop.
Do yoga for 15 days in a row.
The best goals are the ones that become habits. I’ve slowly ramped up my yoga goals over the past few years and something switched this year, perhaps after completing this goal, when now not practicing yoga is more difficult than practicing. It certainly helps to have such an amazing community at Yoga Garden San Francisco. It’s never an obligation to show up when you know there will be lovely people alongside of you.
Go to Burning Man.
Speaking of goals that become habits, I guess I officially became a “Burner” this year. (Ugh, that word!). My second trip to Black Rock City was a huge improvement over my first (of course all this is semi-written down in a notebook and never made it to blog form), going this time as Meghan (or “Party” as some folks may have dubbed me) and not as someone’s roommate or girlfriend. Additionally, the weather prevented me from experiencing as much of the playa as I did last time, but I experienced many more people. Since 2013 I’ve formed deep friendships with many of my Decadent Oasis campmates, which only deepened in our week in the desert; I shared a tent with one of my forever friends, Nathan Malachowski; and of course I made new, wonderful friends, including the wonderful Zoom on the Burner Express home. Getting let go from my job 10 days before certainly enhanced my experience exponentially. Also, a bonus life goal happened this year: my friends and I (silhouetted on an art car) made it into Rolling Stone!
Enough happened on my summer solstice train journey through Alaska to fill more than 35 blog posts, not this measly one that I managed to eek out. It’s all logged across multiple Field Notes. I can’t imagine even beginning to summarize it here, as much of a copout as that is. The main takeway? I loved my 50th state more than I ever imagined I would. I yearn to return.