The 36 by 37: Personal Pursuit

Editor’s note: I wrote this entire post throughout the weekend and just as I was about to schedule I saw the news of David Bowie’s death. My optimism will hopefully return, so I’m not changing it, despite my extreme grief over one of my idols.

A couple weeks ago a hummingbird flew into my apartment. A friend pointed out that its a harbinger of joy. All small goals aside, I hope that 36 is overall a most joyful year!

I’m weirdly glad that my birthday is a Monday this year. I feel like I need a real fresh start and as bummer as Mondays can be, if you kick ’em off right, they can be the best day of the week. The day with a complete blank slate. The day where you can shape how the following few days are going to go. Trust me, I have definitely had my TBIM days, but I’m going into this one with my head held high and my spirit open to possibility.

Speaking of fresh starts, in reflecting on the results of my 35 by 36 efforts I realized that one of the reasons I didn’t hit even 50% achievement is because my goal setting had stagnated. I’d begun regurgitating year-on-year, with some goals (like yoga) becoming habits and others becoming things I once loved but began to resent (like running or stairway walks). Additionally, as I’ve aged, my numbers have gotten really damn ambitious. Someone recently said “Gosh, I hope I don’t know you when you’re 90.” I still want to have the number of goals match my age (give me that one thing), but I do recognize that I need to limit myself within each individual goal.

Thanks to basic math, translating that into action for this year was relatively easy. 36. Hoorah squares. I decided that I would divide it up into six categories with six goals each and use six as the base number of tasks to complete within each goal. Go ahead, roll your eyes.

At any rate, I then needed to find categories. I first made the mistake of trying to map those existing, repeated goals: community, professional, travel. I wasn’t feeling it – as a communications person there was no story, no common thread. Alliteration maybe? Friends, food, fears… Nope.  Then it hit me:

Trivial Pursuit

Six perfect categories. For the former girl scout obsessed with the idea of the Dabbler and Marquette student stoked to find the general Social Sciences minor, mapping my next year Geography, Entertainment, History, Arts & Literature, Science & Nature, and Sports & Leisure sounded like just the refresh I needed. Plus it gave me the opportunity to apply some color-coded conditional formatting to the tracking spreadsheet I use.

So, with a renewed energy and interest in this little personal project, I present Personal Pursuit, my 36 by 37 goals:

All geography goals cannot be completed inside It’s A Small World.

Visit six countries.

This shouldn’t be too difficult to hit with a SE Asia trip on the horizon that will find me visiting Vietnam and Cambodia, with a day layover on each end in Guangzhou, China.

Complete at least six modules of six languages in Duolingo.
I gushed about learning German through this app and even though tackling multiple languages probably isn’t the best retention strategy, I’m also curious to obtain or revisit the basics in a handful of language. Tentatively I’ll be continuing with German and Spanish, and adding in Italian and French. I’m hoping to learn some non-Western languages too, hopefully Vietnamese will launch before I go and I’d love to tackle Arabic.

Attend six different ethnic cooking classes or special dinners.
This still allows me to continue with my 18 Reasons commitments, but also accounts for opportunities like the Thai cooking class I took with Team India last year.

Read six books by authors from six different non-US countries.
One of my absolute favorite books I read during year 35 was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, about the Nigerian immigrant experience in the US and UK, as well as repatriation. While my travel funds are limited (unless I win that Powerball), I can always use an escape to another place through the page.

See six films from six different non-US countries.
Similar to books, I’m open to traveling through film as well. It’s been awhile since I’ve made a concerted effort to watch foreign films, so I’m excited to tackle this. And bonus, maybe this will finally be the year I dine at Foreign Cinema.

Swim in six different bodies of water.
Harkening back to Trivial Pursuit, I realized that I probably should add a geographic feature challenge here. I’m not sure I’m ready to start summiting mountains, so this one seemed doable. Plus I really need to explore some lakes and rivers. And I’m pretty stoked to swim in the South China Sea again.

Setting entertainment goals since 1980.

See films at six different theaters.
Considering that two years ago I managed to hit 12 different theaters, this should be beyond doable. I’ve really hated how off my game I’ve gotten with my filmgoing. Hoping El Niño allows for me to take baby steps back into it and maybe blow this out of the water.

See concerts at six different venues.
Another that I’m confident I can meet, but that will also keep me honest. I’m very lucky that my new apartment is closer to both The Fillmore and The Independent and makes Rickshaw Stop and Brick & Mortar walkable. I guess The Chapel too. Okay, there’s five. Now to see some dang shows.

Host six dinner parties for six.
Before the roommate switch at my old apartment, Sadie and/or I used to host dinner parties with relatively frequency. I miss the act of communal eating. For years I’ve been wanting to piece together a salon-like dinner parties series and I think maybe this is the year to tackle it. Also, I love how I’ve designed my space to be sort of like the Barbie fold-up apartment and want to put my Ikea Norden table to the test.

Read six books by entertainers.
While I eased up on other pursuits, I couldn’t cut back my reading challenges. Especially after such a lackluster 35. You’ll notice a lot of book-related goals intersecting various categories, which will hopefully overlap with some of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Since Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl and Patti Smith’s (signed!) M Train are waiting on my shelf, I figure these will be a good start. (Also, Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band and Aziz Anzari’s Modern Romance are high on my “to read” list).

Go on six dates.
Look, I don’t want to have to have this goal. Dating is the worst. Since last year’s set up challenge was a complete bust and 15 seemed impossible, I’m setting this at a more manageable six dates and have set aside my pride to return to the terrible world of online dating. Still feel free to set me up or y’all can just keep giving me hugs and telling me what a “great catch” I am.

Participate in six performances.
If you’ve met me, or my family, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re a little, uh, theatrical. My younger brother has totally impressed me in recent years by going for it with comedy and putting himself out there in the Portland scene. A few years ago my mom started taking vocal workshops and participating in a couple of showcases. Super inspiring stuff, but I was always in the ensemble. I want to make sure I can still “ensem”. And maybe this is the year. So are you putting on a production? Need someone to be  “Woman in Coffeeshop #4”? Let me know!

Exploring personal history is big on the agenda for 36.

Interview six family members.
One of the highlights of my year is having a sleepover with my octogenarian grandmother and hearing stories of her youth in rural Montana and Tacoma, Washington. I also realize my own parents are getting older, with my dad to start getting the senior discount later this year. Other relatives will be traveling out for my brother’s wedding in October and I’d love to commit some family tales to the record. (I just realized that Mom did a genealogical research project when she was around my age…what is it about  the mid-thirties?).

Visit six historic sites within San Francisco
I love being a tourist in my own town. Always happy to get out and explore.

Go to six historical society events.
Both the San Francisco Historical Society and the California Historical Society are extremely active and have a lot of offerings. I look forward to hitting some walks and some talks.

Write six chapters of a memoir.
My BFFF is actively and publicly working on hers and is a constant inspiration in that regards. Mine will likely live in a Google doc, but I think developing some of the stories from my travels and life adventures wouldn’t hurt. Oh and chapter length? You guessed it, at least six pages.

Watch six documentaries about historical events.
In an election year this could be terrifying.

Read six books about historical figures.
Can I get a shout out for the 920s section? Maybe this is the year I finally finish Team of Rivals.

I imagine a lot of reading in the park this year.

Visit six visual art exhibitions at six different museums or galleries.
I can’t wait for SFMOMA to reopen this year, but in a way I’ll also sort of miss how the “on-the-go” aspect of my membership got me out around town. Setting a manageable goal should make this both doable and interesting.

Attend six performing arts events by six different companies.
When I lumped performing arts and lectures together last year I felt like performing arts got the shaft a little. Hope to check out some of the smaller companies around the area and not just the usual suspects.

Read six novels published in 2016.
As as an aspiring writer whose dreams haven’t completely died, staying on top of contemporary literature is important. I’ve somehow found myself in two (very different) book clubs, so hopefully there will be some overlap with those reading lists (or other goals!).

Take six arts/crafts classes/workshops.
Despite my appreciation for most visual disciplines, my current personal arts and crafts level is set at full #PinterestFail. I’m hoping taking some classes could up my game slightly, or at least leave me with a nice macrame owl or something.

Attend six author talks.
Granted there’s now a hill between me and The Booksmith, but I’ve always appreciated the amount of access to working writers we have as San Franciscans. I need to take advantage of this.

Write six short stories of six pages or more.
Combined with the memoir, I realize I’m assigning myself a lot of writing this year. But, as I reevaluate my career direction and center it back toward written communication, any bit of practice helps. My creative writing skills are extremely dusty, so I see a lot of prompts in my future.

More of this, please.

Visit six science museums/nature centers.
Science museums aren’t just for kids (or people with them). I love playing with the exhibits at The Exploratorium or visiting amazing spots like the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in my travels. You can’t ever learn too much, whether you’re six or 36 or 66.

Take six hikes of at least six miles each.
While this lessens the number of hikes I’ll be “forced” to take, I am happy to strive for longer ones. We’ll see how this folds into my plans to increase running again this year, but I’m sure I can make it work.

Kayak six times.
Years ago I took an Intro to Kayaking course through the Urban Ecology Center, had a great time, but for whatever reason never tried it again. Fast forward to an awful (but breathtakingly gorgeous) experience of Aialik Bay in Alaska, a wonderful guided tour of sea caves in Channel Islands National Park, and my first solo outing in the very calm (and otter-filled) Morro Bay, and I am HOOKED. Can’t wait to have more adventures on the water this year.

Read six science/nature books.
I foresee more visits to the  SF Public Library to find some of these. Time to get ultra-nerdy!

Tent camp in six different locations.
Another outdoor activity I got absolutely hooked on last year, thanks in part to purchasing an REI Half Dome 2 tent. Look forward to some more of this during year 36.

Attend six science/nature lectures.
Another specific type of talk that I’d like to attend more of. The chance for me to be a STEM professional has likely passed, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t find science fascinating.

Amongst other things.

Attend six yoga workshops/retreats.
Upping my yoga game this year after going to Yoga Garden regularly is now second nature to me (in fact, I get bummed out when I can’t make class). I am really stoked to deep dive into my practice this year. I’ve already signed up for a workshop with one of my favorite humans, Jean Mazzei, and a day retreat with the lovely Karen Macklin.

Participate in six organized runs.
I’m already signed up for the Oakland (running for CALICO again) and Portland half marathons. I see myself doing a few DSE runs and if I’m in town, another Thanksgiving run with Amber.

Go to the gym six times each month.
I can already see that this is the one where I’m going to have to be most honest and ride myself the hardest. The job switch really affected my gym schedule and I need to find a way to remedy that. I miss spin.

Attend six sporting events.
No, this isn’t some sort of reverse voodoo to make sure the Packers make it to the Super Bowl. I took 35 off of having a sports goal and made it to only one Giants game (although I did go to the Midnight Sun game in Fairbanks, which was super special). While my interest in professional and college athletics has waned since my Milwaukee days, I still think it’s fun to go cheer on a team every once in awhile.

Read six sports-themed books.
Talk about an area of unknown for me. This. I think Seabiscuit may be the only sports book I can recall reading. It’ll be interesting to branch out.

Go to six different spas/hot springs.
I was super bummed that I never made it to Harbin and it reminded me that I haven’t really taken advantage of these types of wondrous places. I know it could be a bit of a stretch to make it to six hot springs, so I’m including spas as well, which I supposed I need to define further. Whatever, I need pampering and I’m working it in here.

There we have it! Any suggestions on how I can get started? What are YOUR goals this year?


About Meghan A.

creative & professional creative professional | communications, content & community | nasty woman | adventurer & inspiration seeker | bicyclist & feminist | walk san francisco board | current: Adobe Typekit Product Marketing Manager, former: TYPO SF magic maker
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1 Response to The 36 by 37: Personal Pursuit

  1. Non-US Authors:
    Iran Awakening or The Lonely War (Iran)
    Mighty Be Our Powers (Liberia)
    Suite Francaise (technically Ukraine)
    Night (Romanian Born Elie Weisel)
    Eclipse of the Crescent Moon (Hungary)

    Historical Figures:
    Miles by Miles Davis
    Jimmy Stewart: Bomber Pilot
    Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood
    The Hillary Doctrine: Sex & Foreign Policy
    Fools Crow
    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
    Gay Talese: A Writer’s Life
    any presidential biography on my list
    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (if you haven’t read it already)

    That First Season
    Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
    Is There Life After Football (by Marquette classmate George Koonce!)

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