Five years ago, this last week, I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.
Never Have I Ever (Until Now) – The Prologue
Find your passion and run with it. Don’t look back. Thank the people who call you crazy–anyone who’s crazy enough to pursue their dreams is strong enough to achieve them too.
“You really need to quit something,” My supervisor tells me as she walks by my office door. “You’re taking on too much.”
My supervisor is right–I’m taking on a lot.
It’s January of 2012. I’m an associate television producer for the City of New York who has recently, in her free time, started writing and performing stand up comedy, perfecting her drawing skills, training for her second half-marathon, and doing photography with a digital SLR. And now I am signing myself up for an acting workshop.
My day planner is filling up faster than a doctor’s office during flu season.
My mom would tell you that I was just as active as a kid as I am when my supervisor tells me that I need to quit something. When I was younger, I played field hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball, and softball. I’d attempted the clarinet, I’d tip-toed through a ballet class, I’d sailed in a lake, I’d canoed across a pond, and I kayaked down a river. My parents would rush me from one athletic practice to another; from one gym and on to the next. I was relentless. I never stopped.
But then I grew up, and my willingness to try new things suddenly came to a halt. For several years, I was in a funk. I had fallen into depression and I had forgotten how to live life fully and completely. I would say that I wanted to try something and then I’d never try it. I’d fear failure or judgment from my peers. And instead, I’d mope on my couch about how I’d never be good at anything. I’d lost my sense of wonder. I had lost my yearning for learning new things. I had lost my smile, my laughter, my sense of joy. I had concerned myself so much with destinations that I had forgotten that what really mattered was the journey.
With the new activities, the stand up comedy, the drawing, the photography, and the acting, I felt that I was finally opening myself up to a life that I had been letting slip to the way side. And now, suddenly, I felt as though the progress I was making with the activities was being threatened as my supervisor told me that I needed to quit something.
I didn’t want to quit anything. I didn’t want to limit my life to going to work, coming home, cooking (or getting take out) and going to sleep. I didn’t want to experience living solely from the couch in my artist loft.
So instead of heeding my supervisor’s advice, in February of 2012, I set out on a yearlong quest in the hope of navigating my way to a life that extended beyond my 9-5 job and beyond the sadness I had sulked in for years. I decided that in opposition to quitting anything, I instead wanted to try one new activity or hobby each week for an entire year.
I started to brainstorm names for the quest and came up with “The Hobby Hoarder.” I used my lunch to draw logos on blank pieces of paper and to write lists of hobbies or activities that I could try that I had never tried before. I hadn’t even started the project and I was beaming with excitement.
Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to brainstorm on the year, and began telling people what I was going to do. As I sat down to coffee with a friend, she said, “So you are going to live like you are dying.”
My eyes brightened. “No. I’m going to live like I am living!”
The truth is that I don’t believe we should live as if we are dying. Instead, I think we should live each day as though it’s one of our firsts: full of excitement and ambition, full of curiosity, full of fear, full of imagination, and full of wonder, full of an openness toward whatever comes our way—that’s right—we should live each day like it’s our first.
For so long, I had forgotten what firsts felt like. When we are young, our firsts are celebrated with smiles and applause and sometimes balloons. First step. First word. First hit in tee-ball. First A+. But somewhere between the time we share our first kiss and the time we hit our twenties, we lose our thirst for the sensation we feel when we experience something for the first time. Firsts can make us realize what we are passionate about: Maybe you’ve never taken a dance class before but when you do you figure out that you’re meant to be the next Beyonce. Maybe you’ve never swung from a trapeze before, but that first time you do, you realize you’re meant to be in the circus. Or maybe you’ve never piloted a plane before, but then you do and you discover that you were always meant to fly.
Firsts can make life worth living. But when we hit a certain age, it’s almost as if we forget to let ourselves experience those firsts. We get caught in “Busy traps” (NyTimes) and “life takes over.” But that’s not true. Life doesn’t take over: Work takes over—financial restraints take over. Think about the last time someone asked you to do something and you said you couldn’t. What was your excuse? If you’re without children was it work? Was it money? Life clearly does not take over. If anything, life takes a backseat ride.
Too many times, we get so caught up in our daily routines and our jobs that the only thing we concern ourselves with when we get home is kicking back.
But that’s not how life’s supposed to be—not at all. Life is supposed to be enjoyable. Life is supposed to be full of challenges—and then exceeding our expectations of those challenges. Life is supposed to be full of fear and overcoming that fear. It is supposed to be about saying I’d love to do that and then actually doing it. Surprisingly life is supposed to be about living.
I hope that before you continue reading this book, you’ll step away. You’ll grab a pen and a paper—and you’ll start writing down everything you want to try this year—that you’ll make your own quest—to live.
And if you haven’t stepped away yet, and have disobeyed my only wish, then welcome! Strap on your seat belts, make sure your seats are in their upright position, understand that the only emergency exit is to live your own life—and that it’s now time to take flight. Literally.