Guest post: The year of living more interestingly

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Intrigued by her recent comment, I asked Catherine to elaborate about her “year of living more interestingly.” Here’s how she explained it…

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Every year when I write my Christmas cards, I sit down with my calendar and look back over the year to see what I did that was newsworthy and interesting enough to tell friends about. A couple of years ago I started thinking my life was getting boring, and when I mentioned this to a friend, she agreed. A little too enthusiastically I thought, but fortunately for our friendship, she had a solution.

The year before, she had had one of those Big Birthdays (the ones that end in -0) and she’d decided she was going to live large for the whole year. She plotted a year full of activities had a grand time doing all kinds of things. This sounded like what I needed. Thus was born the Year of Living More Interestingly.

There were four simple rules for selecting activities:

  1. You need 12 activities, one for each month. Some things may last longer than a month, some may take only a matter of hours, and a mix is useful. You can always drop things off the calendar if time gets tight, but better to start with one a month.
  2. The activities should be taken from that list in your head of “One day I’m going to…” things that you have never yet done.
  3. One of the activities should be something you are scared of trying. It doesn’t have to be death-defying, just something that makes you nervous to think about actually doing it.
  4. One thing should be something you don’t think you will like but you are willing to try it anyway. For my friend it was golf, and she was right, she hated it, but now she knows for sure.

Having selected the activities, you use the annual calendar to plan out when they will take place. We used cheap DIY calendars, and we filled in the blank picture space with images cut out from magazines to illustrate the activity. Pictures are important because they stick in your mind, and tend to capture what it is you’re imagining the experience will be like. For example, if your activity is “go on a picnic” and you cut out pictures of elegant food & chilled wine spread under a shady tree near a sparkling river, don’t schedule your picnic for mid-winter.

The usefulness of the annual calendar is that the specifics of days & times (and even truth be told, months) on which the activity occur don’t really matter at this point. It is just important that each month has an activity. At some point you need to schedule the actual appointments in your regular calendar pages, but the annual calendar is important because it’s the big picture reminder of your goals for the year.

Here’s what my calendar contained (unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the actual calendar as I lost it during a house move):

January — join a gym
February — take a singing class [my Scary Activity… it’s not a talent and I was terrified of doing it.]
March — learn patternmaking and sew something
April — start running
May — ride a long distance train [my Don’t Think I’ll Like It activity… I had a bad memory of an Amtrak experience.]
June — start a blog
July — take a holiday to Australia
August — have a wardrobe consultation
September — learn bookbinding
October — do a dance class
November — learn papermaking
December — buy a dress [because I didn’t own any at the time]

So how did I do?

  • I stuck with the gym all year. Putting it in this calendar was actually far more effective for me than making a New Year’s resolution, and it meant that I was fit enough by April to do that month’s activity, running.
  • The bookbinding turned into a hobby, as did the patternmaking, which resulted in several new pairs of pants that fit me perfectly.
  • I started a blog, wrote it for about 6 months then closed it down. I enjoyed it, but learned that it wasn’t something I was willing to commit the time and energy to, long term. A useful thing to know.
  • The thing I was scared to do, the singing class, was the highlight of the year! I really loved it. Everyone else in the class was equally terrified and all thought we were tone deaf, but it turned out we weren’t and we had loads of fun, thanks entirely to the superb teacher.
  • The train ride also turned out to be a really enjoyable experience. I rarely travel by train and I thought it would be really tiresome spending a whole day on a train full of noisy passengers and screaming kids. As it turned out, the other travelers were generally retired people (it was a Monday) and they were noisy only because they were hard of hearing so talked really loudly! It was a really special trip, and I loved seeing the country from a totally different perspective.

The timing on the calendar got totally messed up as both the patternmaking and bookbinding courses lasted 8 weeks so occupied two months each. As a consequence, there were some things I didn’t do: I didn’t take the trip to Australia (I did go the following year), and I didn’t end up doing a papermaking course as it wasn’t offered. I never made it to the dance class either.

I’m not sure why, but I didn’t repeat this exercise the next year, or any year since. I thought I would just get on and do things under my own steam once I’d experienced how enjoyable it was, but I didn’t, and I’m reminded once again that writing things down makes all the difference.

Recalling that year has made me want to fill those empty annual planner pages at the front of my planner right now. It may be June already, but it’s never too late to start living more interestingly.

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