I'm not that big on New Years resolutions. They're a little too high-pressure and sentimental for my tastes. Plus it usually seems to be about denying yourself things, like a Lenten season that has no end. Whatever happened to the whole 'I like doing stuff' component? A few years back I started writing things I'd like to do on index cards and taping them to the refrigerator in my tiny apartment kitchen. This was not something I'd come up with on my own; a friend of mine and his girlfriend were doing the same thing with Post-It notes on a corkboard, writing down goals for themselves as individuals ('Get my cosmetology certificate') and as a couple ('Buy a new truck'). Feeling inspired, I asked my boyfriend of four years, who I shared that tiny apartment with, if he'd like to do something similar. He was not interested and said 'Probably not,' so I forged ahead alone.
At around the same time, I was invited to attend Mighty Summit, a special weekend in the woods for creative entrepreneurs. We did an exercise where we made a list of 100 things we wanted to do some day. Big goals, small ideas, medium-sized aspirations. After our lists were done we shared them with each other and plotted and schemed on how we could make it all happen. A small sampling of my list included traveling to Greece, adopting a kitten, marrying that boy I had given my heart to, and making a pie crust from scratch.
About a year after Mighty Summit, and a little more than five years into our relationship, my boyfriend decided to uproot himself from our California home and move to the east coast. I initiated the 'I'm coming with you...right?' talk. He was not interested and said 'Probably not,' so I forged ahead alone.
Naturally it took some time to unravel from the wadded up tangle of feelings I balled myself up into in the aftermath of this devastatingly enormous change. What that actually felt like is not something I will discuss here, but one of the many things that emerged was the fact that all those pieces of paper on the refrigerator, those dreams and goals, were now all truly mine and mine alone. I was going to live life purely for myself again, with no one else's needs in mind. It was a strange concept at first, but the more thought I gave to that, the more exciting it seemed. So I got to work and threw more of those list items up there, always on white index cards with my special red pen. Some were simple and borderline boring ('Open a Roth IRA'), others were more adventurous in scope ('Go to Paris') while others seemed flat-out crazy ('Buy a Home'). But I figured having a healthy mix on the attainability spectrum was fine. Plus, these were not New Years Resolutions, with no start and stop dates to live and die by. In a way, that was kind of liberating; it was stuff I wanted to do, and I could be fairly chill about it and move along at whatever pace made sense.
But a few thing started happening once I wrote them down. I'm alone in my apartment 95% of the time, but when someone comes over, they see the cards and a discussion ensues. Co-workers, friends and dates ask me about them, and if they happened to know that I completed something, they ask what new card I was planning on putting up in its place. So it's like my community knowing about my cards made it feel like I wasn't going it alone. Something else I discovered was the sheer act of seeing my index cards every single time I was near my refrigerator drilled everything into my brain like a fire hose. It was like I was in high school again with my home-made flash cards, but instead of memorizing Spanish verb conjugation, I was reminding myself of the things I wanted to do. 'Hey,' they were saying, 'Remember how good you feel when you do this stuff? We're still here. Don't forget about us.'
There's really something to be said for making space for what matters to you. I don't believe that the mere act of writing something down means it will just magically happen. But writing it down is better than nothing because it takes something that before only existed in your head and makes it a little bit more real. And taking it one step further and putting those words in a place where you see them every day makes it pretty much impossible for you to forget about them.
Something on the forefront of my mind in the latter half of 2015 was the fact that I needed to figure out how to make owning my own home a reality. By the time August rolled around I had more or less decided to buy a small homesteader cabin in the Joshua Tree region of Southern California. Here comes the part where making space isn't only relegated to the written word. I imagined myself chilling out in my hypothetical house. I pictured what it would be like inside, what the view from the living room window would look like, and what kind of music I'd be listening to, if I spent the day there alone, drinking in the wonderfulness of my very own home.
So I made a playlist. Every time I'd listen to it in my city apartment, I'd imagine myself there instead, out among the rolling thunder clouds, jackrabbits, Joshua Trees and spikey greenish-brown yucca schidigera.
The more excited I got about this idea, the more I wanted to tell people about it. With the card that said 'Buy a Home' in front of my eyes every day and the playlist blaring through my headphones, I couldn't help but share with a few people what may have seemed to them to be a hair-brained scheme. This act also felt like another step closer toward making it happen, and by the time October was over, things were snowballing. After visiting about a dozen properties, I finally found a mid-century house that had all the must-haves on my checklist (acreage, mature vegetation, sturdy cinderblock walls, an uninterrupted view for miles, a wood-burning stove, a bathtub) and more. I made an offer and cried a couple of days later when I got the call that it had been accepted.
Historically, big life choices either have me in full-on panic mode or the picture of serenity. I can't help but think that the reason I'm so calm about the house is because it feels like the best decision I've made in years. And perhaps all the mental prep work of making space I did ahead of time prepared me a little bit better than going at it blind. But who knows. It's a new year. The house is mine. And I know just what songs I'll listen to the next time I'm standing in the living room, staring out at those thunderclouds.