Monthly Archives: January 2011

31×31(and a 1/2): What Can I Say, I’m Goal-Oriented.

I told myself I wouldn’t do this. My life is too up in the air right now. I may literally have to leave the country in order to earn money this year. I don’t know where I’ll be living in six months. I still have no money to accomplish things. And I didn’t even actually finish the first list.

But, fuck it. I don’t like feeling adrift, and if having a list of silly, meaningless goals keeps me anchored, keeps me goal-oriented, keeps me writing, then that’s what I’m going to do.

I had fun getting stuff done on the 30×30. Like I said, I may not have even completed half of it, but the half I did do had me living harder and deeper than I do without a big to-do list. I liked that feeling. Meaningless purpose is better than no purpose, right? This isn’t rocket science. It’s just fun and growing and (this year) organization. And proving my faith in the written word: if you write it down with the intention of checking it off, you’re more likely to do it.

So here’s my 31×31…and a half, as I’m once again giving myself until December to finish.  Thanks to Rob Roan for continuing to push himself, inspiring others, and encouraging me to plow ahead too. Thanks also to those I stole ideas from.

Here goes nothing:

1. Ride a motorcycle

2. Take a cooking class

3. Write a screenplay

4. Tell a story at The Moth

5. Take a belly dancing class

6. Take a tap class (seriously this time)

7. Find the best cupcake in NYC

8. Surf somewhere cool. ie, not the tristate area

9. Get pin-up photos taken

10. Go kayaking

11. See a Daily Show or Colbert Report taping

12. Write a novel for NaNo

13. Get business cards made

14. For reals: yoga

15. Go to a tattoo convention

16. Do a Polar Bear Plunge

17. Go to a Restaurant Week Restaurant

18. See Mikey

19. Write one short story a month (500 words or longer)

20. Submit four pieces of work of some kind a month

21. Host a dinner party

22. Read 50 books, including 5 “classics”

23. Organize my New Zealand and Thailand pictures into albums/frames

24. Do two Time Out NY recommended things a month, or at least two museums

25. See Louie C.K. live

26. Purge my life of stuff

27. Try Fondue (I know I know, how is possible this cheese obsessed girl has never had fondue)

28. Do volunteer work

29. Make a big pitch (more details later)

30. Go speed dating. ONCE.

31. Run a 5k or Half Marathon with my dad.

Bonus points for completing any of the following from the 30×30:

Photography class

Complete Walt Whitman

Snowboard or ski

Sky dive

Shooting Range

Hot Air Balloon

Go to all 26 NYC area National Parks

Learn guitar…or perhaps, the banjo!

What do you think? Still too ambitious? I leave it to Robert Browning: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?”

If you want to join me on any adventures, let me know. The more the merrier.

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Reading 2011

I still haven’t decided if I’m going to do a 31×31 (and a half) but I do intend to keep reading and I like keeping track of it on here. I’m trying to set my goals more realistically this year, so I want to try to read 50, which averages to about a book a week with a little leeway for long ones or busy non-reading times. This means I have to put down the books that drag and move on to things that are more interesting to me, which is probably a better use of my time, as life is short.  Anyway, I’m already behind, having taken 10 days to read the first book of the year, but whatever. I’ll find some short stuff to read to make up for it. People keep recommending things until I feel like my head is going to explode. If no books were published for an entire year I’d still never catch up with everything I want to read. I need to move near a good library or I’m going to go broke buying books.

If you are on or join Goodreads, friend me! I’d love to see what you are reading.

Anyway, here goes, entry one:

1. Dharma Punx by Noah Levine:  I am too much of a lover of words to really get into this one. He doesn’t have much writing style, and for a memoir, there really isn’t a lot of detail – too many drugs must have really fogged his memory. But kind of interesting: Buddhism, Thailand, India, tattoos. All cool stuff. Just not told in a compelling way.

2. Without Reservations – Alice Steinbach. Written in 1993, it’s the original Eat Pray Love (though I think I have another book from a decade previous that is the real original Eat Pray Love). I liked it because it was a travelogue set in Europe and I identified with a lot of the emotions. I didn’t like it because it felt like some of the “greater life observations” felt a little manufactured and forced. The whole thing had a very constructed air. But still interesting. Not good to read 2 personal journey/memoir books in a row. Must intersperse in the future.

3. Little Birds – Anais Nin. Old school erotic fiction. Not good to read when you are single. But interesting as a study in genre, and an avenue for future potential income. More on that later.

4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera.  I thought this book was really beautifully written and I enjoyed it, crazy tangents and all. I found the characters to be quite human and flawed and lovely, and I think the ending is a little more hopeful than I guess all the people who told me they hated it found it to be.

5. Best American Travel Writing 2008 – guest editor Anthony Bourdain.  This collection was pretty dark, with a heavy focus on Africa.  All the articles were interesting, though the Africa ones were thematically similar and a little repetitive.

6. Thrice-Blessed – Jessica Spotswood.  This is a manuscript by one of my best friends, which is being shopped by her agent even as we speak and I can’t imagine it not being published. IT’S SO GOOD. I don’t say this because my friend wrote it. I say it because it’s an intriguing, twisty story with flawed characters who make very human choices, about a world that is “fantasy/alternative” yet very very familiar. And whether she meant it or not, it has a lot of complex feminist themes that I dig.  It’s Little Women crossed with The Crucible. I’m so proud of her. I can’t wait to see if on a bookshelf at a bookstore!

7. Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? – Thomas Kohnstamm.  I am torn about this book. It was an easy read, sort of interesting, and I think probably does contain a lot of truth about the travel writing industry. But he’s such an asshole and seems so proud of himself for being one, he seems to revel in his “questionable ethics” and I’m just not a huge fan of celebrating bad behavior.  Same reason I don’t like The Godfather.

8. The Unnamed – Joshua Ferris. Really beautiful, sad book of love and disease and loss of control and letting go but not letting go and sigh. So good. Read it.

9. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. It’s literally P&P with zombies.  The Bennett sisters kick some major ass, and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are equally matched in more than just verbal duels.  I’d been wanting to re-read P&P for some romantic escapism but felt guilty doing it when there are so many new books I haven’t read. Perfect solution. Highly entertaining.

10. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven – Susan Jane Gilman.  I thought this was sort of a bandwagon jumper from the Eat Pray Love phenomenon (which I still haven’t read). It’s about a woman who graduates college and goes backpacking in China in 1986, when it’s just opening for tourism. It took a huge turn that I wasn’t expecting. I really enjoyed it. I really identified with Susan as an anxious traveler who plows forward against herself.  Good random Strand purchase.

11. Jane – April Lindner. This was a Christmas gift from a smart lady and I really wanted to like it. But…it kinda annoyed me. It’s an adaptation of Jane Eyre, and I’m just like, why not read Jane Eyre? Modernizing this story is problematic from a feminist perspective (she’s too young to be getting married to a rock star with a crazy history!) and I was unable to get swept up in the romance. Even though I wanted to.

12. The Orchid Thief – Susan Orlean. Oh, dear. This book is boring. So so so boring. And that’s why Charlie Kaufman wrote Adaptation the way he did. And that movie is my favorite. And this book is boring. But at least I finally finished it, five years after buying it.














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30×30: End of Year Round-Up

So the question on the table: was the 30×30 a success or a failure?

(Though I turned 30 in August, I gave myself until the end of the year to complete the list, as I didn’t actually start it until January 2010.)

I only completed ten items on the list. I count two more as substitutions (#24. meditation class and #17. elephant riding.) Four more I attempted and failed (#13. Cherry Blossom Festival, #15. Photography class, #29. Try a winter sport, and #11. Travel the Midwest.)

Less than half of the list was completed. That’s disappointing statistically.

On the other hand – eh.

There are reasons certain things didn’t happen. The three playwriting-centered goals (#16. Dramatists Guild, #12. Twelve 10 minute plays, #27. One person show): My heart has left theatre for now. I could never have predicted that shift in January. I wrote a lot of short fiction – I started a second website dedicated to being creative every day. I was more focused on writing this year, and that is positive, even if I didn’t fulfill these specific goals.

Some things didn’t happen for financial reasons. I put a lot of expensive stuff on the list.  If I make another list, I will have to take that into consideration, because money is out of my control and it’s setting myself up for failure to want to buy an expensive bottle of alcohol to celebrate life itself (#25).  Skydiving is going to happen in 2011, but a family trip to Disney World and Thailand sucked up my funds in 2010.  Winter sport, hot air balloon, swimming with a dolphin: expensive. Maybe I need to investigate simpler pleasures in 2011. Not necessarily a bad goal.

I read 34 books in 2010, less than one a week. Disheartening, but I’m pretty sure I only read 12 in 2009, so: improvement.  I learned to love reading again this year, and that’s a big thumbs up. My next lesson will be to figure out how to finish books I don’t enjoy faster or give them up. For example, I hated The Lost Symbol, and it took a month to slog through. I could have read 2 or 3 books in that time.  I feel like a quitter when I don’t finish a book, but it’s time to let that go.  To paraphrase a friend, life’s too short to get through my whole reading list, why waste time on the uncompelling? But oh, that letting go thing is still a challenge.

I’m pondering the problematic nature of my reliance on others. #30, the mystery activity, was definitely dependent on another person, and no such suitable person was in my life.  I didn’t try a winter sport (#29) because the group outing I tried to organize fell through. Ditto #20, dance all night long.  A good friend just sent me an essay about the importance of solitude in creative lives, and while I tend to be okay doing many things alone, there’s some big stuff I shy away from doing solo, and that can lead to disappointment.  It’s a giant lesson to not depend on others for happiness, and I’m still working on it.

Some stuff I’m just flat out annoyed about. #6. Go to a Shooting Range: I did the research, I was okay to go alone, I just got lazy. #10. Read Walt Whitman’s Complete Works. No excuse. Should have happened. Both of these goals WILL happen. #8. Learn the Single Ladies Dance: the dance studio that offered that course stopped having it.  Boo. Maybe if I make a new list I’ll do some other dance oriented class:  belly or pole dancing would be fun and broadening, and definitely help my lack of sexy. Or something.

But if I actually take stock of this year: wow.  I did so much in twelve months that I had considered impossibilities. I ran a marathon (#3). What? I went to a non-English-speaking country alone (#9). Huh? I sang karaoke (#2). And you know what? I go regularly now. I have a karaoke buddy, and we go to blow off steam. Reading at Mortified (#1) and Trapeze School (#4) were totally awesome, and forced me to face huge fears. I unexpectedly got to finish #5 (get two tattoos) thanks to a dear new friend and a beautiful spontaneous New York afternoon.

And oh yes: I made some amazing friends this year.  Amazing.

There were disappointments in 2010. I did all this “stuff,” but the big picture didn’t change. My life is not substantially different now than it was a year ago, and I’ve spent the past month reminiscing about where I was in December 2009 and how full of hope that I was about to break through. I don’t have that kind of hope starting 2011. I can’t see a way out of the hole I’m still in: no financial stability, no career growth, no love. 12 months and none of that has changed.

I feel like I stared down the line between here and transcendence but never quite managed to cross over.

I know what you’ll say: you’re being too hard on yourself.


To take stock is to see that I did accomplish some ridiculously unexpected and challenging stuff. It’s arbitrary, unnecessary stuff, but 2010 was an improvement on the shitshow that was 2009. Good things happened despite the big picture dissatisfaction. I have some really specific small moment memories from this year that are wedged eternally into my heart.

I think 2010 was a series of stitches connecting 2009 to 2011. Individual stitches, moments that will reinforce my life, what I’m about, where I’m headed. The random things I accomplished, the sort of meaningless non-pattern – it’s going to all take shape and significance this year in ways I can’t predict.

I will transcend.

Or, you know, I’ll keep trying.

Because when it comes down to it, Buddha was right: “It is better to travel well then to arrive.”

I’m still learning to travel well. But I’m glad I have goals, that I keep pushing, that I’m not complacent and resigned to who I am.

So, 30×30: success. Living with intention: good. Kicking 2011’s ass: yes.



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