For some time I’ve wanted to have a guest blogger on here; not to take the burden off me, but to share what others are doing for their 40 before 40 lists.
A few weeks ago, whilst searching Twitter and Googling the phrase, I came across Kasmira Kit from Sacramento, California. As well as challenging herself with 40 things, Kasmira already has a super-successful blog called ‘What I wore Today‘. Upon reading I immediately fell in love with her style AND we have a few similar items on our ‘lists’.
So, in the spirit of a challenge, I tweeted Kasmira and outright asked her if she’d like to guest blog for me. She came immediately with a resounding YES, and so here we are today.
Kasmira used the following at as her 10th (yes 10th!) Toastmasters speech (no. 28 of her list).
On November 2nd, 2014, almost one year ago, I began my 40 B4 40 project. A sort of last gasp of my youth, I chose 40 adventures to complete in my 39th year. Some were activities I enjoyed in my early years, but had neglected later, like sailing. Some were things I’ve always wanted to do, but couldn’t seem to find the time for, like taking a sewing class. Others were feats I was afraid I’d soon be too old to do, like skateboarding. I said “yes” to 40 adventures. And along the way, I found that I said “yes” to much more than 40 adventures. I said “yes” to expanding my comfort zone. I said “yes” to experiences beyond my list. I said “yes” to life. And I had to say, “no,” too.
Early in my project, I came across a quote by Neal Donald Walsch: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I took that to heart. Some of my adventures were obvious stretches of my comfort zone. I jumped out of a plane. I rafted down class IV rapids. I learned to stand-up paddle board. The physical stretches, though, were predictable. I never would have expected that my one of my 40 B4 40 adventures, a 365 photo project, would challenge me to get out of my social comfort zone.
A 365 photo project involves taking at least one photo each day for a year. Ideally, this photo is well-composed, meaningful, and represents the day. I’m 344 pictures in and I wouldn’t say that every picture in my set meets this criteria, but on day three of project, I was still feeling ambitious enough to try something out of my ordinary: capturing the old men playing bocce ball at East Portal Park.
I’d seen them at it before. The fenced and locked courts belong to a private club, seemingly made up of only aged men. On a warm, Tuesday afternoon in early November, I was sure to find some of the retirees lobbing balls down the court. I was hoping to snap a few action photos from behind the fence and then beat a hasty retreat before actually having to interact with the strangers.
When I arrived, though,the courts were quiet. One man sat on the bench and a second was spinning in circles. I wanted to leave, but I pretended I was someone less socially awkward and asked if they were planning to play. The spinner insisted he only refereed and then the benchwarmer invited me to play. My first instinct was to refuse. The only thing I like less than talking to strangers is playing games. However, duty called, so I said “yes.”
I’m sure I looked silly and I KNOW I played badly. Octavio was well on his way to beating me when two more gentlemen arrived to gawk at the crazy lady playing bocce ball in high heels and short shorts. They gave bocce advice that I didn’t take and I explained my 40 B4 40 project to Octavio. He laughed at my concerns at turning 40. He was 89 and it was the best age he’d been so far. I embraced his live-in-the-moment attitude and belly-flopped in the court to get a close up shot of the bocce balls, looking like like planets on a field of gray, for my 365 photo. I lost a little of my dignity on the bocce ball court, but had a meaningful experience far beyond what I had expected. Saying “yes” to a simple game of bocce ball makes it more likely that I might say “yes” to something even more uncomfortable in the future.
I only listed 40 adventures for my year, but I found that adventure leads only to other adventure. It’s as if each “yes” opens the door to a room with ten more doors and ten more opportunities to say “yes.” Sometimes it was a literal trail of “yes.” My saying “yes” to Toastmasters has so far resulted in a string of “yes” that most recently led to the judges saying “yes” to my husband’s humorous speech in the area contest. The “yes” connection isn’t always that obvious, though. My 40 “yes”s seem to have echoed into the universe and opportunities have reverberated back. Out of the blue, in late February, one of my blogging idols, Indiana Adams, emailed me and asked if I’d like to speak at the final Texas Style Council conference.
The Texas Style Council is one of the best loved blog conferences around and I was ecstatic and honored to not only be invited, but be invited to speak! I’ve been blogging for over nine years and had never been to a blog conference. I’ve always wanted to go, but found excuses not to: I had to work or I didn’t have the money or I didn’t know anyone else going. This time, though, presented with Indiana’s “yes” to me, how could I say “no?” I could take two days of vacation and all I had to pay for was the plane ticket and not knowing anyone was an opportunity, not an obstacle. So I went and I spoke and I met amazing women and came home with a notebook of ideas and connections for future adventures of exponential “yes.” I started the year with an idea that these would be my last 40 adventures before I retired to middle-age-hood. Instead, I found that adventures beyond my ken will come to me as long as I keep saying “yes.”
As the “yes”s began rolling off my tongue and echoing back to me, I eventually got to a “yes” capacity. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned over the year is that every “yes” is a “no” to something else. At first, my “no”s were easy. I simply cut the unproductive activities. “No” to television. “No” to manicures. “No” to evenings spent online shopping. I didn’t even realize I was saying “no.” I was too busy saying “yes.” And I said an enthusiastic “yes” to starting a photography business with my husband, Dan. This past spring, we created the LLC, built the website, ordered business cards, bought equipment and planned to spend all our spare time building our photography business. My neighbor, Jessie, was growing her pet grooming business and we partnered on a booth at Petapalooza. She did airbrushing and nail trims. I did complimentary “after” photos of her clients and offered discounted pet portrait sessions. I gathered at least a dozen other names for our mailing list. A couple even approached me to photograph their wedding. We were a success! Next, Dan and I spent an afternoon with his actress coworker, taking headshots. She loved the results. Jessie asked me to work another event. Dan lined up another headshot client. And I realized that I couldn’t work full time, complete my 40 B4 40 project, AND start a photography business. I had to, regretfully, say “no” to Jack Spur Photography. I like to think of it as not really a “no,” but more of a “no for now.” The optimist in me would like to think I could say nothing but “yes,” but the realist knows that I must make choices and that, sometimes, that choice is “no.”
I’m almost 40 and I’m almost done with my 40 B4 40 project, but I’m not done saying “yes” to adventure. I intend to continue some of my 40 B4 40 activities and start “new” ones. I want to compete in a memory contest. I want to take a road trip every month. I want to write a book (or two). I want to start a mobile hair salon. I want to landscape my yard. I want to change careers. I want to be a Big Sister. I want to spend a summer in Yosemite. I want to go back to school. I will say “yes” to some of these. I will say “no” to others. And “no for now” to the rest.
I encourage you to say “yes” to adventure, whether it’s an ambitious bucket list or just a push for one new activity a month. You’ll find exhilaration and satisfaction as you redefine your comfort zone. Your adventures and changed attitude will lead to ever greater possibilities. And you will find your life so enriched that you’ll have your pick of opportunities. Say “yes” to the best and be your best. Yes!