A half century is apparently a big deal and should probably be marked in some way. There are as many ways to do this as there are people who turn fifty, I expect, but for myself, I want to mark it as a year of personal growth. Aside from being the year where I start to make real progress on the bucket list, as cliché as that might sound these days (and more on that tomorrow), I want to do a lot of little things that add to the world around me and make that world just a little bit better, even if the target of some of those things is just to show me new ways to interact with it.
So, #50at50. Fifty small things I can do fifty of that will force me to think about things differently, do things differently, see the world differently. Or closer. Or from a new perspective. Or just to make someone happy, even if it’s only me.
I’ve probably put more thought and effort into this list than the bucket list I’m going to talk about tomorrow. Certainly, it took me longer to come up with the items on it, considering things across several months and fleshing them out right up until I pressed go on this post. Putting things into categories helped me keep it from being a jumbled list and organize my thoughts, if slowly.
And if it wasn’t clear, the idea is fifty of each of the things in the list that follows.
- Poems. I’m fairly confident in hitting this one. 2020 has been a little lighter for poetry than it might have been, but I almost always have something under construction.
- Short Stories. No length specifications here. Anything less than a novel down to the defined 6-Word Story. Fifty is a tall order, but I’ve been slowly drifting away from short fiction until it’s become a small fraction of my work. I miss writing short stories.
- Draw Pictures. I don’t have a lot of artistic ability, but I remain convinced that anyone can learn to draw if they’re willing to put the time and effort into developing the skills. I’m just interested in showing a little improvement in 2021.
- Selfies. Let’s see how much I age this year.
- Essays and Opinions. Everyone has lots of opinions. I like to try to flesh mine out sometimes, figure out why I think about something the way I do, change my mind in the light of new evidence. I’m going to try to formalize a little bit of this. Some of them will find their way onto the blog, I expect.
Most of the ones in this group are going to be fairly easy, the exception being the number of short stories. One per week is going to be a major challenge, but I’m flagging it as my primary fiction production for the year.
- Learn to say hello. In 50 languages. I can do this in a handful of languages other than English, but it seems like an interesting brain stretch to spread this out to encompass more of the world. Retaining, that’s another matter.
- Read Books. So this isn’t much different (and really, it’s lower) than a normal year, but as I push back into full-time studies, it may be a major challenge.
- Watch Documentaries. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a year where I’ve watched this many, but there are more available than ever before, including entire streaming services. Being careful about sources, of course.
- Scientific Articles. On probably fairly random topics that interest me in the moment.
- Pictures of the area I live in. It’s a pretty town and it’s a pretty area. Sometimes, I even take decent photos. By the time this goes up, I’ll have replaced my phone, so I’ve probably got a better camera in my pocket. It may seem a little odd to put this under educational goals, but the idea is to learn more about the area I live in, so that fits.
I’m frequently happiest when I’m learning something or creating something, and I’ve known that about myself for a long time. Apparently, some part of my brain feels like going back to school isn’t enough on its own.
- New Foods. There are something over 2000 different kinds of fruit in the world, and “the West” usually looks at less than 10% of these. There may be ten times that number of vegetables. Add in spices and cooking methods, and it’s probably not going to be a hard thing to do to try 50 new things and probably won’t require an awful lot of expansion in the ingredients list.
- Cook New Things. This sort of ties to the ‘Try New Foods’ item above but involves some actual skill on my part and doesn’t need to be something completely new, just something I haven’t made before. I’ve learned to cook a bit during the pandemic era, moving beyond the old standbys of pasta and stir fry. These might still feature regularly, but I make my own sauce now and that applies to both of those, and I’ve learned to cook a lot of other things, too. Now I want to branch out. By the time this posts, I’ll already have done a couple of those, I hope, as part of our 12 days of Yule feasting.
- New Music. As in new to me, not necessarily new. I’ve recently discovered Stan Rogers, for example, who died in a plane fire in 1983. (I have to wonder what kind of career would have stretched out for him in the decades since.) I think I’m mostly after Canadian stuff here and in a wide variety of styles.
- New Places. This is probably an easy one given my geocaching hobby. It’s always taking me somewhere I’ve never been. But I want to try to open my eyes a little more while I’m there.
- Old Places. Returning as a student to the University of my youth, I’ve got the opportunity to visit old places with new eyes. A few of these may benefit from my starting in the spring term. I would feel weird stepping into the quad among the residences when the campus was fully populated. Weird and creepy. Of course, a lot depends on COVID and a vaccine distribution, too. I might not actually get to campus for real until Fall term. Or later.
I’ve written several characters who are all about having new experiences. It’s only reasonable that I should want to share that myself. I even built it into a toast once, sort of. “We live and learn and grow, or we die.”
- Random Gifts. I bring home little things for the kids (22, 19, and nearly 18 as I write this – and yes, absolutely and with my wholehearted blessing all still living at home, even if partly due to COVID) regularly. Treats when I’m coming back from somewhere far away, a surprise slushie, crickets for certain pets just because. But is it often? I don’t know. It’s just something I do sometimes. I’d like it to be more.
- Family Dinners. With all the kids stuck at home and less socially active than in normal times, we’ve reinstituted family dinner. I cook most of the time right now, but we’ve been working on a tradition of setting the dining room table on Sunday evenings and anyone who is home and awake is expected to be there. This will continue, and while it’s possible that 2021 will be better than we think and one or two of my kids might relocate for academic reasons because they can’t do what they’re doing virtually anymore, we’ll keep this up as long as we can.
- Photos. This will be hard. My kids don’t like having their pictures taken. I remember being like that, too. It will be what it will be, but there will be photos.
- Pet Pics. These will be a lot easier. Even just counting furry things, there are six pets in the house. Add in scaly things and chitinous things, and we’re seriously outnumbered. There will probably be a lot more than fifty photos. There generally are.
- Activities. Game nights, trail walks, movie night, whatever. Things with family just because.
As much as they’ll let me, I’ll continue to enjoy the presence of my children at home for as long as they’re here. There won’t be any pressure to visit once they’ve left but I want to make sure they know they’re always welcome, and the best way to show that is to be around when they need or want me to be and to remind them as often as I can that I like having them around.
- Random Acts of Kindness. I feel like this is one is fairly self-explanatory, although there are a lot of things that might qualify here.
- Support Independent Projects. Cash is limited, and only getting more so with the path I’m walking right now, but the indie route is the right one for a lot of folks, and there are definitely things I come across I’d like to be a tiny part of or help in a small way. Sometimes this will be a crowd funding project or a Patreon contribution. Sometimes it will be a boost to the size and shape of the launch. It will depend a lot on what I’m capable of at the time.
- Books into the wild. I’ve talked about building a Little Lending Library for several years. This isn’t that, although it might wind up being part of it. This is a book left somewhere for a random stranger to find and hopefully read.
- Political Letters. As I get more focused on the craziness of the politics going on in Canada and around the world, I feel the need to speak up more. Often, the best way to do this is a note directly to the politicians involved. I’ve had mixed results with this in the past, but perhaps I haven’t pushed myself hard enough.
- Hours of Volunteer Work. In a still-pandemic world, this might be a little harder than it might have been otherwise, but I want to expand what I’ve been doing here. Which, honestly, isn’t much in the last couple of years. And I need to figure out what it’s going to be.
There’s a wider world than just what’s in front of my face and the people I care about live in it. That sort of puts an obligation on me to try to make my little corner of things, and as big a corner as I can manage, better than it is.
- Plant Trees. This seems easy, something I could do in a single afternoon if I were persistent. While there really isn’t space on our property for even one more tree to be healthy and thrive (in the last couple of years, I’ve actually had to remove a number of dying ones planted too close together by the previous owners), there are ways and there are ways.
- Hike trails. Meaning 50 different trails. Or maybe at least 50 kilometres of trails. I don’t know. Either should be doable, I think.
- ID Animals. What kind of snake was that? What’s that bug? Have I seen that yellow bird before? Let’s figure it out.
- Names of Stars. Before kids, and still when they were small, I was a lot more into stargazing than I am now. While I don’t think I’ll ever get back to the point where I’m hauling the telescope into the yard on every clear night, I do still recognize most of the constellations. This year I’d like to take that a little step further. What are some of the stars I can see? Fifty of them.
- Plant things for Pollinators. These will mostly be on our property, I think, although I might bother other family members and friends so I’m not crowding things too much. No, scattering a packet of wildflower seeds doesn’t count.
My species often seems to have lost its way when thinking about its connection to nature and the universe at large. As I get older, I feel a connection to the physical and natural world more. Sometimes this manifests as a desperate need for green space around me and sometimes as an internalized connection to the seasons. And sometimes it’s a feeling I can’t put words to. Little reminders are good.
- Tenets of Life. Things I believe should go into developing a well-rounded, well-adapted person, a person I’ll always be working on becoming. There may well be more than fifty of these. The “Book of Lance” may find its way into a proper electronic document this year.
- Send Postcards. Just for fun. Just because. To family, friends, people I haven’t seen in years.
- Journal Entries. My journal keeping has waxed and waned over the years. I don’t remember anything in my teens and if there was, none of it seems to have survived. For some years in my early 30s, I actually journaled daily, or close. In my 40s, it’s been much more sporadic with some years seeing one or two entries and some seeing dozens. 2019 was probably two days out of three. 2020 averaged about one per month. Let’s try for a little consistency this year.
- Logic Puzzles. The classical kind. Maybe sudoku count. Either way, figuring things out keeps the mind limber. I’d like to continue to make use of my brain cells.
- Games of Chess. I used to play chess. So did my oldest daughter. Sometimes, we even played together. She’s much older than the last time we played. So am I. I would bet we’re at the point where she can fight me for the win and it’s far from a sure thing. I should probably practice a little.
There’s always room for personal growth and development. Now 50 years old, I want to be able to pick and choose more where that’s going to be. And some of that is going to be little things. Whether they lead to big things later on is a question to be answered in the future.
- Push-ups in a Row. I know I can do 30. 50 shouldn’t be that much of a stretch, should it? Likely, this will need some build up.
- Kata in a Day. I’ve done this before, and more. A couple of times, I’ve even done the World Karate/Kobudo Day celebration of 100 kata in a day. This is much more of a time commitment than you might think.
- Trips to the Makiwara. At my peak level of activity this summer, I was hitting the makiwara (striking post) in the garage almost every day. That drifted off in the fall as the organization of the house cost me space in the garage. I’m afraid it will drift away entirely during the winter under the guise of not freezing. It’s satisfying to hit something sometimes, and really satisfying to hit something well.
- Rounds of Yoga. I’d like to think this will be easy. I’ve taken up yoga since COVID, and while I don’t know if I’ll ever progress much beyond beginner level, it’s helped my flexibility and balance in noticeable ways. But I’m sporadic about it and need to commit to it being a regular activity.
- Curls for Reps. I still need to pick the weight, though. 50 kilos seems unlikely even if it would keep with the theme. I don’t do a lot of weight training as part of my regime and I keep saying I should add more. I’m thinking either 10kg for single arm curls or 25 for double. I’m not looking to build gargantuan muscles, but to smooth out what I’ve got and improve endurance.
I’m still young enough to build strength. Actually, I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as too old to build strength, or flexibility, or any other physical trait so long as you’re will to recognize you’re not as young as you used to be and the gains won’t be as big as they might have been. And there’s nothing wrong with striving towards things you can’t currently do or want to do more of.
- Virtual SF Convention Panels. I haven’t been to a convention in a while. Not many people have this year. In the age of COVID, Virtual cons are starting to be more common, but I don’t want to limit myself just to current ones. I ran across video from a reunion panel for the original BSG cast from 2012 while Richard Hatch was still with us. Loved it. There has to be a lot more of this out there, and I want to hear the stories behind the stories from the classic shows of my childhood and adolescence.
- Snow Beings. I turned fifty yesterday, in what our calendar says is still very early winter. Winter where I live means there will be snow. This year, for the first time in some years, there will be a significant number of snow beings on our property. Human, alien, animal, whatever. And I will document their brief existences.
- Origami Animals. I think I can maybe still fold a fish. Maybe. But there are a lot of other animals that can be folded. There’s definitely some origami paper somewhere in a drawer from when one or more of the children wanted to try it out when they were younger.
- Quotes That Speak to Me. I have a handful of quotes I carry in my head that say something fundamental about how I see the universe. Every so often I run across another that speaks to me on a deep level. This year, I’m going to seek them out and write them down.
- Place Geocaches. Let’s be clear: 50 is more geocaches than I’ve placed total for as long as I’ve been enjoying the hobby. I’ve been accumulating supplies to do this for a while. Some of these will be creative, some will be sneaky, and some will be easy finds for folks trying to maintain a streak.
I’m not sure random is the right word, but these are things that don’t readily fit into other, easy-to-define categories.
Actually, no. I expect there won’t be a lot of traveling for anyone in 2021, so I’m going to leave this off and expand the “Random” category to ten items instead. Maybe next year. We’ll see how the pandemic recovery shapes up once the vaccine starts to get wide distribution.
- Visit the graves of ancestors and relatives. I’ve been working on locating family in cemeteries I have access to. My mother’s family is mostly from this general vicinity. Half of my wife’s family is, as well. I’m actually not sure how many burial spots I’ve tracked down yet, but I’m not at fifty. Sooner or later, I’d like to be, though. And more. There are a few without monuments that I’m already aware of and that makes me a little sad. Several of those might be folks that no one knows to remember.
- Dad Jokes. There are few things more satisfying than a good joke, but a good Dad joke has a satisfaction all its own and often “beyond” normal humour. I manage some truly horrible ones now and then, but wonder what I might accomplish with the art if I actually gave it some attention. My children should be concerned.
- Give things away. See my future post on Döstädning, but there’s a lot of stuff just hanging around the house. It doesn’t all need to be here. Some of it might be appreciated by other people.
- Pick Up Garbage. I’m going to start trying to carry a small garbage bag with me when I’m hiking. Garbage will find its way into that bag and that bag will find its way to the garbage.
- Read My Spam. I feel like there’s a tremendous amount of entertainment to be had here. In the last several years, at least, I only ever go into my junk mail folder if I’m looking for something I know I should have gotten from someone. A couple of trips to the folder for entertainment might be fun. I wonder where my email address has been harvested by over the last decade or so.
Other than conservation areas and fairly nearby provincial parks, I expect we’ll be saving any interesting local travel for next year. Or the year after.
In summary, yes, I realize how crazy some of this looks, not just on its own but in light of my changing gears in life right now and becoming a full-time university student a few months after my 50th birthday, and all the prep work going into that. And then there’s COVID. And life in a house and family that has a lot going on during regular times.
But I love a challenge. I’m not sure there are really fifty of those here, but there should be enough to keep me busy and active in more than just odd moments.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.by