I ended my 2022 wrap-up post stating I don’t make resolutions. That’s been true for many years. I made the decision sometime in my thirties to stop adding unnecessary pressure on myself to “reset” and give myself 12 months to accomplish lofty goals. That’s what they usually are: lofty. Achievable, but grand. I learned a long time ago I’m in semi-control of my life. For someone who identifies as Agnostic, the quote “if you want to make God laugh, make plans” sure does apply to me.
Despite hardships, I have to admit I’ve had a decent life, at least I’ve carved and continue to carve one for myself. I’m grateful I’ve done and accomplished some amazing things, had great experiences. There’s plenty of wiggle room for people, places, things and experiences that I’d like to have and thought I’d have by now. “Au contraire,” said Life. “You’re gonna take X, Y, and Z, and roll with it.” And that I have. It hasn’t always been easy, but I make it work, usually after some tear-shed.
My birthday is my New Year. It’s also Earth Day. That’s when it’s accurate to say, “new year, new me.” That’s when I feel re-energized. That’s when I feel more confident about stepping into a new year and having completed another rotation around the sun. Guaranteed, when my birthday rolls around, I get fancy. Hair and brows done, nails too, if I have the patience to sit in a salon. New outfit, and an abundance of new things gifted to myself. Those birthday coupons start rolling in late March. April is the only time I make a Sephora purchase.
Over a decade ago, probably closer to two, I started composing a Life To-Do List. I got the idea watching The Ellen Degeneres Show. Ellen expressed not liking the idea of calling it a Bucket List. She preferred the term “Life To-Do List.” It struck and stuck with me. As someone who has nearly kicked the bucket twice, I did want to reframe how I thought about things I wanted to do in life.
I can’t remember if I intentionally set out to find a journal to jot down things I wanted to do, or if one day while shopping, I decided the black and white mini-composition notebook would be perfect for the task. 80 sheets, 160 pages, 4.5 x 3.25 in / 11.4 x 8.2 cm. Ruled. The barcode on the back indicates I purchased it from Wal-Mart, probably while taking my goddaughter school supply shopping for the beginning of a new school year.
On the top line of the first page, written in cursive: Sher’s Life To Do List. Items #1 and #2 are finish school and buy a house. I remember being in my mid-twenties and desperately wanting to achieve those two goals. Nothing else mattered. I moved in with an aunt to afford tuition after transferring to my third and final college. Emerson’s pricetag blew Umass Boston’s out of the water. The plan while living with my aunt, working full-time, attending school part-time, was to use the company’s policy of partial tuition reimbursement to help with those costs, but also save to buy a house. MY own home. I rented my first apartment (with roommates) at 20. By the time I moved in with my aunt at 25 or 26, I’d had two others. The plan was when I moved out her condo, I’d move into my own home. It was time to become a homeowner and stop renting. By the age of 30.
Yeah, well, things didn’t go according to plan. After a near-fatal car crash, surgeries, graduating, and ushering in my 30s, I decided to move to New York. Once a discarded dream—again things not going according to plan—I resurrected it. Despite watching A Different World and reading about HBCUs in Ebony and Jet, I wanted to be an NYU student because of Theo on The Cosby Show. It would make it all the more easier to transition into being a big-time book editor. Nearly every book I cracked open had New York emblazoned on the title page underneath the book publisher. Settings of movies and TV shows were in New York. Broadway, TRL, BET’s 106 & Park, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, Harlem Renaissance: all New York. That’s where I wanted to be. That’s where I wanted to reinvent myself.
As a teen, I was too scared to set out for an out-of-state college on my own. With no net or security blanket, I stayed put in Boston. At 30, coincidentally the age I earned my BA, I didn’t give a damn. I was no longer scared. Not only did I use some of the house money to throw myself a huge graduation and 30th birthday party, but I used it to fund my move to New York.
So #1 is crossed off (and I even earned an MFA), but #2 still sits. Unclear if forever. That’s the beauty of being able to change your mind. As much as I daydream about “when I buy a home,” there’s also a part of me that doesn’t want that huge undertaking. Sure, I’d love to pose for a picture holding a giant key stating “New Homeowner,” but I don’t want to open a bill with a large balance for unexpected repairs.
My father was a homeowner, with tenants. That man was always stressed with having to make repairs and receiving rent on time. Ok, so don’t buy a home with tenants. I hear all too often my aunt lamenting about her condo fees increasing, yet not being sure where those fees are applied. Ok, so don’t get a condo and have to pay condo fees. Well, can I tell you the guilt I feel whenever I had/have to ask my late landlord and now my landlady to make repairs in my apartment? Bathroom tiles were on the verge of falling out, so a whole wall had to be redone. Half my apartment didn’t have electricity because of old wires and re-wiring had to be done. They banged out huge holes in my walls and ceiling. My landlady not only had to pay electricians but then she had to have the holes patched and painted. Supplies and labor. I heard the 4-digit price tag with my own ears. From others, I’ve heard horror stories about leaky roofs and water boilers needing to be replaced, flooded basements, busted pipes. I don’t want the stress or responsibility. I like renting, and it being someone else’s problem.
“But owning is an investment.”
So is protecting your mental health.
Let’s move on to the funner things on my list. There are different sections where I list places I want to visit. Some I’ve been able to cross off: Mexico, Hawaii, Chicago, Seattle, DC, Philadelphia, Aruba. The funny thing is many of these were listed because they seemed far-fetched. Meanwhile, I’ve been to Cancun, Mexico twice, visited my niece in Seattle who moved there more than I decade after I wrote it, DC three times—twice in 2022, and Philadelphia a few times because a cousin and his family live there now. Didn’t see any of that on the horizon. Thanks to my first Cancun trip, I was also able to cross off “go on vacation alone.” I’d like to try camping or glamping.
There are silly things, like try Snausages. I was obsessed with the commercials when they aired and would randomly say “snausages.” Just once, I would like to take a nibble of the dog food. I’m curious about the taste and texture. In the same vain, I wanted to sample Thai food. At that time, all I’d ever known was Chinese food. That was the most exotic I’d tasted. I’ve been able to cross off Thai, but Ethiopian food still awaits its turn.
The daredevil in me has gone parasailing and scuba diving–even though I can’t swim. I’ve gone skiing in Utah. Once upon a time I thought it was a big deal to experience a bikini wax to see if it’s really as painful as they say. They were, in the beginning, but now I barely wince, and I rarely need to go. Years of waxing has slowed down the growth.
Thanks to being blinded in my right eye by the car crash, there’s no point in getting Lasik. For the foreseeable future, I’ll be living in New York, therefore don’t need or want a new-new car. My Civic and Corolla were used. For some inexplicable reason, I always wanted an Audi. Mind you, I know nothing about cars. I don’t see the point in learning how to drive stick anymore. I keep my license current to drive when I visit Boston. A huge perk of NYC-living is it being a pedestrian-friendly city. I’ve got my handy-dandy Metro Card. When I don’t want to use it, I’ve got the Lyft app on my phone.
I don’t make it a regular habit to reach for my mini-notebook to add or cross off things on my To-Do List. Honestly, sometimes I forget about it. Recently, while scrolling through Instagram, I saw a reel on Earthpix’s page in which a person did a timelapse of walking through their hotel room in the daytime starting in the bathroom mirror with an outstretched right hand. That same hand is visible as they walk through the bedroom, living room, and onto the outside patio with beautiful views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia. The hand closes into a fist, gets close to the camera then as it pulls away, it opens and the scene turns from day to night with spectacular fireworks show all across the water, reminiscent of the Disney film Fantasia. The dramatic song playing throughout the video is “Out There” by Tom Hulce and Tony Jay.
It was beautiful. Right then and there I decided I wanted to one day witness it in person. I posted the reel to my Instagram stories with caption “Suddenly, I have a new item on my Life To-Do List.” That was the first time I’d thought of the list in a long time. I went in search of my notebook to add it. During a phone conversation with my cousin, I told her about the new want. My attention was split as we spoke. I scoured the notebook, being reminded and amused by things I’d added to the list and things I was able to cross off since last revisiting it.
Along with pride, there was tinge of sadness. It’s utterly ridiculous how many things have been achieved by myself, like visiting the MLK Memorial, which I did my last birthday. That was a special. I remember wanting to attend the 2011 dedication ceremony, knowing that my forever crush Tavis Smiley would be there. He talked about it on The Tavis Smiley Show. I’m torn whether or not to cross off “attend Tavis Smiley speech.” I’ve attended two of his book signings at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. Once for Death of a King about Dr. King and My Journey with Maya, about his friendship with Dr. Maya Angelou.
Though I just added it, I’ve been fascinated with viewing the Aurora Borealis lights for years. It was discussed with my ex. Typical of a nascent romance, he promised we’d experience it together. We barely went to the movies or ate at restaurants together, let alone traveled. I do those solo, and want to see the lights, even if I’m solo. I just don’t know in which country. People will be sick of future me because I won’t shut up about my trip to Finland, Norway, or Sweden.
There are no dates of entry or completion. The point is to do them in my lifetime. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Number of entry also doesn’t matter. I do them as the opportunities arise, not in order listed. The entries are reflections of where I was in life at the time—mentally, physically, financially. I was clearly still living in Boston when I scribbled “visit Metropolitan Museum in New York.” I forgot it was on the list, but it’s still a place I kick myself for not having visited yet in my 13, almost 14, years of living in New York.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been to Brooklyn Museum. I’ve been to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Museum of Natural History. Hell, I’ve even been to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC, twice, but have yet to make it to The Met. NMAAHC isn’t even in the notebook, though it should be. I’m not above adding to cross it off. I do that on my errand To Do lists regularly. Several years, I planned to stake out The Met to watch celebrities arrive for The Met Gala. One year I forgot, another it rained. I catch the highlights on TV and Instagram.
I know I’ll make it there one day. It’s right here in my backyard, so to speak. I’ll make it to other places on my ever-growing list as well. I continue to be inspired by books, TV, and Instagram. I also look forward to being able to blog about and post these experiences on the ‘Gram to inspire others.