Here we are.
I woke up exhausted today, with little interest in anything but sleeping. Unfortunately, I did have a few things to do, so I couldn’t snooze the day away like I fantasized, but I did take it pretty easy, compared with, say, yesterday. I could tell you all about it, but I’m not doing that anymore.
What I will do is give you an overview of what went down over the past 31 days (in case you haven’t been keeping tallies) and how I feel about everything. You ready?
Every single day, I gave myself 11 different things to do: stretch, capture a moment for my 1 Second Every Day video, be intimate with Guy, prepare all of our meals in-house (except for pizza and weekend brunch/pastries), read a poem, read at least 2 pages of fiction, read one thing to learn (nonfiction), play music, write a poem on a postcard and send it to someone, pick up trash, and then finally, write and publish a blog post accounting for the day.
I anticipated that these things would, for the most part, not take me a terribly long time. Well, I highly underestimated how long almost everything would take, which may be why I ran out of steam so quickly. Now, taking a photo or video was not tough, nor was keeping my stretching to 15-20 minutes; even reading a poem and reflecting on it didn’t take much longer than I expected. But reading fiction? I sometimes got lost for hours. My postcard poems sometimes came quickly, and other times I spent the whole day thinking about what to write, or slowly crafting a verse.
Don’t even ask about these blog posts—I’ll tell you. At the start of the month, I had enough energy at the end of the day to lay out the format for the next day, and even to fill in some notes about what I’d be doing. I would find a featured image, add tags, sometimes a couple days in advance. After about a week, I caught up with my preemptive posts, but I would get up in the morning and lay things out so it was waiting for me by the end of the day. This, too, faded as my energy waned and the tasks grew in quantity and difficulty. Eventually, by the end, I was creating a new post for the day around one in the morning, a full 24-hour shift from the start of the project. I spent at least an hour, usually two, writing about each day.
Because I wanted to stay accountable, I felt (internal) pressure to put extra effort into each post. I routinely stayed up later than I wanted to, in order to publish the post before I went to bed. It’s interesting to look at what I made my priorities—of the 11 daily challenges, I only completed five of them every day: capturing a moment, reading a poem, reading fiction, writing a postcard poem, and writing a blog post. I only missed one day of stretching, and three days each of cooking meals and reading nonfiction. These were clearly the things that I found to be either most important, or considered to have the lowest barrier to entry.
Of the 341 daily tasks in total, I completed (to my satisfaction) 283, which amounts to about 83%. If you take away the toughest challenge (intimate time with Guy) my average jumps to 88%; this 5% jump accurately reflects the difficulty of coordinating multiple people around a project. I am not casting any blame here, though—Guy has been about as accommodating and supportive of me throughout this project as I could possibly hope, and any lack of effort is entirely mine. (It’s also worth noting that “intimate time” doesn’t necessarily mean “sex” here, but what it does mean is between me and Guy. Sorry, pervs.)
Either way you slice it, 83-88% is “most” of anything. In my normal life, when anything is reported as being in the 80-90% range, I say, “that’s a B.” I am historically an A student, so a B is disappointing to me, but if we talk pass/fail, that’s definitely a pass.
My one “traditional” challenge here was the fourteen-day abs challenge. In my determination to complete all fourteen days of the challenge, I reassigned my missed days to future days; in the end, it took eighteen days. I think if this were the only challenge I was doing, it would have been no problem whatsoever. But I also went from one dance class per week to three dance classes per week, and it was really tough on my body.
Three-a-week dance classes added up to another fourteen-day challenge. I managed to make all of the classes, but I left two of them early, and sat out dances during a third. The strain on my body was real, and only offset by the joy filling my heart every time I set foot in the studio. I never really worried that I wouldn’t finish this challenge, though there was a slight scheduling snafu at one point, which I obviously resolved. I love Divine and everything that comes with it, even the weariness.
The Great British Baking Show/Bake-Off challenges were some of my favorite, and also some of the toughest. Starting with croissants was both idiotic and brilliant, because I got the hardest bake out of the way first, but I did so by accident. I knew puff pastry was tricky, but it’s only like four ingredients, so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad if that’s all I did. Live and learn, huh? The following six bakes – hot water crust pie, choux buns filled with crème pâtissière, orange brioche, génoise sponge cakes, Victoria sandwich cake, and marshmallow fondant – were comparatively simple.
My final multi-day challenge was to write and record a whole song, from start to finish, including melody, lyrics, backing tracks, and maybe a music video to go along with it all. I gave myself seven days to do all this.
I could maybe have written and recorded a whole song the way I imagined, if it was the only thing I had to do. Instead, I wrote chord progressions, jotted down a handful of possible lyrics, then re-wrote my chord progressions, never finalized a melody or lyrics, and got so overwhelmed by trying to create backing tracks that I had to read a book instead. I obviously never got to the music video phase. This was one of the big challenges that I had to let go by the wayside, though I did spend time on it for six of the seven days. I still hope to someday finish a whole song and record it, but I will go into that venture with a much greater understanding of what I’m undertaking.
Some of my challenges were things I wanted to work into my routine on a weekly basis. These included volunteering at the Ballard Food Bank, preparing for NaNoWriMo, writing profiles of inspirational people, and writing flash fiction. I ended up volunteering and doing NaNo prep both on Wednesdays, writing fiction on Thursdays, and writing about people on Sundays.
Volunteering at the food bank has proved to be both rewarding and enjoyable. I work with the group packing weekend food bags for kids getting free lunch, and it’s a lively bunch with a great sense of humor, so I love it. The time flies by, and as an added bonus, I get a bunch of steps in as I walk around and around the assembly line. I’ll be continuing on with Wednesday afternoons at the food bank until at least the end of the year.
NaNoWriMo prep has taken a few different forms – working directly on the NaNo Prep 101 packet, answering questions about my fictional world, (ahem) watching movies for inspiration – but of course I won’t have any idea how well I prepped until I start writing (which I can do any time now, I just need to finish one thing before I move to another). I’m excited to get started, and also too tired to start just yet. I need a few more hours of decompression.
My “Thursday Thing” was originally designed to revisit exercises from my college fiction class, the way the postcard poems were a direct assignment from my college poetry class. However, once I sat down to do this, I found that I wanted to write for NaNoWriMo instead, so I turned this into a second day of prep. Between the two writing days, I only checked off 7 of 10 of my marks, making it a low C. I’ll just say, fiction has never really been my strong suit; nonfiction is more my jam.
That’s why I got 100% on my Humans of Interest feature posts.
I loved writing about Gwen the musical artist, Abby the poet of my heart, Kendall the feminist photographer, and Margot the theatre director. I really stressed about these essays, because I care very much about the people I featured, and I wanted to honor each of them with a well-written and heartfelt profile. For this reason, I spent more like 4 days working on each post, but my reward was getting to spend so much mental time with these fucking fantastic folks.
Between Humans of Interest and my daily blog posts, I probably spent five times as many hours writing nonfiction than fiction this month. I am going to give fiction another go with the next month of NaNoWriMo, but I think I need to figure out how to get paid for my nonfiction, because it’s as natural for me as breathing. The problem is, I don’t want to write marketing copy, and I haven’t really found a writing position that didn’t involve that to at least some degree. Just freelancing, I guess. I have no idea how to do that, so I better find out.
Possibly one of my favorite challenges this month was to get dolled up and pretend to be a sassy rockabilly bass player. I worked with the inimitable Andrea Prudente, principal photographer at Icon After Hours (fun fact: at this moment, I am the person in the photo on her home page!) This is my third photo shoot with Andrea, and I love what we brought together—here is a selection of her fantastic work:
I loved being a rockabilly lady for a day. It’s almost like I was meant to be her all along, since I already owned the bass guitar, the shirt, the fabulous red satin shoes not pictured here. I custom-ordered the temporary tattoos (there’s a Bettie Page pinup on the other arm) and bought new jeans, but I needed new jeans anyway. If you find yourself in need of some transformative portraits, I highly recommend Andrea!
My last challenge, something I intended to take up one day, was to record a song with Guy. We have a dream of starting a band called Adam & Odd (I’ve already bought the domain names) but we’ve never recorded or really even played anything together. Also, while Guy helped me record songs for a ukulele album that I gave to my family for Christmas a few years back, it is not professional grade, it is just a few takes straight through, and in some cases, fancily separating the vocal and instrument tracks. So, we didn’t know what we were doing. We did spend quality time working on it, and like my songwriting challenge, I plan to come back to it, but we’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of us. Don’t hold your breath for our album to drop anytime soon.
The Final Gathering
By the numbers, which are objective, I did well. I accomplished 85% of my challenges overall—83% for my daily challenges, and just under 94% of all the other challenges. I achieved 100% on 12 of my 21 challenges, which is about 57%; normally, this would be an F. But I’ve decided to grade myself on a curve, which is excellent news, because that means I get an A on everything.
In my heart, I know I learned a lot about myself. I know that, while this was a fun month and something to talk about at parties, it’s also something greater, a launching point for something I didn’t know was coming. I just took a turn on my life path, and I don’t know where it’s going to take me.
What I do know is, I’m incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity, because wherever I’m headed is going to be a far sight better than where I was headed before. It’s like I did a little speed dating with all the sides of myself, resulting in some very clear ideas about what I do and don’t want to pursue with my time. I feel like I can actually go ahead and reach for my goals, because I have some momentum now.
This month also led me to nourish or establish a number of relationships, and I’m excited to see where those connections are going to lead me. I may continue to send postcard poems every once in a while (I still have lots of blank ones!) Maybe I’ll keep peppering my blog with Humans of Interest features. I’m definitely going to nurture the budding relationships now popping up around me, because what is this life if we lead it alone? Boring, that’s what.
Thanks for being along for this ride, y’all. Let’s keep it wild.
Featured image by patrick gantz from Pixabay