What do I have to lose?
This past May (2019) I participated in a 21-day challenge along with my coworkers. Theoretically, we were all going to eat very specific meal plans and do specific exercises for three straight weeks, and hold one another accountable through a buddy system. In reality, I was already happy with my activity levels, and focused solely on the nutrition side of it. I eat more sugar than my body needs, and I know it isn’t helping my health.
I did very well during the first week. By the second week, I found myself less interested in eating at all. Around day 16 or 17, I felt like crying because all I wanted was junk food (and also my hormones were demanding culinary comfort.) But I more or less completed the whole challenge, even if I went back to eating less healthfully after. Just by going through the process, I was reminded that I have the power to change my life, if only I focus intensely enough.
In July (2019) I turned 36 and was hit by a tidal wave of depression. This maelstrom pummeled me with self doubt and endless questions about who I really am, what I am doing, why I exist. I reflected on my professional trajectory, the activities that fill my unstructured time, the ways I interact with my communities, and I felt deep dissatisfaction, but without clear explanation. How do I address what I can’t even identify?
Time for self-discovery.
I thought back to the energy I had around the 21-day challenge. I liked the small feelings of success I experienced, and I liked having daily tasks to focus on to slowly accomplish something bigger. I resolved (through greatly mixed feelings) to take a hiatus from my current employment (which I very much enjoy) and challenge myself.
But why stop with one challenge, I thought? Why don’t I try and do all (or at least several) of the things I have imagined for myself in life? I have thought to be a writer, a musician, an artisan, a teacher. If I don’t try everything, how will I know what fits correctly?
21 days? Try 21 challenges.
In my family, “go big or go home” is how we approach everything. Once I thought to do multiple challenges, I thought, why not 21 challenges instead of 21 days? Initially I even thought 21 challenges in 21 days might be feasible (which it probably is) but spreading them out over the whole month of October felt more doable. That also naturally leads to my personal Ultimate Challenge (for now): NaNoWriMo.
If you aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s one-month (November) challenge to write a book (50,000+ words) from start to finish (notes are allowed, but all content must be written between November 1st and November 30th. I’ve always wanted to complete it, and I’ve started it a couple of times, but petered out partway through. It seems the perfect final bonus round challenge to end this soirée.
So there you have it. That’s the plan. September is for planning, October is for doing, and November is for writing. December is for the beginning of the rest of my life.