The rumors are true: tomorrow I will celebrate 30 years on this planet. I shall leave behind the uncertainty, recklessness, and excitement of my 20s and enter into a new era. Over the past year, I’ve been feeling decidedly anxious about the idea of turning 30. I can’t really figure out why, other than it makes me feel “officially” old. No matter what section of your 20s you are in, most people (except little kids, as I’ve learned) will consider you pretty young. It’s that TWO in front of the 2nd number that really solidifies your youth. But now I will be a three, a thirty-year-old, a thirty-something, and it’s had me feeling…strange. I’m in a new age bracket. I have to check a different box when filling out forms. I have to start getting new and different kinds of checkups at the doctor. I have to watch my cholesterol. I have to use under eye cream (actually, I already do. Being preventative helps!). I have to think about a 401k. I have to exercise more. I have to think about THE FUTURE. These are all things grown up women do, not Sarah Doyle’s. Not me, no way.
I think one of the reasons getting older has been difficult for me is because there isn’t anything I can do about it – Time marches on regardless of how you feel. I find that comforting and unsettling at the same time. Rich, poor, black, white, male, female…we all age. It unifies us, in a way.
If I’m being honest, what I’ve struggled with the most the past year is feeling like I haven’t done enough in 30 years. Like, 30 years! That’s a lot! I know, the first 5-10 are really out of your hands, accomplishment-wise, but it still feels like a heavy amount of time. And while I don’t have any regrets about how I’ve lived my life up until this point, I can’t help but feel (sometimes) that I should have done more, or should be doing more. It’s pointless and silly to compare your life to others, but it’s also hard not to. When you’re the same age as (or older than) people with families, babies, houses, cars, vacations, wardrobes, and successful careers, but none of that matches up with your life, it can make you feel behind. Everybody has their own timeline, but we all also live in the same society, and society can force you to feel like you are “supposed” to be at certain place at a certain age. I’ve accepted that its ok and totally normal to feel that way from time to time, but to not let it consume you to the point of feeling sad or regretful. Regret is a terribly pointless emotion.
So in the spirit of celebrating where I am in my life at 30 years old and getting excited about the years to come, I’m doing two lists (I love lists): My 15 moments or accomplishments I’m most proud of, and 15 things I still want to do in life.
I have accomplished a lot and I’m proud of that! (a list in 15 parts)
1. Moving to Chicago
I decided to move to Chicago for a pretty classic reason: I needed a change. I was bouncing around from Jr. College to Jr. College and didn’t really know what I wanted to “do” with my life. I had only been to Chicago twice, but the first time I was there, I felt like it was where I belonged. I felt at home. I really only had one friend there, no job prospects, and moved in the dead of winter. But it ended up being the best adventure I could’ve gone on. I met SO many amazing people, got to attend a great college, and learned a lot about myself. I miss living there a lot, but even if I never move back, I’ll always be proud of myself for taking a chance.
2. Graduating from College
This one is important to me, because I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen. I had/have the classic problem of starting things and not finishing them. But when I found out about Columbia College Chicago and learned they had an entire class devoted to the works of Ray Bradbury, I knew I had to go there. And I did. And the entire experience was completely amazing. I got to take the EL to my classes in downtown Chicago, across the street from Grant Park. I learned so much about writing and even though it wasn’t a “typical” college experience, most things I do aren’t that typical anyways. And I graduated with honors!
3. Traveled to Australia to be a volunteer for Earthwatch
I’ve been completely fascinated with Australia since I was young. And in the summer of 2001 (I was 17), I had the amazing privilege of traveling to Australia and participating in an endangered species rehabilitation program with a group called Earthwatch. I spent two weeks in a tiny town called Useless Loop, which is about 10 hours north of Perth. I got to help two highly endangered species, the Western Barred Bandicoot and the Burrowing Bettong, from going extinct and lived in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Then we vacationed in Sydney for a week and did all the fun touristy stuff. Oh, and I did it all WITHOUT my parents! My friend Laurie was with me, but it was just us teenagers. It’s definitely the most exciting thing I’ve done in my life (so far!)
4. Getting a job as a Trolley driving Tour Guide in Chicago
Being a tour guide is a fantastic way to learn how to get around in a brand new city. Obviously, this seems backwards, but it didn’t really matter that I had only lived in Chicago for 2 months when they hired me. I soaked up every piece of Chicago history I could and was pretty awe-struck by how interesting the city actually was. Even when the job was crazy or frustrating, it was always rewarding to be able to tell stories about the city I loved. And then there was the trolley (and double-decker bus!) driving. It was hard to learn, but really fun once I got the hang of it (and a lot less scary then you would imagine).
5. Getting to see The Police perform live
The Police have been my favorite band since forever, but I always assumed I’d never get to see them live because they had been broken up for a long time. But my first year in Chicago they announced they were doing a reunion tour…and they were playing Wrigley Field! I bought a ticket as soon as I could, but it wasn’t cheap ($280!). The concert was unreal; they played all of my favorite songs. It was worth every single penny.
6. Getting a 3 on my AP US History exam in High School
It was 1 of 2 AP classes I took in high school, and I heard it was one of the harder tests to take. It was a great class with one of my favorite teachers (Mr D’Agastino!) and passing the exam was the really sweet icing on an already awesome cake.
7. Getting to talk to Ray Bradbury on the phone
That Ray Bradbury class I took in college was taught by Sam Weller, Bradbury’s official biographer. One of the things we got to do at the end of the semester was sit in on a phone call with the man himself. Sam asked all the questions, but he also told Ray about me and how much I loved him and how I had a tattoo of the 1st line of Fahrenheit 451. Just getting to listen to his voice was amazing and knowing now that he knew of my existence before he passed away is priceless.
8. Having a story I wrote published in a literary magazine
It wasn’t a big magazine, but it was the first time I was published and it was one of my favorite stories. Just knowing strangers were reading my work felt pretty cool. (The story is here, if you’re curious)
9. Became a volunteer for 826CHI
826CHI is a great program that has branches all over the country. They offer free after school tutoring and creative writing classes and programs for kids all the way through high school. I only got to help out a couple times, but it was so fun and very rewarding.
10. Joined the swim team in High School
I wouldn’t really consider myself an “athletic” person, but I did like playing sports. I was always more into the “individual” sports, where it was you against yourself or one other person. I’ve been obsessed with water since I can remember, and being on the swim team was fun and challenging. I’ll never forget waking up at 5 in the morning to go to practice, then doing a full day at school, then back into the pool for another 2 hours of swimming. How I did that all week, I’ll never know. Teenagers and their boundless energy, I guess.
11. Attended Comic Con & met Brian K. Vaughan
I’ve been to Comic Con a few times and, as a major geek, I can safely say it is a Mecca for my kind. It has, unfortunately, become a little too crazy and almost impossible to get tickets now. So I’m very happy I got to go when I did, because it was…amazing. But what made it even more memorable was that I got to meet my favorite comic book writer, Brian K. Vaughan, and he signed my 1st issue of his comic, Y: The Last Man (which I have a tattoo of on my back)
12. Won something on a game show
Almost 2 years ago I went on to a game show audition with a friend on a whim. I wasn’t working and thought it would be fun. Turns out they loved me and wanted me to go to Let’s Make a Deal. Nate and I dressed up as a Boy and Girl Scout (if you’ve never watched the show, all the audience members wear costumes) and Wayne Brady plucked me from the audience to play. I ended up getting to go to the big deal they do at the end, and I won two really fancy flat screen TVs (one is even a 3D TV). We still have those TVs and it was a pretty hilarious experience. I had always wanted to be a contestant on a game show (although, Double Dare would’ve been my first choice…) and it was even better that I won something! (Still a little bitter that I didn’t pick the curtain with the car behind it, though. Haha!)
13. Getting to be in a play – A Christmas Carol – with my dad
My dad has played The Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol at his theater since before I can remember. I see it every Christmas and it’s probably my favorite holiday tradition. The play has a lot of kids in it, and despite the fact that I never wanted to be an actor, I got to audition and ended up playing the role of Martha Cratchit. Now, we never had any scenes together, but considering my Dad has been a professional actor his entire life, it was a really great experience for me to get to be a part of it.
14. Fallen in love/experienced heartbreak
I think that falling in love is one of the best feelings you can experience. It’s a little like magic. And even if the love with a particular person doesn’t last forever, knowing that kind of magic exists is pretty cool, I think. And the flip side is hard and can be totally gut-wrenching, but those are the moments where we really learn about ourselves. Where we can realize how resilient we actually are. We learn how to cope. It sounds a tad cheesy, I know, but I really do feel that way.
15. Went on a road trip from Chicago to Texas
When Nate was moving from Chicago to LA, he decided to stay in Texas for a bit because he was the Best Man in his friends wedding. But he had to get all his stuff down there. So, we decided to rent a big car and go on a road trip. I had never really done a road trip like that (across multiple states) and getting to do it with him right before he moved away was extra special. We spent the night in Memphis and as we were driving into the city, we listened to “Graceland” by Paul Simon, one of my all-time favorite songs. I had always wanted to listen to it while on a road trip through Memphis. A weird goal to have, I know, but it was actually pretty cool.
15 things I still want to do
1. See a tornado in real life
Even if you’ve only met me once, you probably already know that this is a huge life goal of mine. I have been completely enchanted by weather and storms since…forever. I was never afraid of lightning or thunder as a kid; I always just wanted to know what it was or where it was coming from. Part of my fascination with tornadoes is definitely the fact that we don’t get them out here in California. I understand that if I had to run into my basement for fear of being eaten alive by one, I might feel differently. I think nature is astonishing and beautiful and I always want to see how she works up close.
2. Go to a game at Fenway Park
I’ve been to Boston a few times, but have never been to a Red Sox game. I know, I know, – HOW?! – but I’ve mostly just been there during the winter and there, obviously, weren’t any games. I’ve been to Fenway and taken the tour of the park, but have never been to an actual game. I’ve loved the Red Sox since I started loving baseball (so since birth) and it sucks that I’ve never seen them on their home turf.
3. Publish a Graphic Novel
All I have to do is finish the damn thing I’m writing and I JUST KNOW I can get it published. I can’t even explain how much a of dream come true this would be for me.
4. DJ professionally
I’ve been DJing “amateurishly” for a long time now. Playing music at parties and making playlists for people, etc. But I’ve never done it and had someone pay me for it (or do it on something other than an iPod/laptop). I do actually have some credentials, because I took a class in college (that counts, right? I got an A!) and I have spent time learning a few of the computer DJing programs. I’d love to do stuff more in the realm of parties/weddings/etc, and really, the only thing stopping me is myself (well, and maybe some actual experience). I love playing music for people and there is nothing like playing a song and having it totally pump up a crowd.
5. Go to Ireland
The Motherland! There are so many places I want to travel to in my lifetime, but right now, Ireland is #1 on that list. I’m pretty darn Irish and proud of it. I would really love to see where my ancestors came from and experience the beauty the country has to offer. AND, possibly most importantly, I’ve got to go to St. James Gate and drink real Guinness from Ireland.
5a. Have a Guinness in Ireland with my Dad
I didn’t want to take a whole slot, but having a Guinness in Ireland with my Dad definitely has to be included separately, because its THAT important. Since I figure I will (hopefully) be with my Dad the first time I’m in Ireland, this will have to be accomplished.
6. Have a kid (or kids?)
There was a long period of time where I didn’t think I wanted kids, or wasn’t 100% sure, at least. But as I’ve gotten older and that old clock has started ticking, I suppose, I’ve gotten more and more warm on the idea of having some little me’s. Lots of people say it, but I do think having children is way to contribute something lasting. Your children keep you alive even after you’ve gone. And I think I’ve gotten to the point where I know I’d be a great mom. I had an amazing Mom and Dad who taught me what it meant to be a great parent. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m in a relationship with a guy I know will be a great dad one day 🙂
7. Swim in the Great Barrier Reef
I feel like a lot of the things on this list have to do with traveling, because that’s something that is very important to me. I’ve actually been to Australia, but because there was so much to do, I didn’t get to see the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve been fascinated with it since I first started learning about Australia and the GBF is one of THE coolest things down under. I love swimming, I love the ocean — its a no brainer.
8. Go on Safari
I love animals, especially the ones that inhabit the jungles of Africa. You so rarely get to see any animals in their native habitat, and I think it would be a life-changing thing to experience.
9. Meet Phil Collins
If you know me even the slightest bit, you know why this has to be included on the list. A girl can dream, dammit!!
10. See any species of Tiger come off the Endangered Species List
Tigers are my favorite animal and there are currently 6 different species on the endangered list (according to the WWF). I would to see all of those animals come off the list, but if I had to pick one, it would be the majestic tiger. It would be hard for me to live in world without tigers (honestly) and I am doing every little bit I can to help their species (even if its only by donating money).
11. Go sailing on a really big sailboat
I love the ocean..soooo much. I love spending time on it and in it, but since owning and sailing a sailboat is hard and expensive, I almost never get out there. I’ve been on a cruise and a yacht, and while thats fun, there is absolutely nothing like being a huge sailboat out there in the middle of nowhere.
12. Sing lead vocals in a band
If I had my druthers, it would be either a ska band or a 90s cover band. I’ve always loved to sing, but I feel like I’m just a little short from having a legit marketable voice. BUT I know I would make a killer front woman. I love the spotlight and never get stage fright. I’m not sure how to make this one happen, but I’ve got to.
13. Be a Storm Chaser for a season
This is somewhat of an extension of number 1, but just as important. Yes, ever since I saw Twister (and did a lot of research afterwards) when I was 12 I’ve wanted to be a storm chaser. It’s not a job that you just find on Craigslist and apply for, so it’s a difficult field to get into. It’s also not something someone pays you to do, necessarily. Most chasers have degrees in meteorology and are professional photographers. While I am none of these things, I STILL REALLY WANT TO DO IT. I would love it if I could spend a few months during the peak of Tornado season driving around Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and the rest of Tornado alley searching for storms and tornados. I could always take one of these tours but they are expensive and I kind of would love to do it for a longer period of time (if I got the chance to). I don’t think its a total pipe dream, but it would take a lot to pull it off. But hey, this is a list filled with dreams, both tangible and less-tangible.
14. Get Married
Falling in love makes you want to do all kinds of crazy things 😉
15. Live to see some kind of legit confirmation that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe
Not like, live to see aliens attack us or anything, but I can’t say it wouldn’t be totally boss if I could be around when they announce they have irreputable proof of life on other planets (!!!) OH WHATEVER, you know you want to see it, too.