Turning 35: Michelle’s Birthday Bucket List

I promised myself that I wouldn’t actually be old until age 75. But turning 35 means I’ve left my “early thirties” behind, which makes me feel that I no longer fit in the “young adult” category. I’m doing my best to accept this shift in identity without dragging my feet.

I confess that one of my biggest fears about aging is that life will somehow go downhill. I realize that the physical obstacles will increase – I’ve had chronic pain and headaches since my mid-twenties, so I don’t have much hope of anything getting better in that regard. But my real concern doesn’t involve bodily functions.

I remember as a teenager, sitting in a Wendy’s and overhearing a pair of elderly ladies at the table behind me. One of them made a remark in a weary voice, something about how boring it was to be old. It was utterly depressing, and it honestly scared me.

I’ve always believed in saving the best for last. (This is particularly true on my dinner plate – I try a little of everything and then intentionally leave whatever bit I think will be best, as my last bite.)

I have a strong inclination that life should be similar in some way. Maybe it’s a faulty theory, but I think it’s worth trying for. My goal, then, is that each year of my life should be a little better than the one before. 

Of course, better doesn’t always mean more spectacular. I’m not really talking about “going out with a bang.”

Life comes in seasons, and each one has its own pros and cons. Each season brings its own life lessons. Some of the early years were light-hearted and fun and full of possibility. But other years have been more about growth and overcoming challenges.

For me, it feels important to keep moving forward in one way or another. To continue learning, to see and experience new things, to grow both softer and stronger as a person. Sometimes these things come naturally as life “happens,” but I also think it’s very easy to become stagnant.

Sometimes we need to be more intentional and push ourselves.

As with many things in life, the only control we have over aging is how we perceive it. To make the most of getting older and to ward off my fears of falling into a rut, I’m testing out a Birthday Bucket List for my 35th year.

Birthday Bucket List: 35 Things for My 35th Year

I’ve known a couple people who have done personal challenges like this for their birthdays. Sometimes it’s “40 things to do before I turn 40” or “21 things to do on my 21st birthday.”

I’ve been advised to make sure my 35 things include mostly small challenges, so that it’s a list I can actually finish. Since I couldn’t wait until my birthday to start, I’m giving myself between September 2017 (my birthday month) and the end of August 2018.

Below are my 35 goals for the year. Some are just for fun, some are for the challenge, and some are purely practical. I have scheduled most of them on my calendar, so they are listed more or less in the order that I’ll be completing them.

  1. Complete 30 days of daily sun salutations (partially complete)
  2. Visit Italy with Jedd (done!)
  3. Finish the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series (done except a new book is coming this Fall)
  4. Create a list of 35 of my favorite quotes
  5. Complete a daily hand-lettering challenge, writing my 35 quotes
  6. Visit Spain for the first time
  7. Hand-write 35 thank you letters
  8. Visit Portugal for the first time
  9. Contribute the full amount to our Roth IRAs by the end of the year
  10. Celebrate each day of Advent (still looking for an interesting way to do this)
  11. Memorize the countries and capitals of Africa
  12. Learn a choreographed dance
  13. Visit Malaysia for the first time
  14. Send postcards each quarter to The Aunties
  15. Do a zipline for the first time
  16. Take a personal retreat (full day or overnight)
  17. Return to Hoi An, Vietnam for at least a month
  18. Learn to say “hello” in 35 languages
  19. Double my collection of gospel music
  20. Travel to a new continent (New Zealand? Africa?)
  21. Host a reunion for our 10th anniversary
  22. Wear my wedding dress again and then donate it
  23. Make macarons and/or croissants from scratch
  24. Find my favorite tea to drink on a daily basis
  25. Sleep under the stars
  26. See a chiropractor for the first time (Malaysia or Thailand)
  27. Get a skin cancer screening
  28. Schedule a dental cleaning (Malaysia or Thailand)
  29. Take a monthly “screen sabbath”
  30. Create a video recap of our year of travel
  31. Continue blogging at least once a week
  32. Read 35+ books (3 done so far)
  33. Eat 10+ completely new dishes
  34. Keep a capsule wardrobe
  35. Save money for a real estate investment

Have you tried a birthday bucket list before? Do you have any recommendations for accomplishing these 35 goals?

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2 thoughts on “Turning 35: Michelle’s Birthday Bucket List

Add yours

  1. I appreciate your reflection – life is about continual growth and change with new challenges and experiences. I don’t want to get older but it’s inevitable so might as well enjoy the ride. Sounds like a great list. I want to do some of those! Regarding #11, you can start with the capital of Zambia being Lusaka!

  2. I really like the thought about “the only control we have over aging is how we perceive it.” Thanks, as always, for sharing!

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