When my grandmother died several years ago, my mom and aunts found an item that captivated me: Her journal, cracked at the binding, containing, by year, lists of the birthday and Christmas gifts that she had bought and wrapped for her 10 children throughout the decades spanning their childhoods.
I was enchanted by this notebook. Here, all in one place, was a sliver of family memories, captured in cramped, yet tidy handwriting. The lists no doubt helped my grandmother stay organized during the busy holiday season and gave focus to what could have been a daunting prospect: Christmas shopping for 10 children before the internet.
There is nothing quite like a list to provide direction and to safe keep memories.
So a few years ago, when a favorite podcaster suggested the practice of creating a “17 in 2017” list — a sort of elaborate to-do list for the year — the idea naturally spoke to my genetic predisposition for lists. This year, I’m getting even more detailed in my list-making and I’m writing three: “20 people to connect with in 2020,” “20 places to go” and “20 ways to grow.” Here’s how and why:
20 people to connect with in 2020
Thanks to moving frequently since I graduated from high school, a significant portion of my relationships are long-distance. I consider myself lucky to have friends, mentors and cousins scattered across the globe, but since I’m much more inclined to schedule a coffee date with a neighborhood friend than a Skype date with one several time zones away, a year could quickly lapse sans communication.
Knowing that even one phone call or letter exchanged in a year’s time can keep a long-distance friendship alive, I’m making a list of 20 people I want to be sure to connect with in the next calendar year. I’m not including my siblings and parents, but rather, people like my two best friends from study-abroad, my college advisor, and my high school friend group. These are relationships that I value, but that could easily be neglected without a little conscientiousness.
20 places to go in 2020
There’s a whole slew of restaurants I’d like to try, sites I hope to see, and day trips I intend to take, but the temptation to stay in my pajamas for half of Saturday or to keep returning to my favorite cafe/bike trail/park often keeps me from venturing outside my ordinary bubble. I’ve found in the past that creating a seasonal bucket list (including places to go) has helped me prioritize doing things that I know will be fun and memorable but that I have a tendency to put off until “next weekend.”
Making this list accomplishes several things. First, it’s a way of doing some research and planning ahead of time, to make in-the-moment action easier. Second, it builds anticipation (and for me, anticipation of an event is half the fun). Third, it sets a deadline, which is useful considering my philosophy that if something can happen anytime, it generally happens at no time. This year, my “Places to Go” list includes visiting our city’s Children’s Museum, having dinner at a frequently-recommended-but-yet-to-be-visited bistro, and attending the annual festival at a Portuguese church in our neighborhood.
20 ways to grow in 2020
This list includes anything I’ve been wanting to do that will somehow help me to live a bigger, more meaningful life. I’m a creature of habit and so it takes intentional planning to expand my creative, professional, literary and other horizons. For example, I love taking pictures, and I even have a nice camera, but my photographs are consistently mediocre. So, I’m putting “watch YouTube photography tutorials” on my list. Similarly, I’ve been itching to experiment with cooking shellfish and I’ve also been meaning to read the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” for basically 100 years. On the list they go! Would I do these things if they weren’t included on my list? Maybe. But maybe not. The act of writing my intentions holds me accountable to growing in ways that expand my skills, understanding and enjoyment in life.
It’s easy to let days, weeks and months slip by without stepping outside my usual routine. The same way my Grandma’s gift lists helped ensure that she stayed focused and organized for important celebrations, my “connect, go, and grow” lists help me to focus my time and energy on the things that I value and love.