In 2015, I started this personal quest to do forty daring deeds during my fortieth year. I started with lots of fanfare — and by that, I mean a blog, a Facebook page, and a Medium profile. Then I strapped on my adventure boots and set off to get my forty daring deeds done.
Well, it’s been a little over a year, and, not going to sugarcoat it, I failed. Of my forty daring deeds, I finished exactly seven. That’s not even a 25% completion rate. If daring deeds were a download, I’d be stuck in the spinning wheel of delay. Or worse, permanent time out.
I’m not one to beat myself up for too long over failed efforts. But I am one to ask — what went wrong, and what do I do now? Here’s what I figured out.
1. I underestimated how much I hate to break with routine.
Between working, taking care of my home and family, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, my days are ruled by routine. I used to think of “routine” as a dirty word. Operation Goosebumps sprung from my fear of life becoming too routine. But in fact, routine keeps me sane. Without it, I could never manage the mountain of obligations I wake up to every day. So to disrupt that routine, something has to be pretty important or meaningful. And the thing is…
2. Things that used to be important to me are no longer that important.
I used to be quite the thrill seeker. I’ve jumped out of a plane in New Jersey, gone hang gliding across a beach in Rio, ziplined across the jungle in Kauai, snowshoed up the the mountains of backcountry Alaska three months pregnant. If any activity carried a hint of danger, I was up for the challenge. So when I made my list of forty daring deeds, I packed it with motorcycle lessons and hot air balloon rides and other activities that would prove to the world — or at least to myself—that I was still the fearless “adrenaline addict” I bragged about being on my first online dating profile. But, just like I no longer need an online dating profile (found my soulmate — that adrenaline line really worked!), I no longer need to flirt with death to feel alive. That’s because…
3. Things I used to dread suddenly fulfill me the most.
I never planned on having kids. I thought that parenting would make life predictable and boring. I swore that even if I did have them, I would never become one of those moms who was “all about my kids.” Well guess what? Now I’ve got two, and I’m pretty much obsessed with them. My kids turned the whole world into uncharted territory, and helping them navigate it is more fun than anything I’ve ever done myself. Sure, I can no longer hit the road and drive four states away for a music festival at the last minute. But I can go for long walks with Maxon, searching for the perfect sticks to fight off the bad guys. I can hold Cooper’s hands and dance around the living room while listening to hair metal on Spotify. We can have family movie night every Friday, eating popcorn on a picnic blanket on the playroom floor. Somehow, these boring everyday events, the predictable reality that I started Operation Goosebumps precisely to run away from, thrill me beyond belief. Not in an adrenaline rushing, blood pumping sort of way. But in a way that makes me feel like my heart has broken free from the confines of my body and expanded to infinite capacity. Which it has, because here it is, sitting next to me on the blanket, hogging the popcorn bowl.
4. Challenging myself isn’t always all about me.
I’m not giving up on Operation Goosebumps. I’ve just given myself an extension—indefinitely. And why not? I hope the urge to challenge myself stays alive until the day I die, even if the definition of “challenge myself” changes along the way. For instance, this year, I plan on spending more time helping other people achieve their “daring dreams,” including my big brother, who just published his first memoir, and my husband, who has his first book of short stories on the way. In fact there’s that a whole other aspect of Operation Goosebumps that focuses on bringing people together so we can all empower each other to get those daring dreams done. Now that feels like pretty important stuff. Stuff that might even be worth breaking routine for.