I’m not much of a risk taker. While I appreciate trying out new things, once I find a safe and comfortable situation, I don’t generally see a reason to shake things up just for the sake of shaking. Nothing good ever seems to come of it. Take last year, for example. I had an apartment I loved, but then a new neighbor moved in who made me dread coming home (think loud music, loud yelling, and regular-volume sex heard through a paper-thin wall). I had a job that wasn’t being a writer, so I finally quit it, and my boyfriend immediately broke up with me (allegedly unrelated, but the autopsy results aren’t in yet). Those are just the most recent reasons why new things don’t exactly scream, “Exciting opportunity!” to me.
But, I figure it’s a new year and, as a result of last year’s new things, I am likely to experience a lot of new things anyway. Also, I love the Friends episode where Ross resolves to do a new thing each day and ends up pants-less in a date’s bathroom because he couldn’t get his leather pants back on. (“If the paste matches the pants, you can make yourself a pair of paste pants and she won’t know the difference!” Haven’t seen that episode? You should.) Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?
Well, I guess I could die. But other than that, I have nothing to lose.
And isn’t there that saying about how when you have nothing to lose, that’s when…something…happens? I can’t remember what it is exactly–success? innovation? death? Hopefully it’s one of the first two.
Year One Update
So. I made it through 366 days of new things (it figures I would choose to do this during a leap year, right?). I didn’t die. You should feel free to consider the venture a success based solely on that. But I would consider it a success based on nearly any factor. Doing a new thing every day forced me to be a few things I sometimes have trouble being: focused; brave; uninterested in what the general public thinks of me. And not only that, but I did quite a few rewarding things I never would have done if I didn’t have a blog post to write about them.
Part of me wants to say, “You made it through a whole year; why not just do it for another year?” but then another–much bigger–part of me actually does say, “It’s a lot of effort to do a new thing every single day. You did a good job. You deserve a break.”
While I’m no longer forcing myself to do something new every single day, I am still continuing with the notion that forcing myself to do new things is good for me. I imagine I will stick with that mindset until I do something new that results in extreme pain. Or maybe I won’t stop even then–it can take me a while to take a hint.
Year Two Update
Obviously I was lazier about keeping a log of my new things this past year, since I wasn’t forcing myself to do it every day. I even went an entire month without updating anything–though I did do new things that month, which I guess is the point of this blog anyway, to make myself do new things and not necessarily to tell people about them. So yes, the second year was also a success.
But I’m not sure if I will continue logging new things this coming year. It’s reached the point where instinctively I decide to do things so I will be doing something new instead of shying away from things because they seem weird or dumb, so is the blog part of it necessary anymore? I mean, the blog part wasn’t ever necessary in the true sense of the word, but for a person who is–it is increasingly becoming clear–only capable of expressing her true feelings through written (typed) words, it almost feels like by not recording something I did, it might as well have not taken place.
If I do a new thing and never put it in the new thing blog, have I really done a new thing? I think we both know the answer is yes, but somehow I’m not as convinced as I should be.
Year Three Update
I went through a few periods during this year when I questioned the point of all of this (“this” being this blog, not life). After all, some pretty heavily news-covered tragic events happened, as well as some closer to home tragedies, and they made me wonder why I bother recording things I do when in the long run, they don’t matter. They’re not going to save anyone’s life, and they’re probably not going to help anyone either.
But I think, over the past 3 years, these seemingly pointless things I’ve written about have saved one life–mine. As you’ll know if you’ve been following me since the very beginning, I’ve become a much happier, healthier person since I first decided to consciously make an effort to do new things. And even though I no longer need the prospect of a blog post as motivation to keep taking chances and trying things I may not have otherwise, I think I do still need this outlet, despite the grand-scheme-of-things smallness of each individual post in light of our crazy, messed up world.
Or maybe actually because of it. It’s something constant in an inconsistent universe, and I think that’s a good enough reason to keep writing.
Year Four Update
When I began this blog in 2012, I certainly didn’t think I’d still be keeping it up 4 years later. For one, I have trouble seeing the future clearly (as does anyone, but I often think my telescope lenses are slightly more blurry than perhaps some others’). For another, I would’ve thought I’d have a blog-turned-book deal by now! (I’m kidding. Not entirely. Mostly.)
Yet, here we are, at the start of another year in which I will inevitably do things that challenge me. Though I’m so used to trying new things that each occasion doesn’t feel so significant anymore, somehow, all of them taken together have made me so much stronger, in so many ways: mentally…okay, maybe only the one way, but you know, that’s enough.
I used to think snarky thoughts about all of those self-help-masquerading-as-memoir books like The Happiness Project (because you’re not allowed to speak those thoughts or else you’re perceived as a jealous grouch, which maybe you are but you wouldn’t want it to be commonly believed). But I realized that spending some time devoted to improving yourself and your life, whether it’s a month or a year or several, truly does improve yourself and, consequently, your life. So, live like a caveman for a year if you want! Follow the daily plan of a fictional character on the path to a higher meaning! Eat only junk food! Spend your days hanging in a tree wearing a hat because you loved Caps for Sale as a kid! I say, and this is my expert opinion as a random person you do not know, do whatever you think will make you happy without harming others, and do it for as long as it does.
Year Five Update
It’s been a year where we’ve been tempted to ask whether new things are always good. Next year, Americans will see what a new president will do for our country. The world will live in a new way without many performers the public has loved. New Yorkers will go forward, finally, with a new Second Avenue subway (sort of). And we may want to suggest that new things are better off left in the past.
I get that sentiment, because I’ve done plenty of new things that have not turned out positively. I understand the urge to shy away from change. Inertia is comfortable and infinitely less scary.
But something I probably knew before beginning this blog, and what I’ve been forced to face since devoting time to reflecting upon the choices I’ve made through this exercise, is that to me, a life without risk, without change, and without new things, is a stagnant existence. It’s one I can’t accept for myself. So I will keep putting myself into uncomfortable situations. I’ll continue trying things that may not seem necessary or meaningful at the time. At this point I can’t help it, but even if I could stop myself, I have to imagine I would keep doing it, because that’s what it means to live.