Learning how to take bigger steps

“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna Quindlen

I have this opportunity, this beautiful second chance to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. An opportunity to do all of the things I want to do. My Bucket List.  I feel as though this entry is related to my previous entry, the remnants of its unfinished state still lingering in my brain.

I was made to revisit this by a timely e-mail from Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to be Rich (iwillteachyoutoberich.com). A deceptive company name in its inherent nature to make the reader think of only one thing: Rich=Money and Things. This is not at all what he means.  Rich is defined by the individual. What does it mean to you to live a Rich life?

Traveling, starting your own business, having the time to pursue your hobbies, buying your parents a house?

In the e-mail he discusses Bucket Lists and what separates people who go after their wishes and dreams and people who do not. He discusses how our past actions shape our future actions. Have you spent the past “x” amount of years on this planet without crossing anything off of your list? Chances are going forward that pattern will remain.  He looks at what people want vs. what they have done to get it.

Some of the items on my list are daunting, they seem overwhelming and insurmountable. At least to me.  I have seven figure debt and make twelve dollars an hour.  As a result of my actions I have nothing. No money. No pure freedom. My ankle bracelet keeping me confined to only certain, acceptable destinations. Overwhelm could easily engulf me at this point. But it does not.

I breath and take a step back. This provides me with an opportunity to to look at my list with a new perspective.

I look objectively at the two core issues:

1.  Ankle Bracelet: It limits my movement. So frustrating in a city that begs to be explored and lived in. As I write, I am limited on where I can go in my own apartment. The bracelet requires charging twice a day, I am now tethered to the wall like a dog on a lead.

This sucks. But does it really? My brain is still free. I write this blog, I am writing a book, I am working on starting my own business.  I read, I seek inspiration through those I admire. All things I love to do, and now I have more time to do them. And the bracelet has an expiration date. May 9th it comes off. Freedom. My biggest issue then becomes a fantastic problem to have; balancing everything I enjoy doing so that I can do it all. How many people actually explore the city they live in? Most people take their immediate surroundings for granted, the landscape becoming a part of their everyday. I’ve been locked up like a tiger in a cage, I hope I never forget what that feels like.

2. I have nothing: Not true. I have family, I have friends, I have things I enjoy doing that don’t cost a dime. By reducing what I have I actually gained so much. I have desire. I have more than I can imagine. Everyday I complete a page in my Five Minute Journal (fiveminutejournal.com). I keep a separate gratitude journal when the 5MJ doesn’t have enough room to cover everything I am grateful for. And if I choose to be stuck on the, “I have nothing” mentality I can even flip that on its head and make it a positive.

I have nothing.

Meaning I have nothing to lose. Meaning I can try whatever I want without fear of losing anything. This is very powerful.

When I first read Ramit’s e-mail and wrote the first draft of this post I looked to my past behavior to see if I had checked items off of my Bucket List to gauge what I would do in the future. My first gut response:

Not really.

I was bummed. I felt as though my future ability to check items off of my Bucket List had been cast in stone by my past behavior.  I had written a post about this that was much different than what you are reading today. I let the post sit for the night and it didn’t sit right with me. I was looking at life with my old eyes.

Having this realization I came back to the initial draft with a set of fresh eyes. I cross checked reality against my initial gut feeling. An initial gut rooted in a feeling unworthiness, lack of self compassion and inability to stop and congratulate myself every so often. I focus on what I haven’t done, not what I have.  Making the things I haven’t done grow disproportionately larger.

I have checked things off. I am in the midst of doing that with every word I type. If I look at the list I created in prison I am proud to say I have already checked things off even with my limited finances and freedom.

I need to stop and pat myself on the back for what I have done and look to the items remaining that feel overwhelming. One of the items on my list that brings the most self doubt: Travel.

I have an all consuming need to climb a mountain, hike the PCT, Appalachian Trail or the Road to Santiago. I want to ride a bike down the The Death Road in Bolivia. I want to see Praia Da Marinha in Portugal that is on my Uncle Andy’s funeral card. I feel the need to be by myself, forced to confront who I am. I, perhaps foolishly, believe I will find absolution at the end of this journey. That I will find love and forgiveness for myself.

Travel, the way I envision traveling, seems like it would be an extremely difficult task for me to overcome. Taking the time off, money, what will people say, who will take care of my cat?

So what can I do to change this mindset? How can I rewire my brain? My motivation to rethink this came from a friend. She asked me the top five things I want to do in NYC.  There is a genius and beauty to this that lies in its simplicity.

Only five things. All of which are within my reach. There is no travel to plan, no planes, no hotels, no time off of work to think about. They are simple, executable and best of all things I want to do. Things I may have easily forgone or forgotten had I not put them in a list.

Why did I not do this in the past? Fear. Why would I be hesitant to pursue this now? Fear and unworthiness.  My reluctance in doing this tied to a deep feeling of unworthiness. Who am I to pursue happiness after what I have done? A self imposed penance for my sin. I am working on this and every little bit is a step in the right direction.

What are the top five things I want to see in NYC:

1. The Whitney – I followed the opening of this amazing museum from prison.  Consuming every article I could, envisioning the day I would be able to explore it.  It was a brief reprieve from the mental and physical prison I was in.

2. Prospect Park – The idea of wandering through nature with no real direction, the park was another reprieve from prison.

3. The Guggenheim – I have never been, and have wanted to go for at least fifteen years. It’s about time to check it off the list.

4. Brooklyn Botanic Garden – On my list for about 5 years, time to check it off.

5. The Polo Bar – I want to put on a suit, have a seat at the bar and treat myself.

Adding all of these activities up will equal around $125.00. I can check off five items from my bucket list, for a nominal sum. I don’t know what my experience will be at each place, nor am I going to attach any emotions to them. I will let them unfold as they were meant to unfold.

Where I see the magic in this lies in the ease of actually doing it.  I am not only experiencing new things, I am chipping away at a much larger set of goals. It is having a stretch goal and breaking it down into smaller, attainable goals.  So that at the end of each day I can say I am that much closer to achieving my stretch goal. I can expand my horizons, my comfort zones, I can show myself that I am worthy of doing things that I want. That it is OK for me to experience happiness and joy.  I can chip away at the list, and in turn my unworthiness.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

– Oliver Wendell Holmes

While I can’t do these things right now, I can do this:

Make a public pledge to myself that I commit to do these things when I am free and able. I am sharing with whoever is reading this and holding myself accountable to cross these items off of my Bucket List. And to further up the ante, I will do them all within a month of May 9th.

This is my 1% for today.

In the meantime I will continue to write, create, and innovate. I can plan, I can do everything now to hit the ground running. I will look at my stretch goals and figure out ways around my internal roadblocks to achieving them. For starters, how much would a big trip cost and how much more do I need to earn to get there? What can I do in order to earn more?

I am not taking a huge step in going to these places, they are all small steps – bu they are steps in the right direction. What I am doing is setting myself up for bigger steps in the future. This isn’t about the five places. This is about moving towards something I want, something I dream of and knowing that I am worthy of doing it.


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