I’ve lived 30 days without owning a car and with no regrets. Originally, ditching the car was a plan to save money, and well, shoot the middle finger to the oil and car companies for whom pensions were fully funded by my fear of being car-less. However, after a month of learning bus routes, walking, biking and scooting around NOVA and DC, it’s the unintentional benefits of a car-free lifestyle which are beginning to add up.
1. Exercise. I still go to the gym 4x/week for a 50 minute cardio session, but now I’m getting bonus workouts by walking 40 minutes round-trip to get to Target, the post office and the bank.
2. Fresh Air. Whenever I drove my car, even with the windows down, I wasn’t outside. I wasn’t breathing in, smelling and enjoying the beauty of wildlife and real life all around me. Now as I’m scooting or walking, I’m taking in fresh air, which in turn makes me feel more awake, more alive, a more active part of the universe.
3. Taxes at Work – Like it or not, I do not, taxes are a fact of life. And since I do pay my taxes, why not get a first hand view of how my local government uses those dollars. Buses, trains, and clean sidewalks are all on the tax bill, so may as well get my monies worth or get my complaint in order for the next city council meeting. (And if you know me, you know I will!)
4. Grocery Bill Reduced – When you’re dependent on your backpack and the storage compartment under your scooter seat, you think hard about your weekly grocery list. My cart’s no longer bogged down with a 12-pack of soda or six bottles of wine, instead I shop for the immediate–what do I want to eat today, tomorrow and maybe the next day. I find I can even spread my short grocery list into five days by encouraging myself that I have food in the house, albeit it may not be my first choice for breakfast, but I can make do with a boiled egg until I can make another run to the store.
5. Going Green – Please note: I will never be All Gore on the environment, but I do believe we should do what we can to save the planet. My way was to ditch the car. No amount of recycling or changing my light bulbs has given me the satisfaction that ditching the car has given me in my attempts to preserve the planet. I don’t sit in traffic and burn gallons of fuel, nor do I waste precious time filling up a gas tank every two weeks. Instead, I just walk on by the gas stations and the folks sitting in traffic, saying to myself, “it’s not easy being green, but it sure does make life a heck of a lot more simple.”
6. Adventures – Finding new ways to get to old places provides adventures without leaving the neighborhood. Traveling back roads either on scooter or the bus, I’ve seen parts of my neighborhood I didn’t know existed. Plus, it keeps my mind active and alert.
7.Reading – Riding the bus or metro gives me a lot more time to catch up on all those books I bought when Borders was going out of business. I’ve already made it through two books. And while I know I can listen to a book while driving, for me, it’s just not the same, not as intimate as turning the pages one by one.
Right now, I’m happy being car-free. I’ve discovered that life is a lot less stressful when you take the slow way, the longer way. We settle down, we take in our surroundings and forgive me for being all zen-like, but we’re more present in the moment. In the process of getting somewhere, we focus on the journey, not the destination. After all, isn’t that life?
Today, another Gen-X’er turns 40. Instead of crawling under my sheets and over-dosing on Geritol and Ben & Jerry’s, I went out to get my semi-annual 20 units of Botox, then channeled my inner-Zhivago as I sipped vodka at the Russia House and reflected on the life lessons of this Breakfast Club, Gen-X’er.
1. Quality friends are more rewarding than quantity. Especially in the age of social networking, I’m thankful that I have high standards for “friending” folks, the reward is immense in support, commaradiere, laughs and well simply, “they get me and I get them.”
2. Sunscreen is the best anti-aging product.
3. International travel is essential to appreciate the wisdom of our founding fathers, and despite our government’s shortcoming’s, we live in the best country in the world.
4. Trends you thought would never come back do. You only get one shot to wear a trend. If you’re old enough to have lived through the trend the first time, you’re too old to take part the second, third time around. I never thought leggings or flipped collars would come back, but they did.
5. The more crap you have the more you have to move. Live in a small house and you’ll be forced to clean out at least two times a year.
6. Keep old love letters. It reminds you of those few, but very special people that came into your life and touched your core, for which you were never the same.
7. Keep a journal. You’ll be amazed at the strength you had when you couldn’t imagine how you’d ever survive without him in your life. Your life is a story only you can tell and over time, you’ll see that when you thought life was boring, non-eventful, you were indeed, having amazing adventures.You’ll also discover that you’re pretty awesome, yet beautifully flawed.
8. Never stop learning. This keeps your mind active and makes you more interesting.
9. There is no perfect job or utopia work place. Every place I’ve worked and will work in the future has their own brand of crazy. The trick is finding the place that gels with your own crazy.
10. Keep a diverse group of friends who are older, younger, from different parts of the country and world than you. By leaving my home state, NC, early in life, my world opened up to people and places I never imagined I’d see. Each person, each place, transformed me to see the world through lenses other than those of my traditional, southern roots. From this, I learned so much about how others view men/women, politics, child-rearing and traditions, that I am enriched daily.
11. Buying a power drill opens the door to endless household projects you can easily do yourself and makes you extremely self sufficient.
12. As much as I hate it, work out at least three times a week. I’m confident I’d be a gastric bypass candidate if I didn’t commit to this when I turned 25.
13. Pick a college major that you’re passionate about, no matter what your parents want you to do. Unless you believe your calling is to be a doctor or nurse, your major will have little to do with your job and ultimate career path. If I had buckled to the pressure to be a nurse or business major, I would’ve missed out on the beauty of Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Fast forward 17 years, I turned out okay and have worked with global Fortune 100 companies.
14. Have an appreciation for something. Just because I wasn’t destined to be a prima ballerina or the 21st century’s Ansel Adams doesn’t mean I don’t love the ballet or a photo exhibit. These are true artists and I appreciate their gifts and talents.
15. Eating dinner alone doesn’t make you a loser. It makes you a confident, independent woman!
16. After the 2nd glass of wine, all wine tastes the same.
17. With enough money, you can pay people to do almost anything for you. No longer, do I feel like I have to do it all.
18. There is always going to be someone who is smarter, prettier, skinnier than you, but for everyone of those there are countless others for which you are their ideal.
19. There is no shame in plastic surgery or Botox.
20. Your vote does count. Just look to Florida 2000 if you don’t think so.
21. A home without a cat is just a house.
22. Second chances come back for a reason, but look carefully before you leap back in, sometimes it’s a distraction to side-track you from where you’re meant to be.
23. Relationships require work.
24. Every year make goals, not resolutions. Goals are things we want to do versus resolutions are behaviors we don’t like about ourselves. I’m much more inclined to achieve what I want to do rather than change about me I don’t. This tactic makes me feel more successful year after year. Even the little things, like learning how to sew or how to install a ceiling fan, brings me satisfaction that I can do anything I set out to do.
25. You can solve almost anything by typing your question into Google.
26. You can never watch your favorite movie too many times. I have no clue as to how many times I’ve seen The Sound of Music, but I never miss an opportunity to watch and see if the Von Trapps make it out of Austria safely.
27. Going out on New Year’s Eve is overrated. Go to bed early and wake up refreshed to a new year, feeling that anything is possible.
28. Karma’s a bitch–that stupid boy that dumped you and left you devastated for months will get his someday, and it’ll be 100x worse than what you experienced. Trust me on this one!
29. Work will never love you back, so why invest your heart and soul? Do the work, go home at a decent hour and love your life and have it love you back.
30. Contribute to your 401K as often and as much as you can. It’s glaringly obvious social security will not “secure” Gen-X’s future.
31. When you buy a house, put money down on it. This makes you an investor and a home owner.
32. Keep up with technology. If you do, you can shave at least 5-10 years off your real age.
33. You’ll inevitably say, “I remember when…” and then feel like “when” wasn’t so long ago.
34. Don’t wait around for other people to come into your life. Go out and find them. I credit Twitter and a solo trip to China where I found people with whom I now count as friends.
35. Vacation time and flexibility is more important than a higher salary. After all, I’ve resigned to the fact that I’ll be working til I’m 80, so between now and then I need more than a couple weeks off a year.
36. There is no happily ever after. Life is more complicated, twisted and bumpy than what Disney had us believe.
37. Traditions are meant to be broken. Pave your own path, make your own traditions. Just because you’ve always done it one way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it that way.
38. Always say “please” and “thank you.” It goes a long way in creating strong relationships.
39. Hold onto your values. Not everyone’s going to agree with you and that’s okay, it’s what makes you, you.
40. And finally, in the words of Miles from “Risky Business:” Sometimes you gotta say “WTF”, make your move, and every now and then saying, “WTF,” brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.”
I expect we all have a bucket list somewhere written in the depths of our brains that we often think about in between the chores of our everyday and seemingly common life. I’ve found; however, that it if I write it down, I have a greater chance at actually achieving it, and thus pursing my path to something great. It’s something about seeing it on paper and physically checking it off makes me feel accomplished. Yes, I’m a sucker for “to-do” list on a sticky note that stares at me all week before I break down and either do it or throw the note away in protest that for that week, I just wasn’t in the mood to be that organized with my life. Sorry, I digress.
I believe a bucket list evolves as we do and things come on and off the list as our priorities and outlook on life and what’s important changes. So today, March 7th, which I’m recommending as “National Bucket List Day,” I claim my bucket list as follows:
Live in Italy for 6 months to a year, drinking wine, learning Italian, exploring the churches and writing about all the people I meet along the way
Host a Thanksgiving dinner for my family. (Note: I don’t cook very well, but something about hosting T-giving makes me feel like an adult and something I should do at least once in my life.)
Learn to sew. My throw back to the 50’s, and my innate desire to create something new from something old.
Have an article or an essay published.
Write a book. Don’t care about publishing it, I just want to write it.
Meet George W. Bush. Don’t judge here. He’s really a cool guy.
Climb the Effiel Tower.
Wake up early enough to see the sunrise over the ocean.
Go sky diving.
Go on an African safari.
Travel to every continent (except Antartica [way too cold])
Be highlighted in my alumni magazine for being an extraordinary alumni.
Spend Christmas at the beach with family and enjoying time together without the commercialism of presents
Wait until 12/23 to buy a Christmas tree and decorate it on Christmas Eve.
Visit the Princess Diana burial site in Althorp, England.
Pray the rosary all the way through
Sing at a karoke bar
Go to Russia during the white nights.
Watch Citizen Kane, Chariots of Fire and The Godfather saga.
Go to Phuket, Thailand, Turkey, Iceland, Germany, coast of France, Japan.
Own a cuckoo clock.
Sponsor a serviceman/woman during the holidays.
Retire at the beach
Learn the Thriller dance. (currently a work in progress)
See Elton John and Billy Joel in concert.
Spend a week/weekend at a Dude Ranch (this is just funny, not sure why I want to do this, but I do)
Last year’s theme song was about “Searchin’ My Soul.” I was lost. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I was in conflict over what I thought I wanted in life and what life had dealt me. This year, I turned a corner. I discovered and accepted who I was, and learned that life is not about following societal norms and traditions, but about finding your own way. It was about “Defying Gravity.”
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
of someone else’s game
Too late for second guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap
It’s time to try
I think I’ll try
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
and you won’t bring me down…
I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But ’til I try I’ll never know
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost
I’d sooner buy
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
I think I’ll try
And you won’t bring me down…
I’d sooner buy
Kiss me goodbye
I’m Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
And you won’t bring me down,
Bring me down