I could look back at my 50-4-50 list and be disappointed for not accomplishing more, but why? Maybe I didn’t kayak a total of 10 times, but I did kayak more than previous summers.  I also didn’t travel to all the places I listed, but I did travel. Part of setting goals is celebrating the small steps. That’s what I chose to do for the past few months however, my 50-4-50 list still nagged at me.  Not so much a nagging that I needed to rush and accomplish everything, but a nagging that I learned some kind of bigger lesson from the whole experience.

As 2019 approached, along with the end of my 50th year, I’ve spent many of my dog walking hours thinking about my list to see if I could figure out why I wasn’t closer to crossing off the entire list. I started the blame game: my family’s medical situations the past year, a job that requires me to grade and plan in the evenings and weekends, buying and selling a home, moving from our home of 24 years into a new home.  I could find all kinds of excuses but then I remembered, it was my list, not anyone else’s. It was time for me to look inward.

My brain loves to find patterns, so I started to notice almost everything on my list related to other people can be (at least partially) checked off.  Those that I let slide focused solely on me. Not a surprise really. There’s a reason I chose teaching as a profession–it’s about the people.

That’s not to say I put everyone else first, it just means I love being with others and helping others. But even this realization didn’t completely satisfy me for some reason. I felt there was more to it, so I kept walking the dog and thinking. That’s when I remembered Oprah turning 50.  On her show she talked about a feeling of liberation at the, and that’s how I feel now as I begin year 51. My 50-4-50 list didn’t dictate my last year, people did, but in a good way. I’ve found that when someone reaches out to me, I don’t look guiltily at my to-do list for school, home, NWP, union, shopping, etc.  I stop and focus on the person. Call me to join you for dinner or a night of cards? Sure! Ask me to be the fourth pickleball player Thursday night? Sure! Drive to Milwaukee just to spend a day with Pam, Matt and Mariette? Sure!

Time has become less important to me in many ways. When I find myself worried and stressed about not having enough time, I remind myself that there will be plenty of time if I just focus on the current moment.  When I do this, my to-do list is just that, a to-do list, not a mandate for how I must live my life. It’s that liberation I feel as I enter year 51 today and the reason I will celebrate today by having no specific schedule, not even a specific time for birthday cake. Today will be another day to  enjoy the people around me, and who knows, maybe cross something off the to-do list.

PS:  Here’s a link to my original 50-4-50 list if you’re interested in just what I accomplished or want to try something similar.