My New Thing For Today Project
Two years ago today, on my 57th birthday, I embarked on a project. I pledged to do one new thing—every single day—for the following year. As it turned out, one year of novel activities, both large and small, rolled into two years of something new every day. Now, 730 days later, I realize what a gift my experiment turned out to be.
Just as my grown sons were beginning their careers and evolving into interesting adults, I felt I was becoming, well, less interesting. Approaching my 50-something birthday, I realized, although painful to admit, I was bored with myself. I was in a rut.
My life needed a reboot. I craved new things to get excited about. As we are apt to do, I’d fallen into the habit of dining at the restaurants I knew I liked, vacationing at the places I was certain to love, and cooking dinner with the same rotating menus. Like people everywhere, I took the easy route, the predictable and careful road. Although comfortable and safe, I longed for a dash of “thrill” sprinkled throughout my days.
Research indicates we become stagnant and stale if new experiences and ideas are not continually introduced into our lives. Newness creates excitement and enthusiasm with ourselves and our partners. Novelty sparks passion—individually and with others.
As human beings, we are wired to seek out security, familiarity, and safety. For our bodies to grow stronger and change for the better, we need to stimulate and challenge our muscles. It is the same with ourselves and our relationships. To expand personally, we must seek challenges and bring newness into our lives.
You can’t just be you. You have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know. -Mary Wells Lawrence
I learned “new and different” doesn’t need to be substantial. Picking up an unusual flavor of ice cream at the grocery, traveling home through an unfamiliar neighborhood, tuning in to the latest podcast, deviating from my standard latte order, teaching myself a trick on my phone or computer, streaming a new TV show—these small versions of new things all counted. No matter the size, I learned breaking the pattern of habits and routines produces a feeling of contentment.
Instead of simply admiring the beautiful photos and tapping hearts on Instagram feeds, I prepared cauliflower mashed potatoes and spiralized vegetables and key lime brownies. I learned about ghee and coconut aminos and the Whole 30 craze. After spending as little time in the kitchen as possible when the kids left home, testing new recipes proved great fun and revived my interest in cooking.
Would I have ever guessed a few spin classes would lead to a bike trip through Normandy? Riding in the rain through the beautiful French countryside—dotted with poppies and cows and history—was scary for me and definitely out of my comfort zone. I am not a rider, after all. The challenge of the new activity, coupled with adventure, produced an incredible feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment—and a trip I will never forget.
Discovering and trying unfamiliar things helped my husband and me to engage and connect—it gave us new things to talk about. The rock climbing gym was challenging for me, and he was a great sport as the only male in the macaroon-making workshop. We introduced each other to new books, shared newspaper articles the other might skip, and encouraged listening to music out of our usual genres.
My short neighborhood runs eventually led to a few 5Ks in our town and elsewhere. Rewarded with hot chocolate, sausage on a stick, and sometimes beer at the finish line, who cares if I slowed down to walk? I am still playing around with a camera and learning basic photography skills. As my curiosity grows, so does my confidence. And my desire to keep trying and learning.
Supporting and encouraging my project, my sons got on the bandwagon when I visited their homes. Laughing together, we clumsily rolled sushi and tried our hands at archery. Unwrapping their Christmas gift to me—a pasta machine—I confess the words “work” and “mess” ran through my mind. Somewhat true, but mastering the art of kneading and folding and cutting the dough yielded a particular sort of joy and satisfaction.
Did I like every new thing I tried? Of course not. A Zumba workout class wasn’t for me, and the vase I attempted to coil in a pottery class looked like a toddler’s effort. Slimy herring won’t pass my lips again, and I wasn’t crazy about Billions. But I tried, I learned, I was happy with myself for being a tiny experimenter. And when I feel good about myself, things flow better with those around me.
My greatest gift of the last two years? Finding my long-lost cousin. Separated by family dynamics we may never understand, reaching out to Louann was a BIG new thing for the day. After a 35 year absence in each other’s lives, our wonderful relationship is proof it is never too late to reach out in a new and different direction. Unbelievably, her beautiful daughter (and my new “niece”) attends college within walking distance of my home!
I have no intention of stopping my search for novelty. It’s a habit now, a mindset. I reach out, make plans, go for things—even when it is an effort. As I sip my morning coffee, and contemplate 59 (gasp!) years, I subconsciously think about what I will experience or learn today. And my list of things I want to do or try is very, very long…
PS—a young couple’s December ADVENTure, a woman blessed with a passion project, and an ultra-inspiring nonagenarian