Update on 25 before 25

25 things to try/do/explore before 25 (full recaps after the jump):
  1. Establish a morning ritual
  2. Get a facial
  3. Try an aerial silks class
  4. Unsubscribe from all sale-related emails
  5. Visit Duluth
  6. Take a knife skills class
  7. Cook 6 recipes from the book, "Plenty"
  8. Host a dinner party
  9. Go on a spontaneous adventure 
  10. Take the GMAT
  11. Go to Canada
  12. Publish 26 posts on the blog
  13. Travel internationally for work
  14. Build an emergency fund
  15. Take a horseback riding lesson
  16. Read a book from my bookshelf of books I've purchased but haven't yet read
  17. Re-assess my budget
  18. Create an organization system for my financial paperwork
  19. Complete a 30-days practice
  20. Completely disconnect for 3 days
  21. Make a gallery wall in my apartment
  22. Build a business case for why my company should cover my graduate degree
  23. Save up for a splurge spa day
  24. Learn how to polish leather
+ bonus: Hike the John Muir Trail (moved to this year from 24 before 24)

  1. Establish a morning ritual:
    On far more days than I’d like to admit, my mornings looked like a mess of pleading for more sleep (as if that was something my alarm could actually grant), arguing both sides of the more sleep v. workout debate, feeling rushed regardless, and starting the day feeling behind. Great way to kick off days in which you need to bring your A-game, right?

    Interestingly, the days in which I got up earlier than necessary felt downright magical. Even small changes like getting up 15 mins earlier to walk to a coffee shop before going to the office made the rest of my day feel more focused, purposeful, and productive. The question was how to make mornings like this a habit rather than an occasional occurrence.

    Insert a morning ritual. And an obscene amount of trial and error to create something I cared enough about to actually create time for it.

    A year of experiments later (Snooze or no snooze? When do you look at your phone? What are the core things you need in your mornings? What order to those things go in? etc.) here’s what my mornings now look like:

    Official ritual: I wake up to the loveliest sunrise alarm clock of all time, grin, do a full-body stretch, sit up, turn off the alarm, and say a quick prayer of thanks. Movement is critical here to avoid falling back to sleep, so I throw on the workout clothes I laid out the night before, head for the kitchen, and make a mug of warm water with lemon (killer for getting your digestive system moving). I’ve learned that my days go the way my mind goes for the first 30 mins I’m awake (focus = focus; checking social media = restless mind for the rest of the day, etc.), so the next 25 mins are devoted to cultivating awareness via a reading from She Reads Truth and meditation with the Headspace App. Mind quieted and body awake, I hit a trail, park, or the gym for the day’s workout. My ritual concludes with creativity / getting in the zone for the day via a bullet journal entry addressing the following: 
    1. What I’m excited for
    2. How I want to feel
    3. What I will do to practice self-compassion
    At this point, I also review two things I wrote down the night before – any appointments / meetings and my three MITs / Most Important Tasks. My energy is now off.the.charts and it’s time to clean up for the day. Cue protein, a shower, and actual breakfast. Stat.

    Important to note: I don’t check my email or look at any notifications until after I’m completely ready for the day. I owe it to myself and to those I interact with to set my day up for success before attempting to tackle anything requested of me.

    On the days that need more time: Typical ritual up until the morning sweat sesh. To get my blood pumping, I’ll do a quick workout of 50 jumping jacks, 15 pushups, 15 squats, and 20 lunges and reschedule my official sweat session to the afternoon or evening.

    The slight variation between the full and abbreviated ritual keeps my mornings fresh and means that morning me-time is something I can actually stick to. The best part? Regardless of what happens the rest of the day, having morning me-time means the day is still a good one. Win Win Win Win Win.

  2. Ride in a hot air balloonGoal: wait until fall to make fall foliage gawking from above a thing. Reality: hahaha. Why do you always think you will have time to do things in the fall?

  3. Get a facial
    Another swing and a miss because I didn’t put it on the calendar. I did finally make an appointment for April (nearly halfway into 25) and spent the hour drifting in and out of bliss-induced consciousness. Highly recommended.

  4. Try an aerial silks class
    The sad streak continues with this one. Lesson learned: if you’re only in town on weekends, research if studios offer weekend classes before you put something on your list.

  5. Unsubscribe from all sale-related emails
    My work email lived in a state of inbox zero but my personal email lived in the thousands. After perpetually feeling overwhelmed by the state of my inbox and realizing that I was tempted to lust over clothes or things I didn’t need, I decided to stop my “but I can just look…” behavior at the source by unsubscribing from emails. My inner deal-hunter chided me for a bit, saying, “but how will you know about the sales?” to which my voice of reason said, “If it isn’t on sale at Banana Republic, wait two days and it will be.

    Decision made. Inbox decluttered. Consumerism conquered.

    Doing this took a good half-day at a coffee shop (this was pre-gmail unsubscribe magic) and the feeling of lightness afterward is something I wish was available as a prescription with unlimited refills. The nutsy thing about sale-related emails though: they’re like weevils. You can unsubscribe from them, but somehow, they still pop back up. For the interim between now and inbox purge round 2, I’ve become a convert of Unrollme. If you’re in pursuit of inbox zero (or at minimum, not having 1000 unread notifications greeting you when you open your personal inbox), check it out.

  6. Visit Duluth
    During a rare “work from Minneapolis” day in February, I heard that the Northern Lights would likely be visible that night from Duluth (a city 2.5 hrs away from me). A lighter work day and mapping out a route convinced me it would be possible to get up and back in a night, so I texted the man I was seeing and asked if he’d be game for something crazy. He was and an hour later, we were on the road to Duluth. Aurora (borealis) turned out to be shy that night, but he and I still had an excellent road trip, a magical night of stargazing on the bank of Lake Superior, and a “did we actually do that?” story the next morning.

  7. Take a knife skills class
    This one felt like fate. After my 2015 John Muir Trail adventure was cut short due to injury (turns out you can’t go from working 18-hour days for an M&A project to mountain climbing without your body complaining a bit), I found myself with some unexpected time at home in August. I pulled up this list, decided to start scheduling things that needed prep time, and googled “Minneapolis Knife Skills Class.” Lo and behold, a local cooking school had a knife skills class that afternoon. The clincher? They still had seats available. I paid my class fee, showed up a few hours later, and then spent the afternoon playing with knives. Here’s what I know post-class: 
    1. The bigger the better 
    2. The proper way to hold a knife / cut food is very different from what you’d expect
    3. Showing people how to properly hold a knife is a surprisingly clever pickup technique. Hellooo new favorite party trick.
  8. Cook 6 recipes from the book, “Plenty”
    Ah Plenty. Your beautiful pages and exotic ingredients captivated this wanna-be-home cook. In creating this list, adding you seemed like the perfect way to make me more apt to cook than go out. Alas, this was a year of takeout instead of cooking. Between working long hours, studying for the GMAT, and being home 2 days a week, there were actually months when I didn’t cook a single meal at home. #takeoutlife.

    Side note: the best takeout in Minneapolis comes from Namaste CafĂ© on Hennepin Ave. Get the Punjabi Spinach Paneer. Spice level three if you’re adventurous, spice level one if you prefer Minnesota style. You can thank me later.
  9. Host a dinner party
    Despite my inability to cook anything from Plenty, I did invite a few friends over in March for a potluck dinner party. They brought the wine, salad, and dessert; I cooked the main dish (a miso, sweet potato, kale, and bean stew). Simple yet oh so satisfying.

  10. Go on a spontaneous adventure
    See “Visit Duluth.” To this date, I can’t eat a Chipotle burrito (car food of choice), listen to Chet Faker, or see the travel blanket I keep in my car without grinning about the up-and-back drive to see the Northern Lights. Successful spontaneous adventure.

  11. Take the GMAT
    Double check for this one since I took it twice. Anyone interested in buying Manhattan GMAT books?
  12. Go to Canada
    It was nearly blasphemous that I hadn’t visited our neighbors to the North despite living in Minnesota for fourteen years. No sooner did I write this list, however, was I assigned to a project in Toronto. Thanks for helping me check this one off the list, Universe.

  13. Publish 26 posts on my blog
    Let’s do better next year, shall we?

  14. Travel internationally for work
    Oh, Canada! Related: Getting Global Entry for this project was the best decision I made all year. When you’re crossing the border every week, the hours you save in customs lines (plus having guaranteed Pre-check) is absolutely worth it.

  15. Build an emergency fund
    Building an emergency fund was the first thing I did when I started receiving a paycheck, enabled by going carless and keeping my overhead low. The account took its first hit when I bought a car and was advised to put some of its funds towards the down payment. Then life happened and the emergency fund met its intended purpose. Cue needing to rebuild the fund. A year of mindful saving later, we’re back in action.

  16. Take a horseback riding lesson
    Taking a horseback riding lesson was my favorite thing I tried this year!

    I grew up around horses but gave up riding when I moved to Minnesota. Years of wanting to get back into the saddle passed until I realized that I could afford my own lessons and therefore had no excuses for why I wasn’t riding again (novel, I know). Compliments of this list, I researched stables, found one I loved, signed up for the barn’s month-long “Intro Class” required for all new riders, and the rest was history.

    The month of lessons I thought I’d do turned into weekly lessons, I acquired breaches and tall boots that made me feel so me when I put them on, and my business school wishlist grew to include a riding program. Riding started out as something that sounded like fun but transformed into something that made a lot of other areas of my life more meaningful too. More about this to come in a later post!

  17. Read a book from my bookshelf of things I purchased but haven’t yet had a chance to read
    Perhaps the most magical bookstore known to man (or at least me) happens to be next door to my favorite brunch haunt. There are few pairings quite as perfect as a croissant, strong coffee, a level of thoughtful curation that seems oblivious to the shop’s intimate size, handwritten "what I loved about this" notes tucked into pages, and hidden reading nooks. Needless to say, weekly brunch often led to weekly wanders through the bookstore, which led to me developing a beautiful collection of books that begged to be read.

    One of these books was the book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History. From the inside cover,

    An engaging narrative about an incredible, life-giving organ and its imperiled modern fate.

    Did you know that breast milk contains substances similar to cannabis? Or that it’s sold on the Internet for 262 times the price of oil? Feted and fetishized, the breast is an evolutionary masterpiece. But in the modern world, the breast is changing. Breasts are getting bigger, arriving earlier, and attracting newfangled chemicals. Increasingly, the odds are stacked against us in the struggle with breast cancer, even among men. What makes breasts so mercurial―and so vulnerable?

    In this informative and highly entertaining account, intrepid science reporter Florence Williams sets out to uncover the latest scientific findings from the fields of anthropology, biology, and medicine. Her investigation follows the life cycle of the breast from puberty to pregnancy to menopause, taking her from a plastic surgeon’s office where she learns about the importance of cup size in Texas to the laboratory where she discovers the presence of environmental toxins in her own breast milk. The result is a fascinating exploration of where breasts came from, where they have ended up, and what we can do to save them

    The book itself was every bit as fascinating and entertaining as its description. I loved creating space to curl up and read, told my friends all about what I was learning, and changed a few of my habits to take better care of my body as a result of what I learned from the book. Verdict: highly recommended.

  18. Re-assess my budget
    My income changed since my last budget review and I knew big changes like forgoing an income for two years to invest in an MBA were quickly approaching. As I looked towards business school / being back on a student budget, I knew I wanted to put more of my income towards savings while still being able to enable my ‘happy’ (experiences and travel). Insert a great conversation with my financial advisor. Together, we created a system for more saving and re-assessed my spending to figure out what we could move around to maximize my goals. Experience budgets were recalibrated (food, travel, events), rent budget went down, and every penny had a home. Best of all, the entire process was guilt-free. Budget bliss.
  19. Create an organization system for my financial paperwork
    Five step process for organizing financial paperwork: 
    1. Sign up for electronic records to stop the paper
    2. Acquire a fun binder for all existing financial documents
    3. Review all existing financial documents, hole punch them, and put them in the binder
    4. Review all eStatements as you receive them
    5. Pat yourself on the back for doing adult things
  20. Complete a 30-days practice
    This one took a bit of an unexpected turn. My original plan was for it to be 30 days of yoga or meditating or something of the like. Instead, it became 30 days of vacation away from work. The month – August – was the first time I’d taken extended time away from the office post-college and now I get why Europeans like it so much. The full month away was perfect for actually settling into vacation, completely recharging, and then being ready to go back when the month was up. Future goal: take a month away from work each year

  21. Completely disconnect for 3 days
    My Dad and I set out in August for 25 days off the grid on the John Muir Trail. No cell service, no Wifi, and no outside communications aside from the satellite phone we carried for emergencies. Going from being hyper connected / sleeping with my smartphone to not even listening to music for the first 5 days was incredible. I was nervous about going through withdrawal, but the trails and scenery turned out to be more than enough to occupy my brain. During the time we were on the trail, I’ve never felt more attuned to the world nor have I felt more physically satisfied with my days. Waking with the sun, hiking 6-14 miles a day up and down passes in the Sierras, and sleeping when you’re tired (rather than fighting it) is something that made me feel human in a way that’s hard to describe. For all of our world’s glorification of self-denial (sleep, energy cycles, etc.), actually listening to what my body wanted was a beautiful lesson.

  22. Make a gallery wall in my apartment
    My prior apartment had lath and plaster walls which meant hanging artwork came with the risk of fracturing—or worse, tearing—the wall. Accordingly, most of my artwork set on floors or perched atop shelving units as no-hang solutions. Moving into an apartment with drywall was a game changer and I finally created a long-envisioned gallery wall. Hello walking into a place that felt finished and undeniably adult.

  23. Build a business case for why my company should cover my business school tuition
    My line of work requires an MBA (a 2-year degree) for continued career progression. Due to the large required investment (hello high tuition + forgoing an income for two years for the fulltime program), my firm covers MBA program costs for top performers who create a successful business case for sponsorship. Aka one of the most important PowerPoint presentations you’ll ever build.

    My business case experience was both painful and exceedingly rewarding. The pain came from finalizing my story in the wee hours of the morning during a tough project, the reward from condensing three years of impact at the firm plus my intended growth areas, school selections, and future plans into a meaningful story. Working through what I wanted to share about myself and what I wanted my future to look like as a part of this sponsorship process ended up being invaluable for actual MBA applications later on that fall. Successfully attaining said sponsorship was easily my most satisfying accomplishment of 24.

  24. Save up for a splurge spa day
    This was done in pieces over the year – my plans to actually take a day to do a full spa day were always thwarted by other things. That said, I did make a point to schedule a massage after every flight cancellation…which led to me wish that I had more flight cancellations.
  25. Learn how to polish leather
    Investing in a beautiful pair of leather boots meant that they needed to be loved from the start if they were to survive more than one season of Minnesota winter. Between learning how to polish them myself and a trip to the cobbler to get new soles (which can easily be replaced rather than buying a new pair!), my favorite tall leather boots are still looking new!