What I Learned from Trying to do Something Different Every Week
I don’t think I actually got to 52 diffferent things last year. There were a few weeks when I just didn’t manage anything blog worthy. But the goal to do at least one new activity each week was always on my mind, and, for the most part, I stuck to it. Here’s what I learned.
1. It doesn’t matter what you wear. When I first started trying different things, I noticed that, as soon as I considered embarking on unfamiliar territory, I began fretting about what outfit I should wear. The question of whether to dress nicely or casually, to wear jeans or a skirt would honestly take up space in my mind. I’ve always done this, but because I was trying something new weekly, I became keenly aware of how much energy I was investing in fashion anxiety. So I came up with a strategy that has has worked for me. That is: when in doubt, dress up. If you look better than everyone else, that’s never a problem. Honestly, I’m still waiting for that to happen. Also, I’ve noticed that unless you are attending a very formal event, nice jeans are universally acceptable.
2. It takes effort. I am not a good planner. Nevertheless, I became aware over the course of the year that I needed to plan a bit in advance if I wanted to try something different each week. Otherwise, a week could quickly fly by and I’d be staring into the empty face of a Saturday with nothing scheduled, searching event calendars for something I could talk my husband and son into trying.
3. Event calendars are great. I learned that there is always something new and different to try within a one to two hour radius of my house. How do you find them? You check online event calendars posted by newspapers. Or you log onto visitor center sites and click on their “Things to Do” button. Also, Groupon. It gives you an opportunity to try new things at half the cost. Read the fine print though. I still haven’t done that zipline tour I signed up for last summer.
4. The scarier it seems, the better the experience often is. Some of my favorite adventures caused me the greatest anxiety beforehand. I worried intensely about taking my son on the Bike Philly ride (worried about a crash, his hating it, not finding parking, etc.), but that was incredibly fun for both of us, and afterward I felt good that I had introduced him to the festive world of event rides. Similarly, I had some qualms about going to the beach for a girls weekend last spring, and was curiously apprehensive about attending an Elton John concert, after not having been to a concert in years. New experiences are like roller coasters or really steep descents on your bike–the scarier it seems beforehand, the better it usually is.
6. It’s a good way to connect. I went on a tubing trip with my brother, took a pottery class with friends, went on a bike ride with my son, took a wine tour with co-workers and was introduced to Indian food by another group of friends. When you experience new things with people, you develop a new connection to them, and that adds a wonderful dimension to whatever it is you’re trying. I fell like the best part of this year was all the fun I had doing things with friends and family.
7. It’s good for your brain. I had a few people question my decision to try something new every week. But having it on mind kept me more aware of how many different things there are to try. It also forced me to be more open minded about what I would try (tubing, for example, and that zip line thing I’m still scheduled to do in April). What’s more, I found that the more I tried different things, the less anxious I became in preparing for them. Most new adventures end too quickly. I spent a lot of time worrying about doing Yoga on the Steps at the art museum (I don’t do yoga, so I feared falling off the steps). But none of my worries were warranted and I met some great people that day. Because I had many such experiences, over time I began to worry less and approach new challenges more thoughtfully.
8. It fosters self-discovery. At my age, you would think I would know everything about myself. But, in fact, I was sometimes surprised at the activities I was drawn to. Not suprisingly, a lot of them revolved around food and bike adventures. But Ialso enjoyed tremendously some art-related experiences (a trip to the GoggleWorks, in Reading, and a pottery class). I consider my greatest discovery this year to be Longwood Gardens–a place I’d only visited once before, but found could be visited and revisited in every season with something new to discover each time. That surprised me, a bit, since I don’t necessarily consider myself a garden person.
9. I recommend it. Although my year of blogging about doing something different each week is over, I still plan to continue trying new things regularly. I have a better attitude toward trying new things. I no longer feel you have to be majorly adventurous, and I discovered there’s a lot to do that requires very little adventurous spirit. There’s plenty of discovery to be had in trying small things. You can learn a great deal, for example, by going to a horse race, if you’ve never been to one; or by taking a chocolate tour of Philadelphia, if you’ve never given more than a passing thought to the infinite varieties of chocolate. I am still amazed, whenever I consider it, at what goes into producing a bottle of wine–a lesson I learned on our mini local wine tour. There are so many things to learn and experience, but it’s easy to fall into the habit of doing the same things over and over again. Making a commitment to try new things, at least periodically, should be on everyone’s agenda.
10. I’m not completely done. I still plan to blog about new things, I just want to change the focus to trying something meaningful every week. But I’ll blog about that, next time.