Day 18

Posted on Jan 19, 2011 in Blog


What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

To try.  There are so many things I’d like to try this year.  New food.  New cities.  New homes.  I’d like to try and get my violin playing up to a certain degree of respectability.  I’d like to try and start my new novel.

But here’s the thing:  all of this emphasis on trying wearies me.  In a way, I feel like the word implies failure right from the get-go.  I know — unspeakably harsh.  Horribly unfair.  And, most likely, not true at all.  Because every accomplishment that’s ever been made comes from that starting point — someone set out to try and do something.  Someone decided that they’d like to try and put man into the air, and eventually it happened. 

For me, though, if I make a “try” list, I inevitably never feel that much pressure to really pull it off.  I can sit here and say that I would like to try and learn my violin, but if the emphasis is on the trying, I’ll find something else throughout the year that requires my attention.  I know I will.  It’s just the way I operate.  Case in point?  I could try and change this behaviour.  Sounds quite different from “I will change this behaviour”, doesn’t it?

One of the exercises that I routinely do for myself, both in my notebook and on my blog, is to make a list for myself of things that I’d like to have in my life, in or around the near future.  And then, beside that list, I draw up a list of things that I NEED to have in that same span of time.  Usually the lists look something like this:

Amanda wants:

— a grand piano
— a dog
— a new apartment
— a kick-ass pair of comfortable boots
— more stories published

Amanda needs:

— to get her eye prescription updated
— a job
— a kick-ass pair of comfortable boots, because the old ones are actually falling apart
— to fix that pesky lens on the camera

So I write these lists, and then I stuff them away (either by scrolling up the screen or turning over the page), and forget about them.  Six months or so later I come back to these lists, and see which of these things, if any, have actually shown up in my here and now.  Usually, the “Amanda Needs” list is invariably complete, and all without conscious thought on my part.  But sometimes, the “Amanda wants” list gets a few things checked off as well.  (The best part is when the “Want” and “Need” lists intersect, as in the case of the Kick-Ass Comfortable Boots, which were purchased at an unprepossessing shoe store in Scotland for the bargain price of $40.00.)  Example:  almost three years ago, I moved to Edinburgh and went about collecting stuff for my apartment.  I had very little money, but I knew what I wanted and what I needed for my living space in order to truly have a go at life in the city.  (Eventually my wants and needs changed, and I ended up moving out, but that’s another story for a previous entry)  And one of those things was a piano.  I wrote it on my list.  It was both a “want” item, because I wanted one, and a “need” item, because I didn’t watch TV and knew that I needed to have something that distracted me from writing if I was to come out of Edinburgh with my sanity intact. 

Now, pianos are not generally cheap things, folks.  Being at the time unemployed and nursing a hope of a career in the arts (read: someone who could barely feed herself, never mind finance a large musical instrument), I figured that the only way I’d get my hands on a piano would be if I married rich, or seduced a piano salesman.  So I wrote it on my list and forgot about it, and then a few months or so later it just so happened, by a wonderful string of events that included a random e-mail forum ad, a woman looking to upgrade to a baby grand and downgrade her antique player piece of wonderfulness, and some very understanding piano movers, that a glorious antique piano came into my very own possession.  I played it almost every day for the next 2.5 years. 

The point, here, is that I’m much better at making lists for myself than I am at trying to do things.  I’ve already made lists on this blog.  But here’s another list, just because.  (I will be repeating some things here, for which I apologize, but which I also hope will speak to my determination/stubbornness to see these things through.)  In keeping with the theme of the question, you are free to insert the word “try”  — as in, “try to get”, or “try to master” — before every item.

In 2011, I would like:

— an apartment of my very own, preferably by water
— a dog
— to play at least ten intermediate pieces on my violin
— to finally learn the entirety of Chopin’s Chanson de L’Adieu, once and for bloody all
— to publish three more short stories
— to play the first movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata without any mistake.  At tempo!
— to start work on that new novel
— to go on a writer’s retreat
— to learn another language

There are more things, of course.  There are always more.  Typing this now I’m immediately struck and feeling rather shameful about how the above list doesn’t say things like “I will give away 10% of all my earnings to charity”, or “I will volunteer”, or something else like that.  You know, it actually looks like a pretty selfish list. 

Okay, so maybe there’s room in here for a try item after all.  How about this:  in 2011, I will try to be a better person.  There’s always room for someone to be better, and so I guess in that sense the word try is pretty apt, as you can’t get this all of the time.  As to what better will entail — well.  I feel like I was not the best shade of myself in 2010, if truth be told.  I was too solitary, I was too tired, I was too … proud.  I would like 2011 to be my better year.  Hopefully, if I am better, that will make it better.  Fingers crossed.