It’s hard to escape the usual “New Year” ado this time of year. As the end of one year ushers in the start of the next, we — out of habit and hope — begin to reflect, recap, and resolve. We want to make the next year a new start. A better year than the one before. A year where we do more, get more, achieve more. We want our New Year/New Start to be not just happy, but extraordinary…magical, even.
What a stressor that is! Now, as an over-60 midlife woman, I swear by three simple ways to ensure my new year is always a magical, extraordinary one for me. I think they’ll work for you, too.
1. Learn something new.
In 2021 I developed and pitched a Midlife Reimagined Apprenticeship to a local whiskey distillery so I could learn how to make bourbon. It was an enriching experience, and I went from a 61-year-old distillery intern to a 61-year-old distillery seasonal employee. Making whiskey is a physical job of heavy manual labor, and in the end, after six months on the distillery floor, my body stopped cooperating. I’ve continued my learning online, though, with courses through Moonshine University (yes, that’s a thing). I’ve learned more about chillers (used in the filtering process); stills (it ain’t rocket science but it is science); and creating a distillery visitor experience (marketing basics that totally transfer to dating, so you know I’m writing a post on that — complete with infographics).
My new learning in 2022 will include online courses about barrel char, filtering methods, and mash. I’m also expanding into learning about gin. I was able to dabble in gin-making a bit during R&D sessions at the distillery. Gin and bourbon are my two favorite spirits, so exploring this area of distilling makes sense. It also may come in handy down the road, as you’ll see later in this post.
2. Try something that takes you out of your comfort zone.
Traveling around the world for 70 days (with only one carryon bag) as a first-time solo traveler was my comfort zone-busting move in 2019 after I retired. In early 2020 I turned 60 in Cartagena, Colombia, which challenged every ounce of my introverted self.
Two weeks ago, before this last day of 2021, I finally joined an online Portuguese language immersion group. I’ve been taking Portuguese lessons since 2020, but have never done a conversation immersion experience. For one hour on Zoom, 20 of us from around the world spoke only Portuguese to each other. It was excruciatingly embarrassing for me. The group was billed as a “beginners” group, and the host was patient and accommodating, but the other 19 participants clearly had done this before and were 10 times more fluent than I.
In one breakout small group I was asked to describe my family’s Christmas tradition. In Portuguese. I said we eat fruit cake, because I know how to say that in Portuguese. We detest fruit cake and never eat it. I described making steak with tomato sauce for Christmas dinner. Nope, doesn’t happen either, but I figured it sounded better than fried chicken and eggs, or cod with beer and cheese sauce over pasta, which are other food things I know how to say in Portuguese. I said we open presents, eat, drink red wine, and then go to sleep. That, at least, is exactly what happens on Christmas in my family.
I found this experience very humbling and uncomfortable, because I dread looking (and sounding) stupid, but it was incredibly helpful. There was much I could not understand in spoken conversation, and I kept accidentally switching to French pronouns and articles because I was nervous trying to speak faster like everyone else. But I felt proud of myself — jubilant, even — when I understood a participant in the Netherlands jokingly suggest, in fluent Portuguese, that a 22-year-old participant from Finland could be fixed up with my son. I also understood when the woman in Finland asked, also in fluent Portuguese, how old my son is and if he spoke Portuguese. I was able to answer, in definitely-not-fluent Portuguese, with only one error in syntax. There will be more conversation immersion groups in 2022.
3. Do something you’re afraid of.
2021 is the year I got in a kayak for the first time and paddled on a river for four hours. This was a big deal for me. I do not know how to swim and was terrified of the kayak flipping over. It was on my list of things to learn, though, so I did it. I was very sore at the end, but I never flipped over, and I felt a little like a badass at the end of the day.
By far the biggest fear I overcame in 2021 is launching this blog for my 61st birthday in February. I am a recovering social media avoider (never been on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter) and had never blogged before. I started The Hot Goddess website for a digital marketing course I was taking, but I kept the site private. WordPress sent me daily reminders that no one could see my site because I hadn’t pressed the “Launch” button. Exactly.
I’d written several private blog posts on this site before I finally made myself push fear aside and go ahead with publishing my blog online for anyone to see. This has been scary as hell. Going public with my unfiltered midlife journey as a saucy, sassy 60-something solo traveler, single retiree, and self-aware sexual being is risky. I’m a retired second-grade reading teacher! But I don’t shy away from uncomfortable topics. I am intentionally improper. And I feel brave AF now, after 10 months of blogging, thanks to the incredible support, connections, and opportunities I’ve received as a result.
For 2022, I will need to muster all my courage reserves for something big that will happen ahead of schedule, years before I’d originally planned. When my house unexpectedly sold recently, it opened the opportunity for me to move to Portugal. Now. Living an expat retiree life in Portugal has been my goal since 2019. That’s why I lived there for a month at the start of my around-the-world trip. That’s why I’m learning Portuguese. The plan had been to move by my 65th birthday, but now I don’t have to wait…and I am gripped by fear.
The thought of leaving family and friends. Leaving my adult son and only “child.” Being alone…and lonely. Having to tell folks I like fruit cake because I don’t know how to tell them what I really like. These worries are making me afraid. I will push on, and apply for my temporary residency visa at the Portuguese consulate in Washington, D.C., later in 2022. The pandemic continues to change procedures here and there, so I have no idea what to expect as far as timing.
There are things I still want to accomplish here in my hometown, though timing may not allow it now. Continuing to live here part-time is a possible option. My beloved bourbon is not a common find in Portugal, but I found a family-run craft distillery about 90 minutes from Lisbon that makes bourbon aged in port wine casks from Porto. Gin is ubiquitous in Portugal due to the heavy presence of expats and tourists from the U.K. I also found several gin distilleries in Portugal, hence my aforementioned online gin learning. The thought of pitching an internship to a distillery in Portugal makes my stomach hurt, but I will Google Translate my butt off if I have to. What’s the worst that can happen? Jail? Deportation? Fruit cake?
Having a magical year isn’t magic. These three simple things are all it takes: Learning something new; getting out of your comfort zone; and tackling a fear. What you choose to do for each of these can be anything. It doesn’t have to be big, or complicated, or drastic. Most of mine have been quite basic, but exhilarating to me. What about you? What would you choose to do for each of these?
The first post I wrote on The Hot Goddess blog was for New Year 2021. The post below was not publicly visible until I launched the blog online in February 2021.
Is it a “Magical” New Year Yet?
“Have a magical New Year.” When I typed these words on my Instagram photo collage I laughed until I snorted at this piece of over-the-top confection. “Magical” is a bit much, right? Well…actually, it’s not. Not if you tame your definition of what “magical” is:
Like surprising my liver with a glass of water (unusual). Or actually cooking an international meal from semi-scratch when I’m the one who uses the oven as off-season storage for sweaters (miraculous). Or sticking to my daily morning intention to “say yes more than no and give more than take” — and not just with tequila and oral (imaginary!).
So, hell yeah, I’m off to a magical AF year! I’m still going to create another hopeful, big-ass vision board of slick and colorful old-magazine images I’ll cut out and glue to cheap poster board this month, as the requisite goal-setting rite of the new year. I’m still going to keep working my “big plans” for the future, in one-, three-, and five-year increments. There’s power in that, after all, and I’m good at it.
But there’s magic in stepping off plan and just seeing what little things happen. Here’s to a magical 2021.
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