Ten months ago, on a rainy Invercargill weeknight, I sat at a Thai restaurant in Dee St and made a list.
There was no numbering of items according to their importance. It was a free-writing exercise with a glass of wine, a plate of curry pushed out of the way, and my work iPhone for reference.
It had to do with habits.
The list went under a title that read something like I Need New Ones.
This year that I am living in now was just a seed of an idea that night.
I had given notice on my job and my crib in Omaui.
I had toyed with different occupations I could go onto once I returned to California to see my family. Just about every element of my life had a question mark next to it.
Now I'm guessing there is a list that everyone has. A list of things that will be done when life settles down a bit.
Someday when I have the time. Someday when I have the space. Someday when I am rested. Someday when I am strong enough.
As I prepared for this year, I realised that what I had in front of me, was my Someday.
And that night, at that Thai restaurant, I went to work.
Some of the bullet points were vague: Stop biting my nails, eat less sugar, stop trying to fix people. Allow myself to get angry. Stop being defensive. Take criticism better.
Some of them were specific and took a certain amount of physical energy and practice: Learn to open a really expensive bottle of wine with confidence and flair. Learn to surf. Ski until I am good.
Some of them were just a one-time thing that signified a deeper value like friendship, creativity or adventure: Take a train trip across the United States in the autumn.
Write a book. Go to Virginia to visit Whitney, my best friend from childhood. Go to Bellingham, Washington to see Angie - who I travelled in Europe with when we were 18 - and finally meet her two little boys, instead of just liking their baby photos on Facebook.
Get my hair regularly coloured by a professional.
I'm bringing up the Someday list now, because it has been 10 months since I left Invercargill, and I need to check in.
I'm also bringing it up, because I have had a triumph. And I have become a believer in listing triumphs alongside the to-dos.
The easiest items have been the one-timers.
The trip across the US, a wonderful two days with Whitney in Virginia, a gorgeous week of hanging out with Angie and her husband, Nick, and their two boys.
I am pretty good at opening a bottle of wine now after a season in a fine dining restaurant.
But surfing has eluded me all year.
There is no one around to prod me to do it. I am not in a job where it is a required skill. There is no ticket I purchase to make sure I get on that plane.
No one in my life will stand outside my door in the morning holding out a wetsuit, reminding me of what I wrote down that night. Surfing is all me.
That night in the restaurant in Dee St I booked a class with a surf coach in California, just a few days after I flew into LA I stood up, then fell, said I would come back for another go and then didn't.
The same thing happened in Portugal. I stood, I felt like the world disappeared, then I crashed.
They were tiny, one-time triumphs. But I would still ache with envy when I would sit in the sand and watch others slice through the waves like it was breathing. One-time triumphs weren't going to take me to that.
So, big breath, I have bought racks to go on top of Greenie the Saturn (yes, the 212, 456 wonder has been named). And then a wet suit.
And finally, a cheap board.
It took me three days to get all the gear in order and finally stand on the east side of the railway tracks with my board and stare good and hard at the waves I was about to slither into.
I am so, so terrible at this still.
I have learned that in every habit you form, there is a triumph and then you move onto to the next level. Then you just suck all over again. And so on.
But I love it. I love the drive down with the window down, and a coffee in my hand and how my shoulders feel (ie achy and noodle-ish) in my parents' hot tub that night.
And stopping at Cabo in Carp Beach for a margarita, sandy feet on a plastic chair as I sit like a sponge in the chair, a smile on my face, with hair - hair that I dutifully had professionally coloured two weeks ago - now a sandy, sun-bleached, roots-showing mess of tangles.
So I'm ditching the whole professional hair colouring habit.
But this habit, the crossing over the tracks to the west side, a board on my hip, sand in my flip flops, to march down to the waves to have another go...this one I'm putting a check mark next to.
- The Southland Times