Have y’all heard of Laura Vanderkam’s “List of 100 Dreams” idea? I hadn’t, but I have now, and I love it. It’s like a bucket list, but better. I don’t usually do things like this, but one of my goals for this year was to put myself in unknown situations more, so let’s get uncomfy together. Here’s my list of 100 dreams:

  1. Write this entire list with 100 legitimate dreams
  2. Professional-ish

  3. Create a line of social justice-y greeting cards
  4. Write and illustrate a children’s book
  5. Publish an average of one new book every year after 2014
  6. Keynote a conservative conference/event
  7. Record and release my EP
  8. Translate A Guide to Gender into 5 languages
  9. Perform/speak on every continent (yes, especially Antarctica)
  10. Perform/speak in every U.S. state (yes, especially Alaska — I’ll do a free show if anyone at UofA is reading this!)
  11. Give Ellen DeGeneres a hug
  12. Give away 100,000 copies of A Guide to Gender
  13. Host SNL
  14. Open a vegan restaurant/food truck
  15. Create a fun audio book version of A Guide to Gender
  16. Do my show or give a talk at all the schools I personally attended
  17. Have a book on the NYT Best Sellers List (organically, not by buying my way in)
  18. Collaborate with three different activists on three different projects in a year
  19. Earn enough money to pay all my bills doing Good (and no freelancing)
  20. Appear on a Late Night show talking about something positive
  21. Create and curate an activist/artist retreat collaborative camp thing
  22. Hire someone to read [and respond to most of] my email
  23. Write a column for The New Yorker
  24. Speak at Creating Change
  25. Launch The Business Card Project
  26. Serve on the Board of some cool national organization I love
  27. Publish a piece in The New Yorker print
  28. Translate the Genderbread Person into at least 7 more languages
  29. Shift my income to be primarily from writing (not speaking/performing)
  30. Work less than an average 14 hours a day in a year
  31. Make a documentary inspired by and following the development and reaction to Jackand/orJill
  32. Publish a book of poetry and prose
  33. Tell jokes on Comedy Central
  34. Get a studio space that I can share with collaborators
  35. Teach at a university
  36. Finish writing a novel
  37. Go one week without receiving any hate mail or hate campaign related garbage
  38. Write and produce an off-broadway show (or produce one of the ones I’ve already written)
  39. Create a social justice conference
  40. Give a talk/performance in a language other than English (German, Russian, Portuguese, or French)
  41. Write a screenplay
  42. Create and sustain jobs for at least two wonderful, passionate people for a year
  43. Convince people “social justice comedian” is a thing, and that it makes perfect sense
  44. Personal-ish

  45. Build a house for myself
  46. Learn French and Portuguese
  47. Yoga with regularity and consistency
  48. Paint a mural in Austin
  49. Become 100% debt-free
  50. Cook for friends on a regular basis
  51. Halve my possessions once more, for the last time (probably)
  52. Pay someone to do my taxes
  53. Get my PhD
  54. Find a secret place in the world where I can escape and sabbatical (and tell no one)
  55. Attend a culinary school academy type thing
  56. Brew my own beer
  57. Get a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy and love it to death (after she’s lived a long, happy life, of course)
  58. Drink more wine, more tea, and less coffee
  59. Learn to be less afraid of money
  60. Fund a scholarship for students “who otherwise would not consider higher education an option”
  61. Get surgery on my eyeballs so I can see better
  62. Actually live in Hawaii for at least a little bit, if nothing else but to confirm my theory that I’d get island fever despite all the wonderfulness
  63. Get braces or whatever is necessary to straighten my teeth so I can chew better
  64. Grow a garden
  65. Build a motorcycle
  66. Develop a family of friends in Austin, or wherever I live next
  67. Live abroad for at least six months
  68. Continue finding healthy ways to mitigate the stress of this life I’ve chosen and go a year without asking for permission to smile
  69. Experiential

  70. Spend a month with no contact with any other human beings
  71. Spend a month touring performing/speaking every day
  72. Spend a month following the 253 vows of the Vinaya
  73. Swim in the Sea of Stars in the Maldives
  74. Fly in a helicopter
  75. NYE in NYC
  76. St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin
  77. Scuba dive the Great Blue Hole
  78. Recreate the road trip around the great lakes I did when I was 16 (including seeing a movie at the Cherry Bowl drive-in)
  79. Surf the cliffs of Moher
  80. Go on a safari and shoot a rhino (with my camera)
  81. Read Anna Karenina
  82. Ride a train from Austin to Mexico City
  83. Visit Flores Island, Indonesia when the Lake of Old People is blue, the Lake of Young Men is green, and Maiden’s Lake is red
  84. Do a backflip out of an airplane (ideally with a parachute attached to me)
  85. Ride in a hot air balloon (ideally in Anatolia in Turkey)
  86. Go to the Sasquatch Music Festival
  87. Visit the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx
  88. See Zhangye Danxia in China
  89. Buy a van/bus/station wagon and live/work out of it on the road for a while
  90. See Flight of the Conchords live
  91. Climb Mount Roraima
  92. Literally walk 500 miles to see someone I love
  93. Go to Burning Man
  94. Swing on the “End of the World” Swing in Baños, Ecuador
  95. Ride an elephant, ideally one named “Bubbles” (but I’m not picky)
  96. Spelunk the caves of Hang Ken in Vietnam
  97. Walk from the Shire to Mordor (or, rather, the real-life places in NZ those locations were shot in)
  98. Oktoberfest in München
  99. Walk the Tunnel of Love with a коханець in Klevan, Ukraine
  100. Experience zero gravity, ideally in space
  101. See Mike Birbiglia live
  102. Attend the World Cup
  103. Visit the Himalayas and a Zen Buddhist monastery in the region

That’s it. That’s a lot. If you want to make any of these dreams a reality with me, or have a tip/inside track for one, I’m all ears.

When I set out on this project, I was as clear as I could be about what this is. What it’s become, however, is one of my favorite parts of my day, every day for the past 62. While there is no goal to this project beyond to write more — nothing I’m trying to accomplish with the articles — there have been a few thoughts that have stuck out. Here are my favorite posts of 2013:

10. Let Your Teacher Grade Your Test

9. At What Point Do We Stop Thinking of Celebrities as People?

8. I’d be okay with a revolution.

7. Why I’m Glad Chivalry is Dead, From The Perspective of A Man Who Actually Likes Women

6. Being Alone Isn’t the Same as Being Lonely

5. The Abusive Relationship We’re All In That Most of Us Never Think About

4. Working to End Oppression Makes More Sense as a Republican Value than a Democratic One

3. Making a Bigger “Us” and a Smaller “Them”

2. We Fabricate the Obstacles that Stand Between Us and Happiness

1. The 3 Ingredients to a Happy Existence

Happy 2013, Friends! I’m looking forward to what 2014 has in store for us.

 

Christmas Time is a few weeks, or days, or months, when a lot of us change the ways we approach our life and the people in it. There are a lot of positive things that are part of that shift; things that would likely make the rest of us our year a bit more merry if we were intentional about them all 12 months. The first item in the Code of Elves, after all, is “Treat every day like Christmas.” Here are some ways to treat every day like Christmas:

  1. Focus on what you can give to others to make them happier. And focus less on taking or giving to ourselves. Giving and making others happy will make you happy.
  2. Be extremely grateful when a restaurant or store is open. Be grateful they are allowing you to give them money for things you want. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
  3. Sleep in a bit. Snowflake pajamas or jazzy socks optional.
  4. Cook more, and put your heart into it. Microwave and order out less.
  5. Spend time with people you care about. Even if it takes a bit of work, or it’s cold, or you kinda hate them, or they smell, or they’re a cotton-headed ninny muggins.
  6. Drink wine. You know, for your heart.
  7. Play. With a kid. With yourself. Whichever. Just not both at the same time.
  8. Open a present every morning with the enthusiasm of a four-year-old kid unwrapping a present. Which present? How about the present? The gift of a new day! (Too corny? Really? C’mon. I thought that was prett — okay, whatever.)
  9. Find ways to laugh. Even if you think a joke is corny. Stop being so damned bitter all the time. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Jerk.
  10. Give more hugs. Or, if it’s more your style, do it on your twin bed. Either way, touch [with consent] more people.
  11. Touch more people (In the figurative sense). Give nice cards, say nice things, express your thanks, peace on earth, good will toward man, the whole kit and caboodle.
  12. Eat chocolate. You know, for your heart.
  13. Watch feel-good movies. Or feel-good videos on the internet, or have feel-good conversations. Feel-good = feel good. You are what your mind eats.
  14. Be conscious of the memories you’re making. And take some photos [with consent].

Have more ideas on how we can live more positively by treating every day like Christmas? Share them with me on Twitter!

Kidding. 100 would be a bit excessive, and likely more than a bit counterintuitive, wouldn’t it? It’s easy for us to be seduced by a lot, and to think that more is better, but we rarely need more than a little. More leads to wanting more; wanting more is insatiable. Like that Hamlet quote above — one of my all-time favs. More begets more.

Minimalism is happiness. Here’re all the tips you need for living minimally:

  • want less, focus on what you need more
  • have less, appreciate what you have more
  • do less, invest in what you do more
  • know less, wonder more

Mindfulness is happiness. But you already know that. But what is mindfulness, beyond the abstract definition of “attentive, aware, or careful” that I gave in that other article? Being more mindful means tapping into all of your senses. If you’re more of a concrete person, here are a bunch of examples of how you can live a more mindful life.

These are things I try to be mindful of every day. I’m hoping that by writing them down, in addition to helping clarify things for you, they will make them more second nature to me. I bolded the ones I’m working on the most right now.

  • Do one thing at a time. If you’re on your phone, be on your phone. If you’re watching TV, watch TV. If you’re eating, eat. If you’re spending time with your friend, spend time with you’re friend. But try not to be on your phone while watching TV, eating, and calling it friend time, or you’re robbing yourself of all four experiences.
  • Turn everything off, at least once a day, for at least a few minutes.
  • Hear.
  • Eat slowly. Chew slowly. Smell your food. Enjoy the texture. Bite by bite.
  • Check in to your body parts. Where are your hands, how tense are your shoulders, knees, and toes. Flex all of your muscles in your entire body, then relax them.
  • Feel your feet in your shoes and the ground beneath them when you walk.
  • Walk slowly.
  • When you wake up, spend 15 – 30 minutes planning your day. Spend the rest of your day living it.
  • Breathe deeply. Exhale slowly.
  • Check in to your mind. What are you thinking about and why? Let those feelings go.
  • Take note of what makes you want to feel happiness, anger, surprise, disgust, contempt, and fear. Write these things down throughout your day if you have a hard time remembering.
  • Focus on what you have in this instant — in experiences, relationships, and possessions.
  • Smell more things, but not in a creepy way.
  • Stretch.
  • Stand up straight (okay, Mom).
  • If you’re walking or riding (car, bus, train, plane), take in the sights. Even if you’re in a place you’ve been a thousand times. Take in the sights.
  • If you’re driving, focus on the sights in front of you. You know, to not die.
  • Touch things (consenting things, or inanimate things, please).
  • Notice light. Notice color. Notice shape.
  • Live right now. In this moment. This oneNot that last one — it’s over. Don’t worry about the next ones that might be coming — they’ll get here. Live in this one.

Have any tips for living mindfully? Please please please let me know. I’d like to hear them for myself, but also to add the to this list for others.

I should have my computer back tomorrow. Living without it these past few days has been odd, in some ways more expected than others.

  • I’ve realized how generally worthless I am to the world without a computer to mash myself through, like how you mash flour and water through a pasta press then voila! We’re family!
  • I got sick. I don’t think that’s because I didn’t have a computer. But I also don’t get sick very often, so…
  • I’ve read a lot. Way more than usual. Two books made of paper and tons of other smaller things. That was nice.
  • Though it’s terribly cumbersome, I’m able to fashion an entire post on this site with nothing more than my phone, from drafting to image making to publishing.
  • That last one freaks me out a bit, but mostly excites me.
  • It’s always the times when you don’t think you can take a moment to sharpen your saw that your saw needs sharpening most.

I’m looking forward to getting my replacement computer / work station / cuddle friend in the mail tomorrow. I have a LOT of flour and water stirring around that I’m stoked to smush into it.

sK

RSA Animate: The Crises of Capitalism

Wealth Inequality in America

Naomi Klein: Addicted to Risk

Alain de Botton: A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success

The Overview Effect

Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index

I travel a lot for work. As anyone who travels for work will know, people always say, “You get to travel a lot? That must be nice!” And it is nice. It’s fun to see all the different nooks and crannies of the United States, and I love meeting people from all the different walks of life I do. It’s a privilege.

But it’s not all get to. Over time, it’s become a lot more have to, and that is largely thanks to the diamond in the rough that is my home: Austin, Texas.

Growing up, I didn’t have much of a sense of home. The only house we spent a good amount of time in we were abruptly evicted from, and there weren’t many other places we lived for more than a year. I bounced around a lot in Indiana and Michigan, the midwest, the west west and a little out east, and by the time I finished grad school I had lived in more “homes” than I was years old. “Military family?” people would ask. Nope, just poor.

When I started doing what I do now, it was when I first moved to Austin, a few short years ago. I was traveling a lot, and I really loved it. But now whenever I’m on the road I find myself missing Austin in a way that I’ve never missed a place. All the signs point to me finally having a home, and Austin, TX having my heart:

When I’m on the road, Austin-y things are the last things on my mind when I go to sleep, and the first things on my mind when I wake up.

There is no other city that has a higher number of “people I care most about in the world.”

I constantly find myself explaining what breakfast tacos are, with the same intensity and evangelism as a person who knocks on your door and asks if you have a moment for Jesus.

I use “we” as a substitute for “Texans” in sentences, and it’s stopped giving me the willies.

I graduated from the phase of being Austin’s biggest recruiter whenever I’m on the road into the phase of trying to prevent more people from moving to our town and ruining it.

HEB has become synonymous with grocery store.

I ask people in other towns what their bike trails are like, how often they go to free shows, what their favorite mediterranean restaurants are, and other questions that are based on the assumption that everyone has access to those things, and enough access to rank them (because they should).

I assume restaurants will have a vegan menu, or, at least, veggie options.

I assume if I smile and say “Hi!” to someone they will smile and say “Hi!” back.

I need gloves and a coat and a scarf to survive below 60°F.

As I learned the last time I was in Chicago, and my hometown, there is no longer any other town in the country where I am able to comfortably give street-by-street directions.

I have a hard time wrapping my mind around living in a place where I would need more than a bike to get around.

I find myself harboring an inexplicable prejudice against the state of Oklahoma.

Looking at that photo at the top of this page fills my heart with inexplicable warm gooeyness.

I never considered myself a “numbers” person. I don’t mean I wasn’t good at math (Mathlete, y’all!), but I care more about stories than stats. On the Myers-Briggs Typology Instrument, for example, my F to T (Feeling to Thinking) ratio is the most unbalanced, and I’m a strong F.

What I do — every thing I do — while seemingly disparate, is all connected by that trait. Every little project or endeavor I undertake is driven by my goal of making the world a safer place for all people.

So it’s as surprising to me as it might be to you how numbers-driven my day-to-day life is, and how much I find myself trying to turn that part of my brain off so I can focus on the present. The numbers eat at me, often glaring at me from within little red circles, screaming “Click me! Make me go away!” Others are tucked away within more complex websites or spreadsheets, whispering more gently, but still persuasively.

Following is a small taste of the numbers that are almost always whizzing around my brain, attempting to distract me from the task at hand. Every one of these things pops into my head at once when I wake up every morning, then attempts to suckle my brainjuice every minute of every hour I’m awake.Keep Reading

I don’t believe in God. Saying this is easier now than it was when I was a kid, because I was struggling equal parts internally with my lack of faith and externally with the reactions of people in my life when they found out. Coming out as an atheist leads people to make so many incredibly definitive snap judgments about who you are as a person, many of which are less than warm and fuzzy. It’s usually easier just to let them assume otherwise.

Doing the work that I do, people often ask me if I’m Christian, and are surprised when they find that I’m not. Atheist + Humanitarian = Confusion, which I find odd. As a non-Christian, I don’t see the disconnect at all. Not believing in God doesn’t mean you don’t believe in people. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than I don’t believe in God.

For me, and I suspect for many others, not believing in a god isn’t a choice. I didn’t wake up one day, raise my middle finger to the heavens above, and say, “Big ol’ pile of nope, Bro!” then start sinnin’. For me, it’s quite the opposite. I spent many a night as a kid lying in bed, tears in my eyes, feeling rejected because I wasn’t able to believe. Believing sounds great, ultimately. I can only imagine how comforting it would be to believe that there is a sense of intentionality, or just someone looking out for you, in the universe. But, for me, believing would be faking, and I’m no faker.

I also find myself explaining with some regularity that not believing in a god doesn’t mean I lack faith, or that I don’t believe in anything. Where your faith might be bound by dogma and tradition, and your belief is in a definitive higher power, I find faith in other things, and have deeply held beliefs that keep move moving through my life.

Above all, I believe in people.

I believe that people, at their core, unsocialized and unmarred by negative influences, are good. And that with the right nudge they will tumble toward positivity. I have faith in the work that I do nudging, and have seen many a person tumble toward a life where they provide light and safety for others in their life. I love people, and am bound in my service to them — to you, I suppose.

I believe that if you can do nothing else, commit yourself to helping the people you love be unashamed of who they are.

I believe that the last spoonful in a tub of ice cream is where all the crack is located and that’s why it’s impossible not to start eating another tub.

I believe that the Golden Rule and many other things we were taught and internalized as kids are ruining our lives.

I wrote about the Golden Rule a lot in my book, and on my other site, but the short version is that the Golden Rule is based on the assumption that other people want to be treated how you want to be treated, which assumes everyone wants to be treated the same way. The Platinum Rule, “Treat others how they want to be treated,” is way better. But there are a ton of other aphorisms that are ruining us, too, like “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and “The grass is always greener on the other side,” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

I believe that the right song coming on at the right moment is the closest thing to Nirvana I’ve ever experienced.

I believe that pants are the work of The Devil.

Okay, I guess I don’t technically believe in “The Devil,” but whatever. You get it. I can have my lack of cake and eat it, too. Anyway, pants. Seriously. Beyond the simple discomfort of pants, pants are so often required for doing things that I don’t want to do, and don’t think we as a people have evolved to do. Like jury duty. We suck at jury duty. And time spent not wearing pants is generally time well spent.

I believe that nothing human-made will ever match the beauty of the naturally occurring art that surrounds us.

I believe that the internet is simultaneously the most unifying and divisive invention in human history.

And I have faith that someday (hopefully soon) we’ll find a way to amplify the unity experienced via the internet and marginalize the divisiveness.

I believe in focusing on the grey amidst the black and white.

I believe that humans can be connected to one another without ever having met, and when we allow ourselves to fall into this connectedness we are experiencing the best of what it means to be human.

I believe that intentionality is the soul of happiness, and effort the soul of contentedness.

I believe in ghosts.

Because I have real-life reasons, folks. Spooky reasons. Stories for another time. But spooky. Trust me.

I believe that you don’t have to ask for permission to smile.

And, finally, I believe that love is the answer to most of life’s great questions.

How can we end wars? What’s the point to being alive? How can I best be a good sibling, child, parent, coworker, friend, boss, civil servant, etc.? Why does the world seem to lose its color whenever I go three days without eating hummus?

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. It is the one time of the year when it is acceptable — even encouraged — to be whoever, or whatever, you want to be — to pretend, to take chances, to wear gaudy lipstick.

Growing up, crafting costumes and living as someone else for a night was something I looked forward to the entire year — far more than the punch-you-in-your-pancreas sugar overdose, though who doesn’t prefer their apples covered in a gravy of melted sugar and butter, the way God intended. As an adult (or at least as “adult” as I ever plan on getting), so much of my time and work is focused on helping people understand identity.

The irony is not lost on me.Keep Reading