Her year of small things: Edmonds resident gives new perspective to the ‘bucket list’

Facing a milestone birthday — 30, 60 or beyond — people can feel the hot breath of mortality on their neck and run off on some big adventure: a bucket-list trip.

Not so for Edmonds resident Nicole Faghin.

A year before she turned 60 — that would have been around June 2017 — she decided to turn the bucket upside down.

“I made it a challenge. For a whole year, I would do all the little things I’ve always wanted to try but never have,” she said. “I got a notebook and put it next to my bed and when I thought of something, I wrote it down. Then I organized the ideas into categories.”

With that birthday now approaching, on June 6, she’s crossed off more than 50 things from her mini-bucket list.

“I’m trying to get everything done by then, but if I don’t, that’s OK, too.”

Here are some activities she’s tried:

  • Learn to play bridge with friends.
  • Take a cake decorating class.
  • Go on a solo backpack trip.
  • Hike on a new trail in seven different areas of the Cascades and Olympics.
  • Try new music including going to a jazz club and hearing a Balkan music concert.
  • See a Shakespeare play she’d never seen before.
  • Try to row a dragon boat and take a rowing class.
  • Watch all the Academy Award-nominated movies before the Oscars.
  • Visit a different park in Seattle – Kubota Garden.
  • Go to a museum so far unvisited in the area: Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.
  • Learn to play the viola (she plays violin but viola is a different animal) and start up a quartet.
  • Read all the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels since 2000 (the ones she’d missed over the years).
  • Ride the Seattle Ferris Wheel.

Faghin explained that this effort isn’t aimed at performing spectacular stunts. “It’s not about pushing the limits of my strength. It’s all about trying something new and moving outside my comfort zone,” she said.

She believes that we all share that vague notion of “someday I’d like to…” but then we may never get around to doing it.

“Why? I think because we’re busy with our jobs, our lives and then there’s procrastination,” she said. “But there is time. It’s a choice how to spend it.”

Faghin gets the “busy” argument. As a coastal management specialist with the University of Washington’s Sea Grant program who is trained as a land-use planner and attorney, she offers outreach as well as education to individuals and organizations in support of the state’s coastal and marine ecosystems.

So, she’s clearly got plenty on her plate, but has found there’s room for playful awareness. “These ideas used to pass in front of me,” she said. “I’d see something and think, I should do that. But then I wouldn’t. Now I think I’m capturing these fleeting thoughts that usually just fly past.”

The neat thing about her experiment is, it isn’t just for older folks. It can inspire anyone at any age. “I talked to a young woman who’s in her early 30s and she told me she’s going to do this when she turns 35,” Faghin said.

And it’s affordable. Many things on her list are free. “I’d always wanted to attend compline at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle,” she said. “What an experience that was.”

Her year of small things has taught Faghin a lot about herself. “I’ve discovered I’m interested in many things and that they give me great pleasure.”

Her advice to those who may want to adopt a similar challenge, even if not for an entire year: “Notice the little things in your life. Maybe you want to trim that rhododendron bush. Take some time and do it. Maybe you want to climb El Capitan. Okay. That’s not me, but okay.”

The trick is, pay attention when you find yourself thinking “I wonder what it would be like to,” or “I wish I could,” or, “I’ve always wanted to.” Then write those ideas down. To be acted on or not, they are at least captured from the ether and pinned to a page for consideration.

“It really is the small things, and maybe that’s what this whole thing has been about,” Faghin said. “It’s been so much fun. What surprises me is when I tell people what I’m doing, their eyes light up. People hear about this and start their own list. Not mine, but theirs. That makes me happy.”

–By Connie McDougall

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