3) Take a Stand Alone Interest Class

When in Thailand, do as the Thais do. Eat spicy curry for dinner and then have weird dreams? Check. Dodge dogs in the middle of the road while driving a motor scooter? Check. Use your shins as kicking bags for two hours until they’re bruised black and blue? Okay, so maybe that’s not what most Thai people do, but the sport of Muay Thai did originate in Thailand, and I have now experienced it firsthand.

Muay Thai is known for being the most effective standup martial art, in that it inflicts a great deal of damage and pain on its participants. And, it inflicts the most pain on those participants who haven’t the slightest clue what they are doing and are doing pad work with some of the best on an island of about 11,000 people.

As noted in the letter I wrote to my future self, fear can be crippling, and it can lead to stagnancy and boredom, two things I don’t like. However, I also don’t like doing things I’m not good at, and tend to shy away from them and stick to what I know I can already do. Part of the impetus for my 30×30 challenge was to get out of my comfort zone and do new things, and this goal highlights that especially well.

Diamond Muay Thai training camp.

Diamond Muay Thai training camp

Though I took karate as a kid, I only made it as far as being a white belt with two green stripes. Granted, I felt like we took ages to test up, but those two mere stripes are not a bad indication of how long I stuck with the activity, or how much, or little, I learned. When I walked into the Diamond Muay Thai training camp, I felt as new as the three tiny kittens that barely had their eyes open that were crawling around and quietly mewing in a crate on top of the lockers. I felt as out of place as Kanye West at a Taylor Swift concert. (I know, that’s a really old reference, but I think it’s pretty timeless, in that I don’t think Mr. West will ever attend a Taylor Swift concert).

The first activity was to jump rope on the mats in front of the mirrors. Okay, that was easy enough. I worked up a little sweat—mostly because it’s pretty much always sweat-inducing weather in Thailand—but I felt comfortable. I had jumped many a rope in my nearly thirty years.

Next, we were to put wraps on our hands and wrists to protect them while we punched. The trainer who would be working with me—there was heaps of one-on-one time with the trainers—helped me with my wraps, as it was obvious I didn’t know what I was doing.

Then, I was basically thrown into pad work. Having just read the Bible, I felt like Daniel when he was thrown into the den of lions, only with my atheistic beliefs, I would have only myself on which to rely. And, as it turned out, my inexperienced, unknowing self really wasn’t the best choice.

My trainer was patient, which I very much appreciated, and he showed me the proper technique for jabbing, crossing, elbowing, kicking and blocking. I know the trainers work with farangs (foreigners) all the time, but that was little consolation to me because I compare myself to myself more than to others. I want to be able to do something, and do it well, not look like a beginner who needs all the help she can get.

Trying to learn the proper way to kick

Trying to learn to kick.

I worked out the punches pretty quickly, which pleased me, but the kicking was an entirely different story. In a different language. Speaking of language, there was a language barrier that made things a little more difficult than they already were, in that my trainer knew only a few words in English, and the only things I can say in Thai are “hello” and “thank you.” Those sayings are nice in restaurants, but worthless at a Muay Thai camp. I hardly wanted to thank him at any point during the torture session, or after when I was hobbling around in pain—though I still did, because I try to be grateful for everything, which was a note taken from my thirty days of gratitude.

When my trainer blocked my crosses (punches with my right hand), his strength crippled my already grandma-like wrists. When I blocked his kicks, my shins crumbled under the force of what was surely a light, wimpy kick for him. When I kicked, well, it would have been comical if it hadn’t nearly brought me to tears. Not from the pain, though it became considerably more evident as time wore on, but from feeling like I wasn’t getting the hang of it. At one point the owner approached me and showed me how to do it, as if another person showing me would help me get it. No, but thank you for trying. What it did result in was more frustration on my part (see the note about me despising being bad at something).

Practicing throwing a knee.

Practicing throwing a knee.

To further illustrate the proper technique, the owner used my cushiony behind as a kicking bag, to show me the difference in the way I was kicking and the way I should be kicking. I can use a word I’m not fond of (because of its rampant misuse) and say that in Muay Thai I literally got my ass kicked.

Fast forward to two hours later. I was pretty happy with my punching and blocking, and I had miraculously managed to slip in one or two kicks that were only minimally embarrassing. I was also a sweaty mess, and my right knee, shin and foot were too sore to even cry with pain.

I have even more respect for Muay Thai fighters, and even just those who train all the time, than I did before trying my hand—and shin, and knee, and elbow—at it.


16) Watch AFI’s Top 100 Movies

In 1998, an American Film Institute (AFI) jury of 1,500 film artists, critics and historians created a list of the 100 greatest American films of all time. In 2007 they (slightly) amended the list for the 10th anniversary edition, which is the list I used.

I’m hardly unique in this, but I’ve loved movies for as long as I can remember. While my family and I had a television set when I was little, we didn’t have cable, and were therefore relegated to two channels: ABC and PBS. Taking into account the typical rainy, snowy, windy weather of Southeast Alaska that often wreaked havoc on the power lines, we were usually down to one channel–and that was if the rabbit ears were positioned just so.

To make up for this, we frequently rented movies. For some reason that is completely inexplicable to me as an adult–having recently watched the film just to remember what it was all about–my sister and I were obsessed with Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, a creepy, cheesy, disturbing (and shockingly PG-rated) film about a paleontologist and her husband who discover a mother and baby brontosaurus in Africa, and then try and protect them from hunters who want to capture them.

Fortunately, for my sanity’s sake, I grew out of my apparent love for the ridiculously fake animatronic dinosaurs. Prior to making it a goal to watch AFI’s top 100 films of all time, I had seen a number of those on the list. However, being “forced” to watch them all was wonderful, as I saw some movies I had been meaning to see for years but hadn’t gotten around to it (e.g. Gone With the Wind and The Godfather I and II), and others I likely wouldn’t have watched on my own that I ended up very much enjoying (e.g. The Gold Rush and A Clockwork Orange).

What follows is the list, with notes from me, and my top ten favorite with an asterisk:

Citizen Kane: Can anything else be said except “Rosebud”?
The Godfather: It’s a movie you shouldn’t refuse to watch.
Casablanca: I understand where the term Bogarting comes from.
Raging Bull: Raging—but brilliant—Robert De Niro.
Singin’ in the Rain: It gives me a glorious feeling.
Gone with the Wind: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn…if you don’t like this sweeping epic, because I do!
Lawrence of Arabia: Nearly four hours of my life I happily gave to sand, desert and Peter O’Toole’s blue eyes.
Schindler’s List: Haunting film and score I likely won’t ever forget.
Vertigo: I felt apathy, not vertigo.
The Wizard of Oz: I could while away the hours repeatedly watching this classic.
City Lights: An adorable and funny rom-com before there were rom-coms.
The Searchers: I’m searching my mind to remember the plot…
Star Wars: Actors from best to worst—C-3PO, R2D2, Chewbacca…everyone and everything else…Luke Skywalker.
Psycho: It’s the reason I rarely shower, or stay in motels with creepy owners.
2001: A Space Odyssey: It’s a trip…to space…and way, way beyond.
Sunset Blvd: Gloria Swanson’s closeup still terrifies me.
The Graduate: Mrs. Robinson laid the groundwork for all future MILFs.
The General: I filled the silence of this hilarious silent film with laughter.
On the Waterfront: Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy certainly had class.
*It’s a Wonderful Life: It’s a wonderful movie and one of my favorites.
Chinatown: Always has great food. The film? Not as fun as the neighborhood.
*Some Like it Hot: Nobody’s perfect, but this movie is!
The Grapes of Wrath: Resulted in my wrath at AFI for stealing two hours of my life. E.T. The Extraterrestrial: What kid of the 80s doesn’t love this adorable movie?
To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee’s one hit wonder made for a fantastic film.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: And does the great filibustering ever.
High Noon: My lack of memory of this film makes me think I was high while watching it. All About Eve: My seatbelt was fastened, but it wasn’t a very bumpy (exciting) flight.
Double Indemnity: Maybe I’m just not that into film noir…
Apocalypse Now: I liked it much more than the smell of napalm in the morning.
The Maltese Falcon: The stuff great films are made of.
The Godfather Part II: A sequel as good as the first film.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Crazy good.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Can you name all seven?
Annie Hall: For me this film falls into one of two categories—horrible or miserable.
The Bridge on the River Kwai: Being locked in a sweat box looks dreadful.
The Best Years of Our Lives: The best performance ever by a non-actor, Harold Russell.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: I don’t have to give you any stinking reasons why I liked this movie.
Dr. Strangelove: Or, how I learned to stop thinking and love Kubrick films.
*The Sound of Music: The hills are alive with the sound of my voice every time I watch this great musical.
King Kong: The special effects from 1933 were…special…
Bonnie and Clyde: Dunaway and Beatty are a better duo than Bonnie and Clyde.
Midnight Cowboy: Ratso deserved to be treated better than his namesake.
The Philadelphia Story: The snappiest dialogue in Philadelphia.
Shane: Shane! Shane!
It Happened One Night: Only Clark Gable can yell, “Shut up!” and have it come across as hilarious and charming.
A Streetcar Named Desire: An undesirable lot of characters, but acted well.
Rear Window: You never know what your neighbor might be up to.
Intolerance: This 197 minute silent film was intolerably long and tedious.
*The Lord of the Rings: Peter Jackson—one director to rule them all.
West Side Story: I love musicals, but this is far from my favorite.
Taxi Driver: De Niro should never quit his day job to become a psychotic cabbie.
The Deer Hunter: Christopher Walken playing Russian Roulette is terrifying.
M*A*S*H: A brave, and successful, attempt to meld comedy and war.
North by Northwest: Best use of an American National Monument.
Jaws: (Justifiably) scaring people from swimming in the ocean since 1975.
Rocky: “Yo, Adrian” was all I could understand from Sly, but that’s hardly the point.
The Gold Rush: Chaplin struck gold again.
Nashville: A haphazard cacophony of characters, story lines and noise.
Duck Soup: I laughed so often I missed half the dialogue.
Sullivan’s Travels: One of the dullest, least memorable films on the list.
American Graffiti: I liked Harrison Ford as a young chap.
Cabaret: Loved Liza Minnelli, but the Emcee stole the show.
Network: This has one of the best closing lines in cinema history.
The African Queen: Funny, adventurous, and not entirely Bogarted thanks to Katherine Hepburn’s comedic acting chops.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: She chose…wisely…to watch this film.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: I don’t know, but I am afraid of how real Elizabeth Taylor’s and Richard Burton’s acting was.
Unforgiven: I hope I’ll be forgiven for feeling apathetic about this film.
Tootsie: Dustin Hoffman can do no wrong, even dressed as a woman.
A Clockwork Orange: I very much enjoyed viddying this weird and disturbing film. *Saving Private Ryan: Tied with Forrest Gump as my favorite movie of all time.
*The Shawshank Redemption: Get busy watching this movie, or get busy dying.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Period.
The Silence of the Lambs: The lambs may have stopped screaming, but I never do while watching my favorite horror film.
In the Heat of the Night: They call him Mr. Tibbs, and I call it a great movie.
*Forrest Gump: I almost know this film better than my own life.
All the President’s Men: Maybe Woodward can write something for me because I’m at a loss for words.
Modern Times: Chaplin at his best.
The Wild Bunch: The best Western shootout scene.
The Apartment: Pretty funny, humor-wise and otherwise-wise.
Spartacus: Everyone wants to be the lead character in this epic.
Sunrise: A dramatic silent film that worked.
*Titanic: The only film I’ve seen in the theater twice.
Easy Rider: Two bikers in search of America.One viewer in search of staying awake.
A Night at the Opera: Marx brothers, you turned out another gut-busting gem. Platoon: I wouldn’t want to get any closer to the Vietnam War than this powerful film. *12 Angry Men: Excellent writing, captivating, and superb acting.
Bringing up Baby: Hysterical madcap that had me in stitches from start to finish.
The Sixth Sense: A chilling performance by a young Haley Joel Osment.
Swing Time: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are always a treat to watch dance! Sophie’s Choice: Kevin Kline was robbed of an Oscar nomination.
Goodfellas: Good film that’s brutal and sometimes hard to watch.
The French Connection: Great car chase, but not much else for me.
Pulp Fiction: I still don’t get the hype.
The Last Picture Show: It’s too bleak to be the last picture show you should see.
Do the Right Thing: And check out this film and it’s best use of racial slurs.
Blade Runner: I’m not typically into sci-fi, but this Harrison Ford flick is entertaining.
Yankee Doodle Dandy: James Cagney turned in a sterling, energetic performance in this (too long) biopic.
*Toy Story: This marvelous Pixar creation is wonderful…to infinity and beyond!
Ben-Hur: Charlton Heston could have won the Oscar for Most Melodramatic Actor.

17) Take a Dance Class

For about half of my life I’ve “joked” that my dad wanted two boys, he and my mom had two girls instead, and he raised us like boys anyway. Fitting in (stereotypically) with this idea, I grew up playing baseball, not learning ballet. The closest I got to any kind of graceful movement with my body was taking gymnastics, but I stopped when my sister stopped at the age of six or seven when she broke her arm. At that age I was still pretty incapable of doing anything on my own, which is something I touch on in the letter I wrote to my 10-year-old self. In any case, because I started playing sports at a young age, I’ve never “run like a girl” or “thrown like a girl.” However, I’ve also never really danced like a girl. Or, if I’m being fair, like any human at all.

Despite participating in many a dance-off with my childhood girlfriends, I never quite got the hang of it. I was even musically inclined from a young age—being first chair flute in middle school, and playing the piano for years during adolescence—but moving my body to music never really clicked. The older I got, the more self-conscious I was about my inability to dance, and the more reluctant I was to do anything—like take a dance class—to improve on my nonexistent skills.

Sure, I could sort of fake it at school dances and not stand out too much, mostly because everyone was pretty awkward at those events anyway, but after high school it didn’t take long for me to realize how bad I was at dancing. Fortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of dancing in college, or if there was, everyone was too drunk to notice how anyone else was moving, or not moving, to the beat.

Enter me as an adult, working on a cruise ship. Though my job title was Librarian, I was part of the Entertainment Department, which meant I had to participate in many activities outside of the library to help entertain the guests. One such activity was helping teach line dancing, for which I was obviously extremely ill-prepared. But, as it was part of my job, I had no choice but to participate. And with enthusiasm!

The first class I attended—to help teach—I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, I worked with a great group of people, and I was able to learn pretty quickly. Also, for those who have ever line danced and know, it’s a pretty easy type of dance to figure out. It caters to those, like myself, who are unable to move their bodies to the beat in any kind of attractive fashion.

Not only did I learn how to do the dances, but soon I was able to help teach them to the guests! My moves are far from world class, and are still entertaining more for the laughs they induce than anything else, but I am happy to say that not only have I taken a dance class, but I have helped teach numerous classes as well.

26) Visit the Beach at Midnight and Stick Around for the Sunrise

Having grown up across the street from the ocean, and having lived at sea or by the sea for years, I’ve always enjoyed the sound of the waves lapping onto the sand, or raking across the small pebbles that are sometimes found along the shoreline.

That pleasant, peaceful sound was what I had in mind when I created the goal of spending the night on the beach to be there and ready for the early sunrise the next morning. While I did experience that, I also heard a Thai bartender chatting with a young German girl well into the wee hours of the morning, including his attempts to woo her with his falsetto voice and questionable lyrics to a song he seemingly made up.

I began the night laying in a hammock, slowly rocking back and forth, getting lulled to sleep by the sounds of the sea and the palm trees gently rustling in the breeze. Then the wind picked up and it seemed a rain storm was nigh. Awaking to this, I realized that my poor right ear was awkwardly smashed into the hammock, my right arm was shooting pins and needles from having fallen asleep, and I was entirely too uncomfortable in general to even lay there, let alone sleep.

I moved to the ground and laid on cushions and immediately knew it was a better decision. However, an hour or so after I had fallen peacefully asleep, I was awoken by the loud chatter of the wooer and the not-so-much-wanting-to-be wooed–though she did hang out with him for an inordinate amount of time, considering her apathy towards his numerous advances.

Luckily I was too exhausted to focus on them for too long and I next woke up at 5:50, ten minutes before my alarm was due to sound, and twenty minutes before the sun was going to rise.

I turned off my alarm and got up. A man ran by near the shoreline, and another man tended to a boat that was tied up to the beach, but other than that the morning was quiet. Light pinks and oranges began to inject themselves into the early gray sky, and soon the sun was up and the resident rooster was crowing. It was a wonderful way to start the day, even though I promptly went back to sleep for a few hours after snapping a few photos of the sunrise.

Ah, what I didn't sleep much to witness...

Ah, what I didn’t sleep much to witness…

11) Learn CPR

According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), heart attacks are the leading cause of death for adults in the United States. There are nearly 300,000 cardiac arrests a year in the United States that take place outside of a hospital, with about 80 percent occurring in the victim’s home. The AHA reports that only about 27 percent of people that have cardiac arrests outside of a hospital receive cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and nearly 94 percent of heart attack victims die before reaching the hospital.

While the majority of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital do not survive, even if CPR is administered, providing CPR immediately following cardiac arrest can double or triple the chances that the person will survive, according to the AHA. CPR and defibrillation are vital immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, as the chance of survival drops seven to 10 percent for each minute after cardiac arrest that CPR is not given.

CPR can add precious minutes of life to a heart attack victim while help is on the way, and it’s surprisingly not difficult to perform. What is primarily shown in the movies, however, is not correct, and would not do much to save anyone.

While it is usually best to take proper lessons or receive instruction in person, the following guidelines may just help in an emergency:

CPR for adults:

  1. Check to see if the person is breathing and has a pulse. If not, promptly call 911.
  2. Lay the victim down, place one palm in the middle of the chest on the nipple line (with the other resting atop), and press down about two inches into the chest, 30 times. It should be at a rate of 100 presses per minute, which can easily be remembered by singing the Bee Gee’s song Stayin’ Alive. Count out loud in case someone needs to take over.
  3. Gently tilt the victim’s head back and lift the chin, hold the victim’s nose closed, place your mouth over the victim’s, and exhale two breaths into the victim’s mouth.
  4. Repeat until help arrives, or until the victim starts breathing and maintaining a steady pulse.

CPR for infants (<1 year):

  1. Check to see if the infant is breathing and has a pulse.
  2. Lay the victim down, place two fingers in the middle of the chest on the nipple line, and press down gently, about an inch and a half, 30 times. It should be at a rate of 100 presses per minute, and the Bee Gee’s song Stayin’ Alive can be used as a guide. Count out loud in case someone needs to take over.
  3. Cover the victim’s nose and mouth with your mouth and gently exhale two breaths into the victim’s mouth. Be mindful to not exert your breath too forcefully, as you risk damaging the victim’s lungs and internal organs.
  4. Repeat until help arrives, or until the victim starts breathing and maintaining a steady pulse.

21) Learn Sign Language

According to Wikipedia, with 955 million native speakers, comprising more than 14 percent of the world population, Mandarin is the most commonly used language in the world. The second and third most popular are Spanish and English, though each has considerably fewer speakers with 405 and 360 million respectively.

But American Sign Language (ASL)? It doesn’t even crack the top 100 most frequently used languages. And, depending on which site is the most believable, only anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 people worldwide—or, as it is, just in the United States and Canada—use the language. It makes sense, as it is used predominately by deaf native signers, hearing children of deaf parents, and adult deaf signers who have learned ASL from other adult deaf individuals. And, apparently, some random person who thought it’d be interesting to learn. That person being, of course, me.

While it would have been more practical to learn Mandarin, Hindi or Arabic (the fourth and fifth most widely spoken languages after Spanish and English), or perfected my very minimal Spanish—despite having studied it for a year in middle school, and then two years in both high school and college—I thought learning sign language would be more fun.

I have known one deaf person, and it was a boy in my middle school homeroom class. I therefore have been around ASL users (my peer and his translator), but it was ages ago. Before embarking on accomplishing this goal, I had a very basic grasp of the language, as in I could sign the letters of the alphabet, and “poop.” Because what middle school kid doesn’t learn “poop” in at least one additional language to his or her native one?

I found a brilliant website, www.lifeprint.comwhich I used as my teacher. I broke the big goal of learning more than the alphabet into a smaller goal of learning at least five signs a day for one month. I had already realized that I could stick to monthly goals, like practicing spirituality for one month, and not saying anything negative about anyone for one month. Each day I planned to review the signs I had learned previously and add five new signs. What I quickly realized was that learning ASL was fun, and unique, and I often learned more than five signs a day. At the end of the month, I kept learning, and now have in my repertoire more than three hundred signs.

While I initially thought it was kind of a silly goal, because I was fairly certain I wouldn’t ever really use it all that much, I recently learned how handy it is for SCUBA diving. Diving has its own set of hand signals and signs, but some of them are similar to ASL signs, and having a decent grasp on ASL made learning the new signs easy. Also, even if other people don’t know ASL, I can use the signs with them because many can be intuitive, or somewhat easy to figure out based on the setting and context of the conversation or situation.

Though I feel I can get by with the little sign language I know, I hope to continue learning more signs. Perhaps one day, on the very rare and random occurrence that I come into contact with an actual deaf person, we might be able to communicate. 

24) Surf a Wave

When I wrote the goal nearly a year ago to surf a wave and stand up for at least one second, I had in mind hanging ten on a massive wave a la Kelly Slater, arguably one of the best surfers of all time. Okay, so maybe I didn’t think I’d reach his level, but I still thought it would be that kind of surfing.

Well, nearly a year later, and still having not completed the goal, and having left the perfect surf waves of Southern California for the calmer seas of Thailand, I still wanted to try to accomplish it. I realized I had merely written “surf a wave,” but I had not specified exactly what kind of surfing, so, in my creativity—and, okay, way of finding loopholes—I went windsurfing!

I had planned to take lessons at a resort, as advertised online, but upon arrival I was informed that no lessons would be given, just the gear would be rented out. The man in charge of the equipment was kind enough to give a brief instruction on the basics.

The wind was calm, just enough to get going, which made learning easier, though I definitely want to go out again in stronger winds so I can go faster! The learning curve wasn’t as steep as I had anticipated, and after a few tries, I was able to stand up and ride all the way into shore. I did, however, fall a few times every time I started again, but that was part of the fun, and funniness, of the experience!

Getting my feet set on the board...

Getting my feet set on the board…

Getting into position and pulling up the sail...

Getting into position and pulling up the sail…

Woo hoo! Up and surfing!

Whoops! Going down, down, down…