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Transformative Moment: Overcoming Divorce, Financial Struggles, and Solitude through a Life-Altering Checklist

The silence enveloping the studio flat was overwhelming. Stripped of almost everything in the aftermath of my divorce, I found myself alone in a basement unit tainted by black mould. Devoid of a television, a sofa, or even functional wifi, I sat at a flimsy folding table and began compiling a list. With my envisioned life path shattered – the dreams of marriage, children, a dog, and a quaint late-Victorian terrace in a rural town fading away – I resolved to embark on a new journey. I decided to tackle all the items on my “try before you’re 30” bucket list.

In the early months of 2014, having just crossed the threshold into 32, I was acutely aware of missing the designated age mark. Nevertheless, I was resolute in my determination not to be hindered by this setback. After spending the past four years immersed in suburban life, I felt prematurely aged, engaging in mundane activities like weekend visits to garden centers and endless TV watching, drained by the lengthy commute to my role as a communications officer. My routine had become rigid. Now, back in London albeit financially strained, I was eager to embrace novelty.

In the ensuing year, I threw myself into a plethora of challenges. From enrolling in a stand-up comedy course – undoubtedly the most petrifying experience of my existence – to engaging in laser tag, paintball, and trampolining. I delved into learning Spanish, embarked on a spontaneous trip to Brazil, ventured into wild swimming, and completed a 10k run. At a self-improvement workshop, I allowed a tarantula to crawl over my hand, an experience perhaps even more daunting than stand-up comedy. Paddleboarding, zorbing, sailing, horseback riding – I sampled them all.

Ten years later, my life has undergone a significant transformation. I am now engaged and residing in a mold-free residence in the heart of London. I attribute this positive shift to that pivotal year of exploration and experimentation. I have cultivated the courage to walk away from situations and relationships that do not align with my true self.

To sustain this newfound outlook, I continue to embrace fresh experiences each year. In 2023, I embarked on singing lessons, a source of immense joy. Additionally, I undertook a Cordon Bleu cookery course, despite sustaining severe burns while handling a lamb rack in the oven. Surprisingly pleased with the pottery I crafted in a class, despite my aversion to crafts, I found unexpected fulfillment.

Recently, I dabbled in ballet, relishing the experience, albeit mistakenly attending an exotic dance class where I found myself two decades older than the other participants. Conversely, I have permitted myself to let go of pursuits that do not resonate with me, such as swing dancing.

As a child, I grappled with physical timidity, consistently lagging behind in school sports, avoiding participation in physical education, and feeling deep shame at not excelling in new endeavors, which was a rare occurrence. The notion that activities are only worthwhile if one excels at them and the embarrassment of being a novice became ingrained in me. I vividly recall once presenting someone else’s drawing to my parents because it surpassed my own.

Even as an adult, this sense of shame persists. During a recent boxing class, where I was the sole woman among experienced, imposing men, I fought back tears as I felt utterly out of my depth. Similarly, my third skiing excursion was a humbling experience, fraught with fear. However, my divorce taught me that beyond fear lies growth. Hitting rock bottom revealed that I had nothing left to lose.

I have come to realize that confronting fear head-on or acknowledging being out of one’s comfort zone is paramount. In my writing endeavors, I strive to push boundaries – such as enrolling in a playwriting course last year. By solely engaging in activities we excel at or can monetize, we forfeit a realm of potential joy. Embracing a spirit of adventure is crucial to maintaining youthful exuberance, as is accepting the inevitability of failure. My next challenge? Mastering a yoga handstand, a pursuit that has eluded me for years.