I first read about Joanna’s challenge via Twitter, and I started to follow, because I was working through 50 challenges of my own, for my 50th, next June. I kept following her blog because I love the way she writes–and how she shares the fun of her journey.          –Kirsty
It wasn't so much that I felt I needed to change. It was more that I needed to do something to mark turning 30, and to save me from the vague yet troubling suspicion that I wasn't making the most of my life. So I came up with what I have since discovered was a far from original idea: To undertake thirty brand-spanking-new challenges between turning 30 and turning 31, and to blog about them all. I told anyone who would listen about Thirty@30, to ensure that I absotively-posolutely couldn't chicken out.
image (8)Whilst I never set out to change myself, I knew that there was one fundamental shift I would have to make for the project to succeed: I would have to say ‘yes’ a lot more often. Not easy for a homebody with a profound fondness for her purple sofa. But the beautiful thing about this project is that it has a deadline. Everything has to be done by my 31st birthday, on May 11th 2013. I may be lazy when it comes to lots of things – right now I am looking at an oven that is badly in need of a thorough cleaning – but when it comes to deadlines, I meet them.          
DSC_0552My challenges began, and so did saying ‘yes’ to some unexpected things. When I was offered a place in a half marathon, I said yes, despite the fact that I had huge – and I mean GARGANTUAN – difficulty shuffling 5k at the end of a sprint triathlon. When I was invited out to a casino on the spur of the moment, I said yes.  When a total stranger on a train platform asked me for a hug, I said yes. When my friend suggested cycling from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle – and then back again – I said yes. MMA session? Yes. Aerial Silks class? Yes? Helicopter ride? (Gulp) yes. You get the idea…
DSC_0023Of course, some yesses were never in question. Blog or no blog, there was only one answer to my friend’s request that I be her birthing partner. I could not have predicted the profound emotional impact of that particular ‘yes’; of seeing the baby reach up to the light for the first time; of being the one to cut the cord binding him to the placenta. In a way, it bound me to him for the rest of my life.
The challenges aren't only about saying yes to other people, though. In fact, it is often far easier to say yes to someone else than it is to say yes to myself. It required tremendous will-power to go through with giving blood, for example, since no one would have been any the wiser had I turned around and sneaked away. Consequently, it is one of the challenges of which I am most proud. In a similar vein, I have just organised a life drawing class of ten-or-so artists, for the SOLE PURPOSE of getting my kit off in a room full of people. Argh! Self-inflicted terror in the extreme. Please subscribe to the blog if you would like to know how that goes. I’m telling you this, incidentally, because now I can’t freak out and decide not to do it….
DSC_0006Over the last eight months I have become pretty good at this ‘yes’ malarkey, and there’s no doubt that with it has come a certain freeness of spirit, as well as a marked improvement in my self-discipline. When there is a challenge at hand, I do it. When there is a blog to be written, I write it. Alas, the same cannot be said for the ever-growing need to clean the oven. For now, I am still resolutely saying ‘no’ to that particular task.
Perhaps the greatest challenge – and the greatest change – is one I could never have predicted or prepared for. My partner moved out two months ago, and for the first time in my life I am living completely alone. It is a sad, difficult time, but Thirty@30 has given me strength and drive where melancholy and inertia could so easily have taken over. All change is a challenge, and with all challenges come change, whether you like it or not. It is the act of consciously inviting these challenges into my life that has helped me to make a whole lot more of it.
Now, all this positivity lets me off the hook as far as the oven is concerned, right? Go on, say ‘yes’.
Itsu JojoJoanna Josefina Thomas is a London-based writer with a day-job as managing editor of a legal publishing company. She blogs, writes poetry, and is editing (and re-editing) her first novel. She is also a freelance fiction editor. She is not ashamed to admit to a very dirty oven.