30 Before 30

Today was such an emotional day. We remember the lives that were lost 10 years ago in the great and vibrant city of New York. I was halfway across the world when I found out about the attacks. It was the middle of the night and I remember waking up to my dad answering phone calls. I felt the horror halfway across the world, I cannot imagine how it was for those who were here and even more so for those who lost loved ones. That day changed us all. And we shall never forget.

These photos were taken Summer of 2009.

This is part of my Dear America project which was completely inspired by Zara’s Dear America collection.


Zara very recently launched it’s online store in the US and, to celebrate, curated a collection of 50 photographs of 50 states. The collection is called Dear America. You can view it here. Wonderful collection, yes? The photos that represented each state were so unexpected, which I liked. Dear America inspired me to create my own collection of 50 photographs of 50 states. My plan is to collect a handful of photos for each state and to eventually select a favorite. Although I don’t expect to complete this project by the time I turn 30, my goal is to visit as many states as I can until then. So far, I’ve visited a measly 10/50, shown in bold below (not counting airports and states I’ve driven by, lol). Yikes!  Oh yes, I have a ways to go!

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware
  10. Georgia
  11. Hawaii
  12. Idaho
  14. Indiana
  15. Iowa
  16. Kansas
  17. Kentucky
  18. Louisiana
  19. Maine
  21. Massachusetts
  22. Michigan
  24. Mississippi
  25. Missouri
  1. Montana
  2. Nebraska
  4. New Hampshire
  6. New Mexico
  8. North Carolina
  9. North Dakota
  10. Ohio
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Oregon
  14. Rhode Island
  15. South Carolina
  16. South Dakota
  17. Tennessee
  18. Texas
  19. Utah
  20. Vermont
  21. Virginia
  22. Washington
  23. West Virginia

I turned 26 this year and the big 3-0 is looming, larger than ever. I’ve tried to compile a 30 before 30 list for some time now but it’s really not as easy as I thought it would be. It’s harder than a bucket list because I really had to consider the feasibility of each item, given the time constraints. My deadline is May 8, 2015. So, without further ado, here is my 30 before 30 list.

  1. Visit as many of the 50 states as I can – In Progress
  2. Go on a classic American road trip
  3. Watch the ball drop in NYC
  4. See the Grand Canyon
  5. Go to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras
  6. Visit Paris (yes, I’ve never been!)
  7. Visit a country I’ve never been to (besides France, see #6)
  8. Go skydiving – Done!
  9. Go hang gliding – Done!
  10. Go on a hot air balloon ride
  11. Learn to love like eat vegetables
  12. Practice yoga
  13. Run a 5K (this is the longest I can commit to!)
  14. Give up soda
  15. Be in the best shape of my life
  16. Learn skills related to photography and photo editing, create a portfolio as proof of new-found skills
  17. Learn how to bake the best red velvet cupcakes
  18. Learn how to bake at least 10 different cookies from scratch
  19. Learn how to really cook (a 5 course meal, perhaps?)
  20. Learn how to sow
  21. Learn how to trade
  22. Clean out my closet, organize by clothing and accessories (trust me, this is a hard one for me)
  23. Be really good at doing my own nails, hair, and make-up (I don’t own a straightener/hair dryer and my make-up skills are average at best)
  24. Complete Kendi Everyday’s 30 for 30 Remix challenge
  25. Watch all films listed in AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 MOVIES list
  26. Cultivate my blog
  27. Figure out if I want to go to grad school
  28. Work on improving/learning skills that will help me get to where I want to be, career-wise
  29. Find a job that I know I will love long-term
  30. Do something life-changing

P.S. I argued with myself if I should add a disclaimer. Although this is a pretty solid list, I do think that I need to. I’m sure that as the months and years go by, I will probably want to remove things from this list to make room for something more significant. I will definitely not remove things because I feel like I can’t achieve them. The changes, if any, will be well documented.

I wanted to do something extraordinary to mark my 25th birthday. By extraordinary, I mean a remarkable experience that I can proudly look back to many years from now. I couldn’t think of anything better than jumping off from a perfectly good airplane. It’s been but a couple of days since, and I can truly say that I achieved my birthday goal. What a way to celebrate!

I was the first passenger on the plane and was beyond excited when I was told that I get to sit on the co-pilot’s chair. Yes – the best seat in the house! That was an experience in itself. The ascent towards the sky from the front seat was spectacular. This distracted me for a little while until I received the signal from Donovan, my instructor, that it was time.

The dive kicks off with a countdown: 1, 2, and Oh My God. The free fall from 13,500 feet to about 5,500 feet was the “extreme” part of the whole experience for me. It was a sensory overload. All at once, I was trying to take in the speed (about 120 mph), the cold (it felt like it was 25 degrees), the sights (amazing!) and the uneasy thoughts about my sister (who is afraid of heights) who jumped right after me. It was hard to breathe. There was no escape from it. I had no other choice but to take it all in and it was exhilarating! To top the free fall experience off, I consider myself SO lucky to fall through a large cumulus cloud. It was unreal! I literally gasped with delight when I disappeared into the white.  As soon as we left the cloud, we deployed the shoot and the rush became calm. It was time for the canopy flight back to solid ground. I enjoyed this part of the dive because this was when it hit me that I did it. I did it! I was so proud of myself. The descent was peaceful and this was when I really enjoyed the scenery from above. And then it all ended with a smooth landing, a high five, and a big smile on my windblown face.

One of the most valuable lessons that I take away from this experience is the significant difference that follow-through makes. I can think of several instances in the past wherein I would make a confident resolve to do this and that and then easily abandon the resolve altogether. I would draw an excuse or a justification from what seems to be a bottomless hat.  The fact of the matter is, the one I hurt the most in this exercise is myself.

So here’s to being tough enough to follow through! When the urge to make an excuse comes creeping in, just think of one of the best slogans ever made – Just Do It!

Skidiving at Skydive Chicago

When: May 9, 2010

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