On my special day, I asked Facebook friends for something out of the ordinary. When you're careful what you wish for, amazing things come true.
You know that moment when you’re in the midst of doing something...and then suddenly, vividly recall why years ago you stopped doing that thing? (Think: generously inviting a clingy neighbor to a girls’ night out.) Well, I had one of those moments last November.
I was staring at myself in the mirror of a studio at New York Sports Club. The instructor queued up a hip-hop song I’d never heard before and started counting down 3-2-1 until a group of us would knock out a 46-move combo. Ah, cardio dance classes. I’ve always been horrible at them, much preferring the two-step of the treadmill. I fumbled my way through the shoulder pops and sideways slides, sneaking cheating glances at the rest of the class. Why was I putting myself through the wringer at 11 a.m. on a Saturday? Because of my Facebook friend request.
A few years ago, I started asking my friends to skip posting on my wall the simple (but appreciated) “Have a great birthday!” Instead, I made specific requests for my big day. One year, it was to share a favorite time together. (“Dinner at Emeril’s flagship restaurant in New Orleans,” wrote a former coworker.) Another, it was to share the best piece of advice they’d ever received. (“If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain,” a friend declared. I love that.) Last year, though, I was craving adventure. And something that would deepen my relationships with my friends, coworkers and relatives. People may complain about how technology distances us from those we love, but I’m pretty adamant that it can actually bring us together.
So I posted:
“Dear Friends: I’m marking tomorrow as my Bucket List Birthday. As I celebrate another year, I humbly ask you all a favor. If you leave birthday
wishes on my page, please note one epic adventure that we haven’t been on that you hope we will have one day soon. It can be anything: Running a marathon together. Crafting an award-winning story. Anything. And I promise I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make it come true. Love you all!”
Flash-forward to me at 11 a.m. one Saturday in a hip-hop dance class with my friend Jeffrey. And—surprisingly enough—the Saturday after that as well.
You see, when Jeffrey left a message on my wall about the class, he was just hoping we’d spend time doing something he loved. But after failing pretty miserably at the first class, I realized that while my body was willing, my brain was weak. My muscles had gotten a good workout; it was my mind that was lagging behind. I’d had the dance equivalent of talking on your cell phone while pedaling on an exercise bike. Next class, I brought my Dancing with the Stars A-game and recalled three times as many combinations. When I high-fived Jeffrey at the end, you would’ve thought I’d scored a touchdown at the Super Bowl.
Admittedly, some of the escapades on my bucket list may take a lifetime to achieve—so I’m glad I gave myself that long. One friend asked to co-author a book together, another wants to kayak in Maui, and a third hopes to host a reunion concert by our favorite band from the ’80s (Guns N’ Roses) with a red-carpet guest list including, well, our friends from junior high.
The very first reply to my birthday request was about a recipe—no surprise, considering the number of culinary successes I’ve posted. Apparently I had uploaded pictures of some homemade Oreos to my feed no fewer than four times in the past year, and my friend was tired of the mouthwatering tease. Okay, okay, whipping up Oreos isn’t exactly an adventure, but it did lead to quality time together when I dropped off a tin full of the cookies.
A few of the requests helped me hone serious negotiating skills. One friend wanted us to run the San Francisco Marathon. Ever since my first marathon, which was hilly and slow, I’ve had two requirements for the course of my next one: flat and fast, two things the City by the Bay’s course most certainly is not. As thrilling as the idea of booking it through Golden Gate Park and past Fisherman’s Wharf sounded, the idea of all those hills had me mentally pulling the covers over my head. The elevation chart for the race looked like a 26.2-mile EKG chart—pun intended. I countered with the Chicago Marathon, she came back with Philly, and for now, we’ve agreed to run the More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Women’s Half-Marathon in New York.
Other friendly posts required an arsenal of planning tools, from vision boards to travel guides. I’m not sure when CBS is taking applications for The Amazing Race, but I know who my partner will be and we’ve got to start working on our audition video. I’ve also been asked to plan an epic night of cocktail-bar-hopping in Manhattan. I don’t know if that means the entrance has to be hidden behind a phone booth (yes, that does exist here) or the drinks need to arrive on fire, or something in between. But either way, I’m sure it’ll be a night to remember. Every time an encounter gets crossed off my list, I write about it on Facebook. As with any to-do list, it feels like a pat on the back when you check off items. But I’ve also noticed that each “task” has me challenging myself in a new way, learning more about myself and encouraging my loved ones to dream big. A friend once told me, “You have to take the journey to know where the journey will take you.” I couldn’t have asked for better road maps than last year’s birthday wishes.