Three months ago, back when I was still just a callow youth of twenty nine, I struck upon the idea of subjecting myself to a series of thirty new experiences in the run up to my thirtieth birthday. Cunningly christening it '30x30x30', the plan (according to my hastily thought up mission statement at least) was to spend 'thirty days...conquer[ing] thirty as yet unfulfilled ambitions before I hit the big Three Ohhhhh'.
It's probably worth noting that prior to this decision, I'd afforded little thought to what I considered a fairly inconsequential birthday (as this previous article simultaneously attests to, but by its very existence also contradicts). Any who, the idea of turning thirty didn't in itself worry me, but the thought of letting a gimmicky opportunity for self promotion pass me by certainly did, so I was immediately resolved to seeing this hair-brained scheme through.
In hindsight (which I'm happy to confirm is a wonderful, if slightly fickle, mistress), there were three factors seducing me into diving headfirst towards this (as I was marketing it) 'adventure': Firstly, and most pertinently, I had the time. The early part of the year is traditionally quiet for me, work-wise (and when I say quiet, think John Cage's celebrated composition 4'33"). Secondly, I'd never really held sway with the idea of a 'bucket list' (call me a philistine, but I'm not sure I can get on board with a life philosophy inspired by a movie that only scores a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but the thought of essentially using an arbitrary date as an excuse to do some pretty cool things did appeal to me. And lastly, and somewhat pathetically, I liked the thought of being able to tell people what I was embarking upon. The alternative, as I saw it (philosophically speaking), was the equivalent of doing something impressive (e.g. felling a tree in a wood), and then keeping quiet about it. In that case, could it really be said to have even happened?
Somewhat inconveniently, inspiration for these exploits had struck only the night before the thirty days were due to begin, leaving minimal time to prepare. 'Not to worry', reasoned twenty nine year old past me (who was always something of an optimist), 'I thrive on a tight deadline'; a phrase that was to become both my mantra and millstone for the next month. I hastily set to drawing up a list of activities that were seemingly achievable yet wouldn't lead to my arrest - criteria that were surprisingly difficult to satisfy, as it turned out. Working into the early hours of the morning, and with suggestions from friends a hindrance as much as a help (it's amazing how many of them want you to get naked, given the opportunity), I finally had a rough idea of what I might be getting up to. And so, on the morning of Thursday the 8th of January 2015, filled with the kind of boundless enthusiasm and springy step that was to become a distant memory by the time I'd reached the end of this spontaneous caper, the thirty day countdown began.
Things got off to a shaky start. I'd unwittingly bitten off more than I could chew, quite literally, when I decided to Eat Something That Made Me Squeamish. Having always been an adventurous sort when it came to sampling new cuisine, I'd settled on a food I considered particularly vile, tripe; a spongey offal with an odour strongly reminiscent of a teenage boys' dressing room. Apparently, it's considered a delicacy in Spain, Italy and beyond. Unfortunately, beyond didn't extend to my house, where I was almost violently sick several times trying to keep one solitary piece of something else's stomach in my own. Still, it was very much a tick firmly in the box for day one.
My second challenge, meanwhile, saw me trying, and largely failing, to Make An Origami Crane. After almost four hours of futility, I was ready to fold, even if the paper wasn't. But then, lo and behold (or should that be lo and be-fold?), a crane emerged fluttering its papery wings before my bloodshot eyes and success was mine. Day two, done...just.
By day three, I was in need of a change of scenery, having so far been stuck indoors with questionable meats and infuriating slips of paper. I decided to spend 24 hours committing Random Acts of Kindness, and it was the best thing I could have done. From handing out cakes to my co-workers to giving a stranger a bunch of flowers on Brixton High Street, it was an exhilarating feeling to be making others feel good (well, duh). And whilst most of these random acts involved me having to spend money to achieve the desired effect, I felt all the richer for it. In fact, the positive after effects of day 3 were so potent that that night I took it upon myself to plan ahead for day thirteen and booked a rather frivolous Day Trip To A Foreign Country (the Eurostar to Paris, naturellement).
Cheesy moment of life-defining enrichment over, it was back to earth with a bang the following morning when I was forced into the realisation that, with 27 days of challenges still remaining, after the previous day's excesses I'd already massively overspent. Clearly I was going to have to start being more frugal if I wanted to see out the month solvent. Not only that, but I'd begun to appreciate the small but very real difference between an idea and its execution. Thus, whilst in practice I'd had grand plans to ride an elephant, fire a weapon, record a rap song and milk a cow, in reality these were proving much harder to pull off. Particularly that cow's udder.
Consequently, the following days saw me scale back some of my more ambitious earlier thoughts and instead exercise far more financial restraint than I'd originally anticipated. My new 'budget list' included cheap thrills such as learning a spot of sign language (day 4), mastering a magic trick (day 5), cooking a meal from scratch (day 6), spending the day wearing a tracksuit (day 8 - the horror!) and sending a message in a bottle (day 11).
By the time Paris rolled around, I'd just about got back to the point where I could justify getting a few Euros changed. Now, you don't need me to tell you that France's capital is a marvellous city, but it really is. And if that on its own weren't incentive enough to visit, the Eurostar just makes the whole thing so easy. Why I'd never gone there and back in a day before is anyone's guess, but I'll certainly be doing it again and I urge you to do the same.
Back in Blighty and buoyed by my Channel hopping tour de force, I continued ticking off new experiences like there was no tomorrow (although there blatantly was, and it'd probably involve me getting a chest wax or something equally ridiculous). Soon I found myself mudlarking (day 16), taking a drawing class (day 18), horse riding (day 23) and enduring my longest ever run (day 25 - a gruelling 10.5 miles); in short, things I'd always intended on doing but had never quite gotten round to.
And so, nearing the end of the month, and despite having sore knees, an increasingly patchy fake tan and a eerily hairless upper body, I was satisfied that I'd done the challenge justice. But there was still something missing, some overblown, possibly regrettable denouement to cement 30x30x30's place in history. A legacy, if you will. A showbiz finale. From the beginning, I'd been toying with the idea of subjecting myself to one of the few things I'd previously sworn never to do; to wit, get a tattoo. But as the weeks wore on and I began to find real enjoyment in the more low key experiences, I realised I didn't need to put myself through something that was so fundamentally not me just to prove a point. It didn't seem worth the inevitable pain, expense and lasting regret, and so the idea was shelved. But then on day 30, panicked and short of alternatives, I went and got one anyway.
So now, at the age of 30 and with that very number permanently inked on my backside as a constant reminder of those strange, hurried, but ultimately exhilarating thirty days I spent leading up to February 7th 2015, what I have learnt? Well, firstly that a little forward planning really helps when organising month-long events. But also, and perhaps more enlighteningly, that tattoos don't hurt half as much as I thought (though waxing does), that the way I say 'thirty' is quite odd (as mimicked by the many friends who tuned into the videos I made to accompany the quest) and that new experiences are something we should strive for more of as we get older, not less. So go out, carpe diem and maybe one day we can compare bum tattoos.
01. 08.1.15 - Eat something that makes me squeamish
02. 09.1.15 - Make an origami crane
03. 10.1.15 - Perform random acts of kindness
04. 11.1.15 - Learn some sign language
05. 12.1.15 - Perfect a magic trick
06. 13.1.15 - Cook a full meal from scratch
07. 14.1.15 - Have Acupuncture
08. 15.1.15 - Spend a day in 'normal' clothes
09. 16.1.15 - Go to a Dog Racing meet
10. 17.1.15 - Learn a dance routine
11. 18.1.15 - Send a message in a bottle
12. 19.1.15 - Have a chest Wax
13. 20.1.15 - Day trip to a foreign country
14. 21.1.15 - Watch films I've lied about seeing
15. 22.1.15 - Ride a recumbent bicycle
16. 23.1.15 - Go mudlarking
17. 24.1.15 - Be a Tourist in London
18. 25.1.15 - Attend a drawing Class
19. 26.1.15 - Get a Fake Tan
20. 27.1.15 - Have a Psychic Reading
21. 28.1.15 - Make and bury a Time Capsule
22. 29.1.15 - Get a proper shave
23. 30.1.15 - Go horse riding
24. 31.1.15 - Attend an auction
25. 01.2.15 - Go on a long run
26. 02.2.15 - Learn and Play Chess
27. 03.2.15 - Read a Harry Potter in a day
28. 04.2.15 - Attend a Political Event
29. 05.2.15 - Take IQ and personality tests
30. 06.2.15 - Get a Tattoo