Ireland Map

At the beginning of 2020, I declared I would be going to Ireland no matter what.

For decades, I have dreamt of going to Ireland. When I was in college, I read fat romance novels set there. Every time I’m asked to make a goals list, a bucket list, what have you, Ireland is always on it. A DNA test tells me that it’s (at least partially) the Mothership.

When I turned 40, I threw the birthday party that would have been the wedding I wanted. This year, I turned 45. Still short a lifelong dance partner, I decided I would take myself on the honeymoon.

Enter a pandemic.

Like the rest of the world, my life is bifurcated into the reality of what I imagined for this year, and where we now find ourselves.

As there would clearly be no trip to Ireland in 2020, I started thinking back to something else about my 40th birthday. Back then, I was already dreaming of going to Ireland but that was also the year that I was headlong into saving up and beginning the search for my first house. So, I created a project called #40Daysand40NightsUntil40.

This year, with nowhere to go and, ostensibly, writing a book about walking and grief (and lord knows we’ve got enough of that all around us), I set out to walk every day for the 45 days counting to my 45th birthday.

Just like the 40 day project, it began with a Google doc (most things do with me), asking people to sign up for a walk. Often, they were walking too while we talked on the phone. Sometimes we video chatted. Sometimes folks joined me for social distancing walks on a trail. Occasionally, I did the walking for the both of us.

The point was to reconnect with people during this time of so much disconnection, to tell stories, to move my body through this moment of global change.

This project wound up being so much more to me than a simple exercise in exercise (and talking). As each day went by, I came to learn or observe a few very interesting trends…

Just like the 40 Day Countdown, the urge to document grew with each passing day. My first post clocked in at just under 200 words. By the time it was over, I routinely maxed out the allowable social media word count, having to go back and edit out large passages of my thoughts before I could submit.

At times, I was tired from the writing (and the obligation), but I also loved it. These types of creative containers are a wonderful challenge. I could feel my brain working in a different capacity because of its own kind of daily exercise, and the words were a-flowin’ easily.

A single gal who lives alone, I listen to a lot of podcasts. They fill up my days, and my ears. I started to have a little fantasy that each of my walks was its own episode of a super niche podcast. Each walking buddy was my co-host, sidekick, guest, and micro-audience all at the same time. There are certain things that come with a typical installment of “Walk & Talk with Shannon” (working title) outside of the standard What’s Up with You? Some of my favorite segments include Pop Culture Check-In, What Are You Reading?, and What’s For Dinner Tonight?

And this is by far the most important, so listen up good! Within the first week of doing my 45 day project, I came to a quiet, still, and acute awareness of something:

I am extraordinarily wealthy in human relationships.

I came to realize I was walking with people who live literally all over the world–from Germany to Portland, from Toronto to Miami–and who work in everything from conflict resolution in the international arena to life coaches to retired nurses (shoutout to my mom!).

So, just like they say in one of my favorite movies:

it's a wonderful life

It really is a wonderful life, after all.

*a small, random sampling of the 45 day posts