Swallow tattoo - in traditional sailor tattoos the swallow represented how far he'd traveled and that he'd always find his way home.

Do the things you always say you’re going to do.

I’ve been on this kick lately to do the things I always say I’m going to do.

You know those things.

Maybe you were watching an improv show once and thought to yourself, “this is so much fun, I wish I could be up there.” Or maybe you passed by that swanky but impossible-to-get-into restaurant and thought, “I keep meaning to try to make reservations.” Or, maybe, you were lusting over Pinterest boards on Brazil thinking, “someday I will take a vacation there.”

Those things.

We’re always making these mental lists. Lists of things we want to do in life. Lists of those things we tell ourselves that we will do.


But, often, those things just end up as bucket list items. Things that sit there because there is always an excuse not to do them. Or things you forget about until you’re reminded again.

They aren’t priorities. And there is always tomorrow.

But what would happen if you didn’t forget? What would happen if you stopped making excuses? If you prioritized? If you didn’t wait until tomorrow?

What would happen if you started to do those things you always say you’re going to do?

What would happen if you stopped making excuses? If you didn't wait until tomorrow? Share on X

Lately I’ve made a commitment to start doing all those things I always say I’m going to do. All those things I kept telling myself that I would do someday. All those things that I add to my life list and do nothing about.

I have to admit that maybe I’ve overextended myself. Gone in a little too gung ho. Taken on a little more than I should have.

I’ve been pretty booked solid.

But, you know what? I haven’t been this happy in a long time.

It’s amazing how happy you feel when you do things that make you happy. Who’d have thought?

I’m currently taking guitar lessons. I’m currently taking salsa lessons. I’m currently in a skee ball league. I’m currently learning to knit. I’ve been trying to go on more dates.

And, the other week, I finally got a tattoo I’d had on my mind for two years…


Swallow tattoo - in traditional sailor tattoos the swallow represented how far he'd traveled and that he'd always find his way home.

In traditional sailor tattoos the swallow represented how far he’d traveled and that he’d always find his way home. I get too sea sick to sail, but, as a traveler, I wanted to pay homage to that idea. Tattoos by Ashley Wollaston at Speakeasy Custom Tattoo.


I’ve always had excuses not to do any of those things. And I’m sure they are the same excuses you use too. I don’t have time. I don’t have money. I don’t have anyone to do it with. Blah blah blah.

Usually, though, when I really look at it, when I really analyze those excuses I’ve been making, I realize that I’m either jut being incredibly lazy or not prioritizing.

It’s the same with so many things we want to do. Whether it’s going to the gym or traveling the world or taking a guitar lesson. It’s just easier to not do those things than to do them, no matter how much we want to do them.

But, once you stop making those excuses, you’ll realize that none of them are all that valid.

It's amazing how happy you feel when you do things that make you happy. Share on X


What are your excuses? Here were mine…

Swallow tattoo - in traditional sailor tattoos the swallow represented how far he'd traveled and that he'd always find his way home.


I’m scared.

Believe me, there are plenty of things I don’t do because I’m too scared. I mean, I once uncontrollably cried and backed down at the top of a bungee jump. But, whenever I do face my fears, it’s almost always worth it. Like, you know, that time I quit my job and traveled for three years. I was scared then. I was scared every time I left again. I was scared every time I changed countries. But I did it anyways. I pushed myself to do things in spite of my fears. And it was all worth it.

I’d been scared to get a new tattoo. These birds were a bigger commitment than two smaller-scale tattoos I already had. What if it hurt so much I fainted? What if I couldn’t handle it? What if the artist screwed up? What if I hated it? What if I regretted it?

What if? What if? What if?

There are a lot of what ifs for anything that makes us scared. For everything we fear. It’s not knowing the outcome, not knowing how things will turn out, that scares us the most.

And there’s really no way to know what will happen. So sometimes, you just need to take a deep breathe and take the plunge and trust that everything will work out.

(And p.s. it totally did because I LOVE my birdies!)


I don’t have the time.

I never feel like I have time. I struggle to wake up in the morning, I go to work. I come home. I eat dinner. I go to bed. Repeat. Somehow, despite the fact that there are seven whole hours betweens 5pm and midnight, it feels like 7 minutes. Somehow, despite the fact that I have two full days a week all to myself, it feels like 2 hours.

It always feels like there’s no time in a day. In a week. In life.

I’ve said, ever since learning in Colombia three years ago, that I wanted to continue taking salsa lessons. But things always got in the way. Time, mostly. I found a salsa school in Chicago that I really wanted to take classes at. But the classes were all pretty late and far from my apartment. It felt like I’d have to waste so much time just to take a class. It wasn’t convenient. So I allowed myself to say no.

A few months ago, I said fuck it and decided to just go for it. I bought a Groupon for half-off on the first four weeks. The class is at 8 and a half-hour walk from my work so I tend to just stay an extra two hours to get shit done. I guess it’s a blessing and a curse. But, really, it’s nice to have those extra hours of work each week, hours where I’m one of very few left in the office, quiet time to focus.

The funny thing is, though, the more I’ve taken on, the more time I feel like I have.

I’ve just had to redefine what time means.

I think I always felt like I didn’t have time off, time to myself, unless I had a day with nothing to do but sit on the couch and binge-watch Netflix. And I don’t always have that anymore. But I do have time for classes, for practice, for work, for blogging, for cleaning, and for socializing. And, yes, I even still have time to watch the occasional show on Netflix. The more I do, the more I see how much time I have.

How much time I usually just waste.


On my life list: learn to play the guitar. I can even kind of play the G chord now without my fat fingers smushing the wrong strings. Kind of.

On my life list: learn to play the guitar. I can even kind of play the G chord now without my fat fingers smushing the wrong strings. Kind of.

I don’t have the money.

Money. Sigh. Money is a tough one because sometimes you just really don’t have the money. And, I’m not going to lie, I’ve been stretching pretty thin lately. Lessons are expensive. Tattoos are expensive. Life is expensive.

I’ve wanted to take up guitar lessons again since I moved into my new place. I live right across the street from an amazing music school in Chicago. I should have had no excuse. But it always came back to money. Could I really afford guitar lessons?

And, truthfully, maybe I can’t. But I’ve been working harder lately on budgeting. And prioritizing. I’ve been trying to eat out less. I drink less when I go out. I set a budget at the grocery store. I watch what I waste money on. I eat $3 frozen dinners for lunches.

Cut down. Cut back.

Sometimes you just have to give and take. Prioritize. Figure out where you’re spending money and rearrange it so you can afford what you really want. And, right now, I just want to make music (and dance to it too).


I’m too fat.

I’ve made it no secret that I’m uncomfortable in my body right now. I gained weight. I’m struggling to get it off. People offer me their seats on trains because they think I’m pregnant. I feel fat. I hate my body.

I let that hold me back for a long time. With many things, but especially with dating. I’d match with cute guys on Tinder and not talk to them because I was afraid I wouldn’t live up, that they wouldn’t find me attractive. I’d be afraid to meet a guy in real life because I just didn’t feel good about the way I look.

But lately I’ve been taking more chances. I’ve been trying to put myself out there more. I’ve been trying to not let my lack of confidence get in my way. And it’s been working. I’ve started going out on a few dates (read about two of them here and here). And honestly, just going on dates gives me more confidence to go on more. To meet more people. To keep putting myself out there. To stop using my weight as an excuse. To stop letting my weight hold me back.


Salsa shoes and knitting needles.

Salsa shoes and knitting needles.

I don’t know where to begin.

Sometimes you can have all the best intentions, but not have any idea where to begin. Part of the reason it took me so long to get this tattoo was that I just wasn’t sure where to go. I wasn’t sure who to go to. But in the end all it took was a lot of Googling and Instagram research to find someone in Chicago I was excited to see.

Sometimes, though, things might just fall in your lap. I’ve had learn to knit on my life list but never put much thought into actually doing it. But, it just so happens, I have a coworker who is an avid knitter. And she enthusiastically offered to teach me over lunch breaks.

I could have easily said, “no,” or put it off to another time, another place. But when something falls into place like that, embrace it.

If you don’t know where to begin on whatever it is you want to do, just start by asking around. You never know who might be there to help. You never know who might have recommendations. If there’s something you want to learn, do, see, Google it. Search, seek out, lessons in your area. Look to Groupon* to see if there are intro deals. Check out websites like Dabble* for one-off classes or Skillshare* for online classes. (*Those are all referral links. Just sayin.)

It’s out there. everything you want to learn, see, do. And usually, not actually that hard to find.


There are always excuses to not do those things you always say you will.

Whether it’s something huge like quitting your job to travel. Something medium like learning guitar or getting a tattoo. Or even something small like putting off a haircut.

There are a million excuses not to do something.

But there are also a million better excuses to go out and go after the things you want to do.

Redefine your thinking. Redefine your budget. Redefine your time.

Stop making excuses and start making priorities.

Do the things you always say you’re going to do.


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What do you always say you're going to do? What are you going to do about it?

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Sarahmia
    November 22, 2016at11:56 am

    I haven’t looked at my Life List pretty much all year and I’ve felt so unmotivated and lacklustre about everything constantly. I need to re-find my joy!

    Your tattoos look beautiful, congratulations 🙂

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