Dear 43 Things Users,

10 years after introducing 43 Things to the world, we have decided we have met our last goal: completing the incredible experience that has been 43 Things. Please join us in giving one last cheer to all the folks who have shared their goals with the world, as well as all the people who have worked at The Robot Co-op to build this incredible website. We won a Webby Award, published a book, and brought happiness to a lot of people.

Starting today, 43 Things users can export their goals and entries from the site. Starting August 15, we will make the site “read only”. 43 Things users will still be able to view the site and export their content, but we won’t be taking any new content from users. We hope to leave the site up for folks to see and download their content until the end of the year. Ending on New Year’s Eve takes us full circle.

It has been a long ride (one of our original goals was to "build a company that lasts at least 2 years” - we beat that one!) While we wish the site could live on, it has suffered from a number of challenges - changes in how people use the site, the advertising industry, and how search engines view the site. We wish the outcome was different – but we’ve always been realistic about when our goals are met and when they aren't.

As of today, you will be able to download your goals and entries. See more about that on the FAQ page. Thanks for 10 great years of goal-setting and achieving.

- The Robots.

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Cora_and_Clarice in Cape Town is doing 0 things including…

Reclaim my spirit from each and every place I have ever left it

21 cheers


Cora_and_Clarice has written 6 entries about this goal

I have an odd-sounding goal called "stop trying".

That goal is basically about all the things I have sacrificed to try to get on with/be close to/be understood by my boyfriend. I have made significant enough changes in one particular area that I have finally come to feel that I have a small portion of myself back.

I have completely stopped explaining myself, by which I mean my feelings. This decision started only being applied to things I had explained before, but now I won’t explain myself if I so much as suspect that he’s actually capable of working it out on his own (i.e. it’s a normal human emotion). I get treated to temper tantrums of course. And I get trapped in a room for hours while he hounds me and talks to me like dirt. I also get told that he’s doing it all for me, his reaction is completely normal and not outrageous at all, and that everything is my fault. He must think I’m stupid.

Well, regardless of what he thinks, I am not going back on this. I am never, ever going back. If something hurts it hurts, if something makes me happy, it makes me happy. I don’t know why I ever thought I needed to explain these things to anyone. I don’t know why I have ever accepted anything less than total respect for my emotional being and well-being. I will never accept anything less from anyone ever again.

Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other.

I had a look at my degree structure online which turned out to be a really good idea as it has spared whichever poor sod would have had to register me tomorrow a lot of grief. My program has one major in computer science, but of course I’ll have to find something else to do as well in order to qualify for graduation. It took two hours to find something that was A) not another mathy course because as wonderful as it is there’s more to life than that dammit, B) didn’t clash with the already prescribed courses and C) I hadn’t done before. If I’d known I’d be coming back, I wouldn’t have wandered off into quite so much history, philosophy, psych, Xhosa in the company of marvelous people like L and K and A. Ok come to think of it maybe I would >:>

I wonder if I’ll find people like that this time around. The kind of people like L who would sit in biochem lectures with a book of Blake’s poems open on her lap pointing out passages to me and giggling at the glared disapproval of the purists. People like A who would run around the Squishy Science buildings with me trying to recruit our fellows into the ethics courses because, “ohmigodyouHAVEtotakeethicsit’llbroadenyourmind .. -andanywayhowcouldyoupossiblynotworshipthatmanhe’samazingamazingamazing!” hahaha! People like K who was humanities through and through, but loved stats and was horrified that psych students had to do a sort of “stats lite” because no-one trusted them to have enough ability/interest to cope with an actual science course. Her ears used to go pink with fury, it was wonderful!

So I was lying in bed last night, slowly falling into sleep, drifting aimlessly through all those gorgeous memories and semi-wondering about the supposed boundaries between science and humanities when I was struck across the back of the head with a sudden realisation, sat bolt upright in bed and declared loudly into the night “Oh my GOD, I’m half my father and half my mother!” The air my poor boyfriend had sucked into his lungs in fright was suddenly expelled in a guffaw. And it was because he understood.

To understand this seemingly banal comment you’d have to know firstly that my father was a programmer and my mother was a classics scholar, and secondly here I am about to launch into a degree in computer science and mythology :D I’d eventually stumbled across them at the point where I was frustratedly browsing through all things English and discovering that every course clashed. And it’s perfect. What else could possibly make sense? Computer game design (which is the stream I’m doing) draws heavily on myth, fantasy, fairytale. It’s a match made in heaven for somebody with my end goal in mind.

There’s a third thing in there too that you’d have to understand. After my mother died, but before my father did, her memory was buried. It was taboo to mention her. So everything I was, or was perceived to be, was related to my father. You’re an intellectual, like your father. You’re a bookworm, like your father. You will go into the sciences. Like. Your. Father. Oddly it was never specifically suggested to me that I follow a career in computers despite my mathematical and logical abilities and my introverted nature. It probably would have been had I been born a boy.

After he died, people began to talk about her again. You’re the spitting image of your mother (which is true). You’re an intellectual, like your mother. You’re a bookworm. Like. Your. Mother. The same stuff, but somehow a different colour. Suddenly, I was my mother’s child, not my father’s. And my father’s child became one of my brothers, which was very weird considering they’d absolutely hated each other while he was alive. I’ve since realised it’s because I look like her and he looks like him and people are trying to fill in the gaps left by two very tragic deaths.

But there is so much they ignore. He has her colouring too, and I have his sense of humour. He wants a family like she did, and I share the same hobbies as him. He is more extraverted like she was, and I’m an introvert who is drained by too much company like him. We are each a mixture of both our parents and neither heritage can be denied.

And even there there are problems. My mother studied the ancients, but all the years that I knew him my father read books on Roman history, Greek philosophers and Persian prowess in his spare time. My father was the logician who learnt to program, but he admitted that my mother was far smarter and more logical than he.

You cannot divide people up into tidy little opposites.

For the first time in my life, I feel I can see both my parents in me at the same time, and neither overshadows the other, nor can anyone say I’m more one than the other, because they were never that different to begin with. No matter what anyone has tried to project onto me, I have always been who I am. It was just this specific combination that made me see that. I feel, for a fleeting moment, for it is always fleeting, complete.

Another encounter with my stepmother

that centred around the theme of gifts. Noticing a pattern here. Maybe I should just rename this goal to “Get over my stepmother” or “Stop allowing myself to be manipulated by my stepmother”.

Anyway. I turned 30 this year. It was a marvelous, delightful occassion made so by my aunt, one of my father’s sisters, and the woman who has stepped in to take me under her wing since my father’s death. We had an enormous, homebaked breakfast, genuinely cooked with love, you could taste it! They had tied balloons to the chair at the head of the table and made me sit in it. No-one in my family ever did something like that for me before. That sort of affection and honouring was reserved for my stepmother’s own little boy. I got a small piece of my soul back right then, a piece I probably lost at around 7 when I first realised such things were not for me. Who knew it could be hidden in two balloons and a length of ribbon.

There was no acknowledgement of this milestone in my life from my stepmother. No phone call, no sms, no card, nothing. To tell the truth, I was relieved. A birthday all for myself to enjoy without having to deal with her.

That was on August 1st. I saw her four months later at a family gathering for my father’s other sister who was visiting from another city. She waited until we were all sitting in the lounge together before stating loudly how there’s been a present for me sitting on the table at home since August. It doesn’t sound that bad when I read over it, but that’s because there’s no font for her tone. It wasn’t apologetic or defensive or hurt or even offhand. It was accusatory. It was delivered in a tone of voice that implied if certain people weren’t so inconsiderate and actually bothered to visit her occasionally, they might actually have a chance to be given a present. My stepmother was using the medium of a birthday present to say that the state of our relationship was my fault and the room was gone suddenly still.

At first I couldn’t believe my ears, the very next moment I wondered why not. This is exactly the kind of thing she has always done. In the past she was forever rejecting or attacking me behind closed doors, swearing at me, calling me names or telling me how stupid I was, and then behaving in public as though my reaction was unprovoked. She would tell people what a sullen, ungrateful girl I was and how I’d slammed my bedroom door, but then fail to tell them that moments before she’d been telling the neighbour in a loud, conspicuous voice how ugly and unattractive long hair is (my hair is long, hers short).

Officially, no-one knows she rejected and abandoned me. They don’t know about that day in the car after my father’s death when she told me we needn’t have anything to do with each other any more. And they don’t know about her sending all my childhood photos to my house. I have never told any of them. Which is what my stepmother was relying on and, boy, she knows me soo well. She knows that I’m too scared to be honest with anyone in my extended family about her treatment of me, even after all these years. That fear is something she spent years worming into the very heart of me. It’s our special bond. It’s the way in which she knows me better than anyone else.

Because I never dared to contradict her version of events, moves like this used to have me scrambling to make it up to her and apologise so as to dissipate the disapproval and judgement she had fostered in witnesses, but this time I didn’t do that. I just looked at her mildly, gave a little polite smile and then looked back at the rest of the room which suddenly picked up its several conversations where it had left off.

That’s when it dawned on me that, although I have kept my silence, my family are not stupid. They have shown me their understanding tacitly, in the way they have started to take on the role of celebrating my birthday with me and making sure I have someone to spend Christmas with. In the way they never mention her, never ask after her. In the way they make sure family news is passed on to me, not expecting her to do it. I have never told them the details, but as I have shown them who I am, they have come to realise that I am not who my stepmother made me out to be for all those years, and that it would never have been me who shut that door.

I will never again have to suffer the humiliation and isolation of her lies and her passive-aggressive implications. And, though I am silent, I am also accepted and will never be put on the witness stand like a criminal and called on to explain myself.

That’s a pretty big piece of one’s spirit to have back.

I AM competent.

I pulled off something pretty challenging yesterday, something that required skill and ability, something I had never tried before. And I pulled it off, first time. In a rare lucid moment, I realised that I actually do that quite often. I’m lucky to have that and it’s something that, all these years, I should have appreciated, been grateful for and enjoyed.

But I’d been led to believe that the more book smart someone was, the less competent they would be in “real life” and that this was “why I was such an incapable moron who couldn’t do anything properly and would never go anywhere in life.” I know exactly who that message came from and why, and I also know now that it’s spiteful, not true. I think I’ll be sending that particular gift back.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my mother.

Well, my stepmother actually. She’s been in my life since I was four years old and I’ve never managed to get my head around the fact that she is not really my mother. Even when she screamed and swore at me only to turn around and hug her own flesh-and-blood son. Even when she slammed me up against the cupboard, held me there with her knee and slapped me hard and repeatedly around the head. Even when she told other people what a dreadful burden I was and how she had been warned not to marry a man with children. Even when she wrote me letters that assassinated my character one trait at a time. I always saw her as my mother. Maybe not the world’s nicest mother, but my mother nevertheless. It came as a huge shock when I finally realised that she did not see me as her daughter.

Four years ago my father passed away very suddenly. He was only 51 and I was in my early twenties. I had just moved into digs a couple of months before. When I look back on subsequent events, I breath a sigh of relief that I was no longer living under her roof at that time.

In the months after the funeral, she would invite me round to supper only to vibe hostility at me all night. I tried to speak to her after one such evening. I told her I could feel an atmosphere of anger and asked if I’d done anything wrong. I was told, in these words, that quite frankly she was surprised we had any contact with each other at all and now that my father was dead we were no longer beholden to each other and could move on. My mother was no longer beholden to me? I sobbed in my boyfriend’s arms that night.

A while later, some boxes were sent to my house. They contained my baby photos, the photos from my school years and my school reports. The sting of that particular slap in the face is beyond my ability to describe to you. A pretty unambiguous signal, you’d think. Yet every Christmas she sends me a present and every time she signs the card “love, Mom”. No wonder I still call her my mom whenever I talk about her. No wonder I have never got that piece of my spirit back – the piece that believes I am just as worthy of a mother’s love as the next person. Or at the very least, of a surrogate’s compassion.

This year I have made a promise to myself that I will not allow it to continue. Why should I experience such bizarre mental torture just so she can assuage her guilt? She made her choice. I think it’s about time she learnt to live with it.

It feels like

there are too many pieces of me, special important pieces, that I have abandoned in hurtful places. Like I am still stuck in those eras of my life in some way. I think I have been vaguely aware of this for some time now, but it was only when I saw it in words on Wren’s 43 list that it really came to the fore of my mind. Thanks Wren!

Cora_and_Clarice has gotten 21 cheers on this goal.


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