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.

Export My Content


The love goes on. Always.

Recent entries from HistoryDude


People sometimes come away with the erroneous impression that city dwellers are always fixated on finding a new angle for an old skyline. The funny thing is (as your skilled eye has captured) that we really live in and among the details rather than the skyscraper tops.

Symmetry offers us a unique interpretation of beauty. We just need to slow down to see it.

Thanks for your snaps! I am happy to have found you and will follow your posts with great interest. 9 months ago


I am reminded, with this simple offering, just how much I loved 43things. Thank you so much. 9 months ago

HistoryDude 9 months ago

HistoryDudeGood stuff, that retroactive happiness...

I am just stepping back into 43things after a multi-year hiatus. I am so pleased that you are still active. Just a quick visit reminds me how much I loved your writing. I hope that you keep it up. 9 months ago

HistoryDudeHelping to close the shop in Kabul, or, An Open Love Letter to Failure and Acceptance.

See attached. I guess that’s where it starts and ends, really.

This is a picture of me holding a little ceramic snowman. He lacks a definitive moniker other than the highly original “Fat Snowman” tag that I saddled him with as a child. I think he started life as one of my Grandma’s Christmas tree ornaments. For years I would find him in the bottom of my sock drawer, in assorted toolboxes, or the kitchen junk drawer. (Except at Christmas when I could never find him to put him on the tree.) In the early 1990’s, not long after the last contestants for empire here in Afghanistan were returning to the political tire fire that the Soviet Union had become, I found him in the bottom of my rucksack. That was one of my first trips overseas. He has accompanied me on every trip since. The kids nowadays have Flat Stanley, but I have always had Fat Snowman. I can offer no substantive explanation beyond that, other than to say that his presence has always made me feel normal. Whole. Like I came from somewhere before this and would eventually find my way back there.

It was nearly nine years ago now when Fat Snowman and I spent our first year in Kabul. Until last week, we had not returned since 2006. Frankly, I never thought that I would have cause to return, and I was okay with that. I suppose that’s what everybody says when they actually return to “that place” and are forced to look into the practical mirror that is the mission landscape revisited. We remember victories both great and small, but also see the consequences of circumstance and poor decisions. The first few days of this trip were filled with more of the latter than the former for me, actually. As a result, I have cast aside my previously-held assertion that the empire frontier resides best in memory-both my memory and our collective American memory of it. To confront our demons, individually and collectively, we can’t close our eyes and romanticize them. We would be best served by doing quite the opposite, actually. Our demons are ugly, real, and again-ours. We need to stop running from them and start talking to them if we ever want to make peace with this experience.

It’s hard to get too down about things here though. The Duty Officer who so cheerfully exclaimed “DOOD! I was in the FIFTH grade the first time you were here!” maintains enough optimism for the entire detachment. “Ya bro. Welcome back in. I’m your Duty Dude. Whatever you need. I got you covered” , he tells me. On Wednesday, I was in the middle of sharing a story with him about flying a kite over the wall and giving Tootsie Rolls to kids “his age” during my first visit to this site. I told him that it was a scary time, but an optimistic one. He listened intently, but then flipped his internal toggle switch to “somber”, saying simply: “Yeah. It’s not like that now. We can’t help them. They don’t even want to be helped.”

I found his claim to be pretty dubious and was turning an animated dialogue over in my head wherein I managed not to bitch about “his generation” while simultaneously avoiding inflating the already overrated virtues of my own. None of those thoughts ambled through my windpipe though. I got distracted for no really good reason. Like a wayward rainbow announcing itself from the sky in the middle of a snowstorm, the memory of my friend, mentor, and field partner during my first assignment here planted itself squarely in the middle of my consciousness. I recalled her practice of singing to herself while she brushed the dust out of her terminally-windswept auburn locks each evening when we came in from operations outside the wire. The thing is—instead of being the calming, centering, and welcome memory that it used to be, it made me surprisingly angry. I was struck sad with the realization that although I could remember her singing EVERY SINGLE DAY, I could no longer hear her voice in my memory. For that matter, I couldn’t immediately see her face in my mind’s eye either. I closed my eyes…inexplicably hoping that they would offer some clue to my other senses, but that was fruitless. I opened them and she was still gone. She will have been gone for five years this coming August. It seems too soon to forget. Maybe I’m suppressing those neurons somehow. I work by myself in one of the old office spaces here at the site that we used to share. My first day when they showed me to it, I just smiled and rearranged the furniture as I remembered it. I don’t know why I did it, but I unconsciously set up a chair for her on “her” side of the desk. I’ve only done it once so far, but I looked up and found it odd that she wasn’t there. I removed the chair as it really served no purpose now, but I did put Fat Snowman on that side of the desk. Again, I don’t know why other than to say it makes the space feel more whole.

As the mission winds to its inevitable conclusion here over the course of the next few months, the older folks seem to have a strong feeling of resignation about it all, really. I feel differently, too. It struck me yesterday that all of this talk I used to hear about “lost ground and wasted opportunities” doesn’t do anything to enhance our current trajectory. The reality that we chose to ignore for so long is that there was no ground to lose nor opportunities to waste.

The frontier is now as momentary and illusory as it was then. It never belonged to us to begin with. That said, it doesn’t really matter. “Enduring freedom” is an idea. Not a piece of ground. The only physical place it resides is within us and those we were able to help while we were here.

Although I didn’t think that this would be the “thing” I finished, I believe my work here is nearly done. As someone far wiser than I once said, ”...the having and the leaving go on together.”

It seems that things worth really doing typically get done on their time. Time invested in truly learning to know ourselves is time well spent though. The strongest life lesson I have gained as a result of this has been that the only way out is through. You helped me to that realization by being the anonymous reader on the other end of the world. Thank you.

Your friend(s)afield,
HistoryDude and Fat Snowman 9 months ago

HistoryDude 4 years ago

HistoryDude 4 years ago

HistoryDudeI actually have an offer. When is it "perfect enough?"

The story has been sitting on the back burner for years. I sometimes take it out of the box, add new bits, pieces, and images that were always waiting to be teased out. Last year I hired representation, as I honestly wasn’t sure I could get a manuscript read by a publisher on my own.

On Friday I received a response indicating a great deal of interest. Yesterday I picked the story apart again and wondered what they saw in it. The conundrum is this: Take the offer and publish what I know to be an imperfect product, or continue to tweak the product until I believe it to be perfect?

That said—will it ever be “perfect enough”…?

I need to find where that bar is set. 14 months ago

HistoryDude 14 months ago


“Love like love pouring…” is the reason similies exist, I think.

Thank you. Good luck with your decision(s). 14 months ago


So proud of you. Congratulations, my friend. 2 years ago


It has been a long year. Home now, I just feel whole. 2 years ago

HistoryDude 2 years ago


I am so very happy for you, my old friend. Keep going. 2 years ago

HistoryDudeDear Chicago,

I had convinced myself and my wife that it was time.
Ordinarily, I take my time with these decisions.
This was not one of those times, and it has completely changed my life.
What have I done, and how do I fix this?

What was I supposed to do?
What was I supposed to say,
knowing I’d be hurting you
if I had told you either way?

Could I have found the words to say
just how much I’m in love with you?
Should I have left at the beginning?
Should I have stayed?

But old friend I can’t change
these choices I have made.
I wish that there could be
any other way.

I own what I have done
and I own what I have said…
or haven’t said.
But I won’t be ruled by guilt
I will move on from this.
I can’t hold on to you.

About which time should I have left
and broken up our happiness,
and shattered future dreams we shared
with secrets bursting through my chest?

Could I have another try
to play this game of life with you?
Roll the die to drive past the hurt
or tell the truth?

But wishing cannot change
these turns that I have played.
Lying was never part
of our childhood game.

I own what I have done
and I own what I have said…
or haven’t said.
But I won’t be ruled by guilt
I will move on from this.
I can’t hold on to you.

Though it was my mistake
that brought us here today
I’ll leave it up to you
to decide our fate.

Now you’ll own what you will do,
and you’ll own what you will say…
or never say.

Please don’t be ruled by hurt.
You can move on from this.
Please don’t hold on.

But I can’t tell you what to do.
I can’t tell you what to say.
Choices that we make stay with us
everyday…. 2 years ago


Roots scare the winged gypsies who live in my soul. Flying too close to the light seemed an acceptable risk if the price was no light at all. 2 years ago

HistoryDudeTell me how this goes...

Some things you just can’t leave behind you. 2 years ago


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