This My Life List

I’m 40 today. I just can’t believe it. I have been on this planet for four decades! I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and accomplishment. It feels like a miracle that I’ve made it this far.

Happy Birthday to me!

I had this cool idea that, to celebrate this day; I’d make a list of the 40 personal accomplishments I’m most proud of. But I couldn’t think of much. I asked key people in my life about what should be on this “40 by 40 list” and they warmed my heart with answers.

The more I thought about it, I just couldn’t choose those things that make me proudest, things I got right, or that I’ve judged to be a success. When I think about my top achievements, I recognize that they are often directly related to my greatest challenges, and even what I’ve considered to be mistakes.

So I decided to write a life list; a collection of defining moments that make me me. They’re not ranked in order of importance, relevance, or significance. It’s not an exhaustive list … not even close…

  1. I survived dangerous epileptic seizures as a child
  2. I am the firstborn in my family
  3. I was born in the hospital hallway
  4. I was enrolled in school at age 2 because I’d been begging “for so long.”
  5. My dad was a carpenter so he made me a special school chair
  6. Even before my 5th birthday, I wrote notes to my teacher below my homework, that I now consider my first blog posts
  7. I volunteered to speak in front of the class as often as I could, and now I speak in front of audiences all over the world
  8. I was always the littlest – and often the youngest – in my class, but always fierce and unstoppable (even if that meant biting someone lol)
  9. I started my first business, a shadow puppet theater, at age 7
  10. I finished High School at age 15 as a straight-A’s student
  11. I was “prescribed” with playing chess and became a champion
  12. I saved up to enroll myself in English classes from ages 7 to 11, and ended up becoming an ESL teacher at age 15
  13. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover many times
  14. I played with tarantulas on a daily basis
  15. I wrote several plays and created a drama club with my childhood friend
  16. I’ve had a pet pig, turtle, chicken, mouse, dog, and cat…
  17. I learned the lyrics and dance moves to every Michael Jackson song (I wanted to be a choreographer “when I grew up.”)
  18. I almost drowned at 8 years old, but finally conquered my fear and learned to swim at 37
  19. I forgave my mother for my childhood trauma
  20. I survived missing my dad every day after my parents’ divorce
  21. I failed in my attempt to end my life
  22. I joined a softball league to see my dad more often
  23. I always knew I didn’t belong in the slum
  24. I was good at climbing trees and climbing mountains
  25. I got on a fist fight with the slum bully (nicknamed “the terror”) and I won
  26. I hated cooking as a child, and now I love it as a mom
  27. I won first prize in a Lambada competition
  28. I co-hosted an “inner-beauty pageant” at 11 years old
  29. My first official job was as a receptionist for a political party
  30. As a pre-teen, I had many boyfriends, sometimes at the same time
  31. I tutored many of my classmates – most for money LOL
  32. I wrote positive quotes, letters, poems, and songs to make money in school
  33. I fetched water in the river, though I struggled to balance the huge tin can on my head
  34. I had pen pals in several countries when I was in High School
  35. I took showers in the rain in my underwear. It was fun, but it was also necessary.
  36. I have always been a morning person
  37. I am not a good singer but I always sing
  38. I fell in love with my next door neighbor when we were both 13
  39. I learned to type using a very old typewriter and my instructor had me type positive quotes over and over until I got them right
  40. I milked a cow
  41. I was baptized by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ
  42. I didn’t take a scholarship to the USA because I wasn’t passionate about the career “that was available”
  43. I moved to the city on my own at only 16
  44. I always had a 4.0 GPA in college, despite having to walk miles and going days without food
  45. I’ve been to the opera
  46. I was so passionate about using the computer that I learned how to make my own out of parts
  47. I had really good jobs in the city because I was bilingual
  48. Then I learned Italian and became trilingual
  49. I survived a brutal and nearly lethal assault, and eventually forgave the attacker
  50. For a while, I hated men and openly considered myself gay
  51. I survived a car accident 6 months after being raped, and was in a coma for 8 days
  52. I was selected for the Work and Travel program and spent the Summer of 1999 traveling the US
  53. I got a tattoo on my lower back that Summer (which I am currently getting removed) and a piercing on my tongue (which closed off by itself after a few months when I went to the dentist)
  54. I rode on a roller coaster in Cedar Point with my girlfriend Laurie – and scratched up her hand and screamed her ears off
  55. I went to the Niagara Falls and fell in love with raccoons there
  56. I have visited 35 states and lived in 4
  57. I stayed up all night at the beach and saw the sunrise the next day
  58. I stayed up all night dancing – only drinking water
  59. I asked a boy to be my boyfriend
  60. I once owned over 200 original music CDs and they were organized in alphabetical order
  61. I have ridden a horse
  62. I purchased my first home before my 21st birthday
  63. I got married on a Dominican beach, wearing a bikini
  64. I never intended to move to the US, but through life’s unexpected plot twists, I’ve been here 15 years and even became a US Citizen
  65. I never wanted to become a mom and now I love it more than anything
  66. I have given birth naturally and med-free three times, and I used self-hypnosis the last time
  67. I had a military ID and gave birth on base twice
  68. I went to a live taping of That 70’s Show and “Fez” touched my pregnant belly
  69. I learned how to sew and reupholster furniture
  70. I was a single mom for 8 years
  71. I paid someone $100 to teach me how to pass the driving test and got my first driver’s license at 28 years old. I no longer have fear of driving, but don’t yet fully love it
  72. I worked as a paralegal and notary public to support myself and my daughters
  73. I started my business by trading web design for a computer I would work on
  74. I won an award for best marketer for my Web Design business and have been blessed to receive some wonderful awards since
  75. I taught computer classes, web design, and digital marketing 
  76. I’ve designed hundreds of websites in two decades and been the strategist of many more
  77. I’ve been interviewed on National Television as an expert
  78. I toured the ancient Mayan ruins
  79. I’ve designed dozens of logos 
  80. I saw a total lunar eclipse – and a blood moon
  81. I’ve been on numerous podcast and radio interviews
  82. I picked strawberries at a farm while I was pregnant
  83. My articles have been published on major publications
  84. I’ve been featured on print media internationally, too
  85. I went to a Boston Red Sox spring training game and met Pedro Martinez and Big Papi
  86. I’ve written countless posts on my blog and as a guest blogger
  87. I went on a helicopter ride with a friend I love
  88. I’ve published books and helped others publish theirs
  89. I survived cancerous cysts on my ovary and eventually gave birth to Eliana, even though I thought it couldn’t be possible
  90. I survived domestic violence and use my experience to help other women
  91. I’ve traveled to foreign countries in Europe and South America
  92. I’ve been parasailing
  93. I stood in two states at once (Arizona and Nevada)
  94. I’ve read hundreds of non-fiction books and plan to read as many more as I can
  95. I went snorkeling
  96. I’ve collaborated with masters like Jay Conrad Levinson, Brian Tracy, Jack Canfield, Les Brown, and Brendon Burchard…
  97. I have coached and mentored hundreds of moms worldwide
  98. I pet a stingray, a penguin, a dolphin, a shark, a baby alligator, a scorpion, a bat, and several snakes
  99. I walked on fire
  100. I visited the Sears Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam, the Twin Towers, and the Empire State.
  101. I hosted my kids’ birthday parties even though I was completely terrified 
  102. I’ve walked the entire Vegas strip
  103. I once slept under the stars at the beach in Puerto Plata
  104. I’ve told my story to give a voice to others who don’t feel like they have a voice or are scared to use it
  105. I married my true love in the Temple (after a painful first try)
  106. My idea of the perfect date is taking a nap on the grass outside a mall in Chicago (thank you Taylor Bare!)
  107. I became vegan, inspired by my daughter
  108. I’ve hugged countless people everywhere
  109. I breastfed each of my three daughters for over a year, and two of them at the same time
  110. I’ve been on a hot air balloon
  111. I found my purpose – and made it profitable for myself and others
  112. I’ve flown first class – often
  113. I’ve washed cloth diapers thousands of times
  114. I got my hearing checked – and it was fine, despite the fact I thought I was somewhat deaf
  115. I’ve been in a drive-in movie theater
  116. I went through laser hair removal – and it didn’t really work
  117. I consistently enjoy tithing, volunteering, donating my time, skills, and money, and paying my blessings and the love of God forward in other people’s lives
  118. I created a non-profit organization for moms
  119. I’ve been in a submarine
  120. I’ve been to Disneyland and Disney World dozens of times… and aboard the Disney Cruise!
  121. I’ve seen the Northern Lights
  122. I’ve practiced yoga, done zumba, and even tried poleaerobics
  123. I am very blessed to have long-lasting friendships with the most amazing people you can think of (Ivan, Carolina, Martin, Esther…)
  124. I took my daughters on an airboat ride through the everglades and we were surrounded by alligators
  125. I learned how to ride a bike in the church parking lot when I was 36
  126. I’ve gotten picked up at the airport by a limo service with my last name on a sign
  127. I spent a whole day writing naked in a hotel room in Sanibel Island
  128. I helped my family travel to the US
  129. I did a voice over on the Walt Disney Animations recording booth
  130. I had chiropractic treatment
  131. I’ve taken cross-country road trips and have loved it
  132. I have been to cool concerts
  133. I recycle, and I strive to be conscious of my environmental impact
  134. I’m a speed reader and can type over 50 wpm
  135. I have been to a movie premiere and on the Hollywood Red Carpet
  136. I sponsored a child 
  137. I got reading glasses “because of my age”
  138. I now have 3 gray hairs on my head
  139. I am back in college (after a 15 year break!)
  140. Did I mention that I turned 40 at 7:30 this a.m.?

It’s been a true gift to reflect on the little slices of life that these 40 years represent. It’s been a wild ride of ups and downs, of joys and sorrows, of abundance and lack, of adventures and nightmares, and I am grateful for all of it, because no matter where I am, God and the love of the people in my life have sustained me and inspired me to grow, learn, and progress… and that’s the purpose of life. 

What’s on your life list? Share some of the moments in your life that make it an worthwhile experience. I celebrate you… and I love you, too!

[ela]

34 thoughts on “This My Life List

  1. Congrats and Happy Birthday! 40 was a very good year…hahaha…having just turned 61 and starting life in a new place and in a new (long awaited) role, I’ve never been more excited…thanks for sharing…

  2. Dear Elayna: What a great way to honor your life! Thank YOU for sharing this list! Wow, you truly have done lot of more things than I have! Ha! Food for thought as I approach my birthday #60…
    Here is to the next 40 and beyond! May God continue to bless you every day! Abrazos, Mari

  3. An amazing list for an amazing life! May you continue to have incredible experiences, blessings and learnings so you can write a novel on your 80s birthday. I wish you all the best in the world and many years to enjoy it all. ¡Te quiero, feliz cumpleaños!

  4. Such a neat idea to ask your loved ones. An outsiders perspective can help you realize great things you’d don’t realize about yourself. Happy birthday!

  5. So many things you’ve done and achieved in such a short time span. Marvellous. Happy Birthday and may you achieve many more things in your life than you’ve mentioned.

  6. I wonder how beautiful you are, this life list is something that I should have.. I must start doing this list starting tonight. and that “i am back in college after 15 years break”, are you telling us that you are studying at 40? If that so, I’m so happy to know! You are such an insipiration! There’s no age limit for education. thanks for this post

  7. You are more than remarkable Elayna, and you filled with so much love and determination and power, I am blessed and recharged just reading your list of accomplishments, and I feel certain there are many more than you listed. Happy Birthday Elayna, you must of been born as beautiful as you are now.

  8. Happy Birthday and what a great idea for a list! I once started a list of all of my favorite things. It included places, people, sights, sounds and smells. A great exercise, especially on those days that just aren’t my favorite.

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  10. There is not doubt that you’ve been through so much! I admire you for your strength and i hope you had fun on your birthday!

  11. Happy birthday! I hope you made is special because you deserve it! You’ve done so much over the years and they’re all amazing. I hope you continue to inspire women especially the mothers out there who need a little light.

  12. Happy Belated Birthday Elayna, and what a life you have lived thus far….just this snippet you shared shows what a blessing and inspiration you are to many, inc. myself. I thank God for your life, long may you live to blow 100 candles and have a list a book long 🙂

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  15. #53 is something you really wanted those days, dont you? but whats the use of removing them? it’s already there just let it be! 🙂

  16. Happy birthday!! What an awesome idea and awesome list! It sounds like you’ve been through a lot but they seem like learning experiences for sure. I love learning fun things about other people!

  17. Happy Birthday!!! This is an amazing list! I can’t believe how much you have accomplished. Really wonderful. I wish I had been able to finish high school at 15 with straight A’s!

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