Declaring victory on Project 29 to 30, then, could only come if and when I turned 30 and had successfully done 365 things I'd never done before.
Maybe victory shouldn't have been declared until I actually wrote about them (who knew it would take me this long?), but with just a week to go, and a new thing already planned for each of the seven days headed into my birthday weekend, I knew success was mine. And on Day 357, I let all of Athens, Georgia know when I rang the Chapel Bell on North Campus and declared “victory” over my 29th year as the thing I've never done before.
Not that it matters, but I didn't set out to ring the victory bell on Day 357. Georgia lost to Arkansas the day before, and to South Carolina the week before that, so as a Bulldog, I didn't have much to celebrate.
In fact, I drove over to Athens to see Rebecca, my friend, former college roommate, and recipient of the diaper cake I made on Day 209 with no other plans than to meet her new baby daughter, Edie. No surprise, Edie was adorable and perfect, and had the cutest fat rolls I'd ever seen.
Because Athens is like a playground for young adults, I knew the possibilities for new things were endless and I'd have no problem finding something to check off the list. Yet, after Edie went down for a nap, Rebecca and I didn't set our sights on something new; instead, we set out on an all-too-familiar journey.
When Rebecca and I lived together and found ourselves bogged down with schoolwork and all of the drama associated with being 20-years old in college with literally no responsibility, we walked. We walked for hours through campus, talking about everything and nothing, solving each other's problems, and the problems of the world, that at the time, seemed monumental. We talked about the real world post-college like it was so far away, and we talked about the men that we would marry like we weren't sure that they even existed.
When Rebecca got married, she woke on her wedding day full of nervous energy and excitement. So we did what felt natural to us, and we walked. We walked and we laughed about the angst we shared years ago over thinking this day would never come, and mostly laughed that she was marrying Brian -- THE Brian we'd known since college, followed around at band parties and stalked on spring break. He was that obscure guy she thought she'd never find! We walked with a spring in our steps, and as we did, we cried tears of happiness.
And on that September Sunday, with 356 new experiences under my belt and one week before my 30th birthday, we walked again. We walked in front of fraternity houses where we once partied, and next to buildings we'd taken most of our classes in, and through some that didn't even exist when we were in school. We wondered, as we walked, if we could still pass for college girls and we laughed as a cute, shaggy haired fraternity guy walked by and we both checked him out. I tried to think if there was anything better than walking through Athens on a Sunday in the fall.
Somehow, in reminiscing about our pasts and daydreaming about our hypothetical futures, we found ourselves completely present in a beautiful moment, on a beautiful day, in one of my most favorite cities on earth.
A victory indeed.
Suddenly, what I needed to do that day as the thing I've never done before became quite clear.
We apprehensively approached the Chapel Bell, and pretending to be civilized, read about its history. Rebecca took my camera and took over, equal parts photo director and blog supporter/friend.
I stood next to the rope and looked up at the bell, having no idea how difficult ringing the bell would be. I gave it a little pull, just to check it out, and much to our surprise, it rang. Not as loudly as we knew it could, but enough to startle us both.
Once I knew what I was dealing with, I had nothing else to do but go for it. Completely sober, in the light of day, with no football victories to speak of, I rang the Chapel Bell at UGA.
The sound echoed throughout campus, and in a strange way, embarrassed me. Even though I know I'm not the first person to ring the bell in the middle of the day for no reason, I was happy, at first, that it was just Rebecca and me. But once the bell started to slow down, I stopped caring, and I rang it again, this time getting lifted up by the rope and taking it for a ride.
In so many ways, ringing the bell before my birthday was much like spiking the football before getting to the end zone and therefore completely out of character for me. But then again, so was the whole year.
Then I hoped that someone might walk by and ask me who won, because I had the best answer.
It was me.