Written by Kate Ducey.
Fulfillment is a three syllable word whose definition resulted in me having several existential crises and muttering the phrase, “I will never find fulfillment” on more than one occasion. For my capstone, I decided to research fulfillment and after defining it, speak to people who felt they had found fulfillment. I hoped to learn how to make the best of my senior year of college and set myself up for fulfillment success. But as I began researching the topic, I realized that no one has really defined what fulfillment is. Some articles involved 30-year-olds talking about how they had found it, where others mentioned that you cannot find fulfillment unless you are near the end of your life and looking back on it.
I presented my research to Kiersten, Ellen, and Lauren. In more elaborate terms, I basically said, “I don’t know what fulfillment is and will likely never find it.” I shared the frustrations I had and even debated changing my topic entirely, but it was still something that I was interested in. So after brainstorming and talking it out, I decided to approach the idea of fulfillment in the form of a bucket list that we titled the “Serendipity Scrapbook.” We chose serendipity because a) It is my favorite word in the English language, and b) It is incredibly fitting. According to Oxford Dictionaries, the definition is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” While I rarely complete the bucket lists I create, the idea of making a list filled with different possibilities, sets my soul on fire. I was excited to see where this journey would take me. I think I just love making lists and have a big imagination.
I wanted to include the community of Cincinnati, so I challenged Women of Cincy readers to look at their day-to-day lives differently through a series of small challenges. Some assignments were more challenging than others, but all of them centered around being present in your life. They ranged from getting coffee with a friend to spending time with yourself to asking a barista about their purpose in life. While participants were asked to do two or three, I attempted to do all of them.
The challenges were:
Spend some time with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. ("Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" just came out and Washington Park also has free movies in the park, if you need some ideas!)
Spend some time with yourself, by yourself. (Think Carrie Bradshaw drinking wine by herself in "Sex and The City.")
Take a different route/different mode to work. (Bike to work? Take a back road instead of the highway? Get off at a different exit? Your choice!)
When getting your morning coffee, ask the barista a deeper question. (What's your favorite part of your job? What's your purpose in life?)
Compliment a stranger!
Go on a walk (by yourself or with a friend).
Go to the place you’ve always wanted to go to. (You know what I’m talking about!)
Can you spend one day not using social media?
What started as a bucket list turned into an opportunity to say “yes” to more things in my life. While I tried to live my best Carrie Bradshaw life, I also spent more time with friends and family. I got dinner and spent time with two friends that due to scheduling conflicts, I hadn’t seen in some time. I attended a water polo tournament in a state park in Cleveland, which gave me a horrible sunburn, but also some incredible memories. It was a blissful weekend spent playing water polo, spending time with old friends and meeting new ones. It was the first time all summer that I actually sat and looked at stars. I watched a rock band and listened to the most out-of-this-world guitar riffs. I spent more time with my coworkers outside of the restaurant we work in! I see them at least three times a week but just in a work setting. The opportunity to spend time with them out of work was great. It transformed them from coworkers into actual friends. The whole affair reminded me of how easy it is to get caught up in your day-to-day lives. We are constantly focused on how busy we are and how much we have to do, that we end up forgetting about the people in our lives who make it so great. One of the recurring themes in my fulfillment research was that relationships are one of the key ways to live a fulfilled life. Even on stress-filled days, I saw things in a more positive light because I just looked at things differently.
When I was stuck in rush hour traffic, I began looking around and observing my surroundings. I saw trees and beautiful houses I had never noticed before. It was the same drive I had been taking since I was 16, yet it took me five years to notice that these things existed.
I tried to get to work earlier, so I could spend time exploring OTR. I sat in Washington Park on a park bench and read a book. With the hustle and bustle of the city in the background, I was immersed into the world of My Year of Rest and Relaxation. After religiously watching Sex and City five years ago, it was a goal of mine to drink wine by myself similarly to Carrie Bradshaw. So, I sat inside of 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab and listened to “More Perfect” and drank rosé. Although I don’t think I actually enjoy wine, it was nice to spend time with myself.
In a way, this journey ended up being serendipitous. Through a series of events that happened by chance, I started to enjoy life more. This was nothing like my original plan, which I am very thankful for.
Here are some things that my wonderful participants shared:
Ava Oelrich, a Women of Cincy reader (and my best friend) participated and this is what she shared:
This summer, I was able get lunch with a friend who I hadn’t really seen since high school graduation, which was three years ago. We would exchange texts a few times a year and on birthdays, but that was about the extent of it. I was a little nervous, at first, not knowing what to expect or if we would have anything to talk about. I can say that I had no reason to worry at all! It was so refreshing and very calming to connect with an old friend. It felt like our conversations had picked up right where we left them. The experience made me want to reconnect with other friends and assured me there is nothing to worry about.
I am absolutely awful at directions and often rely on my GPS to navigate. Even places I have been going for years I might turn on the directions for a little reassurance. To complete this third challenge, I decided to totally not use it and try to navigate the world on my own. During my drive, I was more inclined to focus on my surroundings and pay attention to landmarks, street names, and specific buildings. At one point, I took a wrong turn on my way home. At first, I was a little upset I had gotten lost so close to my house. It ended up being the perfect excuse to stop at a nearby coffee shop. Overall, I felt like I was able to truly pay attention throughout the drive and better appreciate my community and hopefully develop better navigational skills. Also, I learned to not get too upset about making wrong turns!
Kiersten Feuchter, Managing Director of Women of Cincy, shared:
My serendipitous journey was a short-but-sweet moment the other morning on my way to work. I took a different route to Over-the-Rhine than I usually do – down Glenway and up through downtown rather than down construction-ridden Queen City Avenue – and at the last minute decided to pull over and take a few pictures of Piatt Park. The guy in the car next to me probably thought I was crazy as I reversed on Elm to turn onto Garfield Place, and then the group of suits sitting in the park definitely thought I was crazy as I drove over the curb, put my hazards on, jumped out, and started taking pictures on my smartphone.
No, I’m not that bad of a driver, usually – I just don’t do spontaneity very well.
It’s liberating to break plans and even – dare I say it – be a few minutes late to work just to enjoy a moment of fresh air and freedom from my constantly regulated routine. My title is “managing director” for a reason: I’m great at managing time, processes, etc. But to have like, 2 minutes be free from perfection and status updates and alarm clocks was simple and lovely.
Lauren Lewis, Head Resident at Women of Cincy, shared:
One evening after an exhausting day at work, I called a friend up and said, “I need to go on a walk. Want to join?”
Twenty minutes later we had made our way to Bellevue Park (a place neither of us had been) to admire the Cincinnati skyline. While the skyline was gorgeous, we were more ecstatic to find a mint plant flourishing along the sidewalk. Being in our twenties, we immediately thought, “Ooo, we can make mojitos!”
So we stopped to pick an obnoxious amount of mint leaves – well, to be honest, we did pull a few up by the root – because we didn’t know how many we’d need. Somehow, on our way back home, we stopped by another friend’s house to see her new place, and ended up chatting with her and her roommates. For the whole 40 minutes we were there, they eyed the mint leaves suspiciously. As we were about to leave, one of the guys finally asked, “Why did you bring foliage in here?” at the same time another one asked, “Are you making mojitos?”
At that, everyone burst into laughter, as we admitted that we were, in fact, making mojitos.
So we continued back home and made a mint-infused simple syrup while realizing that it was probably too late to actually drink the mojitos (working at seven in the morning is not all it’s cracked up to be).
But it’s okay: The whole walk to Bellevue park was never about making mojitos; it was about doing something in the moment because I wanted to. Too often, I dedicate my unwinding time after work to television or Pinterest. But what if I spent that time with the people I cared about?
I always felt that spontaneity had to be something huge – like buying a one-way ticket to Brazil. But it wasn’t until I went on this walk that I realized spontaneous moments can be as simple as adding sugar to water – like taking a 15-minute walk with a friend just because you feel like it.
To the people reading this, I challenge you to say yes to more adventures. Start saying yes to things that pique your interest, but more importantly, start saying yes to life. There is so much more out there than you realize. If you start to change your perspective, you can begin to change your life. I have lived in Cincinnati for my entire life and I didn’t notice a lot, until I spent a week living with intention. And although I will probably not continue to berate baristas and my friends with meta-life questions, I have started focusing on living my life with more intention. To quote, Carrie Bradshaw, "Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past, stop planning the future, stop figuring out precisely how we feel, stop deciding exactly what we want, and just see what happens." Sometimes we need to change our perspective and other times our perspective changes as a result of something bigger than that. I challenge you to do both and see what happens.