I have a confession to make.
A few years ago a friend of mine came up with the cool idea of forcing us to sign an eight-year contract to complete a series of tasks ranging from “create a YouTube video that receives 2000+ hits” to “fly to a country that begins with the same first letter of your name.”
Sounds weird, right?
I’m not explaining it very well, I’ll admit. The purpose of the game was to encourage us to seek experiences and have fun. It’s easy to become caught up in day-to-day life that sometimes those things you’ve “always wanted to do” are pushed to the wayside.
I guess looking at it like that, the concept was great. Who wouldn’t want to be forced to complete tasks on their bucket list and possibly win some money at the end?
I signed the contract like all my other friends and we started playing. We had to draw tasks from a cup. For level one there were two tasks each to be completed within six months. If you didn’t make it, you paid a fine. The eventual winner of the entire game would receive a trophy and whatever money had been amassed over the years.
There were extenuating circumstances that freed you from continuing with the game, such as illness or pregnancy – you know, real adult things that couldn’t be ignored in favour of throwing a dart at a world map and organising a trip to that exact location – otherwise you had to pay a cancellation fee to break the contract.
No one ever lies on their deathbed thinking, “Damn, I wish I’d worked more.”
I was living with Katie and another housemate at the time she created the game. I remember her fervently explaining it to Erin and I one evening as I was sporting a hangover and feeling sorry for myself on the couch. She seemed so excited and her passion was infectious, although I did remain somewhat sceptical.
I was working fulltime unlike the majority of my friends at the time when Katie proposed the game. I was bitter at my stagnant career and would try to remember that my job title didn’t define who I was. So on the one hand, this game seemed like a fun way to remind myself of that. These experiences (seeing the Aurora Borealis, completing a walking pilgrimage, skydiving, etc.) would be more valuable to me in the grand scheme of things, right? No one ever lies on their deathbed thinking, “Damn, I wish I’d worked more.”
On the other hand, who knew where I’d be in a year much less in eight. I wanted to leave Adelaide and start actually pursuing a career and possibly even “settling down” with my boyfriend and stop living in sharehouses. So why would I commit myself to something so crazy that would end up costing me thousands of dollars?
In the end peer pressure made me do it.
My first two challenges were:
- Fire a gun
- Do a handstand
Six months to complete them. How hard could it be?
After three months, my sister and I went to a firing range in the Adelaide CBD where we were both instructed how to fire a gun. I shot four different types: a 9mm Glock, a .45 Glock, a .357 Mag Rugar GP100 and a .44 Mag Super Redhawk. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what any of that means other than the glocks resembled police officer guns and the magnums looked like they were from The Mummy. I remember my accuracy was better with the bigger guns, to the point where I even managed to score a few bull’s eyes. But I did also shoot the ceiling a few times, so take from that what you will.
Firing a gun was an exhilarating experience but also terrifying. I couldn’t stop thinking about how it was a lethal weapon. One wrong move and I could kill someone – or myself. I was so scared of it my hands shook when I first took hold of one. The instructor was really good at reassuring me, though, and remained calm and professional the whole time.
So I had completed the first task and had three months to go. Easy. It was only a handstand, after all, and only for five seconds. I was disappointed I wasn’t allowed to balance against a wall but at least it was a realistic amount of time. The problem was that I was horribly unfit. As I mentioned above, I was working in a call centre at the time. Do you know how they motivate staff in a call centre? By plying them with free food. Basically, I was monitored every time I stepped foot away from my desk (as this was classed as “unproductive time”) and I was constantly offered delicious pastries. I had been borderline overweight before working there; after eighteen months I had gained another 10kg.
How was being able to perform a handstand for five seconds going to enrich my life?
After multiple attempts at the handstand in my house that left a lot of dirty footprints all over our lounge room wall, I realised this task was going to be harder than I thought. The simple solution would’ve been start exercising, but mentally I was in no way ready to. Instead, I began to resent the game. This was stupid anyway. How was being able to perform a handstand for five seconds going to enrich my life? I was angry at myself for getting into this situation. Why hadn’t I just said no when Katie presented me with the contract?
Honestly, at that point I still could have just told Katie I wasn’t going to do it and that would have been the end of it. Sure, I’d signed a contract, but who was really going to take me to court over it? I considered this option a few times, but ultimately I felt stupid. How could I back out over a bloody handstand?
My sister came to my rescue.
I was at my mother’s house bitching about the situation I had allowed myself to get into when she suggested I fake it.
“What do you mean, ‘fake it’? They want evidence of me doing it,” I replied.
We concocted a plan.
I confirmed with Katie that it was acceptable if I was recorded performing the handstand rather than having it witnessed in the moment by everyone. My argument being that I may not be able to perform under the pressure. Seemed legit. I couldn’t perform at all, but no one else needed to know that.
My mother’s house had an archway entry to her living room. Nichola suggested I do the handstand in the archway as close to the wall as possible. So, with my brother filming, I did. Immediately, my arms were shaking trying to hold my weight and balance myself. And then I felt an arm grab hold of my shirt behind me to hold me in place. I counted out loud to ten seconds (twice as much as was required!) before dropping to the floor.
The footage has no sign of my sister.
I showed the video to everyone and was then allowed to progress to Level 2. The task I drew was: Post a video on YouTube that receives 2000+ hits.
Ironically, I don’t think I’d find this so difficult today given I work in social media marketing, but at the time it seemed an unnecessary and frustrating task. I’d only ever posted one video on YouTube in the past. It was of my sister racing to hit my brother before completely stacking it. I found it hilarious as did many of my friends who knew my sister, but sadly the video never reached more than 500 hits.
It wasn’t long after drawing this task that I’d had enough of my current living arrangements. We had been together for over two and a half years and tensions were running high. After moving out, I became determined to finally get my life in order. I told Katie I couldn’t commit to the game any longer (a conversation I found simple once I was no longer living with her) and she understood.
I didn’t think about A Notable Life again after that. I think in part because I started to see less and less of that group of friends until I eventually moved to Melbourne with Steve.
During this time, I lost 40kg. I’ve mentioned this weightloss a few times in different blog posts and will eventually write about it in more detail, but for now suffice to say, I was at the gym the other day when I was reminded of the game.
My shame at never truthfully completing the task came flooding back.
There was a man a little on the heavy side trying to do a handstand against the wall and failing just as miserably as I had been several years ago. My shame at never truthfully completing the task came flooding back and I wondered whether now, much lighter and much stronger, if I would be able to.
I didn’t try that night because I didn’t want to look like I was showing off in front of the poor guy attempting it, but the next time I was there it was on. I’d just finished a solid leg session and was feeling pumped. I went over to the wall and got myself into position. I stood on my hands and leaned against the wall for over ten seconds and then carefully pushed away from it. I balanced for another ten seconds on my own before I dropped down in shock that I did it so easily. No warm-ups, no practices.
I immediately messaged my sister:
I just did a mother fucking handstand!
She of course did remember helping me cheat several years ago and found it amusing that I could finally do it. I knew it was silly to be so excited about it, but I felt like it was such a real representation of how far I had come.
I’ve gone from working in a call centre, living in a sharehouse in Adelaide and being overweight and unhappy with how I looked to working in a job I’d studied for, living with my boyfriend in Melbourne and being fit and healthy.
So maybe I didn’t actually do the handstand within the allotted six months but it’s kind of a nice metaphor: only you can set the timeframe on your notable life.
The guys are still playing the game. If you want to read about what they’re up to you can visit their group blog here.
Guys if you’re reading this – soz for lying.