Tag-Archive for » goals «

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 | Author:

Well, as someone who loves to be celebrated (because hey, I’m a youngest and maybe slightly egotistical) I always keep track of my half birthday, and that was earlier this month. Which means it’s time for a 6 month update on my goals list for the year! I have a bit further to go…

  1. Play a disk golf game w/ 4 holes at par
    • When I made this goal, my friend that I played with a lot then told me I needed to up the ante and make a harder goal. I didn’t believe him, but it only took a month after my birthday that I accomplished this goal. I updated the goal to playing a whole round of disc golf at bogie par (4 strokes instead of 3), and accomplished that in October. So I’m now working on the goal of a whole game at par. That goal is taking a while still.
  2. Buy a house
    • This is one of those things that you put on a list and don’t expect to necessarily complete it. But it turns out, this goal is like any other goal — I just had to break it in to parts and steps, and then do those one by one until it was done. It’s actually one of the bigger accomplishments I’ve made, but one of the easier ones accomplished. I was at the right point in life and in the right place in the world.
  3. Walk a marathon distance
    • (I have plans to do this next week. Pray for the least amount of blisters possible.)
  4. Be able to do 3 pull ups
    • (I joined a gym. Still embarrassingly weak. But working on it regularly.)
  5. Make 30 pitches for articles to be published
    • (I’ve been slacking on this. I’ve done maybe 5 or 6. Need to get serious soon here on this.)
  6. Smoke a cigar
  7. Leave the country again
  8. Go to a new state
  9. Go to a professional football game
    • (I missed the boat on this and won’t be able to accomplish it as even the pre-season doesn’t start until the week after my birthday. BUT I’m making it a point to go soon after.)
  10. Learn to play tennis
  11. Run through or picnic in a field of sunflowers
  12. Do Lumosity for 30 days
    • (I’ve started this goal numerous times and always miss a day within the first week or two. Need to find a better system to keep me consistent and accountable.)
  13. Take a pottery class
  14. Ride a camel or elephant
  15. Watch all of Seinfeld
    • Currently on season 5
  16. Finish watching Lost
  17. Watch the Matrix Trilogy
  18. Read another Steinbeck book
  19. Read Harry Potter Book 1
    • Started it. Put it down during a busy season. Need to pick it up again.
  20. Read 3 memoirs
    • I have read “Home is Burning” by Dan Marshall and it was irreverent, crass, hilarious, and honest about grief and death and hard life.  I laughed hard. I cried softly. I loved it. I’m currently reading my 2nd — “The Glass Castle”
  21. Read Catch 22
    • Didn’t care for it. Didn’t need to read it. But I would’ve continued to want to read it until I figured that out for myself. Now I know.
  22. Go on a backpacking trip
  23. Do “morning minutes” every day for 21 days (where you write for 10 minutes straight first thing upon waking)
  24. Try fruitcake
    • I thought I’d missed the boat on this one also, but as I was at a party after christmas, they had some! It wasn’t bad. I’ve always thought I might like fruitcake. I have the palate of a 90-year-old woman.
  25. Complete level 1 of Rosetta Stone for Italian
    • In process
  26. Try Gin
  27. Learn to play poker
    • Technically I learned to play. But I haven’t really played a full game. I think this still needs to happen.

Also, it’s been exciting to me that since I’ve started these lists, I’ve seen some of my friends get inspired to make their own lists which I think is incredible!! It’s so fun to see people define and work on their own goals. If you have any lists like this or just any goals that you’re working on, I’d love to hear about it!


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 | Author:

A quick story: I was out disk golfing (courtesy of my Jo’s 26 before 26 list I’m now a regular disk golfer). We came up to a pin and there was something in the pin.

“What is that?” I asked my friend Brian who was closer to it.

“It’s a crabapple.”

As I came closer I inspected it. “Ohh. That’s what a crabapple looks like. I’ve never seen one before.”

“You’ve never tasted one?” he asked seeming incredulous.

“No,” I said, surprised. “They’re edible? What do they taste like?”

“I don’t know… They’re pretty good.”

I retrieved my disk and we walked toward the next hole in silence for a minute until he looked at me with a smirk on his face. “They’re not edible, just so you know. Don’t go eat one.”

“What!? It’s good you told me!”

“I know. I realized, you’d bake a crabapple pie one day and I’d be like, “why on earth would you do that?” and you’d say, “I don’t know. I didn’t know what they tasted like so I put it on my Jo’s 26 before 26 list. I’m trying to get the most out of life.” “

“Yeah. I would do that,” I conceded, content.

I may be somewhat gullible. But at least I do try to get the most out of life. Hopefully I won’t die eating crabapple pie. But if I do, it’d be alright. There are worse ways to go.

And with that, I give you this years new goals:

Jo’s 27 before 27 List:

  1. Play a disk golf game w/ 4 holes at par
  2. Buy a house
  3. Walk a marathon distance
  4. Be able to do 3 pull ups
  5. Make 30 pitches for articles to be published
  6. Smoke a cigar
  7. Leave the country again (so far age 24 is the only age since I was 17 during which I haven’t left the country.)
  8. Go to a new state
  9. Go to a professional football game
  10. Learn to play tennis
  11. Run through or picnic in a field of sunflowers
  12. Do Lumosity for 30 days
  13. Take a pottery class
  14. Ride a camel or elephant
  15. Watch all of Seinfeld
  16. Finish watching Lost
  17. Watch the Matrix Trilogy
  18. Read another Steinbeck book
  19. Read Harry Potter Book 1
  20. Read 3 memoirs
  21. Read Catch 22
  22. Go on a backpacking trip
  23. Do “morning minutes” every day for 21 days (where you write for 10 minutes straight first thing upon waking)
  24. Try fruitcake
  25. Complete level 1 of Rosetta Stone for Italian
  26. Try Gin
  27. Learn to play poker

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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 | Author:

I have a tattoo that you don’t know about.

It is on the bottom of my foot, so you only see it if I am barefooted and have my feet up with the soles facing you.

But I sit barefooted with my legs crossed often, so it’s often visible to me, an important reminder:

“enough”

Simple word. Weird spelling. We use it in mostly negative or neutral ways. It’s hardly ever a positive thing when we breath it.

“I wasn’t driving slow enough.”

“I didn’t realize soon enough.”

“I didn’t tell her I loved her enough.”

“I’m not thin enough.”

“I’m not healthy enough.”

“I don’t have enough money.”

Often we use it in ways that connote that there could be more, but we’ll settle for this.

“I guess that’s good enough,” When we just want to be done.

“No, that’s fine, that’s enough,” when we’re conceding half-heartedly, like a bartering salesman over some agreement.

Or maybe you heard it a lot as a child when your mother/babysitter/teacher was so annoyed she couldn’t take another minute of your playing/fighting/arguing/crying: “Enough!” they would yell.

But the word, it’s real meaning, lends itself to the idea of being content. Which is not a thing we’re taught to want or seek. To just have enough sounds like settling, like you’re too lazy to go for more. Too apathetic to get the things ambition could earn you.

And it causes this “not enough” complex in us. Come time for New Year’s resolutions, they take that tone, too. I’m not skinny enough – so I will work out more. I’m not healthy enough, so I’ll eat better. I don’t read enough – I’ll read more. I don’t have enough money — I will save more. My life isn’t exciting enough – I will travel more.

But too often at the root of all of those thoughts and great goals is an ugly belief that I think the majority of us have learned to hold close to the chest, like a security blanket that chokes out the light of possible contentment — I am not enough.

Not good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, fast enough, strong enough, rich enough, powerful enough, friendly enough, sexy enough, funny enough, spiritual enough, important enough.

We have the gluttonous mentality that always wants “more.”  There’s always some way we could and should have more or be more. Which in all honesty, is true. There’s a world out there, and it could be your oyster. But what I’m finding is that the people I know who are happy are content. The people that I know who are successful are ambitious.

But the people who are both successful and happy — those people have learned something that doesn’t seem to come naturally: How to be content with what you have, yet still imagine that more might be attainable. It’s not the same relentless, never-ending drive that compels them. It’s curiosity, determination, true drive, not need.

The desire to better themselves is not based in a need to do so to feel valuable. It’s not because they’re not “enough” already. It’s the ambition that says “I could do even more,” not, “I have to do more.”

So if no one has ever told you let me do so now: You are enough.

The very fact that you’re alive and being, that means you’re enough. If you have goals to be more ______, by all means go for them! The problem is, many of us chase those goals out of a desire to feel more valuable as a human being at the end of the day, and that will always leave us dissatisfied.

When you start to finally forgive yourself for the ways you’ve claimed you’ve fallen short, and you start to believe that you are enough just as you are, you can begin to find contentment. It’s one of the most elusive currencies in our society. Contentment can drive you to want to better yourself without feeling like you’re not enough as you are.

Being content starts with accepting yourself, and being more than OK with what you have. I’m on a journey to strip the stigma from the word in my life.

“enough”

It sits there on the arch of my foot as a reminder: I am enough. You are enough. You are valuable, beautiful, loved. It says we’re valuable, just because we are.

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, September 09th, 2014 | Author:

Last October, I had a realization that in less than a year I would be turning 25. I remembered that your pre-frontal cortex supposedly becomes fully developed by the time you are 25 years old. Meaning that it’s harder to learn new instruments,  new languages, or new technical processes (I think).

“Crap!” I remember thinking. “There’s so much I had planned to do to develop my brain by then!” (Yes, I actually think things like this. I’m weird. Whatever.)

I quickly decided that I needed to create some sort of goal list to help keep me on track for what brain-developing things I wanted to do before my pre-frontal cortex said “yeah, we’re good enough. We’re done. Thanks.”

So I, somewhat panicking, started to write down some things like that. “Learn italian. Play more piano. Create more paintings…” I began. But then I had the thought, maybe I should make a list of 25 things to do before my 25th birthday.  I firstly was thinking of those pre-frontal cortex related goals. But I realized that I may not be able to start learning Italian, become fluent in Spanish, Learn the cello, play more piano again, write a book, read ALL of the classical literature out there, and more items that I deep down wanted to do while it was still “easy”.

So I started a list of 25 things and I chose a few of the pre-frontal cortex developing options that I could fit within the year, and then I filled the other 25 slots with some times from my bucket list, and some from my “I really would like to accomplish this this year” unofficial list, and the last just from what sounded like fun things for the year.

This is what I came up with:
25 Things To Do Before I Turn 25:
1) write a book Started but have not finished. The book has changed shape and direction a lot in the past year, which is a good thing I believe. More on this below.


2) learn italian (took my first class at least)


3) play piano more (I said I wanted to learn at least 5 new songs well. I didn’t But I learned 3 new songs and re-learned 2 old songs)


4) climb a 14er Mt. Bierstadt, Colorado, Nov. 2, 2014 — hiked in halloween costumes with Kate. Completed despite being on a beta blocker that keeps your heart rate low at all times and makes exercising a light-headed affair.


5) go to the batting cages my friend Justin went with me to accomplish this.


6) take a dance class My roommate Brianne went with me to a line dancing class


7) be in some sort of acting production I met my friend Dan through this process. He filmed me in a promotional video for a luxury apartment complex. He posted on craigslist looking for actors. So I call him Craigslist Dan.


8 ) read Anna Karenina (Started it, should be finished within the next week. Though in the meantime I met actor Stephen Fry (ask me about this in person) and we talked about literature and I said I was reading Anna Karenina currently and his response: “Ahh, the greatest work of literature there is.” “Really? You think so?” I replied. I’ll have to see if I agree by the end.


9) read one more jane austen book Read Emma. It was pretty good, but more predictable than I would have liked. Pride and Prejudice will probably always be my favorite work like that.


10) publish an article in a magazine I got to write an article for my work and have it published in the Insurance Journal which is a national trade magazine. You can read it HERE


11) get fit Was in the best shape of my life this fall. I slacked a bit after that, but still feel in pretty fit. A couple days ago I moved all of my possessions from my packed car up 3 flights of stairs up to my 3rd story apartment in Colorado, and really, it was a lot of work, but I wasn’t even really huffing and puffing, and I’m not sore at all 2 days later. I’m impressed by this. PLUS, see #4.


12) get off beta blocker This was one of those “I want to do this, but realistically it won’t happen” goals. And I did it. Through a lot of chiropractic work, and dieting in ways that helped my neck heal properly, I was able to get off this nasty drug that I needed to prevent my migraines after a bad car crash. When I started the drug I was having migraines literally every day. When I got on the drug, I started to have only about 8 per month. I am now off of it for a few months and have only about 4 or less migraines a month. Which I’m ecstatic about! I can also sleep normal amounts, I have energy, I can work out normally again without blacking out, and that is Fan-FREAKING-tastic in my book!


13) run a 5k I ran the Courage Run 5K in Granite Bay with my friend Theresa. Theresa had also done a similar goal project of 28 goals before she turns 28. We found out that we both had these lists, and we had this goal in common, so it was great to get to cross this one off together!


14) go to a standup comedy show My friend Justin’s little brother is a comedian and had a comedy show in Sac so it was awesome to go with a bunch of our friends to support him and to also get to cross this off my list. He and the others were really quite funny. It was a blast. I want to go to more of these.


15) watch casa blanca This has been on my life list since I was in high school and a teacher I very much respected and who wasn’t the artsy, literature-reading, romanticism, old-movie watching type told me is was his favorite movie. And you know what, for someone who has resisted watching old movies for my whole life, I loved it. I’d buy it.


16) watch The Office series I had seen couple episodes here and there, but never gotten into it. Many friends who had similar entertainment tastes to me loved it, though, and my friend Jessica in college had convinced me to try it. I had put it on my life list then. And I completely watched the series this year and it is SO GOOD. I love it. I want to own it. I already re-watch it sometimes. And as I watched through the seasons I would send my “Oh my goodness!! Jim kissed Pam! Jim kissed Pam!!!” comments to her. It was a lot of fun and almost felt like we were in college again watching something for the first time together.


17) watch breaking bad I have begun, but not completed this. I will be doing so this fall, though.


18) milk a cow Theresa also went with me to accomplish this. It took a lot of asking around trying to actually find a cow someone would let me milk. I hit a lot of dead ends in this search. BUT, at the state fair I met a farmer who told me there was an exhibit (mostly for children) where they demonstrate how to milk a cow or a goat every hour and then let you do it too. SO we totally waited in line and milked a cow, AND a goat at the state fair.


19) catch a fish This was another life list item that I was very intent on completing at some point. I’ve fished and tried to catch fish many times in life and had NEVER been successful. My brother Jason and our family friend Tim took me out on Tim’s boat though on the lake for a fishing day and I caught not one, but FIVE big mouth bass! Tim is a fishing pro, so that helped to have his guidance of how to cast and where to cast, etc. But FIVE Five freaking fish!!! I think this was the goal that I was most excited about completing. I couldn’t stop smiling and I would’ve felt like a parade to celebrate wouldn’t have been entirely over the top for my giddiness.


20) write a good fiction short story I struggled with this one and I knew I would, which is why I made it a goal. I don’t know how to write fiction. Never have. I asked friends for topics. Which I couldn’t turn into anything. But my brother-in-law Chris posted a story that he wrote on the spot for inspiration, and that did get my juices going. I ended up with THIS STORY which I’m actually pretty proud of.


21) Go to Georgetown falls (near auburn) This was awesome. They are natural water slides in the river. A large group of friends all went together, headed up by my friend Amy which was super helpful, because I didn’t know where they were. My friends Lizzy and Theresa drove and hiked there with me, which was a bit tedious because of getting lost, and traipsing through the forest, but we came out alright. =)


22) start writing a 2nd book Through the process of blogging every week since January, I have started to realize that I have some thoughts on grieving and death and my honest experiences with loss that I want to share. I’m compiling some of the blog posts as well as other not-yet-published material for a short book on Loss and Life, and how to hold both together at the same time.


23) paint at least 5 more pieces. This year kind of exploded art-wise for me. Since January, I have painted and drawn over 50 completed pieces and sold many of them. to be fair, when I made this goal, 5 new pieces in a year was way more than I’d ever done. Crazy how life changes.


24) stick to a budget Did this. It isn’t super fun. Never has been. But you know what, when I went to the Dentist last week and had my first cavity and needed to pay for the filling, I had the money to do so because I budget for stuff like that, sad as it is.


25) Try snowboarding I went snowboarding for the first time ever, on the last day of the season when there was not even snow covering the whole mountain. It was a LOT harder than most things that I try for the first time. But I had a lot of fun trying and I want to go again next year, and hopefully get to the point where it’s not QUITE so hard and so much work. This is actually how I got to know Brianne who ended up being my roommate my last few months in Rocklin. I had met her once before at church, and then saw her the night before and said, “hey! Do you want to go snowboarding on Saturday (two days away)?” I had decided that I had to go, whether I went alone or not, because I wanted to complete this goal. And she said “Yeah, that sounds like fun!” So it ended up that she, myself, and another girl, Lindsay, all drove up and snowboarded together, and my brother met us up there for the day too!

After my 9 months of goal-oriented living from late October, 2013 to early August, 2014, I’ve realized that it was so much more of a fulfilling project than I thought it would be. Those goals in red are the only ones I didn’t complete all the way, though I was satisfied with the fact that I started everything. And that I still intend to finish them all.

One of the things I’ve been learning about is to dream big and create and work toward big goals. I think this type of challenge brings me to life and helps me live more fully, even if I sometimes fall short of those goals.

One of the things I didn’t think about when I started this is how this list would help me to foster friendships and create camaraderie with those around me who got excited about the list for me and wanted to help me accomplish things. This is why I’ve listed who I completed these goals with. Because it became a pretty continual conversation topic that invited people not just to know about my life, but to participate in things that I wanted to do, and that they maybe wanted to do, too.

And the bottom line is that I ended up starting work on 25 goals, and completing 23 of them that otherwise might have been nice, “I want to do this sometime” thoughts that may not have happened for a long time, if ever. And that, friends, makes me happy.

Which is why I’m also deciding to do a goal list for this next year of life too. Check out my 26 before 26 list HERE.  Look for posts about it on Facebook and Instagram as I start in on another year of living intentionally and fully.

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, September 09th, 2014 | Author:

Here are my 26 goals to accomplish before I turn 26 on August 7, 2015

1. Climb another 14er

2. Do a cartwheel

3. Read a Graphic Novel

4. Write/Draw a cartoon/comic series (short or ongoing)

5. Return to Büsingen, Switzerland

6. Read the Brothers Karamozov or Moby Dick

7. Read another Hemingway novel

8. Continue learning Italian (complete work books on my own, take another class, or some tangible effort like this)

9.  Start a book project writing biographies on regular everyday-Joe people in the US

10. Write 12 more poems

11. Go to another concert/show

12. Go to a new country

13. Make 4 new oil paintings

14. Get something published in a non-trade-journal magazine

15. Try slack-lining

16. Play disk golf

17. Learn a new card game (and remember how to play it later)

18. Try a completely new food

19. Learn 4 line dances well

20. Try 6 new whiskeys

21. Go to an Imax movie (real movie, not science/museum movie)

22. Read Twilight

23. Read the Psalms at least 30 days in a row and meditate on them

24. Learn all the US Presidents, memorize them. (I’m embarrassed to put this on here, but seriously, this needs to happen now, as it’s way overdue).

25. Learn more about current politics and news and voting schedules.

26. Watch the sun rise over the ocean

Note: I created this In the first week of being 25 and have since already begun accomplishing some! Updates to follow.

Tuesday, August 05th, 2014 | Author:

In 2 days, I will turn 25. Kind of a big birthday in my eyes.

On my last birthday, I wrote a column about the discipline of celebrating what is good, even if life is hard. It was a good piece that I still think I should abide by. The thing is, I wrote about how life is really hard sometimes, and that in those times, it’s easy to want to just ignore the opportunity to celebrate. When birthdays come after a death, it’s easy to just want to skip it. When holidays come after divorce, it’s easy to just want to ignore them. But really, we should celebrate. Even when we don’t feel like it.

I wrote: “It is not easy. It is a discipline. But the discipline of celebration itself helps to bring me back to life again. I believe life is always worth celebrating. And in the midst of life being hard, I intend to choose to celebrate what is good.”

But then when the actual day came, it was easier written than exercised. I had horrible hives on my birthday all over my back and stomach, and by lunch time they had crawled their way up on my neck and face. (For perspective, to me, the ninth level of hell would be itching without ceasing.) I ended up leaving work to go to the doctors because I was so miserable and it continued to get worse.

My family came together to have dinner with me, and I couldn’t even tell you where we ate. They talked about things and I was miserably distant, not able to think of anything but the itching, my migraine, how tired I was from the shots the doctor had given me, and how my sucky broken life was hard enough to try to celebrate without all of this.

We got back to my parents and were about to open presents when I started crying and canceled my birthday. “Can we just not?” I said. “I don’t want to open these presents. I’m miserable. I have no idea what you guys talked about at dinner. I just can’t do it. It’s too hard.”

And I sobbed as my dad and brother waited, unsure of how to proceed, having gathered in traditional O’Hanlon family places for birthday-present opening. My mom came over to the side of my chair and told me it was OK. We didn’t have to do it if it was too hard. They wanted to celebrate my life, but not if it was too hard for me.

So after writing about celebrating what’s good, and deciding that’s what I was going to do, I instead canceled my birthday with itchy, drowsy tears.

But, through those tears, I asked if we could have a re-do the next week. Which we did. It wasn’t really a special thing, just family dinner again. But at least I was mentally present that time. I wanted to try my hardest to celebrate what was good in life. But to be honest, it was a real struggle. And I flat-out failed the first time I tried.

But the thing is, I tried again. I asked for a re-do.

And that’s how I’m trying to live my life these days and years now.  I’m trying to identify the ways I think it’s valuable to live, but sometimes those are hard ways to really live out. So I try. And when I fail, I try again. And even when I succeed, sometimes it’s not glamorous. It just barely qualifies.

But as I’m getting older, that’s actually one of my things I’m trying to do more — I want to fail sometimes. I want to be trying to do the hard things. And that means failing sometimes. And sometimes it means making it — barely — and not in the way I thought I would. That’s what my life is about these days — trying to dream big dreams, tackle big goals, and have grace for myself along the way. Because it’s true, sometimes I will fail.

lolo-jones

As someone who always accomplished what I’d set out to do before, this has been a different approach to life for me in the past year, and I think it’s been a really healthy shift. I’ve failed at more things this year than maybe any other year. And I’ve also grown personally this year more than in any other year.

So, the world can know that I started off my 25th year by failing. And by the end of that year now, I’m OK with that.

I’m going to celebrate my 25th birthday by playing mini golf, which I have never done. So I’m betting there will be a fair amount of failing on this birthday as well. But I’m excited to try!

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, April 01st, 2014 | Author:

What do you get when a Forester and a Therapist have kids?

Apparently you get 3 artists. What?

Before she died, my sister was going to school studying math and music. To be honest, she started as a math major, because she was brilliant. Truly. And then somewhere in there, she realized what she really wanted to do was to just teach piano, which she was already doing.

She was an incredible pianist, and she’d been teaching for a few years.  She was a pretty insecure person (as many of us are) and that made her come across as harsh a lot of times.  But when she played piano, and apparently when she taught piano, she was relaxed. She was in her element.

I’ve become friends with some people who I discovered were students of hers.  It’s a fun thing to see her through their eyes — because when she was in the midst of her art form, when she was at a piano, she was still fierce, and fast, and passionate, but she was raw. She didn’t wear her emotions on her sleeves in life, but she did wear them on her fingertips at the piano.

My brother, after starting to go to school as a pre-med student, because, similar to my sister, he is brilliant, has become a professional photographer. He can and does shoot everything from weddings, portraits, high school sports games, public events, clubs and nightlife, to car accidents and wildland fires. In this day of so many iPhone photographers, not everyone makes photography a true art, but he does.

He is an expert at capturing humanity, capturing nature, encapsulating moments that beg to be remembered. And he does it really well. His chemistry and physics professors, and many of us who know him, could see him being an astrophysicist, because his mind just works like that. But he has this desire in his heart to tell stories, to make art, to be a photographer. Maybe he will be an engineer or a physicist or something very brainy someday, too. But for now, he’s discovered an artist within his heart, and he’s letting that artist explore, breathe, learn and grow.

And I have not yet found my niche. My best subject in school was always math. It came really easily to me… and I hated it. I played instruments growing up. But I just made it my thing because I wanted to be like Julie. I took a photography class my senior year of high school. That’s not my thing either.  But in my freshman year of college I took my first journalism class, and I began to think, maybe I’m a writer. As I’ve moved forward, that idea has evolved: I’m a story-teller, and to this day I’m still discovering new ways to tell the stories. I’ve started a hashtag to catalog some of my drawings/paintings etc.  It’s #artstuffbyjo . I went with the vaguest thing I could think of because like I said, I’m still learning what my “thing” might be. For now, I just know it’s “art stuff.”

My words, my charcoal, my paint,(maybe someday my acting?), these are all ways to tell the story. For Jason, he tells stories through photos. For Julie, she expressed something in music that hits the human soul in a way that words cannot. We all ended up artists. Jason is brilliant in the sciences. Julie and I both have the math brains.  And yet, our expressions, the work of our hands that holds meaning for us — those things are not numbers and chemicals and formulas. They are expressions of what it means to be human. What it means to feel.

We’ve always joked that “as a family, we’re good at lots of things, but art isn’t one of them.” We thought we’d missed that gene. We were wrong.


Why are we like this? How did this happen, coming from two artistically challenged parents? We all grew up reading whole book series out loud as a family.  Before we could speak, as young babes, we could listen. Story-telling has been a part of our lives since then.

That’s where we got our artistic and story-telling inclination. But we ended up each deciding to follow it because of this: We had two parents who both did what they loved.

My mom works in the therapy world and she comes to life by helping people get healing in the most wounded areas of their lives. My dad was a forester, and the man will get very interested in a conversation with you if you would like to know about what kind of tree that is over there.  And he can map out areas of the forest for you (literally… he does cartography).

And aside from loving what they do, they’re both really really good at what they do.  My dad has been an expert witness for the department of justice in several cases about forest fires. My mom has people who have come from literally around the world to see her as a therapist.

But you know why any of that matters? Because they told us that old adage that people scoff at: “You can be anything you want to be.” They always told us that and I think they believed it. And we believed it, because they lived it in their own lives. They both did what they loved to do.

We have plenty of our own family drama and dynamics, like any family. But one thing I have always known deep in my soul is this: My parents believe in me. And in Jason. And in Julie.

They’ve always believed in us. They’ve always been impressed with our accomplishments, and their support has encouraged us to dream big, and given us the permission to dream small. They made space for us to discover what we wanted to be.

With the knowledge that they believe in me has also come the knowledge that they will still love me even if I fail. They have accepted us as we’ve each individually turned away from the traditional path of “success” that our skill sets and the world had set out for us, and turned toward something that was riskier, yet meant more to us.

Because we believe in each other, we believe that anything could happen. And we’ll support each other no matter what happens. Somewhere along the way, our family recipe for success, “do your best,” was replaced with the riskier, more audacious, “you might as well try.” And that, perhaps, is the greatest atmosphere we could have to turn our potential energy into kinetic energy. To turn our dreams into reality.

That is how we O’Hanlon artists were born.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and story-teller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

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