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Year of Experiences

Posted on Thu, 14 December, 2017

My New Year’s resolution leading into 2017 was to provide my kids with more experiences. Born from completely packing up the house and therefore cleaning out unwanted or unnecessary things twice in 2016 to paint and then carpet six months later, I realized we had too much crap. Way too much crap and the kids were the biggest offenders – which really means we were to blame as their parents. We had succumbed to the materialism that capitalism in a first world culture expects; and none of us were any better off for it. The solution was to offer something that could not be easily tossed out when it was no longer relevant. Thus was born the year of experiences, and a hashtag on Instagram and Facebook to document it.

The Experiment

The kids had become entitled, greedy consumers needing to have whatever their friends had. Much of their precious objects were carted away to Goodwill or sold at the garage sale after each cleansing of the house. I had been that kid too growing up, and frankly I probably spend way too much time and money at Anthropologie to be taken seriously, but here I am anyway, touting the morality of buying less and experiencing more.

The year of experiences began with a trip to Los Angeles to celebrate New Years, so I planned things we didn’t normally do, getting us all out of the box we had grown accustomed to packing with things rather than memories. Yes we did Disneyland, which ended up being the least favorite part for any of us (for many reasons), and we also did the Rose Bowl Parade and a day at the Santa Anita Racetrack. We began a tradition of sorts, pledging to tour at least one college campus wherever we traveled; the first was USC. This was both college exposure and a crash course in socio-economics as we passed through Ingleside in a what-happens-if-you-don’t-finish-your-education teaching moment.

My guiding principle was experience that we could reminisce over and use to fuel more motivation and tradition. For instance, a helicopter tour of a volcano in Hawaii over Spring Break that was completely worth the three-hour drive there and back; checked off second college tour, University of Hawaii. The year of experiences was going really well even with some bewildered faces as we replaced meaningless toys with “what do you want to do” as a treat for that hard work in school, or to mark valentines or Easter? Going to GameStop or Claire’s was no longer an acceptable answer.

We also planned the kid’s first trip out of the country in an ambitious and ultimately really fun 3-week excursion through Europe. I think I have a career in travel planning waiting for me since I planned the shit out of that trip and did it really well. More out of the box thinking lead us away from traditional touring and museums in favor of bike tours, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing and productions like the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo, not at all what you think and a total highlight of the trip. The sorts of things REI is going for with #optoutside. More college tours included the Sorbonne, Oxford and University of Edinburgh.

Learning The Lesson

I’ve only now realized how my hashtag applied to me this year; I had the biggest experience of my life, completely changing how I look at myself and the world around me. I learned about a biological father who is different from the one I thought I had, the one who raised me. When I set out to create new experiences for our family I really didn’t have this in mind, yet found myself hiring a genetic genealogist to verify surprising 23andMe results. She did that, and also identified the biological father I didn’t know I had.


Learning to see the value in something previously ignored, taken for granted, like so many toys thrown out from my kid’s rooms, is exactly the lesson I learned for myself. Instead of objects of possession my lesson is in relationships. The year of experiences was supposed to be about life lessons and bigger experiences than unwrapping yet another object that holds our attention for a month then collects dust. I wanted the year of experiences to bring us closer together through shared meaning, jokes, collective support around plans that went awry but became jokes after (Chantilly, France – a story for another blog perhaps). I wanted my kids to begin to identify what their bucket list might be and learn about life outside the United States and beyond their white privilege.

I had as much to learn simply from the identity confusion that comes with learning about a secret parent. It still surprises me how much of my identity was invested in knowing my ancestral stories. That identity came crashing down around me triggering grief and then recognizing the places I realized I never fit in and had compartmentalized myself. Now that I am no longer part of the story I thought I was, some things fell into place and I have a stronger sense of identity from knowing my origin, both in conception and ancestrally. It’s calming.


This year of experiences began with the intention to de-clutter and teach my kids how to value things differently. Guess the Jungian philosophy of the collective unconscious was at work in my deliberations to change what my kids valued. Something in me needed to change and it had to start outside of myself for me to be open to it.


We are a year out from the inception of the #yearofexperiences. I had Thanksgiving with my biological father, whom I call Pop now. We talk frequently on the phone as I do with my new brother and sister-in-law, the very best gift I ever received. My son has joined the spirit of the year of experiences, Anthropologie still sees too much of me and my daughter has yet to understand the merit of the experiment, trying desperately to hoard all she can in her room.

I’m expanding the hashtag to #lifeofexperiences. We have lots of time.




Jodi Klugman-Rabb is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Marin and Napa Counties. She specializes in connecting with clients on a humorous and practical level, helpful when specializing in ADHD, trauma and anger/communication skills. She uses EMDR to treat traumas and fears of all types and is the pioneer of Parental Identity Discovery™, helping people adjust to surprise results from DNA testing. She is a wife of 18+ years and the mom of two funny and awesome kids. Connect with Jodi on her website or

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