So, this is the academic year when me and most of my friends turn 40. As the person with a summer birthday, I get to stay in my thirties for a little bit longer than everyone else but this also means that I have a whole 12 months of watching them deal with it in different ways.
Most of my friends are following the denial model; “nothing to see here, I’m too old to celebrate birthdays anyway so why bother making a fuss about it?”. That’s fine, I get it. But, as previously noted in this blog, I have an unintended tradition where I indulge in a little pre-birthday meltdown each year and the before 40 one seems to be starting pretty early, six months early in fact. All those worries about the meaningless, drifting, solo nature of my life that keep me awake at 3am seem to be hitting me much more frequently. Because I really thought that I would have it together before 40, I mean, that is the definition of middle-aged grown up, right?
A really good friend of mine and her husband have decided to actually do something with their low-level angst about turning 40. They have created a list of 40 low-cost family-oriented things that they are going to do during their year of being 40. Now, I LOVE a list and I love the ideas behind this one. It’s all about getting off the sofa and doing those things that you mean to do and would enjoy doing but always seem like a bit too much effort so get put off and risk never happening. Things like finding a fossil or seeing a meteor shower. All personally interesting ideas that can be life affirming and a way to create real memories. Actual experiences that matter to you. What life is all about, or at least could be.
I LOVED this idea when it was shared with me a few weeks ago and, instead of waiting for my birthday in August, decided to make my own list of 40 things to do before I am 40. Genius, right? Kick my butt a bit into engaging more with life and doing things in the real world. But here’s the problem, I have been working on this list for nearly three weeks now. I diligently wrote the numbers one to 40 on the left hand side of my notebook and the first 15 came straight in; things that I want to do, like to do and have been meaning to do. The next ten came in dribs and drabs and were more the types of things that I think I should be doing rather than things that I really want to do. For the last week there have been no new ideas. Apparently there are only 25 things that I want to do before I am 40.
This would suggest that I am in a state of contentment in my life; that I am just waiting for a day blustery enough to fly a kite or for the half terms to be over so that I can go to the beach and find a new type of shell for my collection. So why do I feel so adrift and unsatisfied? Instead of feeling grateful, I feel over-whelmed by my impotence in the face of first-world problems. Is it because the things that I really want to put on that list are so huge and over-whelming that I can’t face to think them let alone write them down? The things that I thought I would have made happen before I was 40, that I assumed would make me happy? Should I put having a child on there? Getting a new career? Going back to university to re-train? Losing half my body weight? Joining an internet dating site? Instead of settling for the many things that I am blessed to have, should I be trying to find the things that I might want or do I just want them because they are what we are programmed to think will make us happy? For now I think I might just stick my head in the metaphorical sand. I might even see if I can make an awesome sandcastle whilst I am there – that would be one thing off my list.