Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Age 40 – Half Dead or Just Starting?

I must regretfully inform the public that it is the last year of my 30’s. I just turned THIRTY NINE. I used to think this was the time I would go over the hill, roll down and die.

Although Instagram’s filters smooth my wrinkles into youthful smiles, I can’t fool anyone. I’m not a millennial. I’m part of the lost generation that is stuck somewhere between X and Y. I’m scrambling to stay on the edge of trends while clinging to traditional values and work ethic. This “ethic” includes managing a list of things I think I should do by the time I hit 40.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

My Ol’ “To Do By 40” List

  1. Get married
  2. Have two babies
  3. Buy and remodel a house in San Francisco
  4. Publish a novel
  5. Gain VP title of ‘something’ at a large international company

Man, it’s going to be a busy year. I have just 363 days left to completeeverything. Right now, I’m single, living in an apartment, and writing weekly posts called #humpdayheidi. Ahem.

My To Do list makes me panic. How did I manage to waste the last few years of my life? What the hell have I been doing with my time?

I go outside and do what anyone worried about aging will do and treat myself to a long health killing cigarette on the balcony of an overpriced birthday restaurant. In the middle of coughing up smoke, my old friend Garrison comes up me.

“Can I have a drag?”

Garrison is dressed in a suit and bowler hat and kindly listens to me complain about my lack of time.

“I’m 39. I have one year left to do everything before I hit 40, the pinnacle of life. Then I’ll have to prepare for my demise,” I say.

Garrison cocks his head, just enough so that his hat stays in place.

You’re insane,” he says. “You’re fretting about 40?! But that’s when it all starts! The first half of our life is spent preparing for the second half. Basically between ages 0–18 you are programmed. By your parents, by society, by television. You need to spend the next 20 years deprogramming yourself, fixing the bugs, and iterating on a new version of you. You really aren’t ready for the world until you hit 40.”

“But what about titles and children and houses?” I ask.

“You need to think more like a millennial. Everything is fleeting.”

“Including fertility,” I grumble.

“Yes, but but now you can pay to extend that. Time is endless. There is nothing you can’t do in your 40s!”

Perhaps I have been straddling the generations long enough. My younger Y compatriots have eggs on ice, switch careers like vacation lovers, and are not tied to archaic notions of titles or homes. Nothing is linear; time bends into itself to create fantastical possibilities just like in a Madeleine L’Engle Book.

If the best part of life (not its end) is really all ahead, then I need use the next year to get fit. Deprogramming has already been done, life experiences had, now it’s time to prepare for another grand adventure. Not my death.

I go inside and draft up a new list on a bar napkin.

TO DO BY 40 (starting at age 39)

1. Focus on romance (the journey) not marriage (just one possible destination).

There are a myriad of relationship possibilities. Many people flounder because they try to force something that isn’t right or that their partner isn’t ready for. Life is longer than we think, so it’s best to enjoy the person we are with one step at a time, regardless of where it goes. If it doesn’t work then it’s another good story for the nursing home.

2. Spend more time with my friends’ children.

Children have a way of putting the world in a new perspective. You are forced to be both present and playful. There are many ways to have them in your life without giving birth. And if I do one day decide to have children with frozen eggs and IVF cocktails, some practice will come in handy.

3. Spend more time with the elderly. And my parents.

Now I’m not calling my parents ‘elderly’ just yet, but as I get older I hesitantly acknowledge how sage their advice is. As well as others that have seen a lot more of life than I have. I need to diversify the ages in my friend circle for well rounded opinions. No better way to manage a career landmines than to talk to war veterans.

4. Make my existing home better.

Until my mythical book is written, published, and sold to the millenial masses, I cannot afford a house in San Francisco so I should stop dreaming about it. But I do have a lovely apartment that I can make more inviting. Instead of wanting what I don’t have I’d like to want what I do.

5. Get other people to write.

In addition to writing my own ‘lost generation’ opinions, I’d like to encourage other people to use their voice and create a diverse community of writers. We’ll then have like minded support when we all write our books together. Plus writers are known drinkers. Better to have friends to share the bottle with.

6. Find passion in work.

Titles are so 1990s. It’s more about what we DO. I’m motivated to find more inspiring relationships and stories that I can continue to build on in my 40s. Perhaps that’s the generation X in me- I like to build on, not replace relationships. The elders tell me that’s where all the good stuff happens.

Now I’m ready. I’m excited for the year of prep. But what’s even better? I’m super stoked to hit 40. My whole life will start in just 363 days!

This post originally appeared on my Medium site here.

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