The 40 before 40 list

Sophia, a wonderful woman and friend who, at times, doubles as my muse, inspired me in my early 20s to set a 30 before 30 list. When I set it, it seemed improbable. How could I find the money and the time to do a significant international trip whilst paying off debt? Could I actually run a 5k in under 29 minutes? Looking back, setting my 30 before 30 list was a smart decision. Documenting desires and goals drove me to plan ahead and to step outside my comfort zone. It wasn’t significant to anyone else, but it mattered to me that I achieve these goals, and I did so in a personal and enjoyable manner. I also strove to “beat” my 30 before 30 list, and in the end, I had achieved more than I could have imagined at age 20.

Today I am 30 years, five months, and two days old. This means I have nine years, six months, and six days left before I celebrate 40. This decade’s list is a mix of life, travel, professional, community and personal education-oriented goals. I intentionally erred more on the side of personal development as opposed to professional, even though they do inform each other. That, and my professional development goals could easily make their own 40 before 40 list! I also deliberately made some items more vague than others, giving me considerable latitude in execution.

Without further ado, I present and explain my 40 before 40 list. Warning: it’s a long post.

  1. Identify opportunities to make decisions based more on emotion than logic. I default to and rely on logic to make big decisions. This has served me well overall, but I’m curious how my decision making process evolves if I factor emotion into the equation.
  2. Have a defined, concrete financial/retirement plan. I’m 30, and facing retirement is terrifying, especially as a millennial. Dane and I somehow managed to make some good decisions in our 20s, but now we’re in the process of being recently married and reconciling our savings and spending habits, and all the ambiguous acronyms that accompany adulthood (IRA and 401(k) are just the tip of the iceberg). For the record, we were very transparent with our financial standings before we got married, but the reconciliation and planning ahead portion is daunting.
  3. Have an emergency plan. We live in Seattle. Between hearing about how we are overdue for an earthquake and North Korea nukes, we probably should have some bottles of water around. At the very least.
  4. Write a living will. A practical thing to do that I have no direct, personal experience with.
  5. Start and maintain a blog. Huzzah! I’m partially done with this one.
  6. Journal consistently. It’s good for my brain. I’ve done this on and off throughout life, but it’s time that stick to writing for myself on a regular basis.
  7. Stick to a fitness plan. It’s good for EVERYTHING. I am happier, I feel healthier, and I honestly believe that Seattle sees sunnier days when I exercise regularly. Ok, maybe not that last one, but exercising does make me more optimistic, just like sunny days do.
  8. Try more healthy recipes. I like all things food, and for the most part, I eat a healthy diet. This goal is about maintenance and continued culinary exploration.
  9. Find ways to better empathize with and listen to those around me. My ESTJ/ENTJ personality is great for taking action and implementing plans, but I recognize that I can do a better job of connecting to those around me.
  10. Work on being more patient. This might be the toughest challenge on my list. I am exceedingly action oriented, and want nothing more than to cross items off my list (Todoist gets me). I do not sit still. My mother can attest to this fact for the duration of my childhood, and Dane can corroborate, as a near nightly exchange is along the lines of: “Dane, I’m squirmy.” “I know.”
  11. Take a weekend long media break once a year. Dane and I are both regularly tethered to a phone or computer, and in those rare instances when we are not, the TV is on, or we’ve got a tablet in hand. It seems healthy to disconnect for at least one weekend a year, another idea inspired by my beautiful muse, Sophia.
  12. Donate blood 10 times. I do know that you can donate more frequently than that, but I have a deeply-rooted, irrational fear of needles. I started donating in my late 20s in an attempt to get over my fear. My hope was that the knowledge of doing something that directly helps another person would get me over my fear. To some extent it did, but needles honestly still give me the heebie jeebies.
  13. Meet with a life coach. I’ve been lucky to have mentors, but I’ve never engaged a life coach! I’m excited and nervous about this, but think that it could only help.
  14. Reinvent my look twice at least one more time. I went blonde about a month ago, which was not without thorough Pinterest research and post-dye self doubt, but it’s been fun to see myself look physically different.
  15. Learn a new language. I’ve been picking up Spanish with some Duolingo help, but I’m also interested in learning HTML/CSS/JavaScript.
  16. Learn about whiskey. I love whiskey and I want to be one of those cool people who take a sip and say “mmm, peaty” and actually understand what that means.
  17. Learn to butcher. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I eat enough that I’ve put effort into understanding where my food comes from, and how it is processed and handled. This is the next step in that understanding. I probably won’t learn to butcher and then do it regularly, but I’d like to have the how-to knowledge regardless.
  18. Take some ethnic cooking classes. Along the lines of diversifying my repertoire of healthy recipes, I’ve been lucky to try some incredible dishes around the world. I’d love to bring that into my kitchen.
  19. Develop a creative hobby. Whatever that creative hobby is, it will be fun.
  20. Watch all 100 movies on AFI list. Why not? I need to branch out of my proclivity for terrible horror films anyways. Speaking of which, we saw Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom on Thursday. Terrible story line, but I still (embarrassingly) love the absurdity. And the dinosaurs.
  21. Run a 5k or 10k every two years. For my hardcore runner friends, this goal may be laughable. I am not and will never be a dedicated runner. However, being able to run 5k or 10k is a good measure of how fit my body is, and I aspire to being able to readily run either distance throughout not just my 30s, but well beyond.
  22. Eat at an international Michelin star restaurant. Dane, ever the supportive one, saw that I had “eat at a Michelin star restaurant” on my original 40 before 40 list, and took me to Alinea for my 30th birthday. He even timed it so that it was a day after my birthday, so that it was after my birth time and I was squarely 30. It was, and this is an understatement, the most phenomenal dining experience I’ve ever had. Unfortunately for Dane, that was just a draft 40 before 40 list, and now I have an appetite for phenomenal dining experiences, so hint hint, wink wink, nudge nudge.
  23. Find ways to be a better partner to Dane. There is some mild absurdity in putting this immediately after my handling of goal #22, but the fact is that Dane is an incredible partner, and he deserves one in return. I had this goal in my vows, and I intend to identify and adopt ways to empower my life partner throughout my 30s, in preparation for our 40s.
  24. Work towards identifying Dane’s and my life goals, and build understanding towards how our professional and individual lives will all work together. This is another “prep for our 40s and beyond” goal. In getting married, we complicated (in a good way!) our lives by committing to build our lives together. We each have our individual careers and life goals, so our early to mid-30s seem like a good time to identify individual and partner goals, and to plan for how we can work towards all of that together. Easy, right?
  25. Elope for fun. I shared this goal with Dane, and he said “Who are you eloping with?” (insert exaggerated eye roll, an expression I excel at). At one point in my life, I did want to elope, and I still think it would be fun to do instead of renewing vows.
  26. Write two letters: one to myself and one to Dane to be opened when we each turn 40. For impact reasons, I can’t write this letter when I am 39 years old, 11 months and 29 days. I simply think it would be interesting to write this letter as a 30 year old. What will I think of my younger self? In setting this goal, Dane decided to do the same.
  27. Move out of Seattle. Dane and I have plans. When and where are more nebulous, but I am excited for this adventure regardless. Don’t get me wrong, I love Seattle, but I crave a new experience.
  28. Decide whether to have kids or not. Don’t get too excited, potential grandparents, we haven’t decided on this yet, nor do we plan on thinking about it until we’re in our mid-30s. Currently, I’m leaning heavily towards adoption. If I were to guess at this point, biological children are not in the picture.
  29. Explore 10 new countries. It wasn’t until I started dating Dane that I well and truly caught the travel bug. Ten countries seem exceedingly doable for our current travel appetite, so I expect to surpass this goal, but who knows what will happen in life.
  30. Explore 10 new US cities. For all the international travel I’ve done, I haven’t explored the United States to any meaningful extent.
  31. Do more girlfriend trips. I’m very fortunate to have a number of incredible girlfriends, some of whom love to travel. Timing and budget are two variables as my ladies tend to be exceedingly busy and well traveled, but I love these trips and want to make it a priority.
  32. Celebrate New Years in a foreign country. Where and when is TBD, but this concept excites the heck out of me.
  33. Do an international hike. The first time I wanted to hike while traveling internationally was in Iceland, but we simply weren’t prepared. Hiking locally is easy, but hiking internationally requires some more planning. That, and there are myriad breathtaking hikes around the world to choose from.
  34. Drive across America road trip style. Dane and I travel exceptionally well together, usually at a fast and grueling pace. Driving across America would be a different challenge, but one that I think would be immense fun, as well as a good way to check off #30 on this list.
  35. Go on a personal retreat. I’ve eyed yoga retreats for a long time, but haven’t taken the leap.
  36. Make a significant career move. I had this on my draft 40 before 40 list, and I’m keeping it and crossing it off because: 1. It is gratifying to cross things off lists, and 2. I am proud of myself for accomplishing this! At the end of May, I left an eight year career in the commercial real estate sector for the tech industry by joining Automattic as a Community Wrangler. I’m only two weeks in and thus still on my support rotation, but in these past two weeks I’ve already been pushed well outside my comfort zone in a very healthy, uncommonly supported way. I am endlessly optimistic about how my career will evolve with Automattic.
  37. Define and adapt my leadership style. I had some marvelous mentors throughout my 20s who helped me better understand my strengths, weaknesses and passions in life. I have a loosely defined leadership style, but now I aim to more concretely define, apply, and give back.
  38. Continue volunteering regularly. At this point, this feels like a relatively easy goal to stick to as I truly love to volunteer. It is on this list because it is so important to me, and something that I want to say that I stuck to when I turn 40.
  39. Take on a community leadership position where I feel like I’m making a significant impact for the next generation. I was a proactive volunteer and took on a few leadership positions with Net Impact Seattle, the University of Commercial Real Estate Certificate Program, and the Seattle Chamber’s Young Professional Network in my 20s, and earlier this month I joined the board of the Mountains to Sound Greenway. I’ve worked to contribute in all instances, and have benefited from the wisdom and experience of those who have far more of both than I do. To honor those who have taken the time to share and educate me, and to support the generation that comes after, I endeavor to carry that torch in a collaborative manner, to offer my time and effort, whatever wisdom and experience I’ve gained, a plethora of ideas good or bad, recognizing that I will always have more to learn. The “I feel” is an important qualifier, as I have a healthy case of impostor syndrome and I have high expectations.
  40. Make a significant financial contribution to a cause I care about. Significant is relative, and I regularly contribute my time and dollars currently. I want to make a financial contribution, likely in my late 30s, that is just a tad uncomfortable for my wallet, but to an organization and cause that I fully believe in.

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