I rang in the last year of my thirties yesterday in EPIC fashion, with the aforementioned morning yoga double-header, followed by an afternoon adventure at Pier 39 that turned into a raucous evening seeing Patti Smith at The Fillmore and then dancing at the Boom Boom Room. San Francisco and all my amazing friends, you know how to treat a girl right on her birthday.
With the hangover (hopefully) subsiding, and the clock ticking toward 40, it’s time to get to work tackling my next set of goals. Of course, I’m sure you’ve already guessed that these have been percolating for a couple of months, well before I wrapped up my 38 by 39. You may also notice that I’ve snuck in one extra goal this year. It’s the end of a decade, and I thought it warranted a little switch up. Plus, as you’ll see, the symmetry makes sense.
My approach changed a lot in mapping out my new edition. I feel like the last few years it’s been “what do I want to do more of?” or “what do I want to try?”. Looking back though, I realize that some of the favorite aspects of my current life are due to developing habits out of this project. Analyzing a decade of data points and spotting clear patterns in successes and failures certainly shed a new light on things (NERD ALERT).
So this year, I started with the question: “What do I want my forties to look like?” and worked back from there. I thought about current factors within my control that are blocking me from achieving those visions, as well as habits that I want to further cultivate. In doing this exercise, I came up with four “pillar” goals and then nine subgoals to support each of those.
Without further rambling, here is my 40 BY 40.
Pillar 1: Pay off my debt.
I’m Gen X on the cusp of Millennial, so yeah, this is a thing. I can own it. I’ve been in some form of debt since I was 18 and fell into all the typical patterns. In 2015 I’d made significant progress in getting things to a manageable number, but major life shit happened and things snowballed again. I finally feel like I’m a place where I can devote energy back into this. I also feel like I’m emotionally ready to handle the necessary FOMO that it will take to achieve this one. Let’s do it.
1.1 Pay off Chase Visa
I’m breaking each of these debts down as individual goals, as in the past it’s always made me feel better to have zeroed out a source of stress. I know that there are “other” ways to approach this. Please don’t at me. Starting with this one, as it’s the highest APR and needs to be gone out of my life stat.
1.2 Pay off USAA Visa
Ah, good ol’ USAA. This was my first credit card and it’ll be nice to see the balance go away (don’t worry, those 1998 debts were paid off at another point in my life).
1.3 Pay off Patelco CC
Remember when I was contracting and had to cover my own health insurance for almost two years and also had some medical emergencies during that time? It all went on this low-interest credit card!
1.4 Pay off Patelco Loan
I played the balance transfer game here during that 2015-2017 “hanging on by a thin thread” phase and it’s time to get all of it cleared.
1.5 Make 40 cups of coffee at home
Because I realize that habit-changing is what’s going to help me actually break this cycle. I got a MokaPot for the holidays and using it and the accompanying coffee has already made an impact on my bank account. For my birthday, my rad dad got me a coffee subscription to help with this goal. And my morning cup at home is already becoming a nice little ritual.
1.6 Eat 40 dinners at home
This is a goal that I know will have both fiscal and physical benefits. I also truly enjoy cooking with my Eatwell CSA and want to continue that practice throughout the year. Who wants to come over for dinner?
1.7 Bring 40 lunches to work
Cooking for one produces a lot of leftovers. An unintentional byproduct of our new work cafeteria being delayed in opening is that I’ve already started forming this habit. Just need to make sure I dedicate the time to continue it.
1.8 Put $40/week in Savings
I know that life can throw curveballs at any given moment, so I want to be prepared. Last year I made the super adulting move of consolidating my retirement accounts into my current active one. But my rainy day personal savings? It’s been stagnant. I also want to make sure I get it to the healthy “three months of rent” state before I hit my next decade.
1.9 Visit each SF Museum where I’m a member four times
Yes, I definitely started stressing when I was making this list and thinking about the other things in life I’ll need to cut back on for awhile, especially in the culture and entertainment realm. But my recent museum binge reminded me that there is plenty available to me that I’ve already paid for (or been gifted) that’s perfectly entertaining and stimulating. And many of these allow me to bring a plus one. Friend date to SFMOMA, Conservatory of Flowers, California Academy of Sciences, the DeYoung, or Legion of Honor, anyone?
Pillar 2: Visit Australia for three weeks
You may recall that when I visited my 50th state (Alaska) I did it UP. As Australia will mark my last inhabited continent (I don’t think Antarctic tourism is environmentally prudent (yes, I know, any tourism anywhere is pretty shitty for the planet)), I want to be as thoughtful as I was when I hit that last milestone. My current plan is to travel there for three weeks, over my holiday shutdown and into the new year. Ideally I want to turn 40 *in* Australia, then get on a plane and turn 40 again in San Francisco (with a Return from Oz: Over the Rainbow party waiting for me)!
I realize this goal runs counter to goal #1, so I want to do as much prep as possible so I can travel more wisely. I managed to do Alaska without breaking the bank because I was incredibly prepared in advance. Go, go Capricorn, go!
2.1 Read four novels set in Australia
Something I’ve fallen out of the habit of doing is reading books about the places I’ll be visiting. I think part of this is not having taken an intentionally planned trip in so long. Would love recommendations for Aussie literature, particularly by women and/or aboriginal folks!
2.2 Read four non-fiction books about Australia
In beginning to plan this trip, I also realized that I’m woefully uneducated about Australia in general. I know it has a very tumultuous history, and like the United States, many current problems there are rooted in that really fucked up colonialist past. I feel like I need to be prepared to be a conscientious visitor. I’d also maybe like to read a book about cool rocks or something too :).
2.3 See four Australian feature films
Implicit here should be *that I’ve never seen before*. I’m hoping to catch some Australian cinema at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival, in addition to perhaps rewatching some classics I’ve missed. And y’know, also rewatching the 90s triumvirate of Muriel’s Wedding, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Strictly Ballroom.
2.4 Watch four documentaries about Australia
Another area where I’d love some recommendations to start. I also really enjoyed seeing docs in the theater again last year, so maybe I can keep my eyes peeled if any from Down Under come through up here.
2.5 Reach out to four Aussie friends for tips
Much like anyone who has traveled for 15+ years, I’ve met many, many Australians. I used to actually wonder if anyone actually lived there, since the European hostel population seemed to be comprised of Australian nationals. I’ve been lucky enough to stay (or get back) in touch with some of these folks, or met Australian immigrants here in San Francisco. I’d love to set up some coffee, beer, or FaceTime dates with folks this year to pick their brains and learn about favorite spots to visit. Like any good traveler, I know the best recommendations always come from the locals, so let’s chat!
2.6 Book four tours for the trip
I don’t want to overbook myself, as nothing is better than being spontaneous and open when you’re on the road. That said, it’s also exciting to have some cool experiences to look forward to. From nature to art to food, I’m excited to do some research and agonizingly narrow them down.
2.7 Write four updates about trip planning
I feel like making my writing goals more bite-sized and specific, they’ll be easier to achieve. Maybe? I’m hoping this is low-hanging fruit, and hey, maybe you’d be interested in hearing from me on a quarterly basis about how this trip is shaping up.
2.8 Learn & list 40 facts about Australia
See above regarding my lack of knowledge about this place I’ve focusing so much energy into visiting. Who doesn’t love some good trivia?
2.9 Book venue for Return from Oz: Over the Rainbow on January 11, 2020
Yes, I realize this is peak Capricorn to already be planning a party a year in advance. But you only turn 40 once, or twice. After a successful 39 at Pier 39 that had been in the works for five years, I’m down to get some major pieces of my Wizard of Oz-themed birthday extravaganza squared away well in advance.
Pillar 3: Get into (and hold) an unassisted headstand
This year marks 10 years of me having some semblance of a yoga practice. It’s definitely something that has grown through this very project of birthday goal setting. As I prepare to enter my next decade, I think about where I want my practice to be by the end of the next one. Inversions are my white whale, and as such have proved elusive and scary for a long time. I’ve only been upside down with assistance and not quite confident about it. This year I want to build up the strength and courage to get there. Also, my mom got me a B Mat for my birthday and I’m stoked to break it in.
3.1 Attend four general yoga workshops/retreats
Luckily Yoga Garden offers several workshops, I just need to take the time to plan ahead. I do already have Karen Macklin‘s Coming Home retreat at Green Gulch Zen Center on my calendar for next month, which I attended three years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t think a weeklong retreat in an exotic location is in the cards for me this year, but open to local things!
3.2 Attend four inversion workshops
This terrifies me, but I also know that practice does make perfect. Keeping my eyes out for opportunities, and hoping teachers are patient, kind, and have a sense of humor about me falling over, a lot.
3.3 Run 500 Miles
My running and yoga practices compliment each other like peanut butter and chocolate. I didn’t want to set any race goals in order to focus on the headstand thing, but I do want to keep out on the pavement to build strength and burn off frustration of not getting into headstand repeatedly. I ran 500 last year, which was a challenge, but a manageable one. I’d like to do it again.
3.4 Attend 40 gym classes at work
We had a new gym open just before the holiday break and I am in love with it. It’s truly a wonderful benefit that I’m happy to take advantage of. I’ve been doing a great circuit class, but looking forward to mixing it up when the new group fitness program launches this week. I am so productive after taking an hour of my day to go workout. And I know that building strength in these classes will help me get into that headstand!
3.5 Practice at yoga studios in four cities other than San Francisco
I absolutely adore dropping in at other studios when I travel. When it’s work travel it’s also grounding. Every venue has it’s own unique flare and it’s good to get out of my regular routine.
3.6 Watch four talks by yoga teachers
One of the best things to happen to me in the past year was joining a book club that my delightful yoga teacher, Meredith Holt, started to further nourish her community of practitioners. I’ve also been watching from afar the incredible network that my friend Libby Nicholau is building with Setu. These women inspire me in so many ways and remind me that practicing yoga isn’t just about strengthening the body, but also the mind and soul. I want to watch more talks on this aspect of the practice and remind myself that getting upside down isn’t the ultimate goal, just one for the next 360-odd days.
3.7 Read four articles about yoga
For something I practice almost every single day, I’m also woefully ignorant about so much of yoga. I’m not sure if I have the energy for multiple full books on the subject (although , but I think a few longform articles would be good for me to visit this year.
3.8 Do my “yoga homework” 40 times
Some of my favorite teachers have been total hardasses. The kind that push you to the breaking point, but do it with such love and compassion that you remember them for the rest of your life. And they’re also usually really really funny. And they always assign LOTS of homework. My yoga teacher Dustin McCallister falls into this camp. And I’ve been real bad about doing the assignments. But I realize that to achieve something as daunting as a headstand, I need to do it. So I will. After all, I don’t want to be “clomping around like an Eastern European model on her first day on the runway” (a recent Dustinism – it’s really hard to hold a pose when your gut is splitting in half from laughing).
3.9 Write four updates about my progress
Another bite-size writing assignment for me to tackle. If I illustrate the posts maybe I’ll even get some outtake photos for my pal at Mediocre Yoga.
Pillar 4: Submit one piece of writing to a literary publication
“So, are you a writer?” I get it a lot. And I never have a good answer, other than “like all failed writers I work in marketing.” I’m usually the woman alone at the bar with a small notebook and a novel, so I can see how folks could probably get this impression. And I do have a shit ton of notebooks, filled with observations and even some complete paragraphs. Of course I want to do something with them, but cultivating that practice is far scarier than an unassisted headstand. I’ve spent my thirties reading an increasing amount of bad writing and developing angst over never following that path. However, I feel I have far more to say now and a more developed voice, so maybe it’s time to join some good company and give an affirmative answer when I get that inevitable question in my forties. I know publication is a whole thing, so I’m setting my bar low. Just get something written and in the mail. And prepare for rejection.
4.1 Fill four complete notebooks
First step in writing? Write. I need to get better about putting my phone away and keeping my notebook out. I loved being back to my “old self” in Tulum, noting observations on the people around me and small details and facts about the area of Mexico I was traveling through. Again, this is a habit that needs consistency to work, so hopefully this is a modest enough ambition to be attainable.
4.2 Listen to four podcasts about writing
I always find my ears perking up during author interviews on some of my go-to podcasts (Call Your Girlfriend, Design Matters), but I know that there are programs out there that really dig deep on the actual process of writing. If I’m going to become a writer, I should probably start listening to them more.
4.3 Attend four author lectures (non-festival, non-bookstore)
One of my favorite things about San Francisco are our public lecture programs. It’s great to hear authors talk about their approaches to craft and challenges in publishing at sold out events. City Arts & Lectures is truly a favorite activity, the JCCSF occasionally brings in some incredible writers, and I’ve appreciated the addition of the CIIS Series to the scene. I’m already going to Rebecca Traister in a couple of weeks and Lindy West & Samin Nostrat in April, so I guess I’m ahead of the game.
4.4 Complete Reading Bingo
In 2018 I found participating in an online reading challenge moderated by my friend Caroline with a small international group of ambitious bibliophiles was an excellent way to expand my reading selections and shake up my bookshelf. I came so close to completing my board (24/25), with personal finance thwarting me (sorry, but I can’t read any book on money where the author never acknowledges their inherent privilege. If there’s a book on personal finance written by someone who has a killer chili recipe with ingredients costing under $5 because that’s all they could afford to eat in their early twenties, please let me know). This year that board is mine!
4.5 Attend four writing workshops
This completely and totally terrifies me, which means I should probably do it. And it’s just four, so there will be an end to it. But I know that this is a thing I should do to get to the main goal. I need to know how to navigate “the system” and also I need to get feedback on my writing. Eek. I know there’s The Grotto and Litquake offers stuff, but if you have any recommendations please let me know.
4.6 Complete four essays/short stories
Obviously to submit a piece of writing, it’s generally advised to actually create said writing. I’m really good at starting things, but better at abandoning them. I should probably work on that.
4.7 Attend four bookstore author talks
San Francisco has such wonderful independent bookstore gems, many of which host intimate author talks that are generally free of cost. I’d say that this would help goal #1, but I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than five minutes in a bookstore without buying something.
4.8 Attend four Litquake events
Last year I was out of town for all but one day of Litquake, which made me quit sad. I find it so wonderful that San Francisco has a LITERARY festival. I mean, really, that’s amazing. Hopefully by October I’ll be able to attend having actually completed some pieces myself. Or if I haven’t, maybe this will light a fire under my ass.
4.9 Journal for 40 days in a row
My lovely friend Brandi gave me a beautiful new journal for my birthday and I can’t wait to start filling it up. Nightly journaling is always great for me to brain dump all the stuff that doesn’t need to go in my little observation notebooks, or further workout some of the notes that end up in the marginalia of those.
So there ya have it folks, the #40by40. I’d love your feedback and recommendations in the comments! And if anyone wants to adventure with me, let me know.