On My 31st Birthday: A 40 Before 40 Check-In

As you get older, time passes more quickly.

I remember the boring terror of an hour spent waiting for friends to finish their chores as a child. How long car rides seemed to take, even when only a few miles or to run a few errands with my mom. How the moments would barely slip by at the end of a standardized test or exam in High School. When I was younger, time seemed to move much more slowly.

Now, almost without noticing, it’s possible that days, weeks, and months pass in what feels like moments. Sometimes, I feel my head break the surface of time, and I look around: I’m surprised it’s now August, and we’re relocating from Seattle to San Francisco. It’s suddenly the holidays, and the stress from my new job is starting to wear deeply on me in the darkness of winter. And equally startling, it’s now April, and my birthday is upon me again.

I’ve now had 31 birthdays, and each one comes sooner — and passes more quickly.

My supermodel pose at the Color Factory in January.

A 40 Before 40 Check-In

As you might remember, I set 40 goals on my 30th birthday last year. It is my intention to complete these goals before my 40th birthday; that suddenly feels a close nine years away.

In this first year, I posited that I would complete the following goals:

  • Learn to surf
  • Go parasailing
  • Finish writing and publish my Freelance Writing Challenge book
  • Go zip lining in Costa Rica
  • Join a professional association as a travel writer
  • Get my Kokopelli tattoo redrawn
  • Learn to throw pottery

I estimated it would cost me $1100 to do these goals in total, but didn’t account for a funny thing called life, which tends to get in the way of the best-laid plans. I did, however, accomplish a few of these goals:

Join a Professional Association as a Travel Writer

It took me until July to complete the first goal on my list when I signed up and was approved as a member of the Society for American Travel Writers.

40 Before 40 - SATW Application

I had waited to join SATW (what I consider the best of several travel writing associations) because I wanted to qualify for my freelance writing work. By mid-year, I had enough good bylines at high-quality publications that I accepted within just a few days of my application.

☑ Join a Professional Association as a Travel Writer – July 1, 2017

Learn to Surf

Despite the shit that some random person gave me on my list a few months ago, I do count a few surfing lessons as “Learning to Surf” — but no, I’m not a world-class surfer, reader-who-came-on-my-blog-just-to-be-negative. Let’s call her Nancy because she was negative and decided that her job was to police my life and tell me I’m a failure. 👎

Yes, that is me standing on the board. Yes, that is me smiling after getting clobbered by the board when a big wave knocked me on my ass. Suck it, Nancy.

40 Before 40 - Surfing 3

I took two surfing lessons this year: one in Bolinas, CA with the Go Overseas team and taught by a dude named Coach Donk, the other in Huntington Beach as part of Mr. V’s birthday weekend trip.

I stood up more than one, I even caught the wave a couple times. I might even say I really liked surfing, and I would definitely try it again.

Suck. It. Nancy.

Also, Psych gifs are great.

☑ Learn to Surf – August 10, 2017

Learn to Throw Pottery

Ah, dear Nancy. She just couldn’t let me have a win. She also insisted that I didn’t know shit about pottery because I guess “learning” is not the same thing as “trying” and all I had done was “try” to throw pottery.

Whatever, I didn’t exactly “throw” pottery, but I did learn how to make a mess with clay and water and also an egg cup, a sake set, a small jewelry dish, and a random plate and/or weirdly thick coaster. Clearly I “learned” nothing.

(For what it’s worth, I blocked Nancy for these comments. One big rule of my 30s is that I don’t have time for anyone else’s negative ‘tude about my life.)

☑ Learn to Throw Pottery – August 18, 2017

Learn Beekeeping

Luckily Nancy doesn’t seem to have noticed this particular goal on my list, because she didn’t call it out specifically. Beekeeping was also not on the specific goals I thought I’d accomplish this first year, but as I was busy learning all kinds of other things, it just made sense to give beekeeping its fair time too.

Ya know what though, it’s true. I didn’t learn all about beekeeping. I couldn’t exactly go out to your neighborhood hive and tend the bees and scrape the honey and all that. But I did go learn more about bees and beekeeping at SF Honey & Pollen Co. I have a much greater appreciation for bees, and when I have my own property, I firmly intend to have bees on the property. 🐝

☑ Learn Beekeeping – November 4, 2017

Remaining 40 Before 40 Goals

As evidenced by the four goals I just listed, that means I obviously still have goals to complete – including some of the goals I thought I would accomplish this year. I’ve made these goals bold and moved them to the top of the list.

  1. Go parasailing
  2. Finish writing and publish my Freelance Writing Challenge book
  3. Go zip lining in Costa Rica
  4. Get my Kokopelli tattoo redrawn
  5. Set two feet firmly on Antarctica
  6. Scuba at the Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
  7. Visit the Taj Mahal (India)
  8. Learn to play the bagpipes
  9. See a crop circle
  10. See the Triple Crown in a single year (USA)
  11. Swim in all five Great Lakes (USA)
  12. Produce a byline feature in a global travel print publication
  13. Produce a cover story for a print publication
  14. Scuba between tectonic plates in Iceland
  15. Visit New Zealand
  16. Visit South Africa
  17. See the Pyramids (Egypt)
  18. Walk along the Camino de Santiago (Spain)
  19. Ride in a gondola in Venice (Italy)
  20. Experience ‘zero gravity’
  21. Ride in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia (Turkey)
  22. Go on an African safari
  23. Fly a transoceanic flight in first class
  24. See the cherry blossoms bloom in Japan
  25. Get my child(ren) their first passport(s)
  26. Swim with dolphins
  27. Dine at Canlis (the nicest restaurant in Seattle)
  28. Travel every calendar day of the year
  29. See the Nazca Lines (Peru)
  30. Travel back to Jordan, stay in a Martian Dome, and properly see Petra
  31. See a lava flow (or the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan)
  32. Attend both my high school (2025) and college reunions (2019)
  33. Cross the equator
  34. Fill my passport before it expires (2024!)
  35. Introduce Mr. Valise here on the blog
  36. Write the final post in this series, on this blog on my 40th birthday.

To be honest, some of the goals I wanted to accomplish this year didn’t happen because I took a full-time job that prevented me from traveling and working on my personal projects as much as I want to. I struggle with that tension regularly between pursuing my passion and working for a great company that has given me massive opportunities.

At the same time, I was able to accomplish a different goal; when I set my yearly goals, I don’t intend to accomplish them all. It just helps me focus my energy for the year. If I see an opportunity to accomplish a different goal, I’m gonna take it! Hopefully, by the end of 10 years, they’ll all be done – or close!

My 40 Before 40 Goals for Year 2 (31-32 Years Old)

For the coming year, here’s a shortlist of the goals I’d like to accomplish:

  1. Go parasailing
  2. Get my Kokopelli tattoo redrawn
  3. Learn to play the bagpipes
  4. Visit South Africa
  5. Go on an African safari
  6. Swim with dolphins
  7. Cross the equator

The good news is that several of these goals should happen on one trip in September when I’ll be traveling to Southern Africa (South Africa & Mozambique) for work. It will be my first trip across the equator, and I’m planning to extend my trip a few days to do a safari because I’ll already be in the region. Part of my work will involve scuba diving so I might actually get to swim with dolphins on that trip too!

The other goals on the list are ones I hope I can kinda tack-on or accomplish even if not all of these happen (or even if they all do!).

I’m also seeing that some skills I pick up this year (scuba in particular) will really help other goals on the list.

After this year, the goals I’ve set get increasingly expensive and time-consuming, so I’m going to have to work hard to knock a bunch of goals off this year and next year and reduce the total number of goals I’m trying to accomplish in the rest of this decade!

Happy birthday to me! 🎉

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