Monday, January 26, 2009

40 under 40

Saturday, and it's your 40th. You wake up to breakfast in bed, and two kids who think that birthdays are the coolest. thing. ever.

You don't mind the thought of being 40. In fact, you -- the wiser, more relaxed, more experienced you -- are actually looking forward to it.

(Oprah claims she hit her stride when she reached 40.)

(Which is all the more reason to jump in with both feet. Right?)

You're not much of a list maker, but at this junction, maybe a little shorthand recollection is a good idea. Like a mental measuring stick. Or a protractor. But not the metal kind, like you buy at Staples. The kind you're thinking of is the one you made with your hand, as a kid. You know, where you planted your thumb on the anchor point, then used your index finger to estimate your calculation.

This list is like your hand protractor: Start right... there. No -- over just a bit. There! Put your thumb right there. Perfect. That's your starting point. Now, hold your thumb steady and with your index finger, draw an invisible circle, as far around as you can make it go. That's right. Inside that invisible circle? That's what you've done, as well as what you've left undone. And from here, you can begin to plot out the next 40.

Here goes.

In your first 40 years...

1) you married one man
2) had two children, two businesses
3) and three mortgages
4) you closed one of the businesses after reaching your financial goal
5) you found an investor for the other business to help take it to the next level
6) just before Lehman Bros. collapsed, forcing you to put fast-track growth plans on hold
7) you did not go to kindergarten
8) except for that first day, when you decided that you'd rather stay at home and play with your little brother
9) but did eventually attend 10 different schools by the time you graduated high school
10) you grew up in a military family (hence number nine, above)
11) with five brothers
12) and three sisters
13) lived on Guam (number 10, above)
14) as well as in Oxford, England -- your choice
15) visited 28 or so states, at last count
16) and traveled abroad to Poland
17) and Portugal
18) and were asked to go to Paris to serve as editor-in-chief for an American youth magazine, an offer you declined because you were in love (see number one, above)
19) you played bass in two bands
20) wrote six screenplays
21) one of which has been optioned three times
22) two of which were developed by the A-list prod. co. responsible for Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You, among others
23) published articles in magazines and newspapers, and on the Internet
24) have been featured in Writer's Market -- a New York Times annual bestseller for aspiring writers
25) the same publication you have used since forever to pitch articles (see number 23, above)
26) you began writing your first novel, which you hope to pitch this spring
27) corresponded with Elie Wiesel on the subject of your novel, before it was a novel
28) wrote a two-act stage play
29) and helped to launch four grade school musicals
30) with the fifth one on its way
31) you studied to be a Third Order Dominican
32) before becoming completely disillusioned with organized religion
33) which actually strengthened your faith
34) you buried father-in-law
35) and, 14 years later, your mother-in-law, though not with your own hands
36) you started a chapter of Amnesty International in high school
37) and are still an active campaigner
38) you also stood out in the snow with your husband and two small children to protest, pre-invasion, the Iraq war
39) worked with Bobby Shriver
40) and cried like a baby when Barack Obama won the presidential election (!)

Okay, so. Fair enough. A good start. But it's nowhere near what you want to accomplish before you die.

Time to roll up the sleeves and get to work. Because you're expecting big things from the next 40 list, the 40 Over 40.

Tick, tock.
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