Friday, February 15, 2013

On Turning 40

I turn 40 tomorrow today, so I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on the past decade.

A couple of weeks ago, I went through an exercise where I tried to list out the most life-defining things that happened -- for better and worse. I’m not saying that is the best way to think about it -- it puts too much weight on the singular happenings and not enough on mundane day-to-day enjoyment of life. Still, it makes the past 10 years more tangible.

Obviously, there are big “life” things like getting married, having kids, my siblings having kids, buying/selling a house, major surgeries, etc.

Then there are the professional things: I was already a month into the Quickie when I turned 30, so I didn’t count that. But I did count the run itself and all the fun things that I got access to because of it -- going on TV, spinning off this blog, getting to write elsewhere (remember when I spent that season as Deadspin’s college football columnist?) Joining a high-flying start-up. Starting my own company, obviously, then seeing it through its acquisition.

(Did meeting Tim Tebow make the list? What do you think?)

The one thing I found hardest to qualify was the dramatic shift in who I was friends with from 30 til 40. 2003 was pre-blog (let alone pre-social media) and almost all of my friends came from a pool of college, business school and work colleagues. Ten years later, I interact way more often with a far broader set of people, almost entirely virtually -- that’s not for everyone, but I have found it richly rewarding, especially given that a family puts strains on your time.

The other piece of this list was an exercise related to “What I Wish I Had Gotten Accomplished But Didn’t.” I will guarantee you that things like “Write a book” or “Run NYC marathon” were on my list heading into my 30s and, despite that, remain there today. (Although it was interesting to see what kind of proxies I came up with over my 30s -- for example, I actually wrote three separate formal book proposals over the decade and I jumped into the Chicago Marathon to run alongside my sister for 10 miles.)

The two  affirming things about the “Didn’t get done” list are that (1) it's a pretty short list, which I think is a good sign, and (2) it’s not like it ruined my past decade to not get it done. Meanwhile, virtually everything on the list (from the practical to the largely fantastical) is still doable. And if everything in life demands some trade-offs, I’ll take where I am right now over any other options I could have had.

I still remember entering my 30s and how excited I was for it, because it meant that instead of being past my prime for my 20s, I was a fresh thirtysomething, with a whole decade ahead of me to accomplish things that might matter to me. (Clearly, on the day before my 30th birthday, I had zero conception of the joy of having one kid, let alone three.)

Now that I am about to enter my 40s -- and what I honestly think will be my best decade yet -- it is with a way different frame of reference than 10 years ago: Wildly different priorities (family/kids first, obviously) and a greater appreciation for the process over the outcome, but with no less of a zest to be in the middle of things that are interesting to me than any 30-something or 20-something version of me.

The last decade has been wonderful and I have been extraordinarily lucky, on almost every front. It’s not the worst thing in the world to hope the next 10 years bring just as much happiness with my life as the last 10 years just did.

-- D.S.

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