On my 33rd birthday six years ago, I wrote a post called ‘40 things Before I’m 40‘. It was a list of forty things that I want to do, achieve and experience before I turn forty years old in 2023. I’d originally started the list when I turned thirty but I hadn’t launched my blog at that point so it existed solely in the relative privacy of one of my numerous notebooks for a few years. By the time I finally shared it in my little corner of the internet I’d already ticked off a few items and so it felt like I had a tiny bit of a head start.
I now write a ’40 Things Before I’m 40′ update each year on or around my birthday so I can keep track of how I’m getting on (and keep myself accountable). 2021 was an exception to the rule: no post was written as I hadn’t ticked a single thing off thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This 2022 post – the penultimate update before I hit the milestone birthday – documents my achievements for the year to date as I celebrate thirty-nine trips around the sun. Thirty-nine! I can’t quite wrap my head around that. I still feel like I’m eighteen years old inside (although the rapidly increasing number of worry lines on my forehead probably give the game away that I’m definitely not a teenager any more!).
In the last two years I’ve ticked off two more items from my 40 Things Before I’m 40 list:
- #30 – watch the sunrise and sunset on the longest day of the year
- #13 – explore somewhere in the UK we’ve never been to before
It’s been interesting seeing how my priorities have shifted as I’ve got older and to recognise that it’s perfectly ok to change my mind about things. I know I’m unlikely to complete the rest of the list in the time I have left and that’s ok – I’m not even sure I want to do them all any more anyway. The me I was before would have felt like a failure, now I see it as being true to myself. I’m a different me to who I was when I first wrote this list and growth can show up in the most unexpected of ways – I’m trying to embrace that.
Here is this year’s update…
40 Things Before I’m 40: The List
OWN A KITTEN
(Completed November 2015, age 32 and then again December 2017, age 34)
Six and a half years ago we adopted a feisty little ginger kitten called Pumpkin. He very quickly became part of our family and all of us adored him. He had a purr like a motorbike, a wonky leg and a habit of getting himself into tight spots with the other neighbourhood cats. At the start of November 2017, just two weeks after we got back from our holiday-of-a-lifetime to Florida, Pumpkin went missing. He never stayed out all night so when he didn’t come home one evening we knew something was wrong. We searched everywhere and eventually it transpired that he’d been fatally hit by a car. He was just two years old. Losing him absolutely devastated us. The memory of it still does to be honest.
After several weeks we couldn’t bear the silence or the loneliness any more. Pumpkin had taken up such a big space in our hearts and all of us felt empty without a feline presence in the house. We began to think about adopting another kitten – not to replace him because he was utterly irreplaceable. More as a way of giving us somewhere to focus our love. Within a couple of weeks a litter of four kittens became available through the Cats Protection League and we fell in love with Felix and Luna. They’re now four and a half years old, are completely bonkers and we couldn’t be without them.
2. GET ANOTHER TATTOO
(Work in progress)
I think I’ve pretty much settled on the design and style I want, it just needs refining and finalising. I also know where I want the placement of it to be. Now I just need to get brave enough to actually book an appointment to have it done!
3. START WRITING A BOOK
4. GO TO NEW YORK CITY OR CALIFORNIA
5. EMBRACE MY NATURAL CURLS
(Completed June 2014, age 31)
Neil and I celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary in June this year (and eighteen years of being together in August!). I honestly can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. We don’t really do much to celebrate our anniversaries, though we’ve already decided we want to do something special for our ten year wedding anniversary. In a way I’m glad we did it the ‘wrong way round’ and got married after we had our girls – I loved that they could be a part of our day and they still talk about it now.
7. LEARN TO DANCE
START A FAMILY BLOG
(Completed March 2016, age 32)
I’ve been blogging now for over six years and simply can’t imagine not doing it. It’s become an integral part of my everyday life and I’m continuing to work hard to be able to turn it into a viable career path by working with travel and lifestyle brands. I’m still enjoy immersing myself in all the new things there are to learn about the business and I feel like I’m slowly building up a little community of online friends. I absolutely couldn’t do it without Neil and the girls, my biggest supporters. I am forever grateful to them for putting up with my crazy requests, letting me shove a camera in their faces without warning and spending hours glued to my laptop and/or phone. I’m excited to see how it hopefully continues to grow over the next few years.
RE-READ ALL OF THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS
(Completed July 2018, age 35)
It may have taken me almost eighteen months in total, but I did it! I thoroughly enjoyed re-immersing myself in all of the Harry Potter books: there were hundreds of little details that I had forgotten about and it almost felt like I was reading them for the first time. They’re so full of messages that I want my girls to know – things like loyalty and bravery and friendship, standing up for what you believe in and finding the light in the dark, and family. And of course Dumbledore’s infinite wisdom is inherently present and woven through every story. They’re wonderful. I wrote this post documenting my thoughts about it all and then finished off the experience properly by taking the girls to the Warner Bros Studio Tour in August 2018 for our ‘big summer day trip’, which we all absolutely loved.
10. EMBRACE MY INNER HIPPIE
(Work in progress, started 2019)
I dabbled with all sorts of ‘hippie’ things when I was a teenager – astrology, beads and braids in my hair, a belly ring – and then at some point I stopped in favour of trying to get in with the cool crowd at high school and college. It’s taken me about 20 years but I’m finally starting to find my way back to that version of me, the one who I feel is the real me, the one I’ve buried underneath ‘boring and sensible’ ever since.
I have a deep love of hippie shops – I always used to be drawn to them on holidays in Spain and would spend hours browsing them. Night markets too – I just love all the trinkets. There is a hippie shop in Bude – ‘Wildwood’ – which I adore losing myself in every time we visit Cornwall. It’s full of dreamcatchers and silver jewellery and colourful glass and I always have to buy something from there whenever we go.
I’m very slowly and tentatively incorporating elements of this part of me back into my life: I’ve started wearing rings again; I fell in love with the henna tattoo I got at a festival a few years ago; I’ve begun using essential oils for our family wellness and in our home, and I want to learn more about Enneagrams, tarot cards, moon phases and more. It feels good to be re-discovering this side of myself.
11. LEARN HOW TO PUT ON EYELINER
12. CREATE A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN
EXPLORE SOMEWHERE IN THE UK WE’VE NEVER BEEN TO BEFORE
(Completed May/June 2021, age 38)
We were lucky enough to be offered a three-night gifted stay at Cameron Lodges on the shores of Loch Lomond in western Scotland and we decided to extend our adventure into a week-long half term road trip and explore Edinburgh first as well.
I’ve been wanting to visit Scotland for the longest time so to finally have the opportunity to travel there as a family was very exciting. I loved Edinburgh and even though we were there for four whole days and we packed a lot in, it felt like we barely scratched the surface of what this gorgeous city had to offer. We scaled Calton Hill and admired the spectacular 360 degree views, joined in a Harry Potter tour, meandered down quintessential Circus Lane, played on a haar-covered Portobello Beach, fell in love with the Royal Botanic Gardens, and explored as much of the beautiful Old Town as we could.
We didn’t get the chance to visit Edinburgh Castle, be amazed at Camera Obscura, wander around Dean Village or climb Arthur’s Seat though – those are on our list for next time because we will be back for sure.
From Edinburgh we drove across to the west. Our time at Loch Lomond was like being in a whole other world – a real contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city. It was peaceful and tranquil, remote and wildly beautiful. We played adventure golf, hired bikes and discovered a magical faerie trail in nearby village of Luss. There was so much to do at Cameron Lodges site itself as well, we could easily have stayed for a week and done something different every day.
Travelling to new places is something I really, really love to do. There are so many incredible locations in the UK that I’ve never been to before and exploring a small part of Scotland has definitely given me the itch to discover more of what other hidden gems our island contains.
14. SWIM IN THE SEA
15. GO TO PARIS FOR A LONG WEEKEND
16. TAKE THE GIRLS TO DISNEY IN FLORIDA
(Completed October 2017, age 34)
I didn’t go to Disney as a child, though I loved listening to the stories my best friend told me about her trips to Florida. I knew without a doubt that when I had children of my own I would take them there – I wanted them to experience the magic she told me about. The husband and I spent many hours talking about when might be the ‘right’ time to go – we wanted the girls to be old enough to be able to remember the trip and at the same time we wanted to make sure they were young enough to still believe in the magic, at least a little bit. We spent years and years saving up (for a family of six it’s a huge, albeit totally worthwhile, expense) and eventually travelled there in 2017 when the girls were 10, 9 and 7 years old. We managed to keep it secret for nine whole months, eventually telling the girls about the surprise a month before we were due to fly. The video of the moment they found out is below.
Of course we had an absolutely fantastic time! The Disney magic is real. It was hard work – keeping six people with very different wants & needs happy, with jet lag, heat and overexcitement added into the mix is quite tricky – but despite the inevitable challenges we loved every second of it. We made so many memories, reconnected in the way we hoped we would and had a lot of fun. We’re already planning (and saving up for) a return trip so that we can see all the areas of the parks that we missed first time round, visit Universal Studios and explore what else the Sunshine State has to offer. Of course I took hundreds of photos and had so much to write about that I ended up writing five posts in total: Part One (Magic Kingdom), Part Two (Epcot), Part Three (Celebration), Part Four (Hollywood Studios) and Part Five (Animal Kingdom). I also created a vlog of our time there which I absolutely love watching and so do the girls (see below).
17. HAVE A LOVE-BOMBING DAY WITH EACH OF THE GIRLS
(Work in progress, started November 2018)
In November 2018, when Ella was at high school and Mimi & Lola were still at their primary school, I took advantage of the two schools having different inset days, cleared my diary of all work and obligations and gave Ella a ‘Yes Day’. We had six whole hours together and I told her that she could choose to do whatever she wanted and I would say yes to it (within realistic time and monetary boundaries).
I had no idea what she would choose to do and, considering she could have asked for us to do absolutely anything at all, she decided, quite modestly, on tea & cake at her favourite local café followed by shopping for clothes and then an afternoon snuggling on the sofa watching her favourite YouTube videos together. They were such simple requests but they made her really happy and we spent a lovely day together chatting and laughing and cuddling.
I forget sometimes just how much one-to-one attention can fill them up and make them feel so very loved. I still need to create space to do it with Mimi and Lola at some point over the next few months too, though it’s harder now that they’re all at the same high school. We’ll make it happen somehow!
18. UPCYCLE A PIECE OF FURNITURE
MEET A CELEBRITY
(Completed October 2016, age 33)
For five years (up until the end of 2017) I worked in Harley Street in London and I used to quite regularly see celebrities wandering around the streets: Fearne Cotton, Emma Willis, Russell Howard and Peter Andre are the ones that spring to mind. I was nowhere near brave enough to actually approach them and ask for a selfie though! Besides, I wanted this particular item on the list to be a meaningful one so I’m really happy that I managed to fulfil that requirement.
Meeting Cheryl Strayed and getting my book signed after a talk she gave in London was very poignant for me. I love her book ‘Wild’ (and, unusually, the film adaptation too – I normally dislike films based on books but Reese Witherspoon did such a fantastic job of portraying her that it was impossible to do anything other than love it) and have since read several more of her books too – they’re all brilliant. I still think about the conversation I had with her even now, six years on from our encounter.
20. TRAVEL SOLO
TAKE SOME ONLINE PHOTOGRAPHY CLASSES
(Completed June 2019, age 36)
There are some absolutely incredible photography communities in the world. My firm favourites are Click Community, Hello Storyteller, Unraveled Academy and Phlock. They each offer online courses designed to teach new skills, improve current ones and help you progress in your photographic journey whether it’s a full time career or a passionate hobby.
There are many courses that I would like to take within all four communities (I have a long list that’s growing week by week!) so in June 2019 I took the plunge and signed up for Angie Mahlke’s ‘Minutiae: Documenting The Details’ class through Hello Storyteller. I can’t even begin to explain how much I learnt and the difference it has made to my photography since then – I loved it.
The following month, July 2019, I joined in with Click Community Annual Summer Photo Hunt which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve taken part every year since as well. It’s not an online course as such but I really felt my photography improved as the month progressed and I definitely grew as a photographer as I figured out creative ways to interpret the prompts. My husband then fulfilled my Christmas wish and bought me three Click Community breakout courses for Christmas that I still have lined up to do – I can’t wait to dive into them.
22. PROPER SPA DAY
CLIMB A TREE
(Completed September 2016, age 33)
This happened completely spontaneously when we discovered some very climb-able trees whilst out exploring a new-to-us walking route. It was super fun (and challenging) and now every time we go for a walk down the canal we have to visit the ‘Ladder Tree’ and climb up as high as we can go.
JOIN A YOGA CLASS
(Completed October 2015, age 32)
I started going to a yoga class in October 2015, six months after my Dad died. I wrote this post about my journey and the difference it made to me after I’d been doing it for a year. For three and a half years I attended every week without fail (apart from a sick child or if we were on holiday). Yoga became one of my few ‘non-negotiables’ and I felt better physically, mentally and emotionally for having a regular practice.
In early 2019 we had a fire at our house and whilst all the renovation and refurbishment works were going on I had to be at home to supervise the contractors. This meant I couldn’t go to yoga for months and then what with moving house quickly followed by the two-year long Covid-19 pandemic, sadly I’ve not picked it back up again (yet). I’m absolutely determined to get back on my mat and start practising again properly.
26. RIDE ON THE BACK OF A MOTORBIKE
27. BE A TOURIST IN LONDON
(Completed December 2019, age 36)
We put our house on the market at the end of April 2019 and, after months of stress and uncertainty, finally moved into our new home just two weeks before Christmas 2019.
We’d lived in our old house for eleven years (almost exactly to the day!) and it held so very many memories for us – both good and bad – and it was time to move on. Those four walls had seen multitudes of joy, grief, laughter, tears, hope, frustration, trauma, triumph, happiness and love and I was sad to leave it.
We’ve now been in our new-to-us house for two and a half years and it’s gone in the blink of an eye. The pandemic hit full-force just three months after we moved in so up until now we’ve not been able to do much to make it feel properly like ours. Now that things are returning more to normal we’ve been able to have a decorator in to paint everything as well as an electrician to sort out some ‘interesting’ lighting and wiring configurations. The girls are slowly personalising their bedrooms and I have a long list of projects (the kitchen, the bathrooms, the lounge, the garden!) that I want to get started on. Finances and time mean we can’t do it all at once and it’s hard being patient – I know it will be worth it in the end though.
29. DO AN OPEN UNIVERSITY DEGREE
WATCH THE SUNRISE AND SUNSET ON THE LONGEST DAY OF THE YEAR
(Completed June 2020, age 37)
I have long been a lover (and chaser) of sunrises and sunsets – ever since I went travelling in 2003 – and it’s been a desire of mine to watch them both on the Summer Solstice for many years now. My wish came true in 2020, during the first long lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course I’d hoped I’d be somewhere a lot more exotic to witness them but actually, it turns out, home was the perfect place to be.
I’ve written more about my connection to sunrises & sunsets and what they mean to me in this post here.
31. RAISE £1000 FOR CHARITY
GO TO A GIG
(Completed July 2016, March 2017, May 2019 and June 2022, ages 33 to 39)
The husband and I saw James Bay perform in the beautiful outdoor setting of Cannock Chase Forest in the summer of 2016 and what an experience that was! Watching the sunset as he played was incredible and we were so lucky with the weather. We then went to see Olly Murs perform in Birmingham in March 2017 and it was such a great show that we saw him again in May 2019 on his ‘I Know You Know’ tour.
This month we went to see Ed Sheeran in Manchester for his +x/= tour and he was absolutely amazing. I’ve loved his music right from the very start of his career so it was a bit of a dream come true moment for me. It was so good to see live music again after the pandemic put a stop to every single event. All four gigs were absolutely brilliant in completely different ways and I now have a long wish list of artists I would love to see play.
33. HAVE A BOUDOIR PHOTOSHOOT DONE
34. GET MY EARS PIERCED AGAIN
TAKE THE GIRLS TO A FESTIVAL
(Completed August 2019, age 36)
The last festival I went to was V Festival all the way back in 2005. I can’t believe that was seventeen years ago! Neil and I had been together for about a year and we had a good time soaking up the music and the atmosphere. After we had the girls I started looking into family friendly festivals that we could take them to so that they could experience the festival vibe too. Just So Festival (Cheshire), Elderflower Fields Festival (Sussex), Timber Festival (Derbyshire) and Camp Bestival (Dorset) all looked like fantastic options, but somehow we could never make the dates work.
Then in 2019 Sunshine Festival in Worcestershire got in touch with us and kindly offered us a family ticket for the August Bank Holiday weekend. We went on the Sunday and had a fantastic time. The girls loved the music, the atmosphere, the circus and (of course) the ice cream and we even had the unexpected bonus of hot, sunny weather too. You can read our review of Sunshine Festival here.
36. DO A COLOUR RUN
37. GO PAINTBALLING
38. DO ‘GO-APE’
39. TAKE A 3-MONTH SABBATICAL FROM WORK
(Work in progress. Sort of.)
I’m planning on taking a month off from seeing therapy clients in the imminent future. I will be doing some other work during that time but mostly it’s to allow me to focus on some other important things that really need my attention right now and so that I can begin to intentionally transition my career (and my life) in a different direction. I may decide to extend it, I may not – it depends on how that month goes. It’s a start though, and it’s significant.
40. HAVE MY 40th BIRTHDAY SOMEWHERE TROPICAL
This one is likely to be postponed for a few months as my birthday falls right in the middle of when Ella will be sitting her GCSE exams and we won’t be able to travel anywhere. I’m ok with that, I know it’ll happen eventually. All I need to do is decide where I want to go!
So there you have it… fourteen items ticked off, four are a work in progress and I have twenty-two still to get started on.
I am fully aware that many of the twenty-two remaining goals probably won’t happen, despite my best intentions and efforts. The travel ones to New York / California and Paris in particular are pretty much ruled out for now. Being tied to school holidays; exam and revision schedules; wanting weather decent enough to be able to explore new places; plus ever increasing flight and petrol prices all have a significant influence on what we’re able to do. The pandemic and not being able to travel abroad for two years had a huge impact and I’m pretty sure those would likely have been ticked off by now if we’d been able to travel. They’ll likely get transferred onto the next list – 50 things before I’m 50!
I would quite like to have ticked off at least half of the list by my birthday next year (ie: 20 things) which means I have six more to complete in the next
twelve eleven months. I have an idea of which ones they might be but I’m not going to jinx it by predicting them – I’ll let things unfold and see what happens.
It still blows my mind more than a little bit to realise that when I turn forty next year my stepdaughter will be 21 and be finishing her degree at university, my eldest daughter will be 16 and in the middle of her GCSEs, my middle daughter will be 14 (very nearly 15) and my littlest girl will be 13 years old! It’s true what they say – the days are long but the years really are incredibly short.
Here’s to making the final year of my thirties as memorable as they can possibly be!