Hello dear humans!
I’m writing to you from an adorable, bright yellow apartment in the heart of Reykjavik, Iceland, the first stop on a bucket list trip I’m taking with my mother. Tomorrow, Paris.
Today is my birthday. I’m 42.
This morning, my mom gave me a birthday card with some photos in it. Turns out, 24 years ago, when my mother turned 42, we were travelling together in Thailand.
And sure enough, there were photos of her looking very much my age, and a photo of me, at 18, in a strapless bikini top covered in marijuana leaves.
I remember sewing that bathing suit, feeling very cool and rebellious. I also remember hating my boobs at the time. And let’s be honest, everything about my body. As my mother and I looked through the photos I said “Well look at how my boobs just held up there in that strapless bikini!”
Time offers perspective. Back in my 20s, when I owned a hair salon and worked as a stylist, women in decades beyond mine would very often say “I wish I knew what I know now when I was your age.”
And I’d say “Go on, what do you know now? Maybe I can integrate it!” And they’d share their wisdom and perspectives. The most consistent theme is they wished they’d appreciated certain things about their youth, and their body, knowing what a waste of energy it had been to be so critical of themselves.
That was something I really took to heart. Despite being raised by the media, living with an eating disorder through my teens and having every opportunity to justifiably hate my body against the backdrop of cultural objectification, most of my adult life, I have taken time to appreciate my body for what it is, for what it offers, rejecting the endless onslaught of self-scrutiny and need to perfect it. That’s been very diligent, but worthwhile work.
So when I look back at this photo of my 18-year-old self, and recall the ways I hated myself, I can also appreciate the ways I learned, shortly thereafter, to love and celebrate myself. And now that I am in my 40s, with new sparkling gray hair popping up daily, boobs doing what middle-aged boobs do, and hands that shock and disturb me to look at (why, oh why do these look like how I remember my grandmother’s hands???) I get to do this work of acceptance and appreciation at a new level. And, how lucky I feel to travel and share these experiences with my mother, now in her mid-sixties.
I didn’t come to this page to riff on this body love theme, but there it is.
I came to this page to ask for a birthday gift from you. Want to know what would delight me on my birthday? Read on!
You see, I’ve been reflecting on what I would say to my younger self, what advice I would give. And it is this: as it gets harder to take risks, keep taking them.
I’m sure many younger folks shy away from taking risks and stay squarely in their comfort zones. I wasn’t one of them. I went for things in a way my middle-aged self is in awe of.
Maybe it’s more about taking cues from my younger self. Giving advice to my older self. Some kind of inter-decade wisdom travelling between my Selves. Something like this:
As you take on more and more responsibilities, as you feel like time is getting on, maybe feeling scarcer, the stakes are going to feel higher. You’re going to want to make well-thought-through and reasonable decisions and before you know it, you’ll play to your comforts instead of the possibilities on the other side of risk.
You’ll lean into your zones of excellence and competence to avoid looking the fool or spending your precious energy on something that might fail. You’ll want to bank on a sure thing. And THAT will be more exhausting and disheartening than you could have anticipated.
Like a frog sitting in slowly boiling water, I hadn’t realized I was doing this. Until I hit 40, hit a wall of burn out and was like – I’ve got to have a little more fun here. So I have been. It’s included trying a lot of new things, taking risks, going for new dreams and playing in a field of possibility.
So here’s what I want for my birthday. To inspire you to take worthwhile risks that make you come alive.
Here’s a list of possibilities- see if one pokes at something within you.
Make that phone call. Sign up for that class. Tell the truth. Ask for what you want. Get sober. Write the book. Start the venture. Delete the app. Book the tickets. Do that thing you keep saying you’ll do next week. Reach out for help. Pitch yourself. Hang your shingle. Start a podcast or blog or video series. Be seen. Open your heart. Quit that thing. Forgive that person! Let that shit go. Do a cold plunge. Set a new goal. Slow it all down. Get uncomfortable. Do something that scares you. Stay with that task until it’s done.
Will you pick something? What’s ONE THING that’s out of your comfort zone? You don’t get points for it being bigger. Risk of any size is risk. This is your permission slip to go for it.
Will you hit reply and tell me when you’ve taken the first step? Tell me how it feels.
I won’t respond right away, because I’m going on a guided tour! (I don’t know what’s happening, my mom has planned everything – thanks Mom!)
But here’s the dream…if enough of you play, go take risks, and share what you risked and how it went, not only will I feel celebrated on my birthday and encouraged to do the same. And perhaps I can pull together a future post of inspiring risks and chances you all are taking out there! (Don’t worry, I respect your privacy and won’t share anyone’s identity without your consent.)
Go take a risk! Make a ruckus! Happy birthday to me! Happy risk-taking to you!
With Love from Iceland,