40 things I did before I turned 40

(c) FreeFoto.comA year or so ago, I stumbled across a magazine article about a woman who had created an ambitious list of 40 things she wanted to do before she was 40. She had spent a large amount of time and money working her way through her list, and the article was about her experiences doing it.

I was inspired. I got out my notepad and jotted down some things I wanted to do before my milestone birthday. Friends and family enthusiastically added ideas. They were all fabulous, exciting and life-affirming and I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into them.

There were easy, inexpensive items on the list, such as staying up all night and watching the sun rise over the South Downs; more time-hungry items like training for the London to Brighton bike ride; and wonderful yet expensive items like seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. Problem was, I was rapidly approaching 39 at the time, and I had limited time and funds. It was highly unlikely that I’d succeed with my goal.

Realising that I’d already done quite a number of the things that some people had suggested, I decided to apply the ‘got-done’ list principle to my life so far and identify 40 awesome things I’d already done by the time I turned 40. Not only did this relieve the pressure of a bucket list with an extreme deadline, it was a real treat to look back on all the amazing things that I’ve done in my life so far. Now I’m 40, I’ve got a gorgeous ‘to-do’ list for the rest of my life, and a ‘got-done’ list I’m very proud of.

And here it is. In no particular order, these are some of the fantastic things I’ve done with the four decades I’ve been on Planet Earth:

  1. Meeting, getting married to and sticking with the right guy.
  2. Having our daughters, Emika and Trinity.
  3. Running the London marathon in 2010.
  4. Inter railing around Europe when I was 21.
  5. Drinking cocktails with the mafia. An extremely surreal evening indeed.
  6. Completing the 5 peak trail in Bavaria. Huge achievement. I’ll blog about it soon.
  7. Abseiling despite my immense fear.
  8. Getting a tattoo – still being able to shock my parents despite being respectably married and a mum!
  9. Having a non-religious religious experience, which has made me see the world completely differently ever since.
  10. Doing the Aldermarston to London CND march.
  11. Midnight mass at St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Magical.
  12. Singing jazz with a live band in a bar in St Petersburg.
  13. Becoming a coach and running my own business for over a decade
  14. Being an MNC manager
  15. Doing an improv comedy course with The Maydays and putting on a performance at the end – possibly one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life.
  16. Writing a ‘Woman In Business’ column for the Herald and Gazette series of papers
  17. Being photographed and interviewed for a glossy magazine spread.
  18. Snogging in the middle of a fountain. In Nancy, France. In April.
  19. Pretending to be Russian in front of a Russian military guard at Lenin’s tomb and getting away with it (it was a trillion times cheaper and I was egged on by my Russian friend).
  20. Going to college and getting a degree (BA(Hons) English with Philosophy 2:1, as you ask)
  21. Working for short stints at Vogue, Harpers &Queen, Elle & Cosmopolitan magazines
  22. Going from ‘Jabba’ to marathon runner – losing my low self-esteem along with five stone.
  23. Being given flowers by a stranger who saw me on his way to work every day and thought I was beautiful.
  24. Receiving a letter from Norman Fowler, MP, asking me to please stop sending him so many protest letters and begging me to agree to disagree (many, many trees had given their lives to my angry political letters – indeed, my column for YCND mag had been called ‘Norman Fowler Is My Penpal’…)
  25. Going on a falconry day, including handling a Red Kite and hunting with Harris Hawks. A dream come true.
  26. Learning to ride a bike at 36, and being thrilled at my new freedom from the car.
  27. Having a mindblowing holiday romance in Denmark (before I got married, obvs…)
  28. Watching a spectacular thunderstorm whilst suspended from a cable car halfway up a mountain in Switzerland.
  29. The uber-cool fashion editor at Harpers &Queen copying my hair colour.
  30. Moving to France to teach English – a huge risk and way out of my comfort zone at the time – found me a husband though!
  31. Driving on the wrong side the whole length of a French high street – and not killing myself or anyone else in the process
  32. Motivational speaking to various groups – people coming up to me and telling me how much they’d been inspired
  33. Making and retaining a multitude of amazing friends who I’m pleased as punch to share this planet with.
  34. Learning and living the mantra ‘positive not perfect’
  35. Becoming an agony aunt!
  36. Learning to read tarot cards.
  37. Exorcising my bully demons running the GMFR for the first time
  38. Having a bonkers but fabulous, complicated and very extended family structure
  39. Having persevered with getting to know my father-in-law, and having eventually built a close friendship with him before he died.
  40. Joining the WI and finding my ‘tribe’.


I invite you to celebrate your life’s ‘got-done’ list. And you don’t need to wait until a significant birthday, or have a certain amount. Why not share some of your highlights in a comment? I’ve shown you mine… 😉

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