I turned the big four-O last October. I still have a hard time thinking of myself as being 40. In my mind, I’m really only about 32. Turning 40 wasn’t the big, traumatic life event that it seems to be for some of my friends, and getting old really doesn’t bother me, I think because I’m pretty happy with where my life is at the moment.
Instead, 40 was like a wake up call – as in, “Hey, wake up! You are halfway through your life! What is it that you want to accomplish?!” This feeling first hit me last winter – about 10 months before my 40th birthday. I was going through some old pictures and came across a shot of myself bungee jumping off the bridge over the River Zambezi (at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe). My first reaction was “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I jumped from that height,” and my second was “boy am I glad I did that in my early 30’s, because I’m not sure I’d have the guts to do it today!”
Thus began a chain of events that led to the beginnings of a bucket list for me. I’ve never had a bucket list before. I always felt like I had done the things I wanted to do – learned to speak fluently in another language (Spanish), traveled the world and seen things like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, lived and worked abroad (in Spain), completed a triathlon, etcetera. In general, if I want to do something, I do it and I don’t let fear or doubt hold me back. Or so I thought!
As I sat there looking at the picture of myself bungee jumping, I started thinking about getting old and looking back on life and I wondered – what else would I want to have done before I die? And then it hit me – I wanted to run a marathon. Anyone who knows me will appreciate why this was a big deal. I have never been particularly athletic and have always – all my life – insisted with great conviction that my body was simply not built for running a marathon. I honestly thought it was not possible for me, and that all those other people who run them must be built differently.
I’m not sure why, but this feeling changed that day and I became convinced that I had to run a marathon, and that it had to be done that year. To make a
long story short, I did run a marathon last year. It was actually the Marine Corps Marathon on October 31, 2010 – about a week after my 40th birthday. Not only did I run it, I surprised myself by finishing strong with a sprint up the hill at Iwo Jimah.
That marathon did two great things for me – it made me feel so positive about turning 40 (probably because I was in the best shape of my life), and it proved to me that there is almost nothing I can’t do if I put my mind to it.
So now I have a bucket list and I’m checking things off. Check – I ran a marathon!
The next “check” happened yesterday with the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge. This is another thing that I swore my whole life I would not be caught dead doing – and I guess it’s for that very reason that I did it. It feels so good to prove myself wrong!
It was a balmy 36 degrees outside when I went in for my plunge and – suprise, surprise – I kind of liked it! I might actually plunge again next year (unlike the marathon, which I will probably not do again due to the incredible amount of time I had to devote to training, and the burden this placed on my very understanding husband).
With the marathon completed, and the plunge done, the big question is – “what’s next?” Maybe the Chesapeake Bay Swim in 2012? Sky diving? Or, perhaps learning to play a musical instrument? Regardless of the next challenge, this year has taught me that the possibilities are endless. Turning 40 doesn’t mean getting old – it means gaining the confidence to try new things, challenge yourself, and overcome your fears.
Forty, in short, is fierce!!!