40x40: Forty things to do before forty.

40×40: Forty things to do before forty.

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Forty Things to do Before FortyIt came to me while doing my yearly binge watch of My So-Called Life: I’m almost as old as Patty Chase.

Let’s let this sink in for a moment. I’m almost as old as Patty Chase.

OK, so I still have five years until I turn forty, until I turn Patty Chase’s age, and I suppose that’s a long way off. But, when you really think about it, My So Called Life premiered in August of 1994, when I was just thirteen years old, just starting eighth grade, and two whole years younger than Angela Chase herself.

And Angela Chase was my idol at 13.

I wore a plaid baby doll dress to our eighth grade dance that seemed so Angela Chase.

I started dying my hair like Angela Chase (though at the time my parents would only let me use this super un-permanent kind that just gave my hair an orange tint.)

Just like Angela defied authority by handing out the Liberty Lit, I signed a petition to try to keep My So Called Life from being cancelled (the first and maybe only cause I really stood by in life.)

A friend remarked recently that you know you’re old when you start relating more to the parents on TV shows you grew up with over the children. But, at 35, 21 years later, I still, maybe, relate more to Angela than to Patty.

I’m not married. I’m far from having an angsty teenage daughter. I still am an angsty daughter. I’m still lusting over the Jordan Catalanos of the world when maybe I should find a Brian Krakow. I’m still dying my hair red. I’m still writing things out that sound terribly profound in my head but probably are just convoluted hyperbole. In my humble opinion.

Anyways. In five years I will be forty. In five years I will be Patty Chase’s age. And that gets me thinking about all those things I want to do in life. No, I don’t want to sew matching mother daughter dresses, run a printing company, or cut all my hair off (I wouldn’t mind ballroom dancing lessons though). But there are a lot of things I want to do, that I should do, that I think I can do, in the next five years. So, because you know I love making lists, here are forty things I want to do before turning forty.

p.s. You know how some people call 33 your Jesus Year? Can we start a petition to call 40 your Patty Chase year?

Patty Chase


Forty things to do before forty:

BTW, I’m definitely not abandoning my life list. In fact, there is a lot of overlap between the two lists. This just organizes things into things I most want to do/think I can do/really should do in the next five years…


1. Take a really long walk.

OK, I admit it: I read Wild and A Walk in the Woods last year and it made me want to hike the Appalachian Trail. I have also dreamed of walking the Camino de Santiago for years now. I just need, you know, two, or three, or seven or so months with nothing better to do… And, considering the thought of walking to the grocery store four blocks away and having to walk all the way back with an entire bag of groceries is too much for me to handle…let’s just say it’s something I’m thinking about.


2. See all seven continents

I’ve been to four continents so far: North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. My next big trip will hopefully be to Morocco or South Africa, so that would take care of Africa (I use the term “take care of” here loosely as I would love to travel through much of the rest of Africa some day as well.) That would just leave Australia and Antarctica. Which I think is a fair, though perhaps expensive, goal.


3. Pay off all my debt

I’m still paying off my grad school loan, which takes a sizable chunk of money away from me each month. And because of that I put a little too much on my credit card. In about two years I should be done paying off that loan and hopefully by then have stuck with a good budget so I can go into my forties debt free.


4. Take guitar lessons.

I took Guitar 1 some time ago now. I guess it’s time to sign up for Guitar 2? If I remember anything I learned in the first place…


5. Save for retirement

It’s not that I have nothing put aside for retirement, but I’m not nearly where I should be and I haven’t put anything away for years. See, loan debt above. I should probably start putting more away…


6. Throw a grownup party

When I imagined my life as a “grown up” I always imagined having fancy cocktail parties where people dressed up and I served three course meals and hors d’oeuvres and wines that didn’t come from the discount shelf at Trader Joes. Don’t get me wrong, my parties kind of rock. But maybe once in my life I should throw a fancy grown up party that doesn’t involve pudding shots. Maybe a nice alcoholic creme patissiere parfait instead?


7. Write a novel

In college I had an assignment in writing class to turn in a 15 page story. I turned in 75. And the beginning of my novel was born. My professor said it reminded him of The Catcher in the Rye but I’m pretty sure he was being extremely generous because I can’t even read it now without cringing. But I’d like to go back, rework it, and write something that doesn’t make me cringe.

What are you going to write today?


8. Dance regularly

I grew up dancing and a couple of years ago, traveling in Colombia, I remembered how much I loved it. Of course, I always feel like i have no time for one more thing. I’d love to go back to Colombia to live and study more some day. I’d love to learn to tango in Argentina or learn flamenco in Spain. But I also need to start finding a way to get dance back in my life at home, or no matter where I am.


9. Fully, seriously, launch my web series

I started working on a web series a couple of years ago, but never really launched it. It doesn’t help that my partner in it moved away and so I can’t film anything. It also doesn’t help that, while I love to write, I hate writing dialogue. So scripts are HARD. But I need to focus and get this out. Because the world needs it.


10. Take an improv or comedy class

You know I’m hilarious. I should probably channel that into something, huh? This mostly corresponds with this whole web series (see above) that I’m writing (and, subsequently, starring in). Of course, I have so much anxiety and a “fear of being wrong” that I’m always too nervous to ever even throw out a suggestion at an improv show. But maybe that just means I should force myself to confront that head on?

Boys are less afraid of being wrong.


11. Launch that other side project I just thought of yesterday…

Actually relating to the two above, I thought of yet another great big idea a couple days ago… But I’m really excited about it in that way that I always am coming up with great big ideas and then get so super excited I can hardly think about anything else. Anyways, this is way too early to say anything. But it’s awesome. And I’m going with it. #vaguemuch?


12. Have dinner at at least 10 Chicago restaurants I’ve always wanted to eat at
13. Have drinks at at least 5 Chicago bars I’ve always wanted to drink at

Eating is my pretty much my favorite thing in the world to do. Drinking fancy cocktails is also a pastime of mine. But I never really go out of my way to eat at new places or drink at new places or go to those trendy restaurant and bars. Usually I just order takeout from whatever’s closest. I need to start actually going to some of those amazing places that this city has to offer…


14. Transition into web development

Is it weird that my favorite thing to do in life is troubleshoot? Give me a problem and I’ll try to solve it. Especially with code. I love going through my WordPress back end and figuring out things that are wrong or things that aren’t showing how I want them to and figuring out why. I love looking at a design and trying to recreate it in a website. I love installing a plugin and then diving in to make sure it fits seamlessly in place. I want to take more classes, learn more skills, so I can do this all faster and more accurately…and more full time? I’ve only ever taken one class in HTML back in 2003 and have taught myself everything else I know since. I can get there, but I need more training and I need more focus.


15. Buy a rug in Morocco

One of my other passions in life is decorating. I’ve been having so much fun decorating my apartment and…I think a nice rug or three would start bringing it all together. I’m minorly obsessed with the idea of buying a rug in Morocco because I love the idea of combining travel souvenirs with decor. And that’s pretty much the ultimate travel souvenir. (Plus, they’re really cute and colorful.)


16. Get my apartment featured on a design blog

Speaking of my apartment… it’s totally pretty enough for Design*Sponge or Apartment Therapy, don’t you think?


17. Visit Portland
18. Visit Austin
19. Visit San Francisco
20. Visit New Orleans
21. Visit Boston

I’m lumping these together in the “U.S. cities I’ve always wanted to visit but never have” category. I should probably visit them.

Cause I've never experienced this.


22. Stop biting my nails

Because I should have stopped when I was, like, 12.


23. Triple my blog readership, at least

I love when people read my blog. I’d like more people to read my blog. 🙂


24. Get better at speaking Spanish

I once spent a month in Guatemala studying Spanish. I learned a lot, but I was really bad at grasping the language and my lack of confidence meant if I didn’t absolutely have to, I didn’t speak it. I got really good at ordering food and bus tickets, but holding a conversation? Saying anything that wasn’t in present tense? Not so much. I’d like to be able to hold a conversation in Spanish…


25. Take the damned architectural boat tour

This just seems like one of those things every Chicagoan and Chicago tourist should do once in their life.


26. Run a…10k…

I almost said “run a marathon” or “run a half marathon,” but then I just laughed at myself. I once ran a 5K with virtually no training. So I think if I actually ran a few times beforehand I could tackle a 10K…


27. Read all of Sylvia Plath’s poetry books

It’s no secret that I’m kind of obsessed with The Bell Jar (I mean, I did name my blog after it…) But I’ve never read much of Sylvia Plath’s poetry. Granted, I never read any poetry because I don’t really get poetry. But I’d like to read all of hers.


28. Get another tattoo

Speaking of Sylvia Plath… I came up for the idea of getting a fig tattoo well before I came up with the idea of naming my blog after figs. It’s just a big commitment that I want to make sure I have the right artist for. And, for the right artist, I need money… And I just haven’t saved for it or found the right person yet…


29. Visit Taiwan

Because I keep telling my friend Tom I need to visit him. So I should. 🙂


30. Scan all my old photos

I have binders full and boxes full of photos from high school and college and I probably don’t need to keep all the big clunky albums. I’d like to get them all scanned.


31. Get to my goal weight and stay there

Diet? Exercise? Life change? Sigh. Whatevs.

She makes everything too complicated


32. Get rid of everything I don’t need/love/use

I did a really good job at getting rid of a lot of what I owned before leaving for my ’round the world trip. But I still have a few things in my closet that I don’t use but don’t want to get rid of. I just want to get rid of any extra clutter in my life.


33. Take up yoga

I always like yoga when I do it. Even when it hurts my wrists and even when I end up emotional and crying. But I’m always a bit afraid of going to real classes because I have no idea what I’m doing. Plus, if you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of lazy. I guess I should go to yoga classes.


34. Take some art classes

I took a drawing class a year ago and I really liked it. I’d like to continue learning more drawing, painting, pottery throwing… Maybe there’s an artist in me somewhere?


35. Finish reading The Baby-Sitters Club

Only 100 or so more books to go…


36. Finish designing all my websites

I redesigned this site maybe eight months ago and I still have a huge list of things to fix. I have another website I haven’t touched in years. I have another website I want to redesign. And I used to have a separate, professional, website for my portfolio. So much work, never done. But, it’s work I love doing.


37. Get published in print

Write more. Photograph more. Put myself out there more. Get…something…published.


38. Go to the doctor regularly

I’ve never really gone to the doctor regularly. And, I know that’s bad. I should get regular check ups on everything, blah blah blah. Before I left on my trip I started going a bit more, I had a doctor and a dentist and a gynecologist who I saw a few times each. But then when I was gone my doctor moved out of state and I haven’t found a new one and I just relied on urgent care when I needed something checked out. But I know I should be a responsible adult who takes care of her health…


39. Be comfortable with myself

I always find myself looking back at photos of myself when I was younger (be it 30 years ago or 3) and thinking, “I was so pretty, I wish I knew then how pretty I was.” But I never, in the moment think I’m pretty or talented or strong. And I need the confidence to, in the moment, know all those things are true.


40. Fall in love.

I’m not even saying I want to get married or find “the one.” I’d just like to be ridiculously, crazily, in love with someone again. It’s been a long while since I’ve had an actual relationship and it would be nice to have someone to share things with, to fall asleep next to, someone I’m in love with who loves me back.



40×40: Forty things to do before forty.


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Important question: do you hope Angela ended up with Jordon Catalano or Brian Krakow?

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Jen P
    January 21, 2016at10:44 am

    What if I told you I’d never seen a single episode of My So Called Life? Also, revisit Seattle wasn’t on your list…

  • Heather
    January 21, 2016at8:30 pm

    An apartment in our old building was apartment therapy. Remember that? That was the best day. …

  • Heather
    January 21, 2016at8:31 pm
  • Taylor
    January 21, 2016at8:40 pm

    I don’t think either of them are who she ends up with! Jordan was the man for that time and place. But as you well know, there are many loves we leave behind us. Jordan wasn’t forever and she never loved Brian. You know she dated like a dozen more guys after Jordan and maybe she still hasn’t found the perfect one yet. Now that she’s almost her mom’s age…

    Also, Austin! ACL 2016! Even though we’ve never actually met, you should definitely come for that and then we will be besties forever.

  • Hannah @GettingStamped
    January 27, 2016at10:57 pm

    I will join you on the see all seven continents before I am 40, I still have 8 years…but making it to Antartica is huge for me!

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