I once had a strong desire to run with the bulls in Pamplona, to climb all 19,000 feet of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and to wrestle and alligator. In fact, I possessed all of these desires about five years ago, and I was actively making plans to accomplish them all. But as we all have experienced, things change or, perhaps more accurately, things get changed. Things don’t necessarily change on their own, but often they are acted upon by a force.
In this instance, that force was Sonja, followed quickly by Titus and Zooey. As my first child, Titus was probably the largest change agent: he was born, and shortly thereafter I resigned from coaching basketball and from running a non-profit that I founded years before. I needed to make time in my schedule. Furthermore, my desire to do exciting but arguably dangerous things also waned. I’ve always had a lot to live for, but there’s a difference between having a lot to live for and having a reason not to die. Titus, and now his sister Zooey, are a reason for me to see a doctor annually, to watch my cholesterol and be sure to exercise. They are a reason not to wrestle man-eating beasts, and a reason not to do things that often kill mere mortals because, as they have subconsciously reminded me, I am one of them.
Nevertheless, I have recently begun doing a bit more traveling, and next week leave the country for the first time since getting married more than five years ago. I’m excited for what I will learn and to again see, feel, taste, and smell new places, yet equally sad to leave my family. Nevertheless, I’ve always been a wanderer and a wonderer, and somewhere along the line I realized that I could be a father and still be true to my nature, that I didn’t have to give up every part of who I am in the name of raising my little ones. In fact, much of who I was — er, am, I want to model for them, so I’m trying gradually to fit those things into my life that make me who I am, while at the same time prioritizing my roll as a father and a husband. And in that vein, I’ve put together a list of things I’d like to accomplish prior to turning forty, which I will do in, oh, approximately 919 days, not that anyone is counting.
Below is the list of the forty things I hope to accomplish prior to turning forty, informed by parenthood and inspired by the realization that the inimitable cannot live their lives vicariously. Not all of these are extremely ambitious, of course, but all of them have a reason for being on the list.
Forty Before Forty:
- Read The Declaration of Independence
- Read The Bill of Rights
- Celebrate Diwali
- Fast for Ramadan
- Cook a rabbit
- Try caviar
- Watch every episode of The Office from start to finish
- Make wine in the Napa Valley
- Run a sub-six minute mile
- Raise $1 million for organizations I believe in ($345K to date)
- Bench 315 pounds
- See Hamilton
- Run another full marathon
- PR in a half marathon
- Place in my age group in a 5K or 10K race
- Publish a second book of poetry
- Finish my wine cellar
- Qualify a team for state in XC
- Visit Champagne
- Visit Bordeaux
- Visit the continent of Asia
- Visit the continent of South America
- Read all seven Harry Potter books to my kids
- Give a Moth Radio Hour talk
- Apply for Teacher of the Year in Nebraska
- Catch a fish on a fly I tie myself
- Plant trees in front of our house
- See Back to the Future with Sonja
- Learn to tie a bow tie
- Tattoo (sleeve) my arm
- Read poetry aloud in public again
- Pay off all debt except our mortgage, student loans
- Officiate a wedding
- Run my 40th half marathon
- Do a sabrage on a bottle of sparkling wine
- Pass my WSET level III exam
- Visit Srebrenica
- Eliminate all social media from my life
- Learn to play The Office theme on the piano
- Start doing yoga
Obviously these are in no specific order, though I may group them sometime for the sake of organization. Also, I’m already working on them. Each night I’ve been reading an article or two from the Constitution, and Sonja and I are midway through season three of The Office. Currently fighting through a foot injury, my running isn’t going well, but that has enabled me to do a bit more lifting. I set up my fly-tying vice a few days ago on my work bench, and have plans to go fishing with Tylr this weekend. We recently bought a piano, and I’m scheduled to visit Srebrenica in mid-July. I have written, and plan to edit, my second book of poetry on all of my flights and layovers this summer. Lastly, I hope to begin number eight this fall or next with my friend Jean, who made the wine I’m drinking tonight.
The 2016 Tolosa Primera is a statement wine. Quite dark for Pinot Noir, it balances a walk between the old world and the new, delicately devoted to the varietal yet fiercely true to the distinct terroir of California and, more precisely, Edna Valley. Aromatic with the classic funk of Pinot Noir, it is chocolatey-smooth on the palate, with dark black cherry notes, hints of leather and earthy flavors, and a touch of brighter red fruit, maybe raspberry, toward the finish. The wine lingers upon the finish, and promises to age well. I never cease to be amazed by the wines of Tolosa and Jean Hoefliger.
It seems quite possible that in more than nine hundred days, some of my ambitions will change, and it is equally possible that my ability to execute some of these things could diminish rapidly. I’ll do the best I can, adapt the list as needed, and attempt to accomplish some things between now and the official start of middle age. Who knows, I may still find myself in Spain or Tanzania, unable to suppress my younger, more rambunctious desires. But with a little luck, Sonja, Titus, and Zooey will be there to remind me of my priorities.
Cheers to aging gracefully, no matter your age,