Why My Top 40 at 40?
THIS BOOK IS MY ANSWER TO THE QUESTION, “HOW SHOULD I CELEBRATE MY FORTIETH BIRTHDAY?” I WANTED SOMETHING FUN AND MEANINGFUL. I WANTED SOMETHING I COULD SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS. AND I WANTED SOMETHING THAT ULTIMATELY COULD SMOTHER THE NEGATIVITY OF AGING BY OFFERING AN APPROACH THAT SAYS, “BRING IT ON!” WHAT BETTER WAY TO CELEBRATE A BIRTHDAY THAN TO COLLECT FAVORITE STORIES OF YOUR OWN ADVENTURES AND SHARE THEM WITH OTHERS? SIX IDEAS UNDERLIE THIS BELIEF:
Everyone loves a story. I once heard the Chilean novelist, Isabel Allende, recount her first year of teaching with a difficult class whose students had either severe learning disabilities or behavioral issues. With the sarcastic blessings of her colleagues still ringing in her ears, she entered the classroom and uttered these four magic words: “Once upon a time…” The room became silent—and she began her career not only as a great teacher, but as a gifted storyteller. The stories in this collection are the same ones I’ve told over campfires, late-night beers, and long road trips.
We write our own script. My favorite story of all-time is William Goldman’s book The Princess Bride with its non-stop action and adventure from beginning to end. But why leave this for the imagination? Why not live it? We all have the chance to write THE SCRIPT—the script of our lives. As the old adage says, “Will you have enough stories to tell your grandchildren?”
Get it on paper. Bill Clinton once remarked that every American should write their memoirs. But “memoirs” can sound incredibly daunting, even a little boring, like an A-to-Z chronicle of every detail of our lives. But “stories” are the best of, the highlights, manageable nuggets which everyone can pen. Why wait until your nineties?
Do it…NOW! Randy Komisar’s The Monk and the Riddle tells us that the traditional model of working hard for forty years in hopes of one day being able to do what we really want to do sets us up for disappointment. First, we might not even make it to old age, but second, when we finally do have that magical time—or money—we still might not know what we really want. You may have to do a lot of soul-searching and make some not-so-easy adjustments, but at least you will be headed in the right direction.
Age brings life lessons. When we turn forty—or any age—nothing is magically different. We’ve simply added another layer to our lives. Sandra Cisneros writes about this notion in her short story, “Eleven,” where she compares aging to rings on a tree. Our outer layer may be different, but we are fundamentally the same person and can still have that giggle, that curiosity, that spark of the six-year-old. Wouldn’t you, too, like to be the mighty redwood with fifteen hundred rings of experience and wisdom?
Enjoy life more year by year. I once heard the president of a prestigious college tell his graduates, “If you look back on these four years as the best four years of your life, we will have failed you.” Brilliant. Every day is an opportunity to learn so that in each successive year—despite all that comes with growing older—we enjoy life even more. It’s not about beauty, brawn, or assets. It’s about cultivating character, fostering relationships, and developing the right mindset. I hope these stories show I’m on the right path.
Some may choose to read this book from cover to cover. Others may jump directly to stories with themes, places, or events of personal interest. Regardless, may something in this collection motivate you to run faster, think harder, explore further, reflect longer, dig deeper, or laugh louder. But most importantly, whether you’re approaching forty, fifty, or any other milestone, I encourage you, too, to bear-hug your next birthday with your favorite stories.