Ten things I want to do before I turn 40

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in a scene from This is 40.

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in a scene from This is 40.

958 days. As of today, that’s how many days I have left until I turn 40.

The other day, as I was lying awake thinking about myself as usual, I realised in a wave of neurosis that I was probably below the magical 1000 day yardstick. 

Suddenly I felt a heap of pressure. There are so many things I wanted to do with my youth, and while I’ve given up almost all of them already, I still cling to a few shards of hope. And while of course I could do some of them after turning the big four zero, recording a cutting-edge hip hop album direct from the streets to yo’ speakers somehow seems all that more unlikely when your age begins with a 4, doesn’t it?

Thus, in an attempt to shame myself into achieving at least some of the things on my list, I hereby present the ten things I want to do before turning forty. If I achieve one every 95.8 days, I will get there easily. Let the last fading splendour of youth commence!

1) Get a tattoo

I have always disliked tattoos, but I suspect I haven’t made enough body-modification decisions that I regret. I’ve never pierced my ears or dyed my hair (except for one ill-advised month in 2004 when I experimented with Sun-In, and … no). It will impede my ability to tell tales of my misspent youth when I’m old and grey in - oh, 958 days’ time. Plus, there’s a tattoo studio right near where I work, so it’s clearly meant to be.

The only question is what to get a tattoo of. I had a quick brainstorm, and maybe I’ll get something written on myself in that gothic hip-hop writing? Maybe the word ‘tattoo’? Another idea I have is getting a lower-back tattoo that says “GET OFF MY BACK”, or a shoulder tat tribute to the exams I did back in school and uni that says “THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK”.

Somehow it seems most fitting if I get a joke that I think is funny now, but won’t be later. So, maybe I’ll get a tattoo that says “I ALREADY REGRET GETTING THIS TATTOO”. It’s probably the most prophetic thing you can ink into your own skin.

2) Go trekking

To be clear, I hate the idea of trekking. But if I don’t do it now, surely I’m even less likely to do it later? What even is trekking, anyway? Is it just walking? I can go walking when I’m past 40, can’t I? Does trekking require me to visit the Himalayas? What’s the difference between trekking and hiking?

Well, I’ll research trekking before I turn 40, anyway.

3) Move to Brooklyn to become a real writer

You know, like Lena Dunham in Girls? So I could be the voice of my generation, or at least a voice of a generation?

There are so many things wrong with this idea that I don’t know where to start, not least that I do already write quite a lot of things, even if people don’t always read them. But things that are wrong are, in Lena’s world, the perfect subject.

So, because every New Yorker begins every conversation with “So”, I visited Park Slope once, and walked into a coffee house where quite honestly all thirty people in the room were typing into Mac laptops and not talking. It was deathly silent besides the click click of dozens of Tumblr pages being updated.

In that instant, it suddenly struck me that I could be one of those touch-typing, bearded, beanie-wearing Brooklyn sociopaths too. Even though I live in a city with an almost equal number of people who sit around in coffees pretending to be novelists and screenwriters – and vastly better coffee.

4) Start a band

As a male who grew up in the inner city and can kind of play bass, it’s odd that I never really started a band. I did play one genuine gig in a pub with a mate who had decided to start a band to play his rather good songs, and then abandoned it forever after one show. Ah, that was the day...

Fortunately, folk is still kind of in, and that perfectly matches my limited ability on acoustic guitar. I can’t match the soaring vocals of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon or Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, but I’m pretty damn good at whining about my perfectly good life, and I like to think that will be a big leg up in songwriting terms.

5) Get fit. Or fittish, at least

Just for one year, or maybe a few months, or even just a week, I want to know what it’s like to have a flat stomach, bulging biceps and perhaps even burst out of bed in the morning with enthusiasm and energy instead of bleary-eyed exhaustion.

If I achieve this, I will take lots of photos of my relatively svelte self to use in future headshots (unlike the one above), and rest content in the knowledge that at least for once, I had it goin’ on. Then, after forty, I can let it all go forever.

6) Write and direct an indie film

I want to make one of those low-budget movies where people sit around in cafés having intense conversations about everything and nothing. You know, exactly like Before Sunrise only not quite like that because it’s been done at least three times already.

So far, I’ve managed to sit around in cafés having intense conversations about how I want to make a movie where people sit around in cafés having intense conversations. And from my understanding of the film industry, that’s at least halfway to the first day of principal photography.

7) Play lots of tennis

I used to be good at tennis.

Let’s try that again. Tennis was my least worst sport. It was the only sport in which I’ve ever been ranked above the very bottom of the available teams. And yes, that second-bottom ranking felt sweet indeed, thanks for asking.

My specialty was keeping a rally going through gentle groundstrokes until my frustrated opponent smacked the ball into the net or out. But it’s been years since I played, and last time I tried, I discovered that my first serve goes in approximately 4% of the time, and my second serve has turned into a more insipid lollipop than Shirley Temple’s. I’d love to recapture the adequate-to-mediocre tennis that was once my signature.

8) Have a quarter-life crisis.

It’s massively overdue, and I’m scheduled to start my mid-life crisis in 958 days, which may or may not involve a sports car, if I can somehow afford one. (See below.) I’ve been pretty happy with my life choices to date, but clearly I need to quit my job and go bush for a bit to find myself. I might change my name to Torquil. Torquil Hearst, perhaps, so that people think I’m the dissatisfied hippie scion of a wealthy family.

Actually, screw that, I’ve only got 958 days – I’ll schedule becoming Torquil for my mid-life crisis. Instead, I’ll tick the quarter-life crisis box by briefly quitting my job as a writer to become a banker, before realising that I don’t have what it takes and go crawling back to writing.

9) Make heaps of money and lose it all

To date, my life has been fairly drama-free, especially compared to, say, Jordan Belfort’s. I’d like to write a bestselling autobiography, but at this stage, I don’t like my chances. So I need to become an out-of-control wheeler-dealer type (perhaps reversing my last column about drugs), hit rock bottom, perhaps do one of those brief, white, middle-class Orange Is The New Black-style prison stints, and then write about it.

I’ve already got a title – The Other Dark Knight. All I need is a life that matches up to it.

10) Write lots more pieces like this.

I’ve included this so that when I turn forty on Australia Day 2017, I can look back and tell myself that I did at least accomplish one of the ten things on my list.


11 comments so far

  • Once you reach 40 you'll have hopefully accrued the maturity to realise that making lists such as these is puerile. They imply that if you don't tick them off before that awful, looming deadline you never will because after 40, you know, people just kind of lose their vigour and peter away.......

    Date and time
    June 13, 2014, 8:21AM
    • You must be about 60 days younger than my partner. He's going to be thrilled when, on 1st July, I tell him he's going to be 40 in 1000 days.

      Date and time
      June 13, 2014, 9:40AM
      • we must be twins separated at birth and fifteen years because apart from playing tennis swap for golf they were on my buckets list for forty twenty years ago. I wish you the best but one piece of advise if you want to achieve this give up the thoughts of having a family or children. Sadly as much as i love my children the reality is they take up all of your spare time and spare cash.

        Suppose I should make this my sixtieth birthday bucket list

        Date and time
        June 13, 2014, 10:20AM
        • Oh my goodness - thankyou for giving me the best laugh of the week! It's funny how reaching a certain age can all of a sudden seem like impending doom - the death star will explode if I dont do this before I turn x.. I started to write my bucket list this week.. not neccessarily of things to do before I turn 30 (because let's face it.. 3 months isn't going to cut it) but Im sure Ill revise every year until it becomes a more managebale 10.. maybe for when I turn 40..

          Date and time
          June 13, 2014, 12:55PM
          • I seem to have stumbled on the Stuff White People Like blog. Those choices just all seem so.... normal.

            Nothing really wrong if that's the sort of thing you like, I was just hoping for something a bit more surprising or daring.

            Date and time
            June 13, 2014, 1:45PM
            • You'll regret none but the tatt Dom. Good luck.

              Date and time
              June 13, 2014, 2:49PM
              • Yes, a tattoo is for life not just for a 40th. A bit like a puppy.

                Date and time
                June 13, 2014, 6:30PM
            • I suggest ADVERTISE HERE on your noggin for when you are completely bald sometime past 40? You can make some money from that.

              Date and time
              June 13, 2014, 3:25PM
              • Forty is fine - I just turned 39 in April, but instead decided to celebrate my 40th early and just embrace it. I mean, screw it - nothing worse than screeching towards a milestone without dignity. Control it early.

                My advice for one thing to do before turning 40, is to get friends who are over 40 - NOW. Always have older friends. That way no matter what age you turn, they always give you an envious pat on the back.

                And NEVER... NEVER ask younger people "How old do you THINK I am??" Because they always think you're pretty much the age you are, but are forced to be polite. Think of the age you think you look - now add five years. That's how old other people really think you look.

                Jack g
                Date and time
                June 13, 2014, 3:44PM
                • No. 11 Help your fellow man

                  JR Brand
                  Date and time
                  June 13, 2014, 7:00PM

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