Hopes for the next decade

This week I’ve been posting about my 40th birthday. While I’m pretty happy with my life, I know for sure that I’m happier with my life now than I was on my 30th birthday, so yay for positive trajectories. Here’s hoping that the next decade will go in the same direction.

I don’t have specific 10 year goals. I know that life can throw curve balls. But I do have a few general desires based on what I’ve learned I like. In my next decade, I’d like to…

Spend more time writing fiction. My thirties did produce two novels: The Cortlandt Boys, and Juliet’s School of Possibilities (my 20s produced some novels too, but no one has seen them!). I’ve also realized that such writing makes me really happy. I want to write what I want to write, even if it doesn’t always conform to narrative or commercial conventions. I can write for an audience of one (though I’m thankful that the audience is usually a bit bigger than that!) I want to write a few more novels in my 40s, including a really epic doorstop of a novel. It might not even take that long. If I can write 50,000 words in November, I can probably write 300,000 in a year. Maybe a project for 2020? That gives me a year to brainstorm a story that requires such heft.

Do more original time research (and write about it). I really loved the research concepts behind I Know How She Does It and Off the Clock. Now I need to figure out the next iteration! As always, I welcome suggestions.

Travel to interesting places. When I made my DONE list, I reminded myself that I have traveled a lot. It’s just been logistically more complicated to travel internationally with little kids. But we have done some, they all have valid passports, and they are becoming rapidly less little. I could definitely go somewhere fascinating at least once a year for the next ten years. With kids and without kids!

Sing! I took six years off from singing in my 30s and I really missed it. I hope to perform a number of masterworks in my 40s and do some serious commissioning too. And work on my voice. Increasingly, my voice is how I make my living. That’s through speaking, not singing, but I probably need to treat it more carefully.

Enjoy art museums and restaurants. I love food. I love wine — though it has started loving me back a lot less as I get older. Thus the new technique of savoring a few sips, then switching to sparkling water. I plan to eat in more great restaurants. I also love looking at art and though I have been to many of the world’s best museums, I can go back, because I don’t think the Prado or the Rijksmuseum ever get old. Maybe I’ll start buying more art, though certain frugal tendencies work against this.

Buy better clothes. My tendency is to buy cheap stuff and then be unhappy about it. I want to buy fewer, better things. I’m making some progress on this. I find shopping overwhelming, so it’s really a process.

Fix things. Despite the fact that we’re having our kitchen cupboards redone after the renovation last spring (there was a problem with the paint job) I’m really glad we did the renovation. If something isn’t working, or I don’t love it, I don’t just have to live with it. Some things I do have to live with (I’m not going to suddenly become 5’8″) but a broken, paint-peeling porch? Nope.

Run long. I ran one marathon in my 30s (Big Sur, 2010). I don’t know that I will run another, but I do want to make 10-mile plus runs in beautiful places a regular part of my life. I ran a 10k yesterday to celebrate my birthday! (Not a race, just ran 6.2 miles for my daily run. There were snow flurries; it was surprisingly pretty).

Reliably sleep through the night. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing my fourth child is so cute. Certainly this can happen in my 40s, right??

Photo: Desert from Talula’s Daily birthday dinner last night.

16 thoughts on “Hopes for the next decade

  1. Laura. Happy birthday. There are definitely a lot more interesting books ahead. Yeah. I think your podcast and article regarding two travel couple would amazing to explore. You’ve focused on women but how do couples do it together, how do people stay connected to their family or use there away time effectively. There have already been great examples of your podcast of people who use it as buckle down work time vs fitting in me time. Enjoy your 40s it will be amazing.

    1. @Bec- I am hoping for amazing! And I’m sure there are many more topics to explore. I just need to spend some time thinking about it.

  2. Happy Birthday! I am almost exactly 10 years older than you and am sad to say that I still have trouble getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Sometimes that’s due to older kids driving themselves home from parties, football games, friends’ houses, but it happens more often than that. One thing I did was to get rid of the digital clock and replace it with a regular one that I have to hit a button to see the time (which I don’t do). Seeing the time makes me anxious about getting back to sleep.

    1. @Lynn – Yes, I know once the kids start staying out late and driving themselves this will introduce its own sort of sleeplessness!

  3. I have a big birthday coming up, and your posts have been a great inspiration to me. Rather than sulk about how I am still.a.grad.student (and single, and living in a less than ideal place, and…) at nearly 30 years of age, I think I will make note of all the amazing opportunities and experiences I’ve had before age 30, and will make a decade goal list for my thirties! I have so many things I want to do! I’m normally ridiculously pessimistic about everything, but I’d like to use this next birthday to try and reframe my mindset! (It might also help that I am planning on finishing my PhD before my 30th birthday)

    Happy birthday! I don’t know if my time tracking habit and sudden increased productivity in the lab this past year were correlated, but the latter certainly spiked after I started doing the former 🙂

    1. @DVStudent- you’re getting a PhD! That’s why you’re a grad student at 29 🙂 And yes, I think the combo of the DONE list, lessons learned list, and a looking forward list (or list of 100 dreams) can change one’s perception about life all around.
      Congrats on the productivity boost. Time tracking is life changing!

  4. Happy birthday! An original time research idea: I would love to read more about how new parents experience time. As the first-time mom of a three-week-old, I think often of an observation in one of your books that the first few years of parenthood are so “searing” that they impact parents’ perception of time ever after. My experience of newborn parenting so far is that it’s definitely “always-on,” but (for us, so far) not the “I haven’t brushed my teeth in a week” experience that people’s horror stories led me to expect. Collecting and sharing data to balance those stories would be a huge public service. As a bonus, I could see a book on this topic becoming an instant go-to gift for new parents!

    1. @Diana – I’m with you. While I know the early years do impact people’s perception of time, and my data showed that moms of kids under age 2 have significantly less free time than other people, I didn’t personally find it kept me from brushing my teeth or anything like that. I turned in a work project a few weeks after baby #1 was born (newborns turn out to sleep a lot…), sang in a choir concert at 2 weeks, etc. I think people have different experiences. It might be an interesting question to understand what drives the different experiences.

  5. Wishing you nothing but the best in the coming decades, Laura! I have learned so much from reading your books and blog posts and wish you much productive flourishing in the years to come. Wait – is this a selfish birthday wish?!

  6. Hi Laura-Happy Birthday to you, and thanks for all you share with the rest of us.
    I am 48, and our family stated traveling somewhere fascinating(which means overseas for us), when I turned 40. We have made it overseas every other year since then, which was our goal when we started. When I read your hopes to go somewhere fascinating every year, I am asking myself if we should also change our goal to a yearly “big” trip. The challenge is the $$$, of course. I am curious about how you would make this a reality, without blowing the budget…or how you might budget for it, in other words. Any tips in that regard? Thanks!

    1. @Christine – good question. I think – once your basic needs are met – that you can decide whether travel is a priority, vs. other things. If you’re going overseas every year, that’s great – and it clearly is a priority for you! In our case, we have one “secret weapon” — my husband’s frequent flyer miles. There has to be some upside of him traveling 2-3 weeks per month for the past 25 years! So we use miles to get plane tickets when we’re traveling internationally. He also has a lot of hotel points (like Starwood points) so we tend not to need to pay for hotels either. My other thought may also not be terribly helpful for people in an immediate sense, but in All the Money in the World, I talk about the upsides of spending a lower % of your income on housing and cars than you theoretically could. Some people have no choice. But if you do, spending, say, 25-28% of income vs. 33% of income (which a lot of calculators say you can) opens up 5-8% a month for other things. Like travel. Our cars are 8 years old, so we have no car payments. Driving cars long can open up budgetary space.

  7. Happy birthday Laura! Best wishes for many successful and wonderful years to come in your 40s. I like the idea of general directions/priorities rather than rigid goals.

    I have recently discovered your books and have read Off the Clock and I Know How She Does It as audiobooks — loved the fact that you narrate both books! I’ve been recommending I Know How She Does It to friends as the most positive and inspiring take on working motherhood that I’ve seen. As a single, working mother of two children similar in age to your older ones, I’ve found your books and blog to be like a wise friend offering advice 🙂

    A possible research idea might be studying particular professions that require highly-developed time management skills — what can we learn from them? I recently read and loved Dan Charnas’ book Work Clean, in which the author researched how professional chefs organise not only their time but also their spaces, systems and movements super efficiently. This enables them to put out 100+ fancy meals in a night whereas the rest of us just manage to get a basic dinner on the table for our family 😉

    1. @Lisa- thanks so much, I really appreciate this. I hadn’t read Work Clean but it sounds like I might enjoy it. I think one of there reasons I’ve enjoyed writing some pieces about bigger families is that the systems large families require can be interesting for everyone else to learn about.

  8. Happy Birthday, Laura! The Cortlandt Boys are on my reading list for the next month. I also eagerily await to release of Juliet’s School.

  9. Happy belated birthday, Laura! Another research idea would be to look at professions with inflexible and/or unpredictable work schedules as opposed to ones that allow for more flexibility and control on the part of the individual. How does time management differ for those people?

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