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Making a Reverse Bucket List: My 40th Year

Celebrating 41 with my Dad

I live life like my favourite quote about writing:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”― E.L. Doctorow

Or like an improvisation exercise I was taught as a drama teacher called ‘Yes Let’s’. Your partner suggests silly things to do and instead of staying NO! you say “Yes Let’s’ and then act out doing whatever silly thing they suggest.

I’ve never had a bucket list, a five year plan or even a yearly plan.

Big planning in advance makes me nervous.

Goals do my head in, in fact my inner rebel tends to do the opposite of them.

I’ve always fancied living in the country, but it wasn’t a big plan at all (although on reflection we could have done it much sooner), it was more a case of just saying ‘yes let’s’ during a conversation in a hot tub on a holiday I didn’t want to come home from.

I honestly prefer to see where life takes me, to say YES to new things that inspire me. Like moving to the country, running, holiday lets, adventures, invitations, walking challenges, friendships.

I panicked about turning 40 though. There is SO much pressure to do it all before you get there. But do you know what, just as people told me, ‘it’s just a number’ and ’40 might be your best year yet’.

They were so right.

My 40th year was a rollercoaster, with massive ups and downs, but my goodness it makes a great retrospective bucket list:

  1. Celebrated turning 40 with Gin and Lemon in a stunning bar in the cliffs in Menorca.
  2. Finally bought the house of my dreams with the man of my dreams.
  3. Left suburbia and moved to the country.
  4. Moved into the house of my dreams after months of stress.
  5. Had a sleepover for 21 of my friends and family for my 4oth.
  6. Joined my old running friends for the 5.30am 5k in Nottingham.
  7. Signed a book deal with Harper Collins, a book for children and their grown ups, about creating happiness.
  8. Settled the kids into a new school having agonised over choosing the right one and moving them, and watched them not just thrive, but fly.
  9. Had a sleepover in the Natural History Museum for L’s 11th birthday.
  10. Renovated the barn in our garden and put it on Airbnb. Got some lovely compliments on my interior decorating, something interiors blogging had conversely zapped all my confidence in.
  11. Skied my second Blue Run and stayed in a catered Ski chalet with TG Ski.
  12. Became Airbnb superhosts within 2 months of opening.
  13. Got a hammock.
  14. Watched old friendships grow in surprisingly big ways, despite my move in many cases.
  15. Walked miles and miles with one of my best friends and put the world to rights as we trained for the Leaden Boot Challenge.
  16. Made new running friends, ran all the way around Carsington water and did the Carsington 10k, sailed across Carsington too and landed on a muddy island.
  17. Started weekly Cobrafit classes and made new friends.
  18. Made friends in the playground at school – always scarier as a grown up!
  19. Made some lovely new friends locally through blogging and enjoyed exploring new places – Chatsworth, Trentham and Cromford.
  20. Survived the worst bout of depression brought on by SAD I’ve ever had. Tried CBT for SAD. Changed my daily routines to make sure I had a balance of routine, necessary and pleasurable tasks. Discovered this is the real meaning of self care. Kicked procrastination’s BUTT! Took my vitamins pretty much every day from December after finally discovering my Vic D was low (which probably caused the SAD).
  21. Supported a friend giving evidence in a difficult court case.
  22. Committed to a daily home yoga practice in April (or thereabouts) and found myself loving yoga again.
  23. Survived the boiler breaking down and 2 failed gas deliveries, in sub zero temperatures.
  24. Survived a mouse invasion.
  25. Tried and failed at jam making.
  26. Cried happy tears of relief at the sight of both my kids finally happily devouring books.
  27. Surprised everyone who knows me and took in and trained a slightly crazy street dog from Sarajevo. Max the greyhound had taught me so much about dogs, and unconditional love. But I also found a huge and unexpected space in my heart for Luna, despite the fact she has destroyed two pairs of my sunglasses, chews something random each day, barks at male visitors, took a huge dislike to my poor Dad and needed heaps more training than Max ever did.
  28. Travelled to Tuscany with some of my favourite family travel bloggers to stay in Villa La Capanne, with Bookings For You, saw Siena and Florence at last and Volterra once more.
  29. Started work on renovating the vintage caravan in the garden, ready to go on Airbnb. Discovered a love of project management.
  30. Unblocked my creativity at The Retreat and returned excited, especially about this little space and making more film again.
  31. Bought a gimbal (stabilisation gadget for film making)
  32. Stopped taking the SSRIs I was prescribed over Winter to cope with SAD. Stopping taking them is tough as the side effects can make you feel you are losing it.  Despite tapering I had dizziness, brain zaps, flashes of anger, exhaustion and tears. Luckily they were short-lived and my normal self has returned unscathed and happy.
  33. Completed the Leaden Boot Challenge – 26.2 miles of hilly Peak District terrain, over 5000ft of ascent, in 10 hours and 37 minutes.
  34. Got round to making something homemade for our Airbnb guests. Scones!
  35. Had happy days gardening with Dad.
  36. Had my nephews over for a sleepover – hello 5am!
  37. Won a royal wedding quiz, despite not being a royalist.
  38. Photographed the stars and the sunrise.
  39. Saw a hare, a kingfisher and a stoat in the garden.
  40. Made sloe gin and learnt to light a fire properly.

I could go on and I’ve missed lots, like the Dovedale sheep dog trials and finding Tolkein’s Middle Earth and CS Lewis’s Narnia in The Malverns, but I reckon the point is, sometimes it’s ok to throw the list out and drive in the dark a little.

Since I turned 40 I think my biggest lesson is to be grateful for, and open to the things that make me happy, and willing to really weed out and minimise the things I think make me happy that don’t. Sounds obvious, but I think I spent too much time on things in my 30s that didn’t make my heart sing quite enough.



  1. 23/05/2018 / 2:29 pm

    Sounds like you’ve had an incredible year Penny!! I often think of how you when I dream of moving to the country….one day I hope to do the same. xx

  2. 23/05/2018 / 2:37 pm

    Well how blooming AWESOME are you x

  3. 23/05/2018 / 5:37 pm

    What an amazing 40th year you had, happy birthday again. Love the sound of your book, here’s to happiness and many more adventures x

  4. 25/05/2018 / 9:24 am

    Wow what a lot you’ve achieved. Must say I’m jealous of you having a hammock if I had a goal having one those would be it. I don’t think I’d ever get off.

  5. 09/06/2018 / 7:40 pm

    Love the idea of a reverse bucket list – a ‘ta dah!’ list rather than a ‘to do’ list of sorts I guess. I’m so glad we met and I’m so excited to see all your dreams and ideas take shape.

I'd love to know your thoughts!