Hello 38

So this is the face of a 38 year-old, unwashed, no make-up, sheepish smile, in my bathroom this morning. I’m finding that “38” sounds remarkably like “nearly 40” in my head today. This is the first time my age has even remotely bothered me and i know it’s because i’m feeling the nots — not married, not dating, not house-owning, not car-owning, not kid-having. All the things i should have achieved by now, at my age. There’s just me… and this book i’m scribbling. But when i honestly look at the nots i see that they are standards set by someone else* — i’ve never wanted to get married, i don’t have time to date right now, renting is okay while i decide where i want to stay, i do fine without a car, and being an auntie has filled my heart completely. When i look at what i do have — work that i’m passionate about, family & friends who are there for me, a nephew who lights the sky with his smile, food in my fridge, a cosy sofa to sink into — even if it it doesn’t sound like much, it is enough for this 38-year-old woman.  I am so grateful.

* i don’t know who this person is, but their voice is the one i hear in my head!

38 things to do before I turn 39

1. Finish my book and deliver it safely to my editor
2. Prepare the Polaroids and deliver them safely to my editor
3. Go back to New York
4. Take Noah to the swings
5. Get a new tattoo
6. Watch Sas get married to Ash
7. Become a godmother
8. Lose my writing-baby weight
9. Create the Unravelling Haven!
10. Join a gym. Stat.
11. Pass my driving test <– i say this every year
12. Spend the day at the beach
13. Get my sofa re-covered
14. Sing karaoke in London with Sas
15. Move in with Abby for a week of Wobble love
16. Take more time off
17. Go to Isle of Wight with the BBC
18. Meet my mentors
19. Rescue a kitten
20. Move house – not sure where yet
21. Take Polaroids in Highgate Cemetery
22. Get my teeth whitened
23. Visit Alex & Gabi in San Francisco
24. Have a pedicure
25. Start writing book No. 2
26. Visit Hanne in Bristol
27. Read more poetry
28. Go on a date
29. Celebrate Wobble’s first birthday!
30. Visit Denise in Bellingham
32. Drink more juice
33. Back up my computers more regularly!
34. Go on road trip with Leslie
35. Shave my legs more often
36. Do some painting
37. Write gratitude lists
38. Eat more Nutella – today is World Nutella Day! How very fitting ;-)

79 responses
  1. Celina Wyss

    Happy Birthday to you! Wishing you an enchanted year ahead.

  2. sas

    happy birthday baby!
    i am so grateful for you and all of your gorgeous thirtyeightness.

  3. Bettie

    Lovely list! Happy birthday and keep blazing your own trail. You are the only one who says what is right for you. Cheers!

  4. taylor

    what an inspiring post! i love your outlook

  5. Jo

    You never looked more beautiful. Happy Birthday sweetheart xx

  6. ABCcreativity

    Happy Birthday Dear Susanna.
    You are such a light!

  7. Sara

    Happy Birthday Susannah! What a beautiful picture of you, I love how you’re holding your own gaze. I’m also appreciating the positive (and true!) perspective you’ve given this late thirtysomething angst (I’m feeling it in anticipation of 37 next month!).
    I hope you enjoy doing every single thing on your list! x

  8. honey & sage

    you truly have a wonderful way of being wonderful- sending you big hugs and wishing you health, even more joy and love in your heart dear susannah! happy birthday and have a *wonderful* time celebrating today!

  9. Catherine Denton

    I. Love. This. Post. It’s beautiful, honest and inspiring. Happy Birthday and congratulations on turning 38! What you DO have sounds like treasure indeed! You’ve made me want to make a list. I’m on the other side of 40 and from my experience, it just gets better. :)

  10. Sarah Rooftops

    Lovely post, cute pictures (I love that retro wallpaper in the last one!) and… happy birthday!

  11. Christine

    That is one beautiful 38yr old face…happy birthday! Here’s to living YOUR life, not someone else’s version of it.

  12. vanessa joie

    You are a GEM of a person. Happy Birthday sweet Susannah. xo

  13. Shanon

    As I read this I thought, “you know, lots of people who HAVE all those HAVES are unhappy, unfulfilled, and lost.” It’s beautiful to think that having or not having is not the determining factor in our happiness. It’s attainable to everyone just through themselves.

    Best of luck with you list! =)

  14. beth

    happy birthday sweet thing !
    you wear 38 amazingly well !
    and as far as the tooth whitening {sorry but i’m a dental assistant and that jumped right off the page and into my lap} have you tired the crest white strips ? they work really well without the cost of a “whitening job”

  15. Marisa Anne

    Happy Birthday my beautiful Aquarian Twin! I love how you are deciding to focus on all that you do have. I am trying to do that more often as well, so that whoever that voice is ~ she resides in my head too? wtf? can become a voice that greets me every morning with all the amazing things I already am and have. love you!

  16. Shell

    Happy Birthday, Susannah. You are an Aquarius just like me!! For real, you get better with age.

  17. Debra

    Happy Birthday Susannah. I hope that 38 is very good to you.

  18. Christianne

    Happy birthday, Susannah! You are beautiful.

  19. Lisa

    Beautiful! The world needs more Aunties. It does.

    We all of us are grateful for what you do. We are lucky to have you.

    Happy Birthday!

  20. DawnS

    Happy, happy birthday :)

  21. Baron von Beerfest

    Happy birthday, again.
    Polaroids in Highgate Cemetery is a brilliant idea! I’d love to do that!

  22. Karin van D.

    Happy Birthday. You look amazingly beautiful right out of bed. *grin* I don’t look like that when I roll out of my bed ;-)

    I wish you an amazing year, with lots of laughter, fun and love.

  23. katrina

    happy birthday, susannah! you’re beautiful, especially without makeup — really, not just saying that because it’s your birthday. :) well, i wanna let you know also that finding your blog (via rhianne’s blog @ For the Easily Distracted) was one of the great gifts of 2010. you inspire me! again, have a wonderful birthday and an amazing weekend!

    will add your #35 to my list (hairless legs and armpits would be nice once in a while i guess).

  24. Lynn

    Happy Birthday!!! I would say that 38 looks beautiful.

  25. Tess The Bold Life

    Happy Birthday. All those shoulds are really BS. The only question is…are you happy? I sure think you are from what I see and read on this blog. You go with your list!

  26. Mandi

    Happy happy birthday! I too often worry about the nots, until I realize that I’m so happy with the haves! Where does this little voice in our heads come from? So glad to have family and friends around who don’t care a bit about those nots!

  27. Laurie Matthews

    I hear the same voice. And it’s funny because I’ve always wanted to do things my own way – pave my own path. That approach has brought me an incredible amount of joy. So I’m not sure why I hear the voice and don’t always feel comfortable paving my own path when it comes to deeply traditional things like getting married, buying a house, having children. it’s curious and also shows the power that cultural norms have on us.

  28. keishua

    Happy birthday. I am glad you are not letting the nots get you down. Life is so rich and wonderful when you are living it to the fullest. Oh, my b-day is Monday. Aquariuses rule!

  29. Elli

    Happy Birthday!, You look great at 38!

  30. Life with Kaishon

    You look wonderful : ) That is the best smile. I love your list of all the things you have and are thankful for! : ) I love the list of things you want to do before you turn 39. What a wonderful blog you have!

  31. amy

    happy birthday! i am sure the year ahead will be a delicious adventure. thank you for the lovely reminder not to focus on the nots!

  32. CrazyMoose

    Happy Birthday! I guess my list soon would be 47 things to do before I turn 48. It is still about 3 months, but I better start scribbling down things before I forget most of it again. :-)

  33. Liz C.

    Happy Birthday Susannah! Your inspiring life blows those boring shoulds away:)

  34. Anne

    I hope you have had a wonderful birthday! And I hope that the coming year will bring you as much joy as you have brought to all your Unravellers. Happy birthday.

  35. megan

    Happy Birthday!

  36. Nina

    Many Happy Returns!

    Most of your list sounds good and/or fun, but I reckon you should let yourself off a few of them. Maybe they’re from that person who says annoying things?

    I say: cross off #11 and never put it on a list again! Driving is, like, sooo 20th century. The planet can’t take it and you should feel really GOOD about not being a driver! (I do!) Yes, it’s sometimes inconvenient but you’re saving so much money by not having a car that it’s no real extravagance to take the occasional taxi. And being unable to drive doesn’t make you un-grown-up or anything like that – I bet you know the towns you’ve lived in way better than many drivers. Put something more eco-friendly and more fun at #11 – “Plant a tree” or something, maybe?

    #32 – juice isn’t really that great for you, so don’t beat yourself up about not drinking enough of it. It’s very sugary and you don’t get all the goodness of the fruit/veg. Smoothies are a bit better. Water’s the best stuff to drink, and if you’re after enzymes you could try growing your own bean-sprouts, which is quite fun and means you can grow your own food without a garden!

    #35 – pah. In the winter we need those hairs for warmth!! In summer you might try waxing/sugaring – more effort (unless you get someone else to do it for you) but you have to do it less often, and it’s not actually painful. The hair doesn’t come back ever-thicker like with shaving, either.

    So, have a great year and lighten up on yourself! Don’t let the nagging voice into that list!

  37. kathleen

    Happy Birthday Susannah! Wishing you a wonderful year of being 38…every blessing, every happiness, every success x

  38. Christina

    What you do, what you have done, what you will do…is amazing. Your timeline is making so many incredible things possible: the unraveling of so many hearts and creative souls; the wonderment of your book; the possibility to throw yourself into being such an amazing aunt. Your life is beautiful and abundant and you give so much of it to the world. We’re lucky. Xo. C

  39. Krista

    Thank you so very, very much for this post, Susannah. :-) I’m a year and a half behind you and have felt the “nots” and the projections of others something fierce this week. I needed your words and your courage and your honesty tonight. I am braver now. And I’m smiling. :-)

  40. sperlygirl

    susannah, you make 38 look good! :) wishing you a happy birthday ~ buon compleanno! here’s to crossing things off your list.

  41. Francesca

    Happy Happy Happy Birthday!
    We all have that ‘not’ voice – but the ‘haves’ are huge and your to-do list is so exciting! (the driving test is on my list each year too. meh. it’ll happen someday :-)

  42. Amy

    Happy birthday! What a wonderful list. You have *so* much to look forward to in the coming year.

  43. Nina

    Happy birthday Susannah. Thanks so much for this post. You are a brave woman. I am 36 and have exactly the same nots on my list as you do. But I would never be so brave to tell the world that I am struggling with the nots. But being grateful for the haves is definitely on my to do list for the next year. You look great and happy! Keep up with your great work, I loved your unravelling course!

  44. jan

    Happy Belated Birthday Suzanne and thank you for all the gifts you’ve helped me find this last year from joining your Unravelling course!

    Like you I have an 8 coming up next week in fact. 48 for me and like you I feel like that’s nearly the big 50. You’ve inspired me again to make a list of things to do before 49 AND to really work hard to stop listening to the “shoulds”.

    Blessings to you and happy nutella day too.

  45. Miss Giny / Au Pays des Merveilles

    Oh ! I’m late ! HAPPY BIRTHDAY lovely Susannah !
    Best wishes for you !

    Gros Bisous ;)

  46. Micala

    Hello Susannah and happy birthday for yesterday, I hope you had a lovely day. At 2 weeks your senior I feel wise and experienced enough (ha ha) in this world to tell you that I have a lot of your nots (hubby, kids, house, car) and yet still plenty of other nots. Isn’t that the way we work? As a former unraveller I can safely state that you are a life changer and that you bring a lot of happiness and positive reflection to many people. I think that’s a way better accomplishment than your list of nots that a voice in your head tells you! Big birthday hugs x

  47. jessica alvarado

    I think we all deal with balancing what we “should be” with who we actually are. If you are happy then that is what is important. Have a great birthday!

  48. elizabeth

    oh YES!! Way to kick those “shoulds” onto their ass and out the door— You are EXACTLY who & what & where you are supposed to be and everything is unfolding in the most perfect way imaginable and a HAVEN for unravelling– sign me up!! And? you are gorgeous! That is all. xoxox

  49. Lisa

    Love your life list! I’m a huge fan. Treat yourself to the pedicure soon. It’s one of the best ways to relax and feel pampered.

    Belated Happy Birthday to you! Funny how everyone reacts differently to their ages. I had my most negative reaction to any age when I turned 25. Somehow the quarter century thing freaked me out. Turning 29 and 39 felt a bit odd, but I was okay with them. 40 was fine too. And all the birthdays since then. After all, I’m the youngest that I’m ever going to be! : )

  50. Deanna

    Hi Susannah, I just had to comment because I loved this post. It’s funny, I have a lot of your “nots” but you have so may of my “nots”. You are writing a book, I would love to write a book!!! I just wanted to say that I have found your blog very inspiring, you are one of the bloggers who has inspired me to purchase a Polaroid SX-70, it is sitting here waiting for film to arrive calling my name.

    I will be registering for your upcoming photography course and I am eagerly awaiting your Blogging Beautifully guidebook as my own blog could use the help.

    Happy Belated Birthday :)

  51. susannah

    That is *such* a great way to look at it! :)

  52. shelley t

    i absolutely loved this post! you are moving into a great time in your life & with an attitude like your’s it will be so fulfilling. happy birthday. x

  53. Ella

    This post made me feel so much better. I’m all of those “nots” put together and I’m 31 and I never really wanted those things anyway.

    I didn’t know there was such a thing as Nutella Day, but I do know that David Lebovitz just posted a recipe for making it yourself.

    His blog address is: http://www.davidlebovitz.com

  54. kelly

    Happy Birthday Susannah! It’s amazing to me that we’re the same age – you are wise beyond your years. I have learned so much from you through your courses and your blog. I think you are doing such great work. Your heart shines through in all that you do. Welcome to 38, it’s pretty great.

  55. Angela Vular

    Happy Happy Birthday! You look fabulous! I hope your year is filled with love, happiness, and good health. Oh…..I did not know about a national nutella day. I tend to celebrate that several times a week!!!

  56. Josephine

    Yay for you! That’s a mighty fine list for the year ahead ;-) And goodness me, not many people can say that they’re a published author (of 2 books!) before they’re 40! And you look gorgeous ;-)
    I love dropping into this space on a regular basis, you’ve created a wonderful, warm place, and you’re very generous with what you share of yourself.

  57. sushi lover

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I really hope that for (at least!) the next 38 years you continue to grow as the wonderful human being you already are! And you continue to share it with the rest of us!
    Thank you and lots of good vibes your way!

  58. Melissa Jaine

    Well, I am officially 3 and a bit years older than you (tell me you’re surprised, go on! ;) and the only one of your “nots” that I have is a car.
    Personally, and a bit selfishly, I’m looking forward to your #9. I always tell people, remember, if you’re not having a birthday, then you’re not alive, so celebrate every year with gratitude that you’re still here!
    Great list – I think I might write myself one. *hugs*

  59. Amy

    You gorgeous thing….u got me thru my 40th and 41st… and many pangs of, “Nots”! Happy, Happy Birthday, Susannah!!! We love you!

  60. Caroline Hancox

    Happy Birthday, your list sounds like a good one, good luck with it, i’ve never written a list like this before, but I think might give it a go

  61. xanthe

    happy birthday. great list. i’ll join you in highgate cemetery if you like :)

  62. shilpa

    Happy Birthday Susannah! You are indeed beautiful and such an inspiration. Looking forward to your book! Enjoy this special day and all the items you have planned on doing this year- especially the eating more nutella item:)

  63. Kasey

    Happy Birthday. I hope you had a lovely weekend. I love your list! Best wishes in completing them all.

  64. Traci

    Happy Happy Happy Happy Birthday, Susannah! I’m wishing you an amazing year full of the happiest surprises!

  65. caitlin

    Happy Belated Birthday. :)
    I think it’s good & okay if you don’t follow what you think is what you’re “supposed” to have. To be honest, it’s kind of comforting to know that you live without a car or license, because that makes me feel better about not having either, too. (that sounds sadistic, i guess, huh?)
    But really, i hope you had a good birthday. :)

  66. sylvia

    happy belated birthday!

    it’s amazing how the expectations – real or imagined – of other people can weigh you down. there are some internal voices that are meant to be drowned, and the shoulds are near the top of the list.

    this year, i turn 34. i’m single. no kids. not dating. renting a flat with my best friend. and life is good.

  67. Lesley Myrick

    Rock on, 38. Happy birthday Susannah! xo

  68. Rhianne

    Happy belated birthday Susannah! i hope you had a wonderful day.

    A case of the nots is the best description for that feeling!

  69. Trude

    Happy belated birthday! Pretty darn gorg without any makeup, if you ask me. :) The eternal shoulds that plague everybody – from where I stand, just having a livelihood that you love is a huge step above so many others!

  70. Yvonne

    Great post and you are stunning at 38 :)

    I want to go away and make up my own list now. I have been working through some great coaching recently and have made lots of decisions and might be good to capture in a list like yours.
    Happy Birthday xx

  71. jojo

    you’ve inspired me to write a birthday list! brilliant! and i celebrate you today! you are hugely inspiring and that is pretty darn “enough” :)

  72. Mariella

    I am late! But happy birthday Susannah, you look wonderful

  73. Nancy Jane Smith

    What a great list! I too just turned 38 last Friday–and I agree it does feel ‘nearly 40’!! I love the idea of the list of things to do before I turn 39–thanks for the inspiration!

  74. charmaine

    38 never looked better, my dear. How does one swim in those eyes of yours?? Happy belated birthday, Susannah!

  75. Ashley

    this post was completely inspiring. loved it! here’s to a fabulous year for you!

  76. stacy

    you are 38 kinds of beautiful… and then some. Happy belated Birthday Sus! xo

  77. stephanie

    happy happy birthday susannah!

  78. leaca

    You are so cute. Love your list.

  79. Kitchen Sinks

    I love your site and belated happy birthday..

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