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Introducing the Forty Drinks Podcast
Episode 119th April 2022 • Forty Drinks: The Podcast About Turning 40 • Stephanie McLaughlin
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Introducing the Forty Drinks Podcast

In episode 1 of the Forty Drinks Podcast, host Stephanie McLaughlin introduces herself and sets the stage for upcoming episodes. Stephanie describes the Forty Drinks Project, which is how she celebrated turning forty, and also serves as the jumping off point for the podcast. Instead of having a party to celebrate the milestone birthday, Stephanie had forty drinks with forty people in forty different places and each drink had a thematic connection to her friend or the relationship. What started off as a wacky way to celebrate her birthday, and to extend it into a yearlong adventure, turned into something else along the way. 

Stephanie McLaughlin was born and raised in Manchester, NH. She fled the little city for a bigger one 50 miles south and spent 12 years living, schooling, working, and socializing in Boston. Stephanie was trained as a journalist but found that her career path led her to public relations and, ultimately, marketing. The schooling was not wasted, though, as her illustrious professional career has been built on the tenets of storytelling she learned in college. Her illustrious drinking career was also built on tenets she learned in college, albeit different ones, and perfected while studying under a number of esteemed mentors.

Stephanie is a study in extremes and didn’t know until part-way through The 40 Drinks Project that she was (and maybe always had been) in search of equilibrium. She spent two decades partying and drinking like a rock star, while at the same time graduating magna cum laude from Northeastern University and building a successful career at noteworthy and important institutions including The Boston Globe, the mayoral administration of Thomas M. Menino and Tufts Medical Center.

She returned to New Hampshire after a dozen years in Boston and spent time as the Associate Publisher of Business NH Magazine, the statewide monthly business publication, and the Director of Client Development for a multi-state law firm before she opened her own marketing business in 2007. All the while, her social life was on fire: friends, parties, trips, adventures, brushes with celebrity, you name it.

As she neared 40, her body wouldn’t abide the same volume of alcohol and she wasn’t finding the same fulfillment with her varied groups of friends and framily. She began The 40 Drinks Project on a lark, thinking that it would be an appropriately outrageous way to celebrate “the big four-oh.” She didn’t know at the time that some of her most important life lessons would come wrapped in the ridiculous endeavor.

Since completing the project, Stephanie has found an absurd level of happiness with the love of her life, Patrick. They live in Manchester, New Hampshire, with a rambunctious black cat who eats wildly inappropriate things – like pajamas and curling ribbon. These days, three glasses of wine is a wild night, and she prefers a healthy dinner at home and some TV or a movie with Patrick to carousing out and about.

She’s still working on equilibrium – a little more consciously now – but she’s much closer than she’s ever been before. 

Introducing Stephanie, host of the Forty Drinks Podcast (00:21)

Stephanie shares thoughts on turning 40.

Describing the Forty Drinks Project, the precursor to the podcast and its inspiration (01:00)

To celebrate my fortieth birthday, I decided to have Forty Drinks with 40 people in 40 different places.. Each drink would have some thematic connection to the person I was having a drink with or our relationship. I decided this idea was just ridiculous enough to be worthy of turning 40.

Examples of some of the themed drinks from the Forty Drinks Project (02:19)

Each drink had some thematic connection to my friend or our relationship, including the following examples: 

The Plot Twist (04:30)

It turns out, the endeavor was more than just fun. 

Yes, each one was a “drink” but, more importantly, it was a visit and a conversation with someone who knew me at some point during my life. Naturally, these visits turned to reminiscing about when we met or when we were close. And what happened was these people started reflecting back to me what they knew about me. Stories they remembered about me or things that I had done. 

When I listened to these stories or reflected on these visits later, I learned things about myself that I either didn’t know or I had left behind. And these revelations started causing ripples in my life and in my psyche.

So, this project that started off as just a completely outrageous way to celebrate my birthday ended up changing my life profoundly.

Visits and Revelations (05:54)

Some of the things that emerged during these visits rocked my world down to its very foundation. 

Have you ever heard that quote by Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”?

That’s what happened to me during my Forty Drinks Project. I started changing the way I looked at myself and I ended up changing. 

Steph at Forty: All Out of Love (11:50)

One of the areas most in need of improvement in my life was in the romance department. I was a serial monogamist who made consistently bad choices in boyfriends. And, in addition to the romantic drama, I was also transitioning out of a friend group that had been my core people for about five years and now it wasn’t fitting as well and not feeling so comfortable.

The year of my Forty Drinks Project ended in a completely different place than where it started.

Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life (15:55)

After my Forty Drinks project, I became fascinated about turning 40 and how other people dealt with not only the milestone, but also the inevitable transitions that come around that age. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not unique. A lot of people go through major life transitions at some time between the ages of 35 and 45. 

Many years ago I came across a book called Passages Passages (paid link), written by Gail Sheehy in 1977. The book’s subtitle says it all: Predictable Crises of Adult Life.

From conception to age 18, there are tons of books on development and life stages and what to expect. But once you reach adulthood, there’s not really anything out there that tells us what to expect at different ages or phases of our lives. 

And Sheehy found that there are general stages of adulthood and predictable passages between them. 

First Adulthood & Second Adulthood (17:37)

In her books, Gail Sheehy pioneered the concepts of first adulthood and second adulthood. 

During first adulthood, there’s a lot that we do and prioritize and pursue because someone has told us that’s what we should do and prioritize and pursue. We work hard to please and perform for the powerful people who protect and reward us. We want to win approval and success and validation. But that means we rely on external authorities and their measurements. That could be parents; it could be friends; it could be a mentor or a boss. It could be the media. Or society at large. Whatever external authority you look up to, trust or put credence in. 

This is the time when we start reexamining what we think and feel and want and stand for. We become more confident in our own inner voice and our own senses and our own experiences than we are the external authorities we historically looked to for guidance. 

The Podcast - Overview and Purpose (23:41)

Second adulthood is where I am now. And the transition between one and the other is what I'm really captivated and curious about. And that’s what the Forty Drinks Podcast will be about. 

I want to dig into meaty conversations with people about their transitions and about the lessons they've learned and how their lives have shifted. Forty is when we start measuring ourselves more by looking forward, and how much time we have left, than by looking backwards, and all the cool or impressive things we’ve achieved or done.

This season on the podcast we’re going to talk about things that many people in the years around 40 face. We’re going to talk about confidence. We’re going to talk about grief and loss. We’re going to talk about resilience. We’re going to talk about marriage and kids and other relationships. We’ll even talk about shoes. 

I hope you'll join me.

Tell me a fantastic “forty story.”

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