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Turning 40 and Peeling Back the Layers of the Onion
Episode 912nd May 2024 • Forty Drinks: The Podcast About Turning 40 • Stephanie McLaughlin
00:00:00 01:09:48

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Sara Letorneau is a writer, editor, poet and writing coach who will turn 40 later this year. She grew up in a “normal” happy family in a working class suburb in Massachusetts where she was taught that the traditional life milestones would make her “happy:” go to college, get a job, find a boyfriend, get married and have kids. But we all know that it’s not that easy. Sara has made her way through some elements of the midlife Ick, in her job, her friendships and in her romantic relationships. And, while there are some aspects of the Ick she’s still making her way through, she’s got a wildly positive outlook about turning 40 this year.

Guest Bio 

Sara Letourneau is a poet, book editor, and writing coach who lives in Massachusetts. She's the founder and managing editor at Heart of the Story Editorial & Coaching Services, where she works with fiction and nonfiction writers as well as poets to help them develop the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need so they can finish their manuscripts, polish them for publication, and stay focused and motivated as they reach for their writing goals and embrace their creativity. Her debut poetry collection, Wild Gardens, will be published by Kelsay Books in late summer 2024; and her award-winning poetry has been published widely in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies online and in print. Apart from work and writing, Sara believes in caring for one's mental health, practicing gratitude, doing what makes you happy, and taking responsibility for your actions and reactions and no one else's. You can visit her online and read more of her work at her website ( or on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Turning 40 and Peeling Back the Layers of the Onion

This week, Stephanie delves deep into Sara Letourneau’s journey as she navigates through multiple personal and professional transformations approaching her 40th birthday. Facing the 'Icks' of life, including career shifts, personal growth, and family dynamics, Sara shares her path to discovering and embracing her true self, overcoming challenges through a consistent gratitude practice, spirituality, and resilience. From embarking on a spiritual awakening and embracing a poetry career to understanding complex family relationships and redefining personal milestones, Sara's story offers insights into the universal quest for fulfillment and happiness.

Guest Resources

Connect with Sara on Facebook

Connect with Sara on Instagram 

Heart of the Story Website

Do you have the Midlife Ick? 

Download Stephanie’s guide to the Ick to diagnose whether you or someone you love is suffering from this insidious midlife malaise.  

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The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications


Stephanie: Hi, Sarah. Welcome to the podcast.

Sara: Hi, Stephanie. Thank you so much for having me here

Stephanie: Well, it's such a pleasure to have a fellow new Englander here. So I'm thrilled to have you.

Sara: I know, it's funny, like we were talking about the first time, I, I visit your state quite a bit. I live in Massachusetts, but my boyfriend lives just over the state border in New

Stephanie: Yeah. Not far from me. So it is, it is a riot that, when I, when I find guests and, and bring them on the podcast, they could be literally anywhere in the world. you know, New Zealand, Australia, London, Holland. it's been everywhere and then across the country as well.

So it's always fun to have a hometown gal with me.

Sara: Thank you. Yeah. No, it's good to be here.

Stephanie: Yeah, and you also are, sort of an ideal guest for me because you are still aiming at your 40th birthday, which comes to us later this year. So you're really in the thick of it, in the middle of it versus looking backward at a transition, right? Yeah.

Sara: I am. In fact, the way that I would describe it is I've gone through some Ick. Some of it is been resolved, so to speak, and, but some of it is still very much in progress. The listeners are going to find out in just a moment. There are, sometimes there are layers to the Ick. It's not just a single thing.

Stephanie: It isn't, it isn't, it is, it is typically a complex, mishmash of issues that, that just changing, you know, jobs might not necessarily fix completely, right? It's deeper, it's more, it's layered. Although it's funny because, years ago, one of my, one of my, best and closest girlfriends. I mean, she was probably in her late twenties at the time. And she said, you know, my life is a mess. Every last thing is a mess. Every different element of her life was just a mess. She felt stuck. She felt trapped. She felt terrible. And I said to her, just change one thing. It's like one of those little puzzles with like the one piece missing, right? Just move one piece and then you can kind of see how everything else can ripple from there.

So even though I did say changing jobs won't necessarily help, it actually might if that's what's bugging you. Because a lot of times making the one change allows other things in your life to shift, which I know, you know. Yeah. Yeah.

Sara: hmm. Mm hmm. Yes. That's part of the story. I'm, you know, I'm going to be telling today.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So let's start at the beginning where I always love to start, which is tell me about the forces that shaped you as a, as a child and a young woman that brought us to the beginning of the story. Who were you when we're walking in the front door of this story?

Sara: if I had to go back to my childhood, I would say I grew up in what's, you know, a very seemingly normal and happy family, working class suburbs here in Massachusetts. I grew up with a lot of life milestones sort of, hammered into my head a little bit, you know, you're going to go to college and then you're going to, get a job and then you'll get a boyfriend and then you'll get married and then you'll have kids and then you'll be happy.

And so in addition to all that, I was very shy growing up. We moved towns when I was 13 and that had a big impact on me. I actually became, I think that's actually what made me become shy was because I was all of a sudden in a brand new setting with new teachers, new classmates, new place, and just, it was very hard to navigate.

Stephanie: Yeah. That's a tough age to uproot.

Sara: On top of all that, I also had a relatively conservative upbringing, not politically speaking, but in terms of a lot of, beliefs or,not societal l expectations, but just, how to act, how to dress. You know, my, mother, for instance, was, very concerned about the clothes that I wore. I think she wanted to make sure that, that I not came across as a good person, but that I was, you know, very modest and very, not showing a lot of skin. I don't think I would have been comfortable with it at that age anyway, but

Stephanie: She wanted to make sure you looked the part.

Sara: And I think maybe that might have contributed to it as well. I also grew up very much a people pleaser, something else we talked about earlier before we got started. And I think that might've, in hindsight, I think it might've been an inherited behavior. It manifested differently than it did in my parents.

I did very well in school partly because yes, I wanted to do well, but I wanted the people around me to be proud of me too. And so I worked really hard. I was, I was an overachiever big time. So I would spend a lot of time studying a lot of time doing homework. So I wasn't, didn't get very involved with a lot of after school programs, but I know I also remember spending a lot of time with my family. My family has always been very close knit, or at least the four of us my brother, my parents and I. And so we, we always did a lot of things together.

Stephanie: There is one other common denominator that is one of the major forces that shaped me. And that also, is just been a really important part of my story, that's carried out through all, all my years, and that's been writing. Writing has been a huge part of who I am. I still remember sitting at the kitchen island, seven years old, with paper, crayons, pencils, you name it, writing stories. At one point, I thought I was going to be an author and illustrator. The art side of it really didn't pan out. I think now I could probably only do stick figures. But

but I, any kind of writing, you name it, I did it. I wrote, you know, short stories. I attempted several times to write novels. Essays, poetry. Poetry is the big one that has really continued out, you know, throughout my life. And even in school the two activities I was involved with were the the literary magazines and school newspapers. In fact, heading into college, I ended up working on the school newspaper all four years and I was the editor in chief when I graduated.

aduating from college, it was:

Stephanie: Yeah. I can relate so much to the, the writing background. Words and, and writing and communicating that way always came very naturally. Like, I, When I close my, my eyes, I see words in my head. I see how to spell them mostly. I'm not the best, you know, I'm not, I'm no spelling bee winner, but you're better than the average bear. And indeed I followed that same thread through my schooling and college and, and did get a journalism degree. As a matter of fact, I chose Northeastern very specifically because it had the co op program and by my sophomore year, I could be working at The Boston Globe, which is exactly what I did.

Sara: That's so funny. My dad went to northeastern. Yeah. For engineering, very different, but yeah, he did, he did the same thing. He ended up co opting at the place that ended up hiring him.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Sara: But that's, that's, That's a whole other story.

As you were talking, it also reminded me of when I was in elementary school, I constantly aced my spelling tests to the point that I don't remember it was a teacher that said it or one of my classmates, but my nickname that during that time became The Walking Dictionary.

Stephanie: Oh, that's funny. Mine was Webster. Literally, they called me Webster.

Yeah. Yeah. So, okay. So a lot of common ground here, a lot of really common ground. All right. So move us into like your twenties and I think things really kind of start for you at 30. So you end up finding a job, working full time, making your way through your 20s. And

Sara: I'm actually going to backtrack it a little bit to, I would say 27, 28. So at the time I was working in the corporate world. I was a technical editor at an engineering firm. That was also right around the time that I decided to move. I bought my own place. I was dating at the time. That was not going so well. I think it all really started coming to a head around that time. It was the first winter when I was living here, by myself, and I ended up experiencing situational depression, and it wasn't so much because I was here by myself. There were actually two friendships at the time within very, you know, very closely together time wise, fell apart.

Stephanie: yeah,

right before the recession in:

Stephanie: Yeah,

Sara: And so I think there was always a little bit of fear in the back of my mind that I could always be next. And I'm not sure if I had reached the point yet where I had started to realize I was unhappy there, too.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Sara: And the dating part, yeah, you know, I would go out and, you know, I forget how I met some of the guys, whether it was through mutual friends, whether I know one of them was through charity work I was doing for the Jimmy Fund at one point. Oh, and a lot of the time it was actually people that my mother and somebody else had always set up. Yeah. I think part of the other thing that was going on. It was, I was starting to feel a lot of pressure from my family to start reaching some of these other big life milestones.

Stephanie: Right.

Sara: One of the things that I heard quite a bit from my mother was, well, I'm waiting for grandchildren.

Stephanie: That's a lot of pressure. You're not even 30 at this point.

Sara: It's no, and it's, it's also skipping the other, you know, it's not that she was skipping all the other steps, asking me to start having kids. It's like, well, I'm waiting for you to find a boyfriend so that you can get married, be engaged, have a husband, and then you can have kids. And it was just, it was a lot to think about at that time because it's like, I can't even fathom getting there when every time I'm going out with guys, it ends up not working out.

Stephanie: Right.

Sara: Because it never felt right.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Sara: It never felt right.

Stephanie: Yeah. That's a lot of pressure just for to for the outcome of something that that outcome depends on 72 really important things going well. Right? It's it's.

That's a lot, that's a lot.

Sara: It is. It was a lot. And so I know that when I was experiencing depression, that the main things was feeling like I had no friends, feeling alone. But I wouldn't be surprised if the pressure from some of the other things that were going on in life were also starting to,

Stephanie: Yeah, for sure. For sure. Had everything else in your life been going really well and these friendships ended, it might not have felt so enormous. I have also lost friends through the years, you know, numerous times some of which I'm, you know, happened a decade ago and I'm still not over. So I completely understand and, and can, can relate to that. That's, it's a, it's a hard thing to happen. Whether you're the one growing in a direction that they're not growing in, or they're growing in a direction that you're not growing in. Whatever the reason, it's still difficult. All right, so you ended up sort of coming into your late 20s in this place of not feeling perfectly solid and stable, feeling a little, a little sad.

Sara: Mm hmm.

Stephanie: And yet when you were 29 and facing the first milestone, the 30, you, you faced that pretty well.

it was that was the spring of:

I love music. And so a couple of really helpful music albums came out around that time that I just listened to over and over and over. And and you know, they're still among, my favorite albums today. Whenever I listened to them, I still think back to that time and how it helped me.

So the music. I continued writing at the time, which in fact you know, and a couple of the poems that I wrote during that time ended up getting published, which sort of started, really started my writing career as a poet, which later this year is going to reach a very exciting, big milestone, which we'll get to later.

I also started a gratitude practice. I do not remember the name of the book, but it was written by one of my college professors.

And I thought, well, what if I every day thought of at least one thing that I was grateful for? It is incredible what a single new habit we adopt into our lives. How much of a positive impact that can have on us. Because I still do it to this day.


Sara: I started off before I would go to bed, I would write down one thing that I was grateful for. And that was it. And the practice has evolved over time. Now I actually write down or say out loud three things that I'm grateful for. But I think by doing that, it reminded me that there is something good about every day. There is always something to look forward to. There's always something to be happy about and thankful for. And I, and that I think was really what sparked my turnaround because then I was I guess you could say looking for the happiness, but I wasn't necessarily trying to make it happen or searching really hard for it. You know, because sometimes it would just be something I saw on a walk that day that I could put on my gratitude list. Or something that I did that day. Or something about me. Or something, you know, or something unexpected that happened.

And so it taught me that there's, there's so much out there that can make us happy, that we can be grateful for no matter you know, whatever is, you know, what, no matter what sadness or loneliness or other less comfortable emotions we're experiencing.

Stephanie: It's a really neat thing because once you start a practice like that, and I, I had something similar I was doing in my late twenties, it wasn't exactly the same, but, once you start doing that and you start training yourself to look for things that are good that happened that day, or that you experienced that day, or that you did that day, once you get in that habit, and then you have one of the really crappy days, you actually feel like a hero for finding something in the crap pile that you can be grateful for, right? Even if it's even if it's I survived today, right? If it's right, like, holy cow, I get to try again tomorrow or or whatever it is. So, yeah, I had a practice that was, well, a little bit of a nuance on that, but for me, it helped me really, get a handle on the mean voice in my head and really kind of give space to the, to the, the gentler, nicer voice in my head. So,

Sara: yeah,

Stephanie: can, I can really, relate with you on that.

Sara: Yeah. And I think. By starting to practice gratitude, it also opened my mind up to one of the other big things that ended up helping me along with my journey going forward, too. And that was spirituality. But it was, I would probably say about a year after starting my gratitude practice that I had my first card reading. I think because I was open to it and curious when the reading happened and each card came up and I was like, holy shit. It was so accurate. So I think before I was very skeptic, but I think it just, it was, I was at a different point then to become more open to it. And that led to things like my first energy reading. To getting Reiki. To having other people do card readings for me and trusting them enough that, you know, the results I was going to get would be accurate and they always were. And starting to do my own card readings and finding out that they were always accurate.

I still do that to this day too. It blew my mind back then. And the more, the deeper I got into it, the more I believed it, because the more incredible it was, so it resonated so deeply that I just could not ignore it.

All of that, I think, started opening my mind to a point where, it made me more open to learning the other lessons that were going to be coming down the road.

Stephanie: Yeah. That's so interesting because that is definitely a part of, of a lot, if not most of the stories that, that I hear is that there is some sort of spiritual awakening or spiritual opening for people who are going through this, this transition. And, and for me, I know mine sort of started in my late twenties. It sounds like yours did late twenties, early thirties. And it's, it's like, yeah, you start opening your mind to different things and to, To things that, that, do you use the right word that resonate with you, 'cause

Sara: Mm

Stephanie: for different people it's been all kinds of different things.

Sara: hmm. Mm hmm.

Stephanie: Yeah. That's so interesting.

Sara: Yeah, I, yeah, I can't think of, I can't think of specific examples off the top of my head, but there have been a couple of, other Forty Drinks podcast episodes I've listened to before today. And some of the things that your guests have said in the past, hit the nail right on head for me. I completely agreed with them. So it's a very long way of bringing it back to the original question of, the attitude that I had going into my 30th birthday. A friend of mine and I were talking and she was saying how she was not looking forward to turning 30. She's like,when I turn 30, my life is going to be over. And I kind of, and I looked at her, it's like, No, it's not.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Sara: You know, it, there's, there's, there's so much left to happen in our lives when we turn 30.

Stephanie: Mm-Hmm?

Sara: And I started thinking about like all the things I still wanted to do. A lot of my dreams at the time, you know, to, publish a book, you know, finally meet somebody when the time was right. Who knows what else? And so I decided that I was going to celebrate being 30. Especially after everything that had happened during my mid to late twenties, all, the job instability, the depression, and some of the other things that I was, had been experiencing up to that point. I looked, I was like, nah, my thirties are going to be better than my twenties.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Sara: And while that road hasn't always been easy, I can tell you now, as I'm getting ready to turn 40, that that was absolutely the truth in the end.

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, and attitude's a big part of it no matter how old we are and what we're facing.

Your early thirties, you were still working for for corporate America. You, had sort of, closed the door on dating for a little while because it has not been going well.


Sara: Yes, I had, I had actually decided at one point to stop dating.I, I had come to a point where I just had been so unhappy with dating, and I realized how it was making me feel, and that nobody I was meeting was right, and I think I was starting to learn the idea of trying, of not trying to force things. And so I decided, you know what? I'm going to stop dating for now. I don't know when I'm going to start again. I'm not going to put a timetable on it, but I going to focus on making myself happy. I'm going to do things that make me happy and maybe I'll meet somebody in the process.

Even though I had stopped dating, I had never, lost hope that I would find somebody, the right person. And so at one point, I decided to take a a self paced course on finding your soulmate. And one of the activities in that course was creating a vision board of your soulmate. And I loved the idea, but I did one thing a little bit differently. Because I didn't like the idea of using pictures.

And so, so I, I made a vision board entirely out of words. I decided like categories that I wanted to,

Stephanie: That makes so much sense for you. Yeah

Sara: Being a writer, of course, words are going to resonate more. So I, I thought about in terms of categories, like,who would he be like personality wise? What kinds of things would we do together? What would be important to us in our first home? Where would we travel? Because I really wanted to travel. I wanted to see other countries. I wanted to have adventures.

I met my boyfriend. It was in:

Stephanie: Yeah.

Sara: And I couldn't believe it at the time. Now I'm like, yeah, well, of course. I, you know, by doing that, it helped make it happen. I can't even, I could, it's really hard to go into words about how happy I have been and how full my life has been since we've been together.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Sara: And,

Stephanie: Yeah. I mean, that's, that's the, that's the difference between an okay fit and the right fit. It really is. I feel the same way with, with my husband for sure. And it's so funny because I did, I did an exercise kind of like you did. And again, for me, it was words. I, I wrote down, it wasn't individual words, but little phrases about who he would be and what he would be like, and And it's so funny cause I, I did the same thing. I wrote down this, this long list, and I folded it up and I put it in a bookcase and I mean, it was years before I met Patrick. I mean, it might've even been a decade before I met Patrick, but, he did. He fit all of the things or most of the things, when, when we met, and it's so funny.

As you were telling the story, I was like, I wonder where that list went. Like, 'cause we've moved houses since, and I knew, I knew where it would've been in the old house. I'm like, oh, it was in that bookcase. Where are those books? So someday when I'm old

Sara: Yeah,

Stephanie: and gray, or older and grayer, I'll take out a book and it'll just come flying out. It would be fun to look at it now, you know.

I took it out, at the end of:

Stephanie: Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, and it's so funny because you know, you're talking about the attitude that you brought into your thirties. You're talking about this this list that you made, you know, and it's, it's all about energy and you know, it's, it's typically a self fulfilling prophecy. So if you think it's going to suck, it's probably going to

Sara: Mm hmm.

Stephanie: suck. And if you think it's going to be great, It just might be great.

Sara: Yeah.

Stephanie: So you're, you're demonstrating really clearly that attitude and energy can really make a difference.

right. So you're 35. You've finally started dating the guy who who fits. And you've alluded to the fact that there was some funky stuff going on at work. So what happened professionally?

Sara: Everything under the sun. And I don't, I'm, I'm not kidding. The I, the last several years that I worked in the corporate world, I experienced just about everything you could think of.There were, I think three company mergers during my 30s. At one point, the company filed for chapter 11.

Stephanie: Oh, wow.

ther. But at the beginning of:

Stephanie: Oh lucky you.

Sara: Yeah. And and her workyou know, admin work, was not the kind of work that I typically did. So it was a big mental shift. And a lot of tasks that I, yes, I could do, but I really didn't want to do them. It just didn't fit me. By the end of the year, I had started putting plans in place to start my own business. It was a risky thing, knowing that I was going to be trying to build my business on the side while working full time. But I, I had honestly come to believe that whatever was happening at that company, I did not, my future was not there.

g coaching business in early,:

It wasn't easy trying to balance the two things. Butduring the fall and most of the winter of 2017 into early 2018, the end of 2019, we were actually working from home permanently. So this was even like, a few months before the pandemic started. That's when, and that's that helped make the balance and the shift, ultimately easier. It was still a couple more years before I was finally laid off, but I had so much work going on for Heart of the Story that, financially speaking, I, I wasn't ready to make the jump yet. But, that was already enough to do to fill up my plate full time. And to be honest, the last two years that I was in the corporate world, I had almost nothing going on work wise.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Sara: It's funny how it all worked out. it really, really was. That was that whole bit was it was a roller coaster. Because there was, you know, I had to deal with so much stress and frustration. It led to it led to some anxiety mostly stemming from overthinking. I dealt with sexism in the workplace big time. And that made me angry as well. And, and I think just having still being in touch with the things that really matter to me and my inner voice is really what helped me to say enough. Let's, let's start creating, the path forward.

Stephanie: Yeah. yeah. And your own path forward. Yeah. And, and that's not true for everyone, right? For some people, it's finding a job that fits better. For some people, it's finding a corp, a company or an industry that fits better. But for some people, like you and like me and, plenty of others I've talked to, it is building something that is that is yours, that that is something you're good at. You're passionate about that. You're able to make a difference and that brings that joy and fulfillment piece to it. That all of a sudden, even if you're making less money, you're happier and more fulfilled because what you're doing matters and it's what you love to do. And so this is a reallyanother really common shift I see during during this midlife sort of transition. And I have to tell you sort of a little bit of a tangent, in that you inspired me. So when you and I first spoke, you were telling me how, you, you were going to writing workshops and conferences and different events, and you're meeting other writers and you would swap work. And that you were giving all this feedback and, the feedback was so great people were saying like, Oh, you should do this like for real. Cause right.

Sara: I completely forgot that part. Yeah, because that's what,

Stephanie: That's what ended up turning into turning you into your business. So since you and I spoke, there's a woman who was a former guest of mine. Her name is Sarah Gale. And I loved my conversation with her because she has 30 years in the fashion industry in Australia. And I just happened to love clothes and dressing. I always have. So I loved talking to her back then, but I saw maybe a month ago or a little bit more than that I saw something she posted on, I don't know, it must've been on, on Instagram. She said, Oh, I'm writing my book and I'm loading, looking for beta readers. And you were in the back of my head and I said, I'd love to do it. And so she sent me her book. And I was like, all like, very like, and I'm a big reader too. I'm a big reader, but I'm all like feeling like pretty proud of myself. And then I opened it up. It's like 293 pages in Microsoft word. And I was like, Oh, what did I do? And, and for a minute I was like, Oh my God, I bit off way more than I could chew. But it's a subject I love. Yeah.

Sara: with it sometimes,

Stephanie: a subject that I love. So I knew, and I, I loved my conversation with her and I adore her. So I was like, all right, I'm going to do this. And so I went through and I, when I sent it back to her, I was like, I think I probably did way more than you need, or we're asking for, because I have a background in writing. So like, I literally like put the whole thing in a Google doc so that I could like edit and like give her comments and use like the track changes so she could see what I was doing.

Sara: Yeah. Ha

Stephanie: So when I sent it back, I was like, I apologize. If I did too much, and like within a couple of days, make that, that day, she's like, thank you so much. And a couple of days later, she's like, Oh my God, your edits were great. A couple of days later, she's like, I re I rewrote the introduction. Would you be open to reading it again?

Sara: ha ha!

Stephanie: So

Sara: That's awesome!

Stephanie: So Sarah's book will come out later this year, I think. But I, I have the inside track on, on knowing that it's, it's wonderful, but I wanted to give you the props that you inspired me to do that.

Sara: Oh, I'm so, I'm so glad to hear that you did that.

Stephanie: Hmm.

Sara: it can be really intimidating the very first time you do it when you open the document thing. Okay. What is it that I'm supposed to

Stephanie: Well. For me, I own a marketing agency, right? And so the writing that comes in front of my desk is people either on my team or, or other people who have done some writing that I have no problem tearing to shreds or reworking or reshaping, right? Cause it's,

Sara: It's a very, it's a different style of writing

Stephanie: It totally is. And I was like, normally I would go in and just like, you know, be cranking away on like edits and shaping and different things. So I did a lot of comments with like, consider this instead of that, or consider, you know, and I like write my rewrite my sentence, but like consider something like this.

But anyway, it was was. It was a neat experience and I'm glad I did it. You get you get some props for that one. Okay. So from 35 to 39, where you are now, you have met, the man that fits, you have left corporate America and, and stepped out on your own in a, in a company that fits and that you feel joy and fulfillment doing this work. So here you are, 39 aiming at 40 later this year, and you're at the another sort of inflection point of a milestone birthday coming towards you.

Sara: hmm.

Stephanie: Things are better than they were in your late twenties. But tell me what it looks like as you're like cruising down the highway and that 40 sign is getting closer and closer.

Sara: So I'll start with the good things and then we can go on to what's still a little icky. I can't freaking wait for the rest of this year. So, my biggest dream of my, of a book coming out is happening this year. My debut poetry collection. Thank you. It's called Wild Gardens. It's going to be out probably by sometime in August or September.

It took me almost two years to find my publisher.

That, that whole process re taught me a lot of, you know, lessons about patience, perseverance, persistence, all things that get iterated over and over again when you're, you know, when you're a writer.

Stephanie: hmm. Mm hmm.

Sara: It's really weird to be at the point where I'm thinking about, things like the launch party. And marketing and doing readings at bookstores or poetry events and things like that. And so it's a very different mindset to have now. You know, so it's a little overwhelming sometimes, but it is very exciting. My boyfriend and I have also been going out and doing a lot of traveling since things opened up again, post COVID.

Stephanie: Post lockdown. We have a big trip coming up later this year, before the book comes out, where we're going to be in Italy for an entire month. And, you know, we're going to, you know, it's not going to be just being a tourist the whole time. We're going to be working and sort of living there. And I can't wait. I've been to so far four countries since I started traveling. I love it. Just seeing the culture, seeing the cities, eating the foods that the locals eat. And just carrying pieces of that back with me, either figuratively or literally when I come home.


Sara: This will be public knowledge by the time this podcast goes out, but my application for a writing retreat later this year was accepted. It's a dream retreat. It's the Orion Magazine environmental writers retreat out at Omega Institute in the Hudson Valley.

Stephanie: Congratulations!

Sara: Thank you.

Stephanie: What wonderful news.

Sara: I'm really, really looking forward to doing that later this year.

It's funny because there have been a few people who have talked to me about turning 40, and I have a couple friends who have already turned 40 or are somewhere in their 40s and talking about being over the hill and whatnot.

And it's like, nope. Nope. Not with the year that this is shaping up to be. It's very similar to the attitude that I had going into my 30s 10 years ago. It's just, I can't tell you now how my 40s are going to be better than my 30s, but that is sort of the feeling that I have going into it. I'm really, really excited. But it also means that like, not all the Ick has been resolved. It's, it's not a thing that's ever goes away.

Stephanie: Yeah. Mm

nk it was back in the fall of:

Stephanie: Mm

Sara: And one of the things she suggested, if I wanted to take my business to the next level was, you should do what all these other writing coaches are doing and do a year long book coaching program, a group coaching program.

e. I spent the better part of:

Stephanie: Yeah.

gs happened toward the end of:

Stephanie: Yeah,

Sara: Not how other people tell us we should do it.

Stephanie: And that's part of the transition, right? That's part of the, the, the moving from first adulthood to second adulthood. Because in first adulthood, we do all the things that people tell us we should. And we rely on their expertise and their experience and their authority, to know better than us and tell us what the formula is for success.

And part of this transition, during this period, this generally 35 to 45, sometime around your 40th birthday, is people start to see cracks in that. They start to see that, actually you don't know better than me. I know well enough for myself. I have my own experience. I have my own authority. I have my own expertise and I can now start to make my own choices and my own decisions based on what I know is going to work for me. And. I'm going to go back to what we were talking about earlier about energetics, right? And, and, and bringing the right energy. When you stop doing all the things that other people say you should, right? Cause that is why you're hustling because you're, you got to check so many boxes. You got to do all the things you got to make sure that you hit every part of the plan in order for it to be successful. Whereas when you start trusting yourself, the things that you do end up being more in alignment, more fulfilling and more, achievable, more manageable.

Sara: Mm

Stephanie: And bring better energy to the process.

In fact, one of my words for:

Stephanie: That's a great word.

Sara: And you know, what's been interesting about doing less and trusting myself.

Stephanie: it happened to me, but go ahead and tell me what your story is.

Sara: I am actually so far this year having the best business year my business has ever had. it floors me sometimes and it's, but, you know, I have, I've temporarily closed my coaching calendar, or at least at the time of recording this, I have. I'm starting to book out editing projects for it into the spring. I already have somebody who's interested for the fall. It's, it's just, there's been so much really positive activity. I cannot ignore what has transpired since starting to do less.

me, it took getting sick. In:

My husband would deliver dinner to my lap. Cause I couldn't even walk to the kitchen. And, and it was concerning. I mean, at that point, my, my business was 10 years old. And you know, several people worked for me and, it wasn't just a matter of like, let me turn off the lights and take a break for a little while and heal.

It was no, this supports multiple households. We have to keep going. But I wasn't able to do the same things that I had done before. And I had the exact same experience. I had the, it was like, Oh, wait, look, my revenue shot up that year. And then in the years since I've, I've been managing these chronic illnesses. And, and that means managing my workload and how, how long I'm able to chain myself to a desk. And, and yeah, business has been much better in the last, seven years than it was in the first 10.

Sara: Do you often look back at the period when you were doing all the things and think, how in the world was I doing that?

Stephanie: I don't think that because I was always someone who who did all the things. I was somebody who, you know you know, I was volunteering and nonprofits and I was, you know, going to all the business events. And like, do it. Like, I just loved being out in the world. But what I was doing is comparing myself to, there were two men that I knew in the business community who were friends who also owned marketing agencies. When I started, I was like, a little one man band and theirs were,fully functional, 20, 30, 40 person organizations. So it wasn't as if they were comparable, types of organizations, but I would watch what they were doing. And I would watch how they went and, and, and built their businesses. And, and I would always think that I was doing it wrong because I wasn't doing it their way.

Sara: Mmhmm.

Stephanie: And I had to disabuse myself of that. It took a long timeto detach myself from that belief. And, and it really was the year I got sick that had me like a V8 moment, like, Oh, Stephanie, maybe your way is different.

Sara: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Stephanie: I had, it was interesting. I had always told myself literally since I started, it's like, I don't want a 40 person company. That's just not what I want to manage. So it was like,

Sara: No.

Stephanie: why am I trying to do it like them who have that, when I'm trying to create a completely different beast.

Sara: Mm hmm. yeah,

Stephanie: yeah,

Sara: Yeah. Yeah. I think I'm still, I still right now have the mentality of, or just looking back and thinking, I don't know how I did that last year.

Stephanie: yeah yeah,

Sara: But that's okay, you know, because that's not a direction that I'm interested in going back in right now. Doing less right now has not only yielded better results, but it's also felt a lot better. I feel more grounded this year than I did last year, where I really felt like it was just just too much of the energy that I really did not want to have.

Stephanie: Yeah that frazzled energy.

Sara: just needed some hard lessons to teach me, no, that's not the direction I want to go on.

Stephanie: All right. So you're aiming at 40, which is a huge milestone birthday. So let's talk about other milestones. How do you feel today about achieving milestones that are typical life milestones? Do you, you know, is your mom still asking you if you're, if she's going to have grandchildren?

Sara: She hasn't done that in a long time, actually.

You know, milestones, I think, are just really societal norms and expectations that we try to push on each other. I'm perfectly happy with being in an unmarried, but 100 percent committed relationship.

ho make you happy, and being,:

Stephanie: Right. It doesn't need to.

Sara: It doesn't need to.

Stephanie: Okay. So tell me, you said that you had made your way through some of the Ick. We had talked about some depression and anxiety and, and the things you did to work with that and professional issues. And so what else is on your plate of things you still need to tackle and get under control?

Sara: Again, the work thing we just talked about. Sometimes I also still experience overthinking that leads to anxiety. I think part of that is just how my brain is wired. And it's something I'm just need to be mindful of as time goes on, but it is much better than it used to be, which you know, thanks to some personal coaching and some other tools that I've picked up along the way that have been so helpful.

And, you know, some daily routine things that are very meaningful to me, like journaling. Morning meditation, yoga. It's all helped me to come to a better place in terms of not just my mental health, but also how my brain works.

I think the one thing, one of the, one thing that I'm still working through, is family relationships. I discovered last year, or at least I found the information that allowed me to make this discovery that my family has been shaped by an emotionally immature parent. I read Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsey C. Gibson. Last year I had started writing a couple of poems about experiences that happened between me and one of my parents. Not, and these are not abusive experiences, but they were things that happened that left a, you know, that traumatized me.

Stephanie: hmm.

Hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Sara: And, I started, I've came to a place where I started writing poems about it, poems that have not made their way into the world at this point, because that's also part of this, the Ick that I'm going through with this. After sharing that poem with my poetry group, one of them, recommended that I read the book. I saw my parent in that book. I also saw my family, my family dynamics. And it's not this person, it's not this person and my family to a T, because they're, some of the things that were talked about are things that I don't see reflected in my parent or in my family. There's quite a bit that there was.

and so I'm sort of been rumbling with that ever since then. I mean, it explains a lot about some of the, the challenges that I've experienced with this particular parent. It's hard for me to be specific right now. This is actually one of the first times I'm talking about this on a podcast. And so I know I'm still being somewhat vague.

Stephanie: You're being brave, is whatyou're being.

Sara: Yeah, and being brave a lot of the time means doing something that's uncomfortable and you know, and plus there's also a lot that comprises being an, you know, an emotionally immature parent. The personality traits, the, the behaviors they exhibit the, how they behave with their children.

It's really helped me to make sense of my relationship with this particular parent. And also, helped me to see why my parent has probably reacted to certain conversations that we've had in the past in the way that they have.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Sara: And why we've had these struggles now and then with our, with our relationship. As I mentioned before, part of the Ick of this is also the fact that I'm starting to process this using writing. I've actually been told by a few people that the poems I've written for this so far are among the best I've ever written. And that scares the crap out of me.

Stephanie: Ha ha.

Sara: It does.

Stephanie: Talk about walking naked into the streets.

Sara: Yeah. , You know, it's, it's not so much. I think one of the things I have to learn through this process is it's not so much what are other people going to think of me or what are other people are going to think of my parent, because most of the people I know who read poetry are compassionate

Stephanie: Right.

Sara: and empathetic enough to not be judgmental.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Sara: It's what my parent is going to think.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Sara: And I have, that's, that's the thing that I have to learn to move past.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. I understand that. Because they probably, if you were to put the definition in front of them, they probably wouldn't see themselves that way. They might not, they might not resonate with the definition themselves. So for you to put that definition there and make it and have it be something that they wouldn't agree with is, is that's there's tension right there. There's challenge right there.

Yeah. I understand. Yeah. Well,

Sara: Mm

Stephanie: It's brave of you to even, you know, open the door here and, and start to talk about it. I, I'm, I'm, I'm very proud of you for doing that.

Sara: Thank Thank you.

Stephanie: You know, this is, this is part of the Ick. This is part or working through it.

And there's no easy answer, and you're going to continue to peel back the layers of the onion. And you'll come to a place where you're comfortable and with your reality. And, you know, come what may.

Sara: And I think one of the helpful things, too, is as I've been sharing this privately with my friends

Stephanie: Mm

Sara: or, other people I trust, it's amazing how many other people have also either already come to a similar conclusion about their families or they're like, wow.

Stephanie: The, support and encouragement that I've gotten from people so far has been, has been very, very helpful.

Have you shared the concept with your brother?

Sara: no,

Stephanie: I just wonder if he would resonate with it as well.

Sara: He might. That would mean diving into one of the things in the book that we probably are running out of time to talk about.

Stephanie: Right.


Just curious. Just didn't know.



Sara: No,

Stephanie: Interestingly, this this book has, crossed my path a couple of times in the last year. A girlfriend was reading it and saying you know, she had seen some pictures of her own family in it. Another friend has, has did the same thing. And and I've, read pieces of it and, and can see some some of those same elements myself, from my, my family as well. So

Sara: Yeah, My brother and I are very different in a way that's very clearly described in the book.E And a result, it's probably going to be very hard for him to look inward and draw a lot of the same conclusions that I have.

Stephanie: I see.

Sara: Maybe, I mean, he may be more capable of that than I

Stephanie: Yep.

Sara: I don't really know, but it's, it's a difficult enough conversation that my brother and I have not talked about

Stephanie: Yeah, yeah, sure. Sure. Well, it sounds like you're just at the beginning of the journey with this piece anyway. So, you know, maybe there'll come a time where you're comfortable enough with it and you guys are in a specific circumstance that makes conversation, a good thing to do, but until then, take care of yourself.

That's the whole point

Sara: Mm hmm.

Stephanie: of all of this is taking care of yourself.

Sara: Yes, that's very true.

Stephanie: Well, Sarah, this has been a wonderful. I have so enjoyed really getting to know you and you've been very brave in this last segment talking about what's, what's left for you or what's next for you to address as you make your way through the midlife Ick. So I just want to thank you so much for, for coming on today and sharing your story with me.

Sara: Thank you very much, Stephanie, not only for having me here today, but for giving me that space and that support on the other side of the screen. As I've, you know, as I've been talking about that and just, and for understanding. I, I, I really can't tell you how much I appreciate that.

Stephanie: been my honor.

Sara: Thank you.




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