Stephanie McLaughlin kicks off season four of the Forty Drinks Podcast by exploring the concept of the “Ick” – that feeling of something not quite fitting in our lives as we approach or pass our 40th birthday. She shares her own experience and the mission of the podcast, which is to make it common knowledge that there is a transition most of us face around age 40 and to showcase different versions of that transition so that no one feels alone. Stephanie also previews the upcoming season and discusses the trends she has noticed in her conversations with guests.

Navigating the ‘Ick’: Stories of Transformation and Growth

Welcome to the Forty Drinks Podcast, season four! In this episode, host Stephanie McLaughlin dives into the topic of the “Ick” – that feeling of something not quite fitting in our lives as we approach or pass our 40th birthday. Stephanie shares her own experience and the mission of the podcast: to make it common knowledge that there is a transition most of us face around age 40, and to showcase different versions of that transition so that no one feels alone. She discusses the introvert-extrovert dynamic and how it impacts how we process information. Stephanie also gives a preview of the upcoming season and shares some of the trends she has noticed in her conversations with guests. Tune in to hear more about this transformative stage of life and the stories of those who have navigated it.

Highlights from this episode include:

– The concept of the “Ick” and feeling like something doesn’t fit anymore

– The importance of trusting our own thoughts and feelings over external authorities

– The potential for minor adjustments or major life changes during this transition

– The impact of childhood experiences on adult lives

– The desire to find fulfillment, meaning, and alignment in life

– The role of intuition and self-reflection in making important decisions

– Embracing change and getting comfortable with uncertainty

Tune in to hear more about this transformative stage of life and gain insights from those who have navigated it. 

If you enjoyed this episode, please consider rating, following, or reviewing the podcast. 

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: Hello and welcome to season four of the 40 Drinks Podcast. I'm your host, Stephanie McLaughlin, and I am so happy to be back with you after a short restorative break.

You know, sometime in the years before or after or around our 40th birthday, many of us start to feel what I've started calling The Ick. Like some part of our life no longer fits and you don't know what to do about that. I know it was true for me and I fought against it, which only made the process that much messier. But having 40 drinks with 40 people over the course of a year helped me escape the influence of that Ick. On this podcast, I welcome you to tap into my stories and experience as well as those of my guests to help you emerge from your own Ick and maybe even avoid some of the mistakes We made along the way.

I'm so excited to share this season's conversations with you. Just today, I've recorded a couple interviews that I'll share with you towards the end of the season. And let me tell you, they are fantastic. I left my seat today absolutely buzzing after these conversations. I could do cartwheels about them.

You know, I've said before that I am an extrovert and one of the things I learned about the introvert extrovert thing is that it's more than just how comfortable we are around people or where we get our energy from. It also has an impact on how we process information. In really simple terms introverts form their thoughts inside their heads and usually don't open their mouths before they know precisely what they think. Whereas extroverts like me process out loud, which means sometimes we don't even know what we think until we say it out loud, until it exists out in the, the air between us and the person we're talking with. I say that because a couple of weeks ago at the end of season three, I was recording the outro, the ending segment of an episode, and the mission for this podcast came out of my mouth, fully formed.

Here's what I said. My mission is to make it common cultural knowledge that there is a transition most of us face around age 40, and then showcase so many versions of that transition that every single person approaching, or recently turned 40, wi th dread in their heart knows that they are not alone.

I just, I don't think it is common cultural knowledge that there's a pretty predictable developmental stage in this period that includes some sort of transition and it's not so much that it's a midlife crisis, though it can be for some people. For many of my guests and from my own experience, I've learned that many times it can be a midlife awakening, and that story could go something like this.

We leave home in our late teens and either jump right into some version of an adult life, or we head to college or some other schooling, and then jump into that young adult life in our early twenties. We'll spend the next 10 years reaching, striving, pursuing, checking boxes, achieving some or many or of all of the things that they, the Royal They, have told us will make us happy, healthy, successful, and safe.

Now, the Royal They are those people we trust parents, teachers, bosses, mentors, friends, who have more experience in the world than we do, and who can provide guidance. And the Royal They can also include just simply society, culture, and the media, anywhere we get impressions of what a happy, healthy, successful life looks like.

But then sometime in our 30s or 40s, we start to feel like something's off, like, like something doesn't fit anymore. And maybe there are questions bubbling up that are a little uncomfortable. Is this all there is? Is this it? Is this what I worked so hard for?

It could be our job or our career that's not fitting. It could be relationships of any stripe. Or sometimes it could feel like it's... Everything. And then we start to realize that maybe we missed some clues along the way because we're so busy achieving the things we were told we should, that we missed some things that might have been a better fit or would have suited our hearts or souls better.

And that's another thing about this period, the mere fact of our hearts and souls becomes something we begin to consider, something we give credence to. And instead of picture perfect, we yearn for things that are fulfilling, meaningful and aligned. And so the transition really happens when we start to trust our own thoughts and feelings, our own guidance, our own experience and authority more than we trust that of the external authorities that we had put so much belief in previously.

What happens then is that we may have to change things in our lives. And for some people, it could be minor adjustments. For others, it's major changes. Blowing up their lives or watching it all crumble around them. But I think that the dramatic blowing up or crumbling might be able to be avoided to some extent, if we tune in a little earlier and start taking our own desires and needs a little bit more seriously, and not writing them off as frivolous or unreasonable or unachievable. In many of my conversations. I hear that things that happened in childhood can also end up having ramifications in our adult lives. And if we can get some of those things worked out, then maybe we don't have to experience such dramatic transitions at this period of our lives.

And for some people it takes up until that age to find the courage to pursue the things they know will light them up. They know would be fulfilling and meaningful and maybe even putting aside traditional careers and great paychecks and what those traditional authorities might have called safety and security.

Some people have health issues that knock them off track. And sometimes it's even the accumulated effects of stress that can make them sick.

There are people who find the courage to create family lives outside what's traditionally expected because they know it will be good for them as adults and good for their kids too, no matter what the peanut gallery or the naysayers or, or the people who are fearful of how that could turn out may say to them.

And while 40 may or may not be the actual center point of our lives anymore, with people living longer, it's still a point at which people often take stock and think about what they wantthe second half of their life to look like. And that could inspire people to make changes because time begins to feel finite.

I ran into this with my original 40 Drinks Project. Now, remember, I was going to have 40 drinks with 40 people in 40 different places, and each of those drinks was going to have some thematic connection to my friend or our relationship.

Now the first drink happened pretty much by accident. I was out to dinner with my best friend one night and telling him about this ridiculous idea I had to celebrate my birthday. And he loved it and pointed out that the drink menu had the most perfect drink to represent both him and the beginning of our relationship. So voila, I was underway. And then over the next couple of weeks, there were a few people who had come home to visit. It was summer. So, you know, some people were coming home and I had drinks with them as well as some people who were local or who that project gave me a really good excuse to plan a fun night out with.

So before I knew it, I was like 10 or 12 drinks in and the rest of the slots were quickly getting filled up. And that's when I realized I wanted to put some thought into the exercise. Who did I really want to have a drink with? Now that some of the easy ones, some of the obvious ones, were out of the way and some, some other easy and obvious ones were kind of scheduled out, who should I go looking for to sort of round out the experience? Who should I make overtures to that I hadn't seen in years or a decade or more that I wanted to have a drink with. And I think that's just an interesting and very small illustration of that same thought process that happens as we reach our forties.

Time begins to feel finite and we start to think about what we want to fill the time we have left with. And so it becomes much more important because there's a finite amount left and we want to make sure we use it well, so we start thinking about what exactly we want to fill it with.

You know, I've already done most of the interviews for this season and I am so excited to share them with you. There are some really great stories in store. And now that I'm about 70 conversations deep in this subject area, there are some really clear trends that are appearing, and I've put some thought into it and kind of organized them into order of the transition, kind of trends from the beginning of the transition, the messy middle, and then the end of the transition.

So, I'm just gonna roll through these. They're not fully formed yet. I'm still working through them, but I want to share them with you. So at the beginning of a transition, there's a lot of consistency around personal growth and transformation. And sometimes that can be triggered by a significant event or a realization,

and so people are embarking on this journey of self discovery and they make changes in their lives to align with what they call their true selves. My guests have all faced various challenges and adversities. It could be difficult childhoods. It could be abusive relationships, health issues, career setbacks, personal setbacks, relationship setbacks, and all of my guests have found ways to overcome challenges and not only get past them, but learn some lessons from them.

A lot of them are realizing the importance of letting go of societal expectations and defining their own paths. And that's what I was talking about a minute ago, challenging traditional norms and embracing your own unique identity and desires, even if it means going against what is traditionally expected or societally accepted. People at the beginning part of this transition are embracing their true selves, which allows them to find a lot of freedom in living authentically. There's a lot of opening up and being vulnerable and people allowing themselves to be seen and heard for who they really are. There's really a lot of self reflection, and redefining priorities. A lot of times there are challenges that are bubbling up at this point in time around loss, grief, and other kinds of transitions, family transitions, whether it's having young children in the home or having older children move off to the next stage of their lives, which leads people to really reevaluate priorities and values and try to figure out what really matters to them.

There have been some consistent trends around embracing change and getting comfortable with uncertainty. People stepping outside of their comfort zones to pursue not only personal growth, but also new opportunities. And people at the beginning part of this transition are redefining success and failure and recognizing that external achievements and societal definitions of success do not necessarily lead to fulfillment. And so that leads people to shift their focus to inner growth and personal fulfillment.

So those are really the themes around the beginning part of the transition. It's a time of, discomfort. It's a time of, upending things we thought we knew and moving into some uncertainty and some unknown.

And then we get to the messy middle where people are really doing the work. I think a lot of this messy middle part is about self discovery and personal growth. I mean, this, the whole transition is about personal growth, beginning, middle, and end, but people in the middle are trying to figure out who they really are, so that they can embrace that version of themselves and figure out what they truly want.

They're stepping out of their comfort zones, right? If we're stepping away from societal expectations, that's really not a comfortable place. So, there's a lot of difficult decisions in the middle and, and new opportunities that people pursue, whether they end up taking or not. There's a lot of healing that happens in the middle of this transition. People explore lots of different modalities, certainly therapy and meditation comes up over and over and over again. Spirituality and the concept of a spiritual awakening in whatever way that resonates for you or feels good for you. People talk a lot about alternative medicine and other ways that they can go through this healing process and find an inner peace. People are looking to find purpose and meaning. And a lot of that comes through introspection and self reflection and exploring new paths.

People are not only discovering but also embracing their passions and trying to create a life that is aligned with those passions and their values and their desires.

Another thing that comes up a lot is tuning into your intuition and your inner voice and learning to trust that voice, no matter how crazy it sounds. A lot of guests have talked about how listening to their intuition has led them to make really important decisions. It's helped them really find some clarity and navigate through a lot of life's challenges.

So instead of using their head, they're really trying to tune into theirgut instinct. And in the process of that,another trend in this messy middle is learning to be present in the moment, learning, not to throw our minds forward or back and to really feel, experience and observe thoughts and emotions in order to cultivate self awareness, because these are the things that help people make conscious choices and live more intentionally.

And that brings us kind of to the end of the transition, where I'm finding the trends that appear at that point in time include finding some perspective and gratitude for the lessons that you've learned, no matter how challenging they were to learn them or go through them and, the importance of finding joy and purpose in life. When people are finding what truly brings them happiness and fulfillment, they're able to create that life that's aligned with it and my guests have really learned to be kind and gentle with themselves and to forgive themselves for the mistakes they made and really to practice self care and self love. This part has been really crucial in their journeys of personal growth and transformation.

So, it's been really interesting to, watch these themes and consistent elements, bubble up out of conversations with people literally all over the globe. And, at many ages from, mid to late thirties, all the way through to, sixties and seventies.

So, so there's a lot of consistency here, which really brings me back to the thing that I call the thesis for this podcast, which is that book Passages by Gail Sheehy, who came out with this concept of there being predictable, crises and developmental stages of adult life.

And this decade, this 35 to 45 decade really is, is one of those predictable transitions in adult life. So she found it in the seventies, doing a ton of research and surveys. And I am certainly seeing the same thing being true today with people from a broad range of backgrounds and a broad range of ages.

So it is a real thing and I want people to know about it. I want it to be common knowledge so that we can step into it a little bit more thoughtfully and know it's coming and be able to prepare for it Or know that what's,scratching at us or feels like a pebble in our shoe so that we don't make as much of a mess of it as, as I did. I would

be curious for any of you who have been listening consistently, whether there are any um, other themes that you've picked up on in relation to this transition or, at or around age 40.

All right. I think it's time to zoom in a little bit from trends to who you're going to meet next week. Next week's guest, Karel Chan gave up on her dreams of family and motherhood for a relationship that ultimately ended after four years. And though she was a therapist in private practice, specializing in heartbreak, no less, she was not prepared for the reckoning that she went through when that relationship ended.

I'm really looking forward to sharing this conversation with you. So I'll see you next week.

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