The Project

As she contemplated turning forty, Stephanie McLaughlin had two ideas for her birthday: First, she wanted to go to Paris. Second, she wanted to have forty drinks with forty friends.

She thought about having the big “four-oh” party but considered what happens at a party like that. Typically the guest of honor gets to spend quality time with only a handful of people and everyone else gets a kiss and a quick visit. After an event like this, you realize that you’ve had satisfying conversations with only a handful of people.
Instead, Stephanie devised this idea: to have forty drinks with forty friends in forty different places and to make each drink have some symbolic connection to their relationship. She took pictures of herself with each friend and wrote about that friend, their relationship and what they meant to her.

Stephanie thought that this would be a much more satisfying way to visit with the people who played pivotal roles in her life, and people she doesn’t get to see that often.

After returning from Paris, she started making a list. She dug up friends she hadn’t seen or talked to for a decade or more. She reached out to a couple of ex-boyfriends. She included her nearest and dearest and her inner circle. She traveled some distance to have a few of the drinks. Interestingly, a few people opted out. Mostly, though, people were happy to be included in her turning forty project, and she was delighted to visit and connect (or reconnect) with forty different people who are supremely special to her in a variety of ways.

She started a blog, just for her family and friends. And, as she started writing the individual blog posts about each drink, she realized that this was an interesting – almost profound – way to reflect on her own life. The people from different parts of her life, who knew her at different times, told her stories about herself that both amused and amazed her, some of which shook her foundations. Her friends and family reflected back to her what they knew and thought about her, which in several cases was quite different than what she knew and thought about herself.

And so, at the end of her fortieth year her life looked and felt very different than it had at the beginning. What started off as a ridiculous way to celebrate and extend “turning forty” for an entire year turned into something very different along the way. The mere ridiculousness of the endeavor obscured its importance until it was too late – and she was changed forever.

I dig it! Now put me on your list!

We’ll send occasional emails about Forty Drinks.

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