Fear challenge of the week: 9 steps to having a fearless birthday

20111109-lens-morgue-fly-slide-B4EK-jumboFIRST, acknowledge that you are not Amelia Earhart or even Bear Grylls; you live in the tri-state area with limited vacation days; and therefore will not be piloting a transatlantic flight or eating a grub tasting menu. Meaning your opportunities to be fearless are somewhat, well, limited.

Then take your fearless opportunities where you can find them.

1) Own  your age. Yes, even if it’s the de facto nickname of the Worst President Ever. Even if just saying the words “I am forty-three” simply remind you of the fact that a) you are not now and never will be 38 again, something you’ve been in denial about for (oh shit) five years now; and b) you didn’t finish everything you were supposed to do when you were 42.

Which means, in my case, carrying over all those checklist items to yet another age, some of which have been hanging on there since 2008. Like fixing the garage door. Un-check. Reseeding the lawn. Still un-check. Writing a novel, a YA book, a self-help book, something (even an event listing!) for the New Yorker, doing that fancypants juice cleansing fast that seems as though it would wreak digestive havoc and give me the personality of a Dementor but that I toy with about once a week because it comes in those bottles with the cute font.

2) While you’re at it, say to hell with SCARY NUMBERS in general. That means no fudging your age, your weight, your height, or any other potentially haunting digits you can think of. When you stop fussing over such matters, at least outwardly, it makes you feel that much closer to eventually becoming that cool crone on the cover of When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple, or Bonnie Bedelia in Parenthood, and you begin to picture your future as the kind of adorable elder lady who goes on expensive educational tours to Asia with her college alumni association, and knows how to tie scarves properly.
3) Then do your own thing.

4) Give the hip-hop singing guy on the S train a compliment even though he’s terrible and now probably won’t stop talking to you. (At least it’s a short ride.)

5) Stand behind all the tiny identical blonde girls at the lunch place and get a sandwich (carbs!) with pesto—even though no one is around to tell you if it’s stuck in your teeth. Bonus points for adding a cookie.

6) Choose a spot in the park where everyone seems to be sitting in groups of 2 or 3. Opt to be alone.

7) Step on sidewalk cracks all the way back to the office. Acknowledge this shouldn’t feel daring on any level at your age.

8) Say actual words to one of the IT guys in the elevator who will jump as though you threatened to bite him. (For the record, the words were “Nice outside, isn’t it?”)

9) Be glad you’ve made it this far. Be hopeful you have many more years to make lists, and not finish them, to take chances, to say the hell with it, to be friendly even when it’s not required.