New Beginnings | Turning 42

I really have to give it to 42, this year has gotten off to an amazing start. My new year began with the rising of the sun over Panamá City, Panamá, during the 2022 International Conference of the Americas.

It was amazing to return to the academic side of my life after such a long time. I always enjoyed the networking and idea sharing that takes place at academic meetings. Add that to international venues and I promise you, have research, will travel.

Conference travel in the era of our COVID-19 endemic is certainly next level strange. Just before I left for my conference the regulations changed regarding COVID testing for airline passengers so there were no nose swabs needed this time, though I definitely felt better knowing that I had plenty of masks particularly because so many travelers were exercising their right to not mask on our little metal flying tubes.

I was extremely grateful that my flights did not suffer any of the hundreds of cancellations that have occurred over the last few weeks. A number of the people who were scheduled to participate in our conference were either significantly delayed or absolutely prevented from making it to the meeting. It is odd to consider that you can make plans far in advance to attend a meeting of this magnitude and just like that you can be told that your airline provider can’t get you there on time. But we can get into in another post…

What I really want to take a few minutes to reflect on is what it felt like to celebrate my new year so very far from home.

#1 – Some of you know I LOVE to travel and that solo travel is definitely something I embrace. But I’m not the biggest fan of being away from my loved ones on my birthday and that hit a little different this year. Fortunately, I was with my team and I made ever so many new friends so I wasn’t anything close to alone.

#2 – While I struggled a bit, I REALLY enjoyed my mini Spanish immersion experience. During my last trip abroad I negotiated French, Spanish and Italian but speaking Spanish in Panamá was intense. The cadence felt faster and it was almost like I was sorting through a lot of different accents which now that I think about it, I probably was. Panamá has a lot of Haitians, Guatemalans, Costa Ricans, Venezuelans, folks from the Caribbean islands and all kinds of other influences that I take for granted being the norm for cities like Chicago, New York or Los Angeles. After a week I felt like I was just starting to hit my rhythm a little so I definitely need to keep practicing.

Panamá City, Panamá Skyscrapers

#3 – Panamá City has a LOT of skyscrapers and some gorgeous views. Every time the light shifts the buildings kinda look like they morph and dance into new configurations. One thing that was decidedly absent was the older styled architecture I expect to run across into downtown areas. Though every once in awhile you could turn a corner and see evidence of an older time that gentrification has not yet painted over.

And then, I also got to see the ruins of Old Town.

#4 – It’s perfectly okay to put yourself in time out sometimes. In fact, I recommend it. There were several times that I was grateful to have the option of a little alone time during my recent adventure. Balance and restraint are two concepts that are becoming recurring themes in this phase of my life. Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never fallen victim to that silly rabbit, FOMO. I used to be the Queen of overpacking and itinerary be it work or play. Fear of missing out robs you of the full enjoyment of a thing. My 30 something self would have been appalled by the idea that I opted out of some excursions AND that I didn’t rush to the pre-paid breakfast every morning. She would have given me the famous Spock eyebrow when she learned that I did not utilize the pool nor the workout facilities, though I did get my spa on.

#5 – My forties are about focus and fun. I don’t know exactly when it happened but I’ve almost completely lost my ability to do things that do not bring me supreme joy. Even my mouth is reckless now in a way that it didn’t used to be. If I feel that something is wrong, and I speak up and people do not head my warnings, I’m out. Gone is the girl who would remain pleading for the people to get right.

Bottom line, I feel like my 40s are becoming a multi-layered, love sonnet themed as my personal freedom song. It comes with heavenly highs and leaded lows and so many cords in between. The way I experience the vibrations of my life is what has changed the most and for that I am eternally thankful.

Marta is an award winning filmmaker, writer and producer committed to sharing the rich and complex stories of America’s Heartland region.  Marta wears several hats as Chief Creative-in-Charge of MartaGwyn Productions, LLC as well as the Co-Founder and Senior Grant Writer of Youngblood and Associates, LLC and Chief Operations Officer of Marta Collier Educational Systems and Services, LLC.

Marta is also the founder and editor-in-chief of TheWRITEaddiction.  An online community of writers that publish creative and inspirational works daily at

Marta is an alumna of The Ohio State University and Tougaloo College with degrees in Sociology and English-Journalism and resides in Little Rock, Arkansas, with her husband and unconventional college sweetheart of 11 years, Terrance Youngblood.

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