Alumna Sarah Brokaw Returns to NYU to Discuss "Fortytude"

On a cold, drizzly evening at the end of March, women gathered at the NYU Bookstore to listen to Sarah Brokaw, MSW '98, speak warmly and with humor about her new book, Fortytude.

The book aims to help women transcend their fear of aging and emphasizes five core values as a guide -- grace, connectedness, accomplishment, adventure, and spirituality. Brokaw profiles 40 women that exemplify these values.

She explained that the impetus for the book came from a moment of crisis she turned into a "sparkling moment." Without a husband or children, she was too embarrassed to attend her 20-year high school reunion. At the same time, Brokaw, a licensed therapist with a private practice in Beverly Hills, observed her female patients reaching age 35 feeling like they only had five years left before they became "irrelevant."

"I tried to reassure these women, but at the same time it was a parallel process for me." Like her patients, Brokaw was aging and had to accept it.

She decided a book needed to be written that was "upbeat, relevant, and attractive to all women." To conduct research, she traveled the country facilitating discussions among diverse groups of women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

Brokaw discussed each of the five core values through stories of women from her book. For example, many women defined grace the way her mother defined it, even if that was not realistic for the women Brokaw interviewed. She stressed that each woman has to define her own strength. She defined grace as "capitalizing on your own strengths while admiring other people's strengths."

She also spoke about the need for female mentors while discussing connectedness. In today's society connectedness can take a backseat to efficiency; writing emails often trumps writing letters or picking up the phone. But a one-on-one connection is crucial in supporting fellow women, not just in the workplace.

Adventure does not require recklessness or a lot of money. Brokaw explained, "Adventure is when you just go beyond your comfort zone." Each person needs adventure to help feel alive and youthful, and each woman needs to define it for herself.

A lively discussion followed with audience members asking Brokaw questions and sharing their own life observations. Co-sponsored by the NYU Silver School of Social Work and the NYU Women's Initiative, the overall message from the discussion: Listen to your authentic voice and do not worry about the calendar.

Brokaw closed the discussion with the following thought: "Turning 40 is a problem of the privileged." In developing countries, women are lucky to turn 40. If women reach this age, they need to empower themselves and take advantage of their good fortune.