On a Midlife well-lived


By Fawnda Mithrush

In the same week that many ironically wished they could just turn 40 already, longtime friends Sarah Chan and Jhenifer Pabillano dropped a sparkly new anthology that uniquely celebrates the milestone.

Authored by a cohort of alumni who shared their undergrad days at The Gateway, the University of Alberta's weekly newspaper, Midlife is a collection of essays from Edmonton's Gen X/millenial cusp. With notable contributors like illustrator extraordinaire Raymond Biesinger, New York Times bestselling cookbook author Leanne Brown, and Mayor Don Iveson (Chan's husband), the tome is a treasure of local lore and friendly reminiscing.

"It was always meant to be a gift for our friends," says Chan. "It was a labour of love."

It came together remarkably quickly, too — the contributors were pitched on January 2, and save for a month-long delay in printing, the publication was ready to launch in under 90 days.

"We wanted to mark that it's been a year since we've all been locked away," Chan adds, noting that the list of contributors are generally extremely busy folk. "There was no way that any of these people would have been able to do all of this, but because of the pandemic, everyone had the time."

Pabillano also notes that they consciously chose to keep the list of writers gender-balanced — a detail that was oft-ignored in newsrooms of yore.

Sarah Chan and Jhenifer Pabillano look at the camera laughing, in a black and white portrait.

The publishers of Midlife are Jhenifer Pabillano (left) and Sarah Chan (right). (Supplied)

The book is marvelously designed, with Biesinger's cover maze literally shining in gold, embossed on a bed of forest green — a nod to the U of A's team colours and the old bound editions of The Gateway. Numerous inset graphs and drawings show quirky poll data from the contributor set, like "Which Big Shiny Tunes album is best?" and "Things we haven't stopped talking about since we were 25" (the 2006 Oilers playoff run easily won in that category).

Overall, it's a simultaneous celebration and commiseration. Midlife examines growing older and getting busier, keeping in touch with friends, and all that happens on the road towards, well, death. It doesn't take itself too seriously, either.

"I am so proud of us," Chan beams.

The first run is already sold out, but pre-orders for the second printing and the e-book are available. A dollar from each sale goes to a scholarship fund at Edmonton Community Foundation, in acknowledgment of the privilege of post-secondary education that the contributors experienced. To hear more from the team behind the book, check out the livestream launch party tonight (April 22) at 8pm MT on Youtube.