Today is my birthday, and it’s not just any birthday; today I turn 40 years old. I’m not one for numbers or caring about birthdays, but even I am a little bit affected by the big 4-0. I’m not depressed by it; more surprised I’d say. I’ve always seen 40 as being old, something I knew that I’d (hopefully) achieve one day, but just not so soon. Naturally, this has created a whirlpool of thoughts in my head, so I thought I’d share a few and reflect on what turning 40 really means to me.
Were my 20s & 30s good or bad?
At the time, I couldn’t imagine a better age to be than a 20-something kid. I say kid because that’s what we 40-somethings call them apparently. But in looking back, I’m not totally convinced they were all that great. For the most part, I didn’t have much money since I was just starting out and for most of the decade I didn’t have a significant other in my life. It’s also when I began my career, you know, the one I hated so much that I started a web site to escape from it and stave off going insane? That one. Sure, I was young, healthier and had fewer wrinkles. But I was an idiot, an impoverished one at that, so I’m not sold on the fact that the 20s are actually that great of a decade.
The 30s were a little different. I was aging, maturing and learning more about myself and the world around me. Personally, my 30s were a decade of transformation the likes of which I daresay I may never see again. I was (and still am) in a committed relationship, my career progressed well, I bought a house, I left my job to be a location independent travel blogger, I dealt with more personal loss than anyone ever should, I dealt with personal issues that rocked me to the core, but which ultimately made me stronger and so on. I entered my 30s naïve, foolishly optimistic, overweight and deeply unhappy. I leave them more mature, jaded but in a positive way, underweight and as happy as I have ever been. That’s a lot of change for one decade and while I wouldn’t say that the 30s were the happiest on record, there’s no doubt that they will probably be the most important decade of my life.
Age doesn’t define me
It’s cliché and everyone says it, but I really don’t feel 40. I’m not exactly sure what 40 is supposed to feel like, but whatever it is I’m not there. Sure, I have aches and pains, I can’t sleep through the night anymore and being around a group of Millennials wants me to simultaneously pull a blanket over my head and grab the nearest bottle of anything. I remember as a kid looking up to adults, imagining that I could never be as old as they were. It’s shocking to consider that when I was 10 years old, my mom was 35 and my dad was 40. No way that could possibly be true and yet it is. If I had followed a similar path, I’d have a pre-teen living under my roof instead of three Siberian Huskies. But as I look around at my friends, some with kids in high school, the not-so-subtle truth begins to dawn on me that not only am I an adult, I’m a middle-aged adult at that.
But I don’t think my age has ever really defined who I am, so why start now? If I had let age define me, then at 36 I never would have left a good, stable career to do what I do now, whatever that is. I would have thought that surely one’s late 30s is too old to restart one’s life, but thankfully I didn’t think that way. Actually, it’s not too old at all and the rolls of successful people are littered with the names of people who only became well-known after their 40s or even 50s. A few to note include:
- Anthony Bourdain – 44 when he published his first book and left the kitchen
- Julia Child – 49 when her epic tome “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was first published
- Vera Wang – 40 when she opened her first design salon
So if anything, it seems as if I’m entering what will be the best and most productive decade of my life and certainly not the beginning of the twilight years.
I’m excited, for the first time in my life I’m really excited about what the future holds in store. I’m not a naturally optimistic person; some would call me the Eeyore of the group. But over the last few years I’ve noticed a change in my normally curmudgeonly behavior. I’ve started to be more positive and although it can be hard at times to maintain, that positivity has helped me more than I ever thought it would. By expecting the best to happen, the best usually does happen and extending small kindnesses to others almost always returns the same in spades. But success and being happy isn’t all about one’s mental outlook, it’s about I believe hard work. Work takes many forms, we work hard on our relationships and we work hard to get further along professionally. What all of those people I listed in the section above have in common isn’t their age, it’s their fierce desire to succeed and to not let others define what is and isn’t possible. They refused to be told that they were too late, that all of the good ideas had been thought of and instead they added little bits of brilliance to the world that won’t fade for a very long time. That’s all any of us want really, to be able to contribute something of worth to the world and in return, enjoy some happiness and kindness along the way. That, more than anything else is what I hope for my 40s and for the first time in my life, I can’t wait to get started.
16 thoughts on “What Turning 40 Means To Me”
Happy (belated) birthday, Matt!
The 40’s are my best yet. I’ll be celebrating 45 this March and everything is working out this year. The blog is coming along, I know what I want and I have a long term long for my life. “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are” my favorite quote about age. I know I would be in my early 30’s but I’m clearly more wise than I was then! Happy Birthday!
i like that! i’ll start using that quote too! thanks for sharing ?
Fab piece Matt; I hit the dreaded 4-0 next year so I love to hear that it’s not too late to follow your desires and have more adventures!
And happy birthday!
Happy Birthday. With your great attitude, the 40s are going to suit you just fine! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. A lot of them echoed my own.
Thanks for sharing your big day — and deep thoughts on your progression through life.
Happy Birthday, Matt! I also turned 40 this week! Yikes! And even though I usually don’t put much emphasis on my age or numbers, this one is kind of freaking me out. But, it’s also been a good freak out. I’ve really started buckling down and working on making my goals a reality (namely, finally finishing the book I’ve been talking about finishing forever). So, yeah, for the future!
Hey Matt, happy birthday, really great piece and insight into the fact that everyone goes through hard times, what we front online is sometimes so geared towards the persona we want to be seen as. Been through some tough times now and lately and it’s really struck a chord with me that everything is a journey. Keep on Wandering.
Happy Birthday and inspirational stuff as slways and you convinced me that it’s never too late to find and start chasing your passions and dreams. I was tell myself that Age is just a number and in the end it’s not the years in your life that count but the life in those years.
I’m just three weeks away from a milestone birthday myself. It’s really inspiring to read and hear that life doesn’t stop at 30 — and in so many cases it get so much better!
Happy Birthday Matt!
A birthday is just another day where you go to work and people give you love. Age is just a state of mind, and you are as old as you think you are. You have to count your blessings and be happy.
You don’t get older, you get better.
Enjoyed the post. Everyone wants to be young and I cringe at these kids who complain about ‘feeling old’ when they hit 25 or 30. Give me a break. Like you, the 30’s were great – in your 20’s you usually have no money, no idea where your life is headed, you’re usually struggling and trying to get somewhere in whatever you’re doing. In your 30’s things usually come together, you get stable, (hopefully) have some money. And you still feel and look young.
I can tell you that the 40’s are even better, basically a continuation of your 30’s but with more of the better aspects.
I’ll be turning 50 this year and have my own worries…all downhill from here :)
I turned 50 last year. I can feel it in my body, but in my head I still feel like in my twenties (maybe it’s because I’ve done competitive sports all my life, sports keeps you young at heart) and still have many dreams to fullfill. After visiting 70+ countries my wife and I started to create our own travel blog which we launched last week. Our dream: to be able to travel indefinetely. It’s never too late for dreams. Maybe if we work hard enough at it we can make it happen.
I’m starting to think these age hang ups are all tied up with cultural beliefs- when you’re forty you start to physically notice your age. When you’re fifty its appropriate to notice your body starting to break down- and so on. IMHO- totally unnecessary. Forget the numbers. Reflect, of course, on life, on becoming more and more who you truly are, but shun conversations that have to do with age’s aches and pains, refuse to make disparaging remarks about youself or your body. I turned sixty a few months ago. Really looked forward to it actually- because sixty felt like- I don’t need to take nothin’ from nobody no more ’cause I made to sixty with body and heart and soul intact! Yay for me. Whatever your situation, if you are lucky enough to reach old age, aim to be able to look back on your life path with empathy and gratitude.
Oh and sold all our stuff 3 years ago and on the road since then and having great outer and inner adventures!!
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