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.