{life} This Is 40: Here’s What I’ve Learned So Far

My friend Whitney wrote a beautiful post when she turned 40 a few years back, and it has stuck with me. It inspired me to write this, on the day of my own 40th birthday.

Articles like this always have contemplative pictures of sunsets. So here you go.

I am not afraid to turn 40, but I am a little afraid for the world that I am now what passes for a responsible adult! Once you’re 40, there is no more pretending you’re not really a real adult. I grew up thinking that adults–like people who are 40–have all the answers. I guess I’m still a little stunned that I do not have all (or even very many) of the answers.

But I have definitely learned some things here and there, so I wanted to share them on this special day.

15 Things I Know Now That I Am 40 

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I know, that is a cliche, but hear me out. Every time you allow yourself to feel rage at a person who cuts you off on the freeway, you are wasting rage that could be better directed towards something really important, like inequality, injustice, running out of sauvignon blanc, etc.

2. The amount of energy a person spends to say they “hate drama” is directly proportional to their actual love for drama. When someone feels the need to tell you they want nothing to do with “drama” in their life, what you should hear is “I love, create, relish, and foment drama whenever possible.”

We call this the “Law of Drama.”

3. You don’t have to be a pleaser to be a pleasant person. Women and girls are taught to be “pleasers.” I have finally learned that it’s OK to say “No” or “I am not comfortable with that” or “please stop doing that” or whatever I need to say to whoever needs to hear it. I am finally OK with not being a pleaser (but I still mostly try to be pleasant.)

4. Show up to life. Do you have friends who always seem to have funny or interesting stories? Their secret is that they show up to life. That’s all. If you don’t show up, far fewer funny and interesting things happen in your life. So if someone invites me to something, I try to go. 9 out of 10 times it’s better to have gone than not.

This is me showing up to a fancy fundraiser at an art museum, less than 3 weeks after having a baby via C-section. I did not feel like going, and my whole body hurt, and I leaked breast milk all the way through my white strapless dress, but I was STILL glad I showed up. 

5. Cherish the people you love. Like, really cherish them. Friends, partners, family members, whoever is deserving of it. Nourish your relationship. Send them cards or texts or snapchats just to say you’re thinking of them. Tell them something you admire about them, randomly, for no reason. Thank them. Hug them. Help them when it’s hard and celebrate them when it’s not. Remember important dates like the anniversary of their mom’s death or their kid’s birthday and reach out with a kind thought. If you see something they would like, buy it for them and give it to them as a surprise gift. Donate money to their cause when they ask you to.

6. Sometimes the meanest people need the most kindness. My friend Heather reminded me recently that annoying kids need hugs. But this goes for adults, too. If you come across a miserable SOB, remind yourself that it can’t be easy being such a miserable SOB all the time and that it probably comes from a deep place of unhappiness, loss, insecurity, or just a lifetime of being an unlikeable jerk. Jerks aren’t born, they’re made- usually by people being jerks to them. And the cycle continues. Hard as it may be, try to extend kindness and peace to these jerks, because they probably need it the most and get it the least. If someone I know and love is acting like a jerk, I try to remember they probably just need a hug. (And if I’m the one being a jerk, I go and look for a hug.)

If someone had just given this guy a few more hugs, we could have avoided BOTH of the Austin Powers sequels. 

7. If you want a bikini body, put a bikini on your body. I did not come up with this, but I absolutely love the sentiment. There is no such thing as a “bikini body” and don’t let womens’ (or mens’!) magazines tell you any differently. You, and I, can put whatever we want on our bodies and we don’t have to explain it or apologize for it. Despite what we are told literally all the time, nobody gets to dictate what you “should” or “shouldn’t” wear, except you.

8. Let the youth do their thing. Our parents had bell bottoms and feathered hair and Jazzercise. We had Hammer pants and pagers and said things like “talk to the hand, cuz the face don’t understand” completely non-ironically. (At least, I did.) I don’t want to be that old curmudgeon shaking my (metaphorical) cane and being like “Darn those whippersnappers with the snapchats and the minecrafts and the purple hair and whatnot!” Let them do their thing like you did yours. Have you tried Snapchat? Minecraft? Purple hair? Maybe those things are fun and maybe they aren’t, but I try not to diss them without at least trying them out. And P.S. Hammer pants are totally back in style now so feel free to pull those out of your closet too.

Yes… I actually had tie-dyed hammer pants. 

9. Everything is a phase, so try to enjoy the good parts, but don’t worry too much about the bad parts. This one is really helpful when you have little kids. If your kid is in some terrible, no-sleep, sass back jerk phase, don’t worry because it will end eventually, probably soon. And if they are in some amazingly cute and charming phase, drink it in, because it may not last. It turns out this kind of ebb and flow is pretty much how all of life works.

10. Travel, near and far, a lot. If you want to travel, do it! But if it’s not possible to go on some massive life-changing adventure across the globe, remember that you don’t have to go far or spend lots of money to have a transporting experience – you can even travel to a new neighborhood or a suburb of your own town and experience something new and different. Like, the other day I made a point of stopping in Martinez on my way home from Lake Tahoe, and it was actually totally cool and different. For context, I have lived within a 45-minute drive from Martinez for 30 of my 40 years on this planet and I had never been there.

If you travel, you can see cool stuff this like IRL instead of just on your Instagram feed. Even better, you can post it on YOUR Instagram. 

11. Guilt and regret are useless emotions. They help you not at all. I try to either let them go or turn them into constructive change.

12. Some parts of me are lumpy and that is OK. I am 40 for goodness’ sake! And have been pregnant three times! It would be super weird if I wasn’t at least a little lumpy. And it’s OK with me.

At least mine aren’t that hairy. 

13. Leave last and help clean up. The people who stay until the end of the party and help clean up (or at least offer) are always my favorite people so I strive to be one of them. (You can take this one literally or metaphorically, if you want.)

14. Take pictures. You think you will remember what happened and who was there and everything else, but you won’t. If you want to look back on stuff and remember it, take pictures along the way. Even though everyone in my family rolls their eyes at the amount of photos I take, everyone is happy to have them to look back on later.

I took a picture of my son and I pretending to talk on the phone at these weird dolphin phone booths in Istanbul because we laughed so much over them and I want to remember that moment forever, and without this picture I would probably forget about it within a year or two. 

15. Life is beautiful. And ugly. And amazing. And terrible. And easy. And hard. At some point it will offer you the highest high and at another point, the lowest low. Some of that is made for you, completely outside of your control, and some of it is made by you and your actions and attitudes. You can only control a part of it, but that part is totally under your control. So control it.

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3 Responses

  1. Such sage advice from a person so young! XO

  2. Alex says:

    Awesome post. As a fellow just turned 40er, let me add one more to your list: celebrate.

    I read the post below right before reading yours and the two went perfectly together.


  3. Judy Jacobson says:

    These are such good thoughts and reminders no matter what your age.