How to be 40 in a world where no wants to admit they are 40

Today’s guest post is written by my friend Christine Pinto. I met Christine two years ago at a local writing conference. From across the room she looked familiar, so I mustered my confidence, approached her and asked, “Are you in Ms. C’s class?” referring to my older son’s kindergarten class. “No, but my daughter is,” Christine laughed. Since then we’ve been building a friendship for which I’m grateful. Thank you, Christine, for your friendship and for this lovely, lovely post.

———

In my 20’s I heard, “You have plenty of time!” At 30, I still didn’t have it all figured out, and I still didn’t get any sympathy about it. Seems 30 year olds aren’t supposed to take themselves seriously either. Passing 40 and heading to 50, I started hearing, “60 is the new 40”, even “60 is the new 30”. Worried about turning 40? Don’t! Not for another 20 or 30 years. In fact, 40 is the new 10! Head out to the park and get on the swings! You don’t have to grow up just yet.

When did we forget that the point of getting older is to get beyond survival and the passions of youth, and figure out what we were really mean to do with ourselves? What’s good about 40—if we are willing to accept being 40—is that we get to take stock and adjust our course if we need to, while there’s still time to do something about it.

If there’s something you always thought you should do, and you haven’t done it yet, GET STARTED! Look what it’s taken you 40 years to learn already. How long is it going to take to learn what you need to achieve your life’s work? Even if 60 is the new 40, no one has yet found a way to push the reset button. Eventually, time runs out and we say “I should have done it while I had the chance”.

Life is too short to spend it miserable, chained to someone or something that’s no good for you. You know what it is. Fix it. Four decades is plenty of time to figure out what you like and what you don’t. Admit it, embrace it, and build your life around what’s right for you.

While you’re at it, make a will. Not because you are closer to death at 40 than 20—especially if you’ve given up hang gliding, pub crawls and dating undesirable men—but because you haven’t done it yet, and you have people in your life depending on you. Be a big girl. Don’t just leave your Hello Kitty collection to your niece. Specify your last wishes, health directives, and funeral arrangements. People you love are going to have to make decisions for you in agonizing doubt if you don’t.

Spend meaningful time with your parents, NOW. If you have issues, resolve them. You’re going to start to lose them, and then it will be too late. Try to get them to talk about their final wishes, too.

Devote as much networking to your personal life as you’ve done for any career. Nurture connections to sustain you into the rest of your life. Give as much, or more, as you ask.

Stop caring about what everyone thinks of you, and start caring about what you think, and what you do about it. Let the world see you as you truly are, your outer self congruent with your inner beliefs. When we have lived a few years, we have earned the right to know what we know and to speak our truth in the world. Whether we change it or not is not our concern. Living authentically in the world is.

Speak your truth. Don’t sit idly by when you know things are wrong. Don’t say yes when you mean no. Don’t say no when you should say yes. Don’t pretend you are 20 when you’ve got the chance to be 40. It’s okay to be a grownup.

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8 Responses to How to be 40 in a world where no wants to admit they are 40

  1. At 42, I am shedding off things that drag my spirit down and focusing on the people and work that inspires. Thanks for sharing this bit of wisdom – there is no time like today to refocus on what you’re passionate about!

  2. I love this: “Devote as much networking to your personal life as you’ve done for any career. Nurture connections to sustain you into the rest of your life. Give as much, or more, as you ask.”
    And: I sure hope 40 isn’t the new 20 because I’m glad where I’m at!

  3. Liz says:

    Annette, I love that phrase, too — nurturing our connections is so important! Isn’t it great to feel good about where we are in life? Twenty was good then but (nearly) forty is great now! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Christiann says:

    Love this post. “When did we forget that the point of getting older is to get beyond survival and the passions of youth, and figure out what we were really mean to do with ourselves?” Reminds me of the 70-something female comic who said, “It’s so important to be there for you children during their formative years: 40 to 45 or so, while they’re figuring out if they should have a job that pays.” It’s funny because it’s true. A big paycheck for what I don’t want to do with my life isn’t enough any more. I want to thrive not just survive. And at this later time in life, I’ve got the resources (educational, emotional and spiritual) to do it.

  5. Carolyn says:

    I like this post. I overheard a conversation a while back between a couple getting reacquainted. Apparently they hadn’t seen each other for years and one of them made the comment “We’re in our forties now. Our health is still good. If there’s anything we want to do now’s the time to do it.” That conversation has been in me ever since. I keep thinking – I don’t want to look back in my seventies and say would’a, should’a, could’a but didn’t. If we don’t live our own life, true to who we are, who will do it for us? I also like the part about appreciating your parents because they won’t be around forever. There are so many good points here.

  6. Tia Bach says:

    I am going to print my favorite line “Four decades is plenty of time to figure out what you like and what you don’t. Admit it, embrace it, and build your life around what’s right for you” on a piece of paper and hang it at my desk. Thanks for the kick in the butt!!

  7. Alexandra says:

    Great post! Try being 64, as in the Beatles song. That’s the age I turned this year.

  8. Jenni says:

    Christine, will you come hang out at my house and just spout some of these things several times a day? So many amazing lines in this post – no time to waste, plenty of time to live. Thank you.

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