I will be 40 in less than a year. I would be lying if I said that I always understood the hype about turning the big 40. I remember reading blogs, posts and stories of women who wrote about their “turning 40 thoughts” and I never gave it another thought. I did not understand why the sudden insight, why the sudden change? Well, I think I now GET IT. I am not saying that I have suddenly “arrived,” I hope to never fully arrive, but rather to continue to always learn and appreciate this complicated, unpredictable journey.
I agree with what people seem to say about the years of your 20’s. The 20’s for me, was all about setting life up to go exactly as planned (funny, huh? Try telling me that when I was 20-something). I played by the rules, I set goals for myself and accomplished each and every goal that I had for myself as well as society’s goals and expectations of me. I graduated from Graduate School with a 4.0 GPA and thought “not too bad, this is pretty easy.” The next big goal was to become engaged and begin planning for my big, beautiful wedding. This was the next logical thing. Once I became married, I moved right along into the next expectations which were to buy the first family home, beautiful perfect yellow lab and begin preparing for a family. This was not so shabby! Traveling, obtaining my first professional job…everything was coming together.
Then, those 30’s hit like a ton of bricks. Holy cow… was this the bliss of life everyone talked about? Things were not as easy as they were supposed to be. Well, who said that they were supposed to be easy anyway? Years of trying to conceive a baby, endless battles of guilt over parenting and managing motherhood as well as a professional career- yes, I had to defend my position time and time again to those who believe that there is only one way to do things, and that is to stay at home with the children. I am ALL for this; IF that is what is best for that particular person. However, those blanket statements, opinions and judgments, they get tossed out the window about this time in life….I suddenly realized that there is NO right way anymore.
The 30’s to me, is a place of experiencing that motto, “ten steps forward, ten steps back.” A place that challenges your every emotion, your every opinion, your every detail of your core…IF you allow it to. Sure, I know people that would disagree and not be able to relate at all to this post. There are people that continue along their journey without doubting anything, without allowing themselves to question, or think too much. Guess what? That is not me. I am the person who thinks, overthinks, feels, and totally feels. And, that is why this time in my life seems to be such a big deal. I have allowed myself to sit in the happiness, pleasure, guilt, pain and uncertainty. To be brutally honest, my clients and I have a saying, we say “sometimes we need to sit in the shit.” When I say this in sessions, I am really saying…”Don’t move, do not react, just…sit. Sit in the shit to try and figure out what you are feeling.”
So I sat and sat in the shit. I have done all that everyone wanted me to do. I am almost 40 and actually feel alive. I know, you may be asking me the same thing I asked those women when I read their stories, “Why? Why now? Isn’t it just a number?” Well, it is just a number if that is all that you want it to be. However, I decided one year ago that anything I was fearful of, anything that was not fulfilling me, or working against me, would be assessed and I would be able to do this by continuing to learn, continuing to challenge myself and those in my life, continuing to push and push my limits when I was the most scared and most of all, act. I am in the acting phase and am totally looking forward to the challenges and hurdles that await me. Why do I say that? Because unlike my 30’s when I was naive and assumed life was easy. I now know that anything worth it is hard. Anything worth it is challenging, but also worth fighting for.
So, as I reflect being on this earth for almost 40 years here is what I now not only know, but truly attempt to live, each and everyday.
1. Love and accept yourself – don’t just say it, do it.
I truly believe if I had accepted the good and bad parts of myself at a younger age, I would have avoided many of the wrong decisions that I made in my life. Once you know who you really are inside, you begin to accept and love yourself fully. Once you truly love yourself from the inside, you are able to love and accept others which provides a much higher probability of maintaining healthy relationships.
2. Feed your soul
Whatever your passion, or whatever you enjoy in life, make sure you feed your soul with what inspires you. If you are not sure what your passion is, try new things and find different activities until you find a few that give you that feeling of warmth, freedom and acceptance inside.
3. Find a strong support network!!! When you are young, you think having lots of friends, is the answer. Nope. Wrong.
For a long while, I tried to do everything in my life in my own power and with little help from others. I later realized having a strong support network of friends and safe people to share my life with is so rewarding. Finding and cultivating new relationships with others that will love and support you no matter what is so important to have in life. However, the more the merrier, is not necessarily the answer. Quality is most important to me.
4. Be authentic
During some of my harder times in life, I wore a pretty and smiling mask on my face no matter what I was going through. Only a few close people in my life knew what was really going on during my hardest trials. Once you begin to show others you have ups, downs and struggles in life just like everyone else, you become more trustworthy and sincere to others. I still find it funny, that people who are uncomfortable with themselves will often comment or make a statement, “bad mood again?” Now I simply act like I do not hear them. What I really need to say (and I am working on this) “I am sorry my lack of ear to ear smile makes you uncomfortable, maybe you should ask if there is anything you can do, since you sense I am not myself.”
5. Live for you
A huge part of my life was taken up by taking care of everyone else which resulted in having no time for myself. My motives and reasons for doing things were wrong which in turn made my life much harder than it had to be. You cannot make everyone in your life happy – ever. Once you begin to make the best decisions for yourself instead of others, life gets easier. YES!
6. Don’t compromise too much
I could have avoided a few bad relationships if I would have figured this out when I was younger. Compromise is required in any close relationship because we are all different and have different wants. Compromise is a good thing most of the time if the compromising is equal on both sides. Once you give up your wants and needs the majority of the time in any one relationship, it’s time to re-evaluate that relationship and decide if it really is healthy for you to be a part of it.
7. Travel more
This might be my biggest regret. I did travel some when I was younger before I had children and it was wonderful. Money can buy you material things or memories. If I had thought about it this way before, I would have stopped making the meaningless purchases on material things and made sure I spent my money on at least one new destination each year. Traveling creates a sense of freedom and opens your eyes to the way others live in different parts of the world.This too, is something that I am actively working on.
8. Stop Comparing and Looking for Acceptance
Oh this is a biggie! We all want approval from our friends/family. We want their support, we want their “Ok.” Guess what? Unless you are truly hurting another being, or doing something outwardly wrong, STOP LOOKING TO MAKE EVERYONE OK WITH YOUR DECISIONS. This is probably one of the most freeing realizations that I have ever been grateful for, and this is a new one for me. As of recently, this came to light and I am so appreciative of the lesson.
9. Forget expectations
I had the Disney syndrome growing up, you know the one that you will meet Prince Charming, get married and live happily ever after? Well Disney sets up all little girls. They never had it right. Instead we should be teaching our children that you can still have dreams about your life but with dropping the expectations regarding other people. If we expect our friends, or partner to “make us happy” then we really are delusional. An expectation placed on someone else is actually just a premeditated resentment.
10. Forgive yourself and others
Grudges and resentment come natural to some. It did for me, for quite some time. I guess this is just another thing that just happened for me. I just do not think that many situations are worth the anger. There are things I should be very angry about, but I am trying on forgiveness instead.
11. No is a complete sentence- TRY IT! FEELS GOOD!
I have a hard time saying no. I want to say yes all the time and make everyone happy but that is impossible. If I do say no, many times I want to justify my no or explain the situation so the other person will feel better about my no. The older I get the more I realize that no really is a complete sentence and I do not have to justify every reason why I am not able to commit to an event or able do something for someone else. Once you are confident in your ‘no’, it’s easier to make decisions for yourself instead of others.
12. Stop and admire the little things- MINDFULNESS
This is so simplistic but we currently live in a world where everyone is connected to an electronic device or the internet and it is becoming harder and harder to unplug and just enjoy everything that makes life worth living. Stop to enjoy a sunrise or sunset every once in a while, sit under the stars on a night with few clouds. Stop and smell the flowers. Go visit the ocean or the mountains and admire nature. You will never ever get this exact moment back.
THESE LAST TWO ARE MY FAVORITE. THEY HIT HOME FOR ME AND I DO NOT THINK THAT I COULD HAVE OR WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO LEARN OR PRACTICE THESE TWO ANY EARLIER IN MY LIFE. I WOULD’VE SCREWED IT ALL UP, I WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO HANDLE IT. NOW I AM NOT ONLY HANDLING IT, I AM EMBRACING IT.
13. Love who and what you love.
Do not apologize for what or who is in your heart. Do not apologize for that career that no longer is making you happy. LOVE with your heart, love with your soul, no matter what it is or who it is. If it is a sunset, a song, a person, an animal….live it. Show it. Embrace it. This looks totally different for everyone. For me, it comes with a hefty price tag of facing fears, facing truths and being vulnerable. I am vulnerable with those who I love. Walls down. Gloves off. I am totally 100% your friend, if we are friends and I am all in.
14. Embrace Change
Until recently, I wanted things to be predictable, to be stable and for the most part to stay the same. It felt safer to think that my life will be pretty much the same through the years. When I was then confronted with numerous changes all at one time, I did not handle it well. I have since realized that the only thing I can count on in life is change. Once you are able to embrace change and know that life can take a variety of different turns, you are up for the challenge and better suited to accept whatever comes your way.
Let’s ROCK 4-0!