April 6

Turning 40 #1a

Ever since I turned 40, less than three weeks ago, I’ve been hearing many pieces of (sometimes unsolicited) advice and opinions on what turning 40 is supposed to mean, and what I should expect in the next ten years.

These views are sometimes contradictory, so it shows me that people have different experiences when it comes to aging. I’ve listened to them, put them in a little corner of my mind, but have not incorporated all of them. I ask myself: is this person projecting their experiences or do they have something valuable for me to know?

A new co-worker I met is 45. He’s got the body of a marathon runner and looks trimmer than most 30-year-olds. After a few relationships that were too intense too quickly, and turned sour, he’s wised up when it comes to falling in love. “I used to get in way over my head and fall in love quickly. Now I’m taking my time!”

My hairdresser is 49. When I first met him, he had the “silver fox” look, which I thought looked great on him. But he’s someone who started going gray in his 20s, so he was never comfortable with this look. He’s tall and handsome, and his skin looks quite youthful. One day he got tired of the gray hair and dyed it. Now it’s hard for me to imagine him with gray hair. He’s dating like crazy but (so he says) will be 100% upfront with the women he meets about whether he thinks it’s going to work long term or not. So he has a high dating turnover. My first thoughts: I don’t want to have to go through that at 49! Oh, and he advertises that he’s 45 on dating sites…

Regarding health, I got many pieces of advice. From a few people, I heard “When I turned 40, my metabolism slowed down.” A few people told me that they started gaining weight more easily after 40. “I never had abdominal fat before!” At the same time, I met people in their late 40s who did not seem to have that problem.

I have a few great friends who are about 20 years older than me.

A close friend told me that turning 40 is the hardest. “I think the challenge is that when we come out of our 30’s and regain consciousness if you allow me to phrase it this way, we have two big emotions going on at the same time. We are craving and almost desperate to have what we don’t have yet, or to improve upon what we already have. We want want want…….and yet, we are almost desperately afraid too. Afraid that we’ve run out, or will run out of time, money, energy, opportunity; you name it. And yet what we need to do most is SLOW down and really think things through. It’s hard.”

My mom told me that she wasn’t a good place in her life when she turned 40. That’s when I realized that my parents got divorced at 39! She lost both of her parents after that while raising two teenagers. Tough years! I can appreciate that.

Another friend in his 60s recalls fondly the time when he was 41. “I was 30 pounds lighter. My hair was black. I had a mustache. I was FREAKIN’ YOUNG.”

Many people said — that 40s are the best. “You’ve worked out all the bugs in your 30s so you can now focus on enjoying life!”

I often heard that your 20s are for exploring, your 30s for consolidating your skills, networks, relationships, your 40s for thriving in your career and relationships, and hopefully if you’re in a good place by your 50s, to focus on enjoying your life! Although, it surely makes sense to enjoy life AND keep learning at any age.

One thing that stands out for me among all of this seemingly contradictory advice is this: now that you’ve made some mistakes, focus on what works and grow in the direction that you want!

I feel that my 30s were exciting and fun. I took lots of risks, made plenty of HUGE mistakes, learned new things about myself and made big progress in my life, but in the manner of three steps forward, two steps back.

Some of the efforts that seemed pointless in my 20s and 30s are paying off. I paid more attention to my diet and health than most people of my age, and now I find myself with a BMI of 22.5, normal blood pressure, no health issues and in reasonable, although not great, shape.

One thing that I’m glad I worked out in my 30s is my diet. The food experimentation was necessary to find what works, but it’s not something I could keep up for the rest of my life. It’s good to experiment, but once you’ve found what works, it’s about sticking with it! And my current diet works best for me regarding health, digestion, and energy.

One thing I had trouble focusing on in my 20s and 30s is exercise. I worked out on and off, but I never found a program that I stuck with for extended periods of time. I made many mistakes, suffered injuries from exercising the wrong way, had to take time off working out and had trouble finding a routine that worked for me.

After a couple years of learning from those mistakes, I think now that I have found what the problems were and how to work out in a way in a sustainable way, improving weak areas and strengthening the good ones.

One piece of advice that I heard is that when turning 40, there’s “no time to mess around.”

Or to put it in another way: don’t rest on your laurels.

How you live in your 40s will determine how you will spend your 50s, 60s, etc. This statement applies to the financial, health and relationship realms. Keep building and strengthening your social networks. Get on the program with exercise and diet. And save!

I’ve met people who did not seem to worry about any of this stuff. They simply got along with their lives. Some of them were happy, and some of them were not in a good place. Because of their attitude of “going with the flow,” they didn’t end up where they thought the river would lead them!

It’s all a question of perspective, but I found it interesting to write those thoughts and share them with you this morning.

Do you have any thoughts on turning 30, 40, 50 you’d like to share?