I have been in my 40s for 18 months now, and probably spent at least that much time beforehand fretting about it. After all, it is no-point-trying-to-deny-it, grown-up territory. Noone is asking you for ID anymore. I wondered how many ‘good’ years I had left. I constantly worried about how much I’d achieved and what direction I was travelling in. But now that they have arrived, I’ve discovered that for me, my 40s are a happy place to be. Here are some of the reasons why.
Our sensible brains know that the big 4-0 is really no big deal, that age is just a number. But our emotions struggle to ignore the massive 40 sign on the road. I think that significant birthdays are a gift in that way. It’s really important to take stock and look around you every so often. We spend so much time plodding through life on a hamster wheel (that is definitely getting faster and faster). Although I’ve gone through some tough soul searching, I think it’s ok to feel a bit of pressure, a bit of ‘it’s now or never’. It encourages you to make changes that you’ve been putting off or to try something new. I started a blog, hurrah.
Celebrating the celebrations might seem frivolous but I don’t think so and this is why. 40th birthday parties are like another round of weddings but without the pressure. There’s no need to ask everyone to fork out for a hen do or piss them off with an expensive gift list. You don’t feel the need to lose a load of weight or stress about a seating plan. What it is is a fabulous excuse to get everyone together.
If you are not 40 yet (or heading for any other Big Birthday) as my mate Sarah would say ‘rip the arse out of it’. I advocate many, many celebrations. Even if parties aren’t your thing, there are weekends away, spa days, afternoon teas or bucket list holidays to go on. Organise different things with different people. Mine was not glamorous, I had a couple of meals and a pizza and champagne party. My husband had an all-out vodka luge soaked knees-up. Another mate hired out a ballroom. Do something that makes you happy.
Forties family time
For me, reaching my 40s has coincided with my family getting a bit older. I must admit that the baby and toddler phase of parenting probably won’t go down as my favourite era. It made me grumpy for fairly long chunks of my 30s. Now I feel we are enjoying some golden years. The children are fun and happy to spend time with us, but not biting at my ankles. We can enjoy discovering the world through their eyes, while still being able to devote a reasonable amount of time to our own pursuits. Frankly, it is a wonder. If you’ve not arrived at this stage, hang in there. If it’s already passed, don’t make me cry.
I’m not without vanity, I care about my appearance a moderate amount. My weight especially if I’m being honest. But getting older changes the emphasis. I like the Eleanor Roosevelt quote* that today is the ‘youngest you’ll ever be again’. We all know how much time we wasted hating our appearance when we were in fact gorgeously full of youth and had smaller bottoms. I refuse to continue with that mindset into old age. What are we chasing? I don’t care if people look at me and see someone in their forties. It’s nice to look nice, but it’s best to be here and be healthy.
AND think of the ways we continue to look better. See above. I even manage to find time to put eyeliner on sometimes these days. I (sort of) know which clothes suit me and which to avoid. You’re not so influenced by trends, but also sod it, trends are fun and life’s too short to worry about what is age-appropriate. Fashion mistakes are still funny in your forties.
Female friendships can be complicated things. In my 20s I was so keen to make my mark on the world, so into myself, I suppose, that I wasn’t always a brilliant friend. But I find myself lucky now in two ways. I have held on to friendships from my childhood (it helps that I met my husband Matt at secondary school). You can’t make new old friends. But since settling in one place and having kids, I have made some brilliant new mates too. I want to prioritise friendships in my 40s and beyond. They can enrich our lives endlessly and will still be around once the babes have flown the nest.
How do you feel about your 40s, are you nearly there, in them or through them? I’d love to hear about your experiences and what it has meant to you.