When you’re a kid, a year always seems a long time to wait to celebrate your birthday. As a twenty-somethingish, it’s an excuse for a great party. In your thirties, you’re never quite sure if it’s a cause for celebration or not. Sometimes you feel like it, other times you don’t.
And as for the big 4-0, the way people talk about it, it’s a bit like hanging a milestone around your neck… Or maybe not! The truth of the matter is that it’s all in the mind. It all depends on your own attitude and the importance you attribute to your age. It’s not what people say or think that counts.
The only thing that matters is how you feel about it. And times have changed – incredibly quickly! Only a century ago, people were lucky to reach the age of 40, especially after the horrors of the First World War. And the number of people to live beyond the age of 60 was pretty small, so inevitably 40 marked a downhill turn. Today, the average life expectancy rate is around 80 in the western world and there are more and more people living well into their hundreds. So what’s the fuss about being 40?
Some people will tell you that when you hit 40, the fun and games of young adulthood are over. It’s no longer acceptable to consider yourself as footloose and fancy-free. It’s a time for maturity, a time of responsibilities, be they professional or family-oriented. But nowadays, not everyone chooses to settle down and build a family.
And of those who do, some opt for something different from the standard two-car, suburban house ‘dream’ family, and include their family unit in a more nomadic, less structured lifestyle. So why not you? For sure, there are some things that might be more difficult to accomplish with your thirties behind you, like going to a soccer game and betting with a heart bingo promo code.
Academically, it’s more difficult to acquire qualifications and professionally, if you haven’t reached executive status by then, it’s going to be a hard haul to accomplish it. Biologically, your best athletic performances are behind you, and if you’re a woman, it’s preferable to bear children before to avoid complications for both mother and child. And even if you have decided not to have a family of your own, there’s no escaping the growing needs of your aging parents. That being said, hitting 60 today no longer automatically implies dwindling health by any means, so you may have another decade or two worry-free on that score!
The good news is that by the time you’re 40, you’ve got over the learning stage of adulthood and parenthood. You’re now a fully fledged mature adult. In general, you’ve acquired stability in both your professional status and your social position – with or without partner or family. Your experience of life up till now has given you precious insights into the person you are, your values and the future projects you’d like to pursue.
The wisdom that comes with age will have taught you that all that counts is your personal happiness and not what others expect you to do. And when you’re 40, nobody expects you any more to excel, just to get on with life. That means that you can enjoy your favourite sport as a leisure activity and no longer feel that you have to compete or that you must win.
As a parent, you now know that it’s not your children’s excellence at school that counts, but their happiness and the pleasure you experience together as a family. As a resident of your neighbourhood, you no longer pursue the myth of keeping up with the Joneses and either choose to throw yourself whole-heartedly into community activities or to keep to yourself. Better still, at this age, at work and at home there is less pressure on you. The kids are more independent and any DIY work you had to do is behind you. Job-wise, you know the ropes and work is inevitably less stressful. So you will find you have more time on your hands. You can start realizing your dreams and enjoy life to the full!
When you think about it, the only time we really consider our age is around our birthday. If you’re like me, you can’t actually remember your age from one birthday to the next, you actually have to calculate it every year! More than that, I personally don’t actually feel any different from the young adult I was in my early twenties. It’s society that makes us believe that we have to respect social norms, conform to statistics and achieve different steps in our lives at different ages.
But if you place your ‘self’ and not society in the centre of the picture, you soon realize that you are free to do what you want when you want. 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70… age doesn’t matter. What counts is how you feel and what you want to do with your life – and when. Apart from the biological clock – and even that can be modified nowadays – there are no real constraints. Obviously, I’m not encouraging you to be totally selfish and to forget inevitable responsibilities to your family.
But it’s important to remember that we only live once. It would be a real tragedy to regret missed opportunities when you look back on your life as your health and energy decline in your twilight years. So don’t delay, seize the day, whatever birthday is round the corner!