It may sound funny but I suddenly had this feeling that I should pay attention with this stage of my life. I guess that has something to do with the existing literatures that I read even before I hit this age. I couldn’t agree less when researchers described this stage in one’s person life as the new “rush hour of life.” For me it is so true! It is at this age where you are at your busiest, it’s that stage when one’s career and child-rearing collide, do you agree generation X peeps?
I don’t know with other people of my age if they were able to grasp the main events or milestones of the decade that they went through (I mean their 20s and 30s.) I felt like my younger years were way too fast. When I was in my 20s, I was too busy in building my career, enjoying night outs and looking for my life’s partner. Then, I am in my 30s building a family of my own and managing the career path that I’ve chosen was my focus. I juggled between trying to be the best wife and mom that I could be while also trying to be the best employee and even tried to be a successful momtrepreneur. Looking back, I felt that my younger years are defined by a certain or predictable “period of time”. I was expected to complete grade school in 6 years and 4 years in high school (at least during my time) and we either have 4 years or 5 years to finish our bachelor’s course. After making it through these predictable events, we start to do things on our own phase, suddenly the timings of your life become your sole responsibility, you now start to plan on your own timeline.
If you won’t plan your time effectively you tend to keep doing the things that will keep you away from what you are supposed to do and before you know it another year has gone by. There are times that I tied to reflect and wished that there’s a rewind button that I could press and go back to the time to when I was still younger. I wish I’ve done a few things differently. I wish I had been bolder and braver and I had been more adventurous. Somehow, I regret not doing the things that I wanted to do and allowed my fear of uncertainty to hinder me from doing them.
I conditioned myself that when I reach this age, I should have reached that state of life where I always wanted myself to be – successful wife and mother, financially stable, an entrepreneur and other expectations that I put upon myself when I was in my 20s. I am happy with what and where I am now, I am proud of the few accomplishments that I have under my belt, but if I could go back and plan my life again, I would definitely make a few twists and turns.
I read somewhere (sorry I am not good in remembering where I found stuff) that the age of 40 is the transition period of our lives, it is that stage where we are faced in a crossroad where we have 2 choices – we either get busy living and embracing what’s to come in this part of our life or we can simply choose to not participate in life and just let it pass and get busy dying. A few days ago, I realized that in the past 9 years, I’ve lost a lot of people really important to me, then it hit me, life is short and time passes by really fast, I can’t just get busy preparing to die.
That is why from now on, I would like to try to find time to enjoy and maybe figure out the decade while I am still in it. Ten years from now, I don’t want to end up sitting while asking myself “where all that time went?” And let’s be real, we are unsure how much time we still have to live. Not everyone is blessed to reach their 40s, we should feel blessed that we still have the chance to celebrate life, hence, I want to make mine count.
I thought that a good way of embracing my 40th year of existence on earth is to recognize the things that a 40-year old woman realizes when she hits this milestone. Yes, I’ve always seen 40 as being old when I was younger, but now that I’ve reached this age, it felt like it was just a number. Though, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t bother by the big 4-0 as it has created a whirlpool of thoughts in my head. This is why I’d share my reflection on what turning 40 really means to me and what are the things that I will start doing from now on:
- Take better care of yourself. If the way I took care of myself is to be graded, I am certain that I will get failing grades. It is important to establish positive health habits for a healthier lifestyle. Improve your sleeping habits, eat healthier meals and reduce your calorie intake, hydrate properly and squeeze physical activity into your schedule. And I don’t just mean taking care of yourself physically, I also meant taking care of yourself – on the inside. Make it a habit to wake up each day with a more grateful heart and positive attitude and more importantly make yourself get into the habit of doing special things that will make yourself feel great.
- Find time for “Me Time.” Women who have it all (career, relationship and family, community involvement) tend to have less time for themselves, again, I am guilty of this. For the past years I have been struggling to squeeze in my “me time” between the combine roles that I have. Now, I realize that me time is really important. It should be a priority, time will not just magically appear in front of you that is why you MUST schedule your “me time.” Each day, try to find at least half an hour to have time to relax and make it restorative for yourself. I am a morning person, I decided that I will start my day with ample time for myself. I found peace and happiness in writing, so I will use my me time NOT writing my grocery list or menu for the week but use it in writing for my blog or maybe go back in journaling. Find something that you will do for yourself.
- Look better and rock your own style. When I was in my 20s, I was so conscious of my appearance, I always try to look my best in every occasion and make sure that I keep up with the current fashion trend. I started to be less conscious about my looks and with how I dress when I had my first born, I didn’t realize how I started to care less about how I look. Lately, I noticed that I am back at it again, I don’t mean the “conscious part” but I feel like I don’t find shopping for clothes as a therapy when I am sad or stressed (like I used to), instead, I find clothes shopping now as an investment for myself. I don’t really go for what is actually the trend but for pieces that makes me feel good about myself. As they say, style “begins at 40.” Women in their 40s know their style better and recognize what best suits them, I guess that is why women in this age are more confident about their fashion sense and tend to sport a more stylish look. As Vera Wang puts it, “A woman is never sexier than when she is comfortable in her clothes.” Hitting middle age is not an excuse to not dress a little trendier. Nothing makes you look younger like getting rid of your unflattering clothes and replacing them with new items that will make you feel good.
- Stop compromising too much and learn to say NO. Not everyone has the same needs and we have different wants that is why learning to compromise is needed in any relationship. But compromising too much is not healthy as it sometimes leads you to denying an important portion of yourself. That is why, you should make it a point that you are more careful not to overdo it. I am always guilty of not being able to turn down people’s request, I am always compelled to agree to every request and more often than not, I end up juggling a million of things to do because I felt that saying no to a person will send him or her a message that I am uncaring and would make him or her feel down. If it’s for a friend, I have a strong fear of risking our friendship. In psychology, not being able to say no is linked to the person’s low self-confidence, we feel bad about antagonizing others so we sometimes end up prioritize other’s needs than our own… But you need to set boundaries and build your safety fences to keep yourself away from feeling exhausted and stressed, make sure that you only say yes to things that you can still do and things that you enjoy doing.
- Stop caring about what other people think. I realized that I have always been very concerned with how other people think of me. I spent too much time worrying about what other people think without even realizing that I am doing it. In his article, How Not to Worry About What Others Think of You, therapist, Raj Raghunathan wrote that a good reason that a person worries so much about what others think of him is because he wants to be in their good books, so that he can develop and nurture our relationships with them. Our worries about what others think of us stems from the fear that we may be bereft of friends or intimacy. And if the fear is too high, it can also be counter-productive. You need to break this vicious cycle. Learn to accept that you do not have control over other people’s perception of yourself or what they have to say about you. What other people think about you should really be none of your business. Even if you have the best intentions or you did something ridiculous, people will still say what they want to say, their respond is beyond your control. As the saying goes, “you cannot please everybody,” so stop caring what other people think and focus on what will make you happy, as long as you are not hurting anyone or doing something wrong, you shouldn’t really be bothered with what other people will think of you.
- Appreciate little things more. “I am blessed,” I am sure, you have heard someone or maybe you have said these words yourself. Blessed is one of the commonly used hashtags in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media sites. But do we really understand the full depth of the meaning of the word “blessing” or “blessed?” If so, why it is hard for us to come up with a quick answer when we are asked what are we thankful for? Again, I am guilty of this. Most of the time, whenever I am going through a tough time, I easily feel bad, forgetting that no matter how bad a situation can be, there are more than a hundred reasons that I should be grateful for. Being able to wake up each morning is already a precious privilege. That is why always make it a point that you appreciate the good things that you have and that is happening around you, be thankful for all the blessings that you received each day – the gift of family, good health, the food in your table, the roof in your head, friends and even the time that you are able to spend with the people important to you. Your mantra should be: Little things matter. Be thankful for what you have and stop looking for what you don’t have.
- Worry less and do more of what makes you happy. With the hustle, bustle and strain of everyday life, it’s so easy to become fixated on things that worry us. As I look back, I somehow regret it and I wish I worried less. I am such a worrier, my husband can attest to that. Even if I gave all my best into something and I’ve done all I can to prevent a bad outcome, I still can’t help but think that things may not turn out right. But in reality, no matter what you do you cannot eliminate the possibility that something could go wrong because most of the things we care about in life involve uncertainty. You can never be sure that no one gets sick in your family, you can’t always avoid not missing an important appointment or that you will not mess up at work. And after overthinking about what could go wrong, what do you get – poor sleep, irritability and exhaustion, more importantly, you spent too much time worrying that you fail to do and appreciate the things that will boost your happiness. Start doing more of the things that makes you happy. Girl, admit it or not, more often than not, what we worry about didn’t happen. The sad part about it is that you even missed some great opportunities along the way because you concentrated too much on your fear of uncertainty.
- Forgive yourself and others. One of the best gifts that I ever gave to myself is the gift of forgiveness. There was a point in my life where I was bitter and angry because someone I trust betrayed me and it cost me a lot. I lost not just a big sum of money but even good relationships. It took me a long time before I realized that holding unforgiveness towards other (even for myself) was holding me back to becoming genuinely happy. It was not easy for me to come into this point because I feel that those who have harmed me must apologize and I feel that if I let go of my grudges and forgive them it’s like letting them get away without suffering the consequences of the wrong they did. But I realized that to find a way to forgive, you are actually doing yourself a big favor, you are not only setting yourself free but giving yourself an important gift – inner peace. By forgiving, we unburden ourselves and move forward freely and easily. It allows us to let go of the past and live in the present moment. “At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” —Marianne Williamson
- Value and Strengthen Friendships. It is true that as we mature, we realize that it is less important to have lots of friends and it is more important to have real friends. I consider myself really fortunate that I found someone whom I can call my best friend, for more than 25 years she has been my walking diary. I am also lucky that I have a number of people whom I can consider as really close friends. But I also have very good friends with whom I shared a lot of good memories that I lost touch, when I was younger, my priorities were different and little did I know, I was too busy with my own thing and I didn’t realize that we started to drift apart. A year ago, I was saddened with the passing of 2 good friends, since I am miles away from most of my friends in high school and college the only way that I am able to keep in touch with them is through Facebook or Instagram, I was so confident that I can always get in touch with them since I have them in my social media accounts, until I heard the news that they are gone. It is true that friendship just happens, it developed by chance. As we do our daily routines, we meet people, we will realize that we share the same interest then friendship starts. But we must really make time on the relationships that matter to us. Treat friendship just like a financial investment, the time we spend to strengthen and develop a friendship is an investment that we also make for our future because our friends play different important roles in our life. In today’s hectic world where we are constantly on the go we tend to take some important things for granted including relationships. We may have an endless to-do list but it is still possible to set aside a time for friends that matter to us especially now that it is easier for us to communicate because of technology. Even you are miles apart, reaching out to a friend only requires a quick text message, a brief email or a wave or smiley in FB Messenger or a “how are you?” sticker in Viber, any simple gesture that will assure them that you are just there. Don’t let the chance pass to let your friends know that you value your friendship, you never know when you won’t be able to let this be known to them.
- Make people feel that they are important. When you reached 40, you have probably experience losing some people that are important to you. For the past 9 years since I left my home country, there were a number of close relatives that we lost. Four years ago, my grandmother passed away and I never had the chance to thank her for all the things that she did for me, up to this day, I regret that I wasn’t able to tell her how much I love her. I wish I was able to tell her when I had the chance. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone, hence, we won’t know if the last time is the “last time.” That is why when you have the chance, make an effort to let those people close to your heart know that they are important. Judy Shephard, the mother of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard who was brutally murdered in 1998 because of his sexuality gave a simple advice; “Go home, give your kids a hug, and don’t let a day go by without telling them that you love them.” And this should not only apply to mothers, this applies to everyone. Life is really short, we never know when someone’s life could be taken and you never know it could also be your life that will be taken earlier than expected. Take that chance, let the people dear to us know how much you appreciate them and how important they are. No one knows what is really on your mind and what is on your heart but yourself. Stop waiting around, after a few heart breaks, I learned that you wouldn’t really know the depth of your love until it is taken away. In romantic relationships, most of the time, our hearts are broken not because of the things that you do for the ones that you love, but because of the unspoken words and deeds that are left undone. Live in the moment and appreciate those who matter to you, now that they can still hear what you have to say or make them feel their importance in your life – – – not when they’re gone.
I could go on with this list forever because everyday is a learning experience and in every experience we get something out of it. I am sure that you also have your own realization to share… so what does hitting 40 means to you?