I was talking with a good friend (are there any other kind?) the other day, and we were discussing work and the various challenges we were facing. And he said, “You’re in your 40’s, you’re supposed to be challenged.” I laughed, but later, that comment stuck with me. Most of the articles I read about being in your 40’s are related to the crappy stuff: what you can’t wear anymore, things you can’t do anymore because you’re of ‘a certain age’ now, exercising for your age, blah blah blah.
How come no one talks about the good stuff that can happen once you cross over to the land of 40? Here are five positive things I’ve noticed kicked in this decade:
1. Lower bullshit tolerance. I’ve found that the older I get, the less bullshit I am willing to tolerate. Toxic people, bad behavior, activities I participated in for other people not myself…I don’t have time or patience for it anymore. Maybe it’s because you realize in your 40’s that half your life is behind you and you never know how much more is in front of you, so why waste it on people or things you don’t like?
2. Higher empathy quotient. I’ve always been an overachiever, and in expecting a lot from myself, I think I expected too much from others, too. Maybe it’s because I’m a mom and I see how this approach doesn’t work with kids. Maybe it’s because I have a child who has ADHD and I see him struggle to overcome his challenges. Maybe it’s watching my dad struggle a little more as he approaches 80 years old. Whatever it is, I’ve learned to slow down, listen when people talk and try to hear between the lines, and try to understand where they’re coming from. We’re all doing the best we can.
3. More patience. While my bullshit tolerance has gone down, I think I have gained a little more patience. I’ve never been good at that, but between juggling work, kids, and life, you drop a few balls sometimes…so you have to learn to roll with the punches. I’ve forgotten picture day at school, shown up at meetings with Cheerios in my hair (from the babies, not me!), and once went to an event with a lollipop stuck to the back of my skirt (thanks kids for leaving that on my front seat for me!) It makes me much more understanding when things don’t go as planned.
4. More inward focus, less outward. I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I find myself seeking out things that will make me more balanced on the inside. Finding more meaning in my creative work, forging deeper connections with people I care about, letting go of the past so I can see what’s in front of me…all of these things matter more to me today than they ever did before.
5. More incentive to stay strong. Let’s face it, after 40+ years on the planet, you’ve experienced everything from the death of loved ones to job loss to money woes, illness, kid drama and everything in between. It can make you feel 100 years old — if you let it. And it’s hard to watch older relatives struggle with illness and age-related issues. If you’ve ever seen what cancer or Alzheimer’s can do to someone you love, you know what I mean. It inspires me to eat healthier, work out more and try to take better care of myself so that I can stay strong for the long haul.
So maybe I am wearing all the wrong things for my age, but I’m still learning, I’m still challenging myself, and I’m doing the best I can. What do you say? What’s great about your 40’s? Or was there another decade that was even better for you?