There are some pretty BIG birthdays in life. Turning one is huge, although you won’t remember it for a minute! Becoming a teenager, reaching sweet sixteen, and being officially able to drink at the age of 21 are often seen as life milestones as well. Then of course, there is the 25th birthday, where you realize your life is still a train wreck – and the 30th b-day which officially ends your ‘perceived’ youth. From there, it is all down hill…or up hill, depending on your perspective. The closer you get to 40, the more you start to realize that you are getting old. Ouch! And then before you know it, you are celebrating your 40th birthday.
There are plenty of people in this world who defy age, at least outwardly – and seem to indicate that they aren’t bothered by how old they are. Yet inwardly, it is likely safe to say that each of us feels a reining disappointment that mixes with optimistic hopefulness each and every time we reach a milestone birthday.
When it comes to turning 40, either you can look at your life as half full or half empty.
The half-full cup of turning 40 looks something like this. You are finally done with reliving and rehashing all of those ridiculous mistakes that you made when you were younger. Though you may be still living through the consequences of your mistakes, you are finally at a place in life where the world takes you seriously. And why not, with 40, comes a certain amount of entitled respect. You are no longer a kid, no longer an immature ‘learning’ young adult – but a 40 year old who is entering middle age. Apply for a job at 40, and your resume immediately comes with a dash of something extra, like maturity and life experience, that no 25-year-old can beat with their college education or recent internships.
If you are a parent at 40 – chances are you have moved from the annoying helicopter phase of parenting to one that gives you some wings of your own. Your children are slightly more self sufficient, and you can even begin to realize some of your own inner passions once again. Luckily, you’re still young enough to climb mountains, water ski, or become a Zumba fitness trainer. Sure, you’ll have to work a little harder than you did a decade ago, but you aren’t hooked up to oxygen yet. One of the reasons 40 is a great time to revisit old interests is because in retrospect, as you celebrate your 40th birthday, you will see clearly just how quickly life passes. It seems like just yesterday that you got your first job, got married, or had your first child. Now look where you are. It is exactly this burst down memory lane that will pluck you into high gear to start truly living again by following your passions.
40 is also a great age to be in a relationship. Gone are the maddening and hyper days of constantly feeling the pinches of drama that come with trying to make a relationship simply work. By now, you know exactly what you want, exactly what you will, (and wont) tolerate and have much less patience for people in your life who let you down. This same attitude normally transcends into your professional life as well. You have lived long enough to see through the facades and games other people play, and have likely learned to be a pretty straight shooter. This might not make you the office favorite, but it will definitely make you more difficult to fire or take advantage of.
The big question of course is how to celebrate this monumental halfway point of life. Chances are you will teeter-totter between throwing a huge party for yourself, escaping to the remotest islands your continent has to offer, or purchasing a Harley. Why a Harley? Because not only are you finally financially secure enough to own one, but you also cannot imagine spending the next decade or so of life being cooped up by the confines of a mini-van or Buick LeSabre. And after all, haven’t you earned it?
Inwardly, as you turn 40, you will probably find yourself thinking deeply about your life past and present. You may look back at choices you have made and feel some regrets for your decisions. You also may spend a lot of time mapping out the future in your head and making New Year styles resolutions for yourself to ensure you spend the second half of your life living the life you really and truly want for yourself. You will experience moments of sadness and remorse that mix with such extreme feelings of pride and freedom to have finally made it to this point in life, that you could suffer emotional whiplash.
Newly celebrated 40 year olds are often the people making impulse purchases of an enormous RV, indulging in a quick affair (just to see if they still ‘got it’) or quitting their 9 to 5 job on the spur of the moment to start the home business they have always dreamed about having. Often seen as the halfway point in life (if you are lucky) 40 is a time to look ahead and filter out the good and bad in your life so you will be left with only the things that make you happy.
The good news is that these overly dramatic feelings about turning 40 will be over before you know it. The first time someone asks you how old you are, and you tell them you are the big 4-0, you will feel a tremendous amount of pride and accomplishment! You made it! You did it. You are finally a ‘real’ adult and now you have the rest of your life to live exactly how YOU want to and no one can stop YOU. Don’t worry, these feelings wont last long….soon you will wake up and realize that 40 really doesn’t change anything and you still have 20 years to go before you can get the senior citizens discount.