On Turning 40: Advice from Someone Who's Already in the Club For @webbish6

Portrait of Alva Erskine Smith Vanderbilt Belmont hangs in Marble House the Newport, RI, "Cottage" her then-husband William K. Vanderbilt had built (1888-1892) for her as a Fortieth Birthday Gift. After divorcing Vanderbilt and widowed by O.H.P. Belmont, Alva dedicated herself to equality and women's suffrage.

On Turning Forty:  Advice from Someone Who's Already in the Club

My friend Jeannine Hall Gailey is turning forty today.

Turning forty is like most things you've never done before--it seems harder and scarier before you do it.  Like learning London's Tube or the Electric Slide, growing older gets easier with practice.

First let me say, Forty is not old.

Okay, young people who are in their 20's and 30's are saying: Um, 40 is totally old.

I know this because I said it too.  And I said it about people who were thirty as well.  But really, it's not and there are *huge* perks to being forty that no one knows about until they are forty.  Much of it is about freedom.  And some of it is about strength.

So in honor of Jeannine turning 40 today, here are my favorite things about turning forty...and I'm good at forty, I've been doing it for four years.

1)  You no longer care what people think.  This is a greatest reward of being forty or older because there is a huge freedom in not caring.  I spend my days writing poetry and wearing nerdy glasses. If I want to wear Crocs or socks with sandals to the store (I live in the Northwest, btw) I do.  If I feel like wearing a tiara in my driver's license photo, I do.

I don't care what others think about my quirks, my life, my views, my family, my home, my world...because it's mine.  I lived forty-plus years to create this funky world I live in and I love it.  If you do not, that's okay.

2)  You no longer have to worry about good looks.  Okay, I know a few people are saying, "Whaaaa?"  But there is a truth to this.  No longer are you judged on your body or how pretty you are (and if you are, you return to favorite thing #1).  But there's less pressure to look fantastic.

For example, when you go to your thirtieth high school reunion, there will be people who look like they are in their fifties (sometimes sixties!) and there are people who look in their thirties.  Some of the boys you once dated are bald.  Bald and fat.  In your twenties and thirties, most people look the same--young.  But when you hit your forties, people can look twenty years older.    If you can look your age, you are rewarded. You're forty?!  Why you look 38! (It's so easy to get compliments these days!) And if you don't look your age, but older, it doesn't matter because people like you because of how you act and who you are, not what you look like.

Being in your forties, if you just look decent, you get compliments.  The bar has been lowered so we can all jump over it.  (Note: I look forward to how much being 50, 60 and 70 will lower the bar.)

3)  You mellow.  All those things you were freaking out about in your twenties, have passed.  All that micromanaging stuff from your thirties, those control issues you had with your partner, kids, parents... they go away or become less.  Why?  Because you're forty and it's easier just to relax into your life than fight windmills, imagined or not.

Forty is the time you say: Wow, I guess I'm doing this...I'm living my life.  This is good.

4)  You get to reevaluate your life.  Of course, you can do this anytime in your life, but forty is kind of the halfway mark for many of us.  The number we've been hearing since we were kids as "over the hill."

We look at our lives and think-- Days and years are not going to be added on from this point.  We are no longer aching to achieve something, be important, impress people we don't care about, but we want to live a good life and make good use of our time.

Sometimes this means people get divorced.  Sometimes they find a new job or passion.  Sometimes they find their own old passion and rediscover it. Sometimes they do what they've been afraid to do. Sometimes they travel more (insert my name under this one).  Sometimes they begin to live the life they've always wanted to.

Forty is a reminder that we are aging and not getting younger.  We are not over the hill, but on top of it looking out to our future in front of us and trying to make the most of it.

5) You get to be young in a new group.  For the last three or four years you've been "late thirties," now you're "early forties!"  You are the new kid in an old school.  You are the youngster of the decade.  You are young again!  People will say, "I remember when I was forty" or "Forty was a great year."  And it's your year, enjoy it.

6)  You have better conversations.  None of my forty-something friends talk about Kardashians.  Enough said.

Turning forty will be a gift and it's hugely better than the alternative of not turning forty.

My twenty or thirty year old self would have never believed that it just gets better, that at forty I'd be loving my life more. I wouldn't have believed I'd be so much better at making decisions, trusting my own instincts, and following whatever path I wanted without care who was cheering me on or not.

My young self would have never believed that in my forties I'd still feel young, still *am* young. In my forties, I really felt I came into myself, even more than my thirties which had that sort of feeling as well.  It would not believe how many of my fears and anxieties slipped away because I am thankful just for being here, thankful to be typing this to you.

So may your forties continue to offer you good things, freedom, and strength.

Happy Birthday Forty Year Olds.  May you realize how lucky you are.

~ Kells

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  1. I remember turning 40. Not the freak out that passing 30 was, but I was also in a better place.

    Wait til 50 starts staring you in the face, with kids in their 20's and more aches and pains and the simple joys of watching life outside your window as the seasons change then stepping outside the window and being a part of the change.

    I turn 50 later this year...

  2. I love this post, Kelli. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts with those of us who turn 40 this year, of which I am one. :)

  3. I love this, Kelli. Thanks for sharing these thoughts with those of us who turn 40 this year, of which I am one. :)

  4. Thank you so much for this, Kelli. I have been feeling really terrified of turning 40. This gave me new perspective.

  5. Thank you Kels. I love the message!


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