There has always been a buzz about turning 40. Some people call it big 40 and the phrase “Life starts at 40” could not be any more popular. Well, I have recently turned 40. Today, I have lived for exactly 40 years and a week. I spent the days that led me to this number by figuring out what’s special about turning 40. In the next few weeks, months and years, I know I will appreciate it more. Today, I just want to take a snapshot of how I feel while I am fresh in my 40s.
The pandemic and the quarantine protocol were on my side as it gave me a great acumen about life. This is my second birthday in quarantine, meaning I, as most people I know have, spent more than a year at home, tinkering with mundane stuff, going through a very limited routine and doing a bunch of insightful activities I can think of. Either way, I think I would have thought about it deeply just the same even without being quarantined.
Here are my thoughts, and tidbits of wisdom you might find useful. What’s special about turning 40? Being 40…
1. You know what you want or what you don’t
I have always been the decisive type. When faced with petty options and weighty dilemmas, I have an internal system (I will tell you how later.) of figuring out what to do or which to pick. However, there came a time in my life when a series of unfortunate events rained on me. Not everyone I know knows this but I have been in a phase when I questioned all the major decisions I have ever made for myself. This led me to doubt even my ability to make one for my future. It felt like an early mid-life crisis, when I became unsure of myself, my worth and my contributions to the world.
It was then that I realized that I never stopped breathing, or feeling, or loving. And I never stopped being actually loved as well, even when I felt otherwise.
So, everything was closing in on me, I felt numb. Then, I went into auto pilot. I let go of the oars, went with the flow and sat at the back of the boat of my life. It was then that I realized that I never stopped breathing, or feeling, or loving. And I never stopped being actually loved as well, even when I felt otherwise. The experience was the key that opened my eye to see me, as me. It taught me to zero in on what matters to me, no matter what is happening in my peripheral.
So yes, I know what I want, whether in deciding what color to paint on the wall, which item in my cart to check out, or what other career path to take, I am certain what I want. The secret is valuing your own person and what truly matters to this person.
In rare times of confusion, when I feel like I don’t know what to do, I think about what I don’t like to happen and this makes what I want to scintillate for me to clearly see it.
2. Your priorities are somewhat straight
From the seed of knowing what you want, you get to grow the tree of your priorities. For me, it’s straightforward and relatively easy. I have been doing it, long before Marie Kondo trended with her famous question, “Does it spark joy?” Mine is simply, “Would it make me happy?” It’s probably a given that what or who makes me the happiest is my number 1 priority. Those that ignite anger and stimulate sadness would definitely be not in the list. Try it!
3. People go to you for advice
Though I feel a bit of pressure, I take it as a compliment when friends and colleagues, especially younger ones, seek me out for guidance. But since you cannot give what you don’t have, I make sure to give them a disclaimer beforehand if I don’t have a first-hand experience with regards to their concern. In all honesty, I am, sometimes, amazed when they listen or when they say they feel better after speaking with me. Then and again, in a good way, this reminds me how old I must be getting!
The coupled feeling of accountability and regret crawls inside me…
It’s a different story when you give advice to older people or peers of your age. This is especially true if they did not ask for it. I am always careful at asserting myself, but sometimes, I cannot help it. The coupled feeling of accountability and regret crawls inside me like an army of ant lining up to get ready for a rainy day. Ironically, I feel like I am more passionate with the unsolicited advises I gave than those directly asked of me. This type compelled me to step forward, by my own initiative, mostly with a desire to be of help to a person, I probably cared for. If they find it intrusive, at least I did my part, I always thought.
Solicited or not, I just pray that God gives me wisdom to know what to say, when and how to say it when I give advice to others. May I use it well for this is one of the positions of privilege, I believe, being old holds.
4. You know the people who truly love you
I could have stated this as, “You know who your friends are,” but in reality, you don’t only deal about your friends. Sometimes, in your very own circle of family and relatives, there will be those who will and who will not love you. And it’s okay! Trying to please everyone in your lifetime will only bring you a ton of stress, so forget about it.
Did you know that the opposite of love is NOT hate? It is indifference. I have heard about this way back, I think from a priest’s homily, maybe when I was in high school but I did not really grasp its meaning then. On a conscious level, I tried to remember it because I believed it will be of use in the future. I was right. Now that I’m older, I look back and sort through the different people in my life and I get it.
Hate is not the opposite of love…
People who seem to hate me or did things to hurt me, believe it or not, actually love me. Why? Because they took time to do something for me. Maybe they were just trying to get my attention, or maybe they were struggling with something and I got in the way. But when I was younger, I did not know this. I prayed for karma, I really did.
When I got a little older, I knew better. What did I do? Fighting back the tears and putting on a brave face, I try my best to kill them with kindness, until such time when they actually show me they care. Then, I can start not worrying about them. For the immortal ones (those whom I cannot KILL with kindness, get it?), I let go and start treading the indifferent path for the both of us. As they say, one can only do so much.
On to friends. Enemy is not the opposite of friend. Its acquaintance, if we base it on love-indifference concept. If you think about it, it’s either you know this person or you don’t. At 40, I know a lot of people! I have hundreds of friends on Facebook. Some of them are friends-friends, some are acquaintance-friends, and some are enemies. Truth be told, I hate having enemies. I put a lot of care not to piss anyone. But sometimes I do, and sometimes, they do. And as much as I’d like to turn it around, I try to give them the respect that they deserve and wait. In the meantime, I just opt to choose the acquaintance path, at least for myself. In a way, I live in peace.
Knowing which of the people in your circle love you is important. Other than getting and giving help when needed, these amazing people in your life are the ones who will uplift you if you ever get to the rockiest and bottommost of your rock bottom, even without lifting a finger! Remember them, thank them and appreciate them for what they do and don’t do for you. Do return the favor and be one of their brightest stars in their darkest skies as well.
5. This time, values are actually valued
After a decade or two of learning the art of adulting, you become good at it. At first, you develop a system of how you operate on a daily basis. Do you come to work on time all the time? Try to be productive each and every day? Do you take your responsibilities seriously? And accept the consequences of your actions? These are the values that you establish and strengthen over time.
It’s difficult to be with people who has a different set of values…
You may have listed a bunch in the past but as they say, and it’s so applicable to mention here, Actions speak louder than words. Even if you don’t list it, or say it, your values are the force that gets stronger as you get older. And you hold them close to your heart and soul, so dear, to the point that it hurts when people go against it.
I have written our Family Values years ago after reading Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. It gets to be refined every now and then, as I see fit, but every day, after my prayers, I recite it – aloud if I am alone; in my head if I am not. An excerpt of it is “In this house, we value Human dignity: life and health, freedom of choice, happiness, togetherness and simplicity…” Together with my personal values, these serve as my moral compass, the internal system I mentioned above that helps me in formulating decisions for myself and for my family. And if something is going against the grains of it, I strongly feel the need to detach in order to stay in touch with my own set of values.
I have 5 more points left in my list of what’s special about turning 40 but since word count is already at 1700+, I’ll take a pause and continue to write the rest soon. Click here to read the part 2 of this piece. Maybe this is something I ought to add to the list, what’s special about turning 40 — you burst with thoughts you want to share with the world.