I write this with just over a month to go until I turn 40. You know what? I think I’m okay with it. In theory it sounds like a big deal, but I don’t think it has to be. It’s easy to default to the “oh my goodness, I’m so old” reflex, so I’m going to attempt to find the positives about ticking over into my next decade. This is how I intend to own turning 40 this year.
Forty certainly used to be seen as ‘old’. The whole ‘life begins at 40’ cliche was less an expression of scientific fact and more an empty platitude to make the elderly feel better. Much like “yes, the police ARE getting younger” and “it’s liver and onions for tea tonight”.
It was almost meant ironically, and even now people still believe that 40 is some sort of threshold between youthful folly and serious adulthood.
I certainly remember celebrating my dad’s 40th and thinking that must make him ancient. To be fair though, I was ten, so even 30-year-olds seemed to be knocking on a bit to me at the time. Now I know that’s certainly not the case. Right?
In the run up to his 40th, I decided the best present for him would be a key ring bearing the legend ‘Over the Hill Club’. I’m still no good at buying presents, but I now realise how wrong that statement is.
I’m nearly 40, but I’m not over the hill; I’m just starting my climb.
The Positives of Turning 40
Traditionally, by the age of 40 I’d be expected to be established in my career and climbing the corporate ladder. However, that’s not how it works for many of us these days. There are far fewer jobs for life and entire sectors are automating and changing at a fast pace. The positive spin to this is that it creates a host of opportunities if you don’t mind taking a few risks.
Following the abrupt end of my full-time radio career in 2013 (two weeks after my eldest was born – great timing), I started writing for a living. I went freelance a year ago, crafting website copy and blogs, making videos and all sorts of other online content.
I genuinely believe that my age helps me gain work. I have experience of non-digital life, which means I can better adapt to the crunching gear changes of writing blogs for an estate agent one day and a gym the next. I’ve bought and rented houses, I’ve attempted all manner of methods to get myself in shape (rarely successfully). Experience matters because I know exactly what the target audience wants to find out. I am or I have been that target audience.
Children have an uncanny ability to make you feel sprightly and ancient at the same time. Playing Guess Who with my daughter transports me straight back to my youth, even with her ever so slightly distracting ‘tell’ of cheering when she picks a card with a girl on it. That saves me a question. Similarly, I can spend hours with my son creating intricate track designs for his toy trains without giving a fleeting thought to the outside world, just like when I was a child.
On the other hand, after a few consecutive nights of broken sleep, I feel like I’m about to turn 70 rather than 40. But on the whole, having young children around helps me maintain a vaguely youthful mindset, which is cushioning the potential blow of the big birthday.
FO to FOMO
During my twenties and for some of my thirties, I suffered a serious case of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). If I was on a night out, there was a strange compulsion to stay out as late as possible just in case something amazing happened. However, we all know that the graph of ‘enjoyment on a night on the lash’ is a bell curve rather than a line that shoots ever forward and upwards into the distance.
There were scores of nights when I went to horrific nightclubs and spent cash on unwanted booze that added nothing to the experience except a slightly worse hangover the next day.
As I get older, I know my limits and have the self confidence to make my own decisions. Experience (that word again) tells me when I need to go to bed and whether or not I need that sambuca. The answer is never. I never need that sambuca.
The peer pressure falls away the older you get. If you tell a twenty-year-old you’re off home from the pub for a kip you are branded boring. It you say the same to a fellow 40-year-old you receive a nod of understanding. It’s basically the middle-aged version of the Hunger Games salute.
Am I Ready to Turn 40?
It’s not going to be all plain sailing, I realise that. I know that, from 40 onwards, the day I was born in 1979 will be closer to the start of the Second World War than whatever day it is currently. That feels weird.
However, there is so much I want to do, personally and professionally. It doesn’t feel like the point where suddenly I have to get serious and read the Financial Times. We are conditioned to think of 40 as a hard border, but I want to maintain frictionless trade between my 30s and 40s. (Little bit of politics there).
I don’t think I’m about to freak about about the forthcoming change of decade, although I remember turning 30 as if it were only a couple of years ago. That means that the next milestone is already in sight. Come back to me in ten years to find out how I’m dealing with that.