14 things I realised when I turned 40

Turning 40

So I’ve hit the big 4–0 and am thinking: now what?

For most of my life, I have often been told I look young . Although I’ve loved being told this since I was about 30, before then, I felt that looking so young meant that people saw me as a “little girl” and therefore I would not be taken seriously.

Now people tend to think I look in my early to mid 30s, which I certainly don’t mind, but inside, I do feel like 40 years old with all my life experiences and the wisdom that I’ve gained.

In our society, getting older is not seen as a good thing, but it really can be. The wisdom and life experience you attain is priceless. To continue life’s journey with a greater idea of how the world works is truly a gift.

Celebrating in a lockdown

This year, I spent my 40th birthday in a partial lockdown in Melbourne, Australia due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some restrictions had thankfully been lifted by then, so my boyfriend and I were able to go for a drive and walk at a beach, enjoying the sun. But no drinks or dinner out with friends. No dancing at a bar and certainly no party. It was not the way I was planning to spend my birthday, but as you know, life has other plans.

What I have learnt

As my 40th birthday approached, I started pondering what I had learnt over the years and realised I have discovered these 14 things:

1. That I don’t have control over life — rather the opposite.

2. Life is full of disappointments — but it’s how you deal with disappointments that matter.

3. You will have many sad moments in your life but just as many beautiful moments too.

4. People come and go in your life all the time, even when you want them to stay for longer.

5. You cannot choose your family, but you can definitely choose your friends. Goodbye toxic, time-wasting and self-obsessed “friends”!

6. The friends that are in your life now are meant to be there — don’t take them for granted.

7. You cannot choose your workmates but you can choose how you will manage your relationships with them.

8. You will realise that you don’t have an endless amount of time to complete your goals and will start focusing on what really matters to you.

9. You start cutting the “crap” from your life — the items you never use, the errands you don’t want to or need to do, the obligations you signed up for unwillingly etc.

10. You will learn to say “no” to people, which is hard but gets easier in time.

11. You start realising that travel and seeing the world is more important than accumulating material items.

12. You realise that money is just a means to an end — not a means in itself.

13. If you’re still single, you will start looking for a soul mate, rather than someone to “hang out with”.

14. If you’re in a relationship, you appreciate your other half as they are, rather than trying to change them.

The journey ahead

I did panic a little before I turned 40, thinking of all the things I haven’t done or achieved yet. But life is not just a to-do list — and there is not a particular age in which you must achieve certain things. We are all on our own journeys.

So I’m planning to enjoy my 40s as much as possible and I look forward to learning many more things in the journey ahead.

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Helen van Soest

Helen van Soest

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I’m a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. I love reading books, articles and blogs. See my blog: https://myhsp.life/