At 15 years of age, you think you know everything. Remember that phase?
The fact is, whatever stage of life we’re in, we do know more than we did in the last. Even the defiant, opinionated 15 year old has a point – she (for argument’s sake) certainly knows more than a 5 year old and a decade of experience does give you some sort of wisdom.
But does she know everything? Absolutely not.
Turning 40 seems to be THE milestone that everyone dreads. I guess it’s because it is slap back in the middle of most people’s lives. Assuming we’re going to reach the ripe old age of 80, once you’ve hit 40 everything must be downhill, right?
Surprisingly, I wasn’t someone who was dreading turning 40. For years beforehand I would describe myself as “pushing 40” for no reason other than the fact that I was actually quite looking forward to it. The perfect excuse for staying in on a Friday night and a valid reason for the deep crevices that refuse to disappear no matter how much moisturiser is applied.
Seriously folks, there are so many things that are brilliant about ageing, so much so that I thought I would do the charitable thing by sharing with you ‘youngsters’ (anyone under 40), all of the things I’ve learnt since turning 40…
1. A little compassion goes a long way
Looking back, I think that I used to be quite judgemental. On the whole, my life has gone pretty smoothly – I’m a competent person and with a little determination, can turn my hand to most things.
I spent years being a baffled as to why others seemed unable to win at this thing called life, why they would constantly make bad choices – surely anyone could see that it was gonna end badly?
‘Walk a mile in my shoes‘ is a phrase I often remind myself of – unless we’ve experienced the exact situation that someone is in (the good and the bad, the past and the present) we simply do not have the right to judge.
Over recent years I’ve also realised that we have no idea what might be round the corner for us. ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ is another favourite.
2. Downtime makes me a nicer person
As a child, Sunday afternoons seemed pretty dull – my mum would read the paper for a good hour (often falling asleep part-way through) and my sister and I would moan at the boredom of it all. Now? I’ve realised that without proper rest time I actually cannot function mentally or physically during the week.
Sorry kids but Sunday afternoons are going to be boring round here for a good while longer. Oh and it’s ok to have downtime – it makes me a better/nicer/kinder person.
3. How to say no and mean it
Saying ‘no’ was always a struggle for me. As I’ve got older, it’s almost become a pleasure.
I have discovered more about my capacity as an individual and have put boundaries in place to protect my sanity (and other people’s). I read a book a while back – Boundaries (the clue’s in the title) by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Thompson. Whilst it’s taken me about 5 years to implement, I am much better at doing so. The strap-line says it all really: ‘When to say yes, how to say no to take control of your life‘
I think I’ve finally learnt to do just that.
4. Making mistakes is crucial
I think in-built in all of us is a little voice that puts us off trying new things for fear of making an arse out of ourselves. Perhaps like me, you’re also prone to beating yourself up over the smallest of mistakes.
I’ve learnt that life is about experiences and it’s the only way we grow, change and create a better life. We need to keep trying new things and we need to make mistakes to learn. Isn’t that what we tell our children? Same goes for us!
5. You only get one life
Does this one need any explanation? The older I get, the more I realise that instead of instinctively saying ‘Why?’ I need to start saying ‘Why not?’ a little more often. I’m not an adventurer at heart, more of a home body, but life is for living people! So yeah, #YOLO and all that (still down with the kids no matter what my age might suggest).
Of course this also applies to shopping – a love I don’t imagine I’ll every grow out of.
6. Acceptance is key
Did you naively get married thinking you could ‘work’ on the other person to make them into the one that you would like them to be? First mistake made!
Over the years, I’ve learnt that striving to change someone is futile – they have to want to change themselves and most importantly, we have to accept people as they are or we will die lonely. Oh and that goes for ourselves too by the way…you can’t love someone else well before you’ve learnt to love yourself. That’s an ongoing battle isn’t it?
7. You can’t take it with you
That goes for knowledge, possessions and money. I think we all reach this conclusion at some point with regard to money and possessions – that giving it away brings greater pleasure than keeping it to ourselves.
I’ve also learnt over recent years, that it’s important to give away our knowledge and wisdom. With age you gain experience and hopefully some knowledge – I’ve learnt that empowering others through my experience is the right thing to do and will attempt to do so whenever I can.
8. You’re never too old
Remember that post I wrote about wearing certain clothes even if my daughters tell me I’m too old? I think that motto goes for everything in life. Who has the right to decide when anyone else is ‘too old’? If I’m still living and breathing, then anything goes. And if someone doesn’t approve? Block them!
I suspect that I might look back on this post in about 20 years time, with the same ‘you’ll learn’ smile that I have when looking at my 15 year old now; in fact I hope that I do, because with each new decade we should be growing and learning, adjusting and making room for new ideas. Isn’t that what life is about?
I hope this helps reassure the rest of you that life just gets better as you get older; that gaining knowledge and experience only makes us more powerful. If you’re older than me, I’m sure you have one or two words of wisdom that you’ve learnt in your fifties, sixties or even seventies – I’d love to hear them (leave a comment below).
Staying true to form, I’m now making jokes about “pushing 50” – well I will be the wrong side of 45 in about 4 month’s time!