When someone asks me my age, I have to stop and think. In my head, I’m about 30 or 31. I feel younger than I actually am, and my youthful mindset defies the reality of my actual years.
So as my 40th birthday approached, I had some serious feelings of denial. (Let me do the math one more time…this can’t be right…oh crap.) But the fact is, I’m now 40. I’m no longer “in my thirties,” I’m not a millennial, and I’m old enough to be the mother of any given Disney Channel star.
Turning 40 is a big deal. After all, they call it “The Big 4-0” for a reason! Although I wasn’t initially thrilled about my new 40’s classification, I realized that I’m in the company of some very cool people, and I’m proud of my generation.
I’m an 80’s kid, a 90’s teen, a “Xennial.” My peers and I are perhaps the last kids who were raised without cell phones. I was lucky enough to grow up with PacMan, Trapper Keepers, and The Bangles. We loved Koosh balls, Michael Jordan, and Nirvana. We had Teen Beat magazine, “the Mr. Feeny call,” and every cartoon and TV show so awesome that it’s recently been rebooted (because even today’s kids wish they could’ve been us!) My contemporaries are successful in every line of work, making a huge resurgence in the entertainment world, and quite frankly…taking over! And while it’s crazy to know that I grew up with Cory and Topanga and they’re now old enough to have a girl of their own who has “met the world,” I’m content knowing I’m part of this legendary generation.
At 40, I notice that my interests, priorities, and opinions have changed. I’m feistier and more direct. I feel more sure of my feelings, I’m less of a people-pleaser, and I don’t apologize for who I am. These are just some of the many gifts that come with growing up.
Four decades of life means many experiences, memories, and lessons saved in the hard drive. By this age, we all — hopefully — feel like official grownups who have acquired important lessons throughout the years. So how could I celebrate the wisdom I’ve picked up along the way?
I made a list of 40 things I’ve learned about life in my first 40 years on earth. From pet peeves to the profound, I’ve listed dozens of realizations, lessons, and pearls of wisdom which I’ve collected from various stages in my life. This list is filled with my truths, and sprinkled with a dash of cynicism…because that’s just what old ladies like me do.
I hope these amuse and inspire both young and old. Now get your elbows off the table and have a read, sweetie!
- The little things in life are the most special. Smelling freshly baked bread, feeling warm sand between your toes, listening to your toddler sing to himself with a makeshift microphone…that’s what really matters.
- Your character is the most important thing about you. Make yours count.
- Find a balance between enjoying the moment and recording, filming, or documenting these special things. Be present. Soak it in.
- Who people are in high school is a lot like who they’ll be in adulthood. Some people do change. But not often.
- What I thought was “weird” or “freakish” in my youth I now realize is just folks marching to the beat of their own drums.
- Be yourself. No, seriously.
- Sit at whatever damn lunch table you like. Stop separating “cool” from “uncool.” We’re all just hungry.
- Friendships are tested by lots of things, one of which is time. But the best of friends can always pick right up where time left off.
- Love yourself first.
- You can’t make anyone love you. So see #9.
- Eat good food and drink lots of water. Don’t smoke, use drugs, drink too much, or do anything in excess. Take care of your body; you only get one.
- Mental health is just as important as physical health.
- Hearing is not listening. Listen to people when they talk. Especially children.
- God exists, and He’s loving and forgiving. It’s ok to go through periods of spiritual disconnect. As Sister Miriam said in the 9th grade, we can always come back, and God will be waiting.
- You can tell a lot about a man from his relationship with his mother.
- Whatever problems my country may have, I am thankful every day for my freedom as an American.
- Breastmilk is a miracle wrapped in superpowers dipped in liquid gold.
- Manners are important. Hold doors, say thank you, make eye contact. Just be a civilized human.
- Some people are indeed assholes, but they’re probably assholes for a reason. Remember everyone is fighting some kind of battle.
- Don’t debate politics or religion with friends…or anyone really. Beliefs are each individual’s rights and it’s nobody’s business to convert anyone. We don’t all have to agree. And that’s ok.
- Some people’s success is admirable and based on pure work. Others are just lucky and their success is baffling.
- Let kids just be kids. Forget the competition, pressure, and overemphasized academics. Let them play outside, explore the world, and be carefree. We only get one childhood.
- Becoming an adult always involves some level of head-shaking at younger generations so we can see how stupid we once were.
- Being outside, breathing in fresh air, and getting some sunshine is good for the mind, body, and soul. Get out in nature as often as you can and pay attention to all the miracles around you.
- Let a mother with one arm full of groceries and the other arm full of children cross the freakin’ street instead of speeding past her.
- Use proper grammar and speak well. The way you communicate is how you present yourself to the world.
- Washing your hands often is the best way to not get sick. And always use a napkin to open the exit door in a public bathroom. Because damnit, not enough people wash their hands.
- There are few things more transformative in this world than the effect of a nap on an unhinged toddler.
- If you think a compliment about someone, say it out loud. Good thoughts are wasted unspoken and a simple gesture like telling a stranger you like her hair could turn someone’s day around.
- Sometimes you need a good cry, so let it out. And don’t ever tell anyone — including your kids — that they shouldn’t.
- Education should be a priority and a goal for everyone, and it is a gift that makes us more well-rounded humans. But no, in the real world you will absolutely never need calculus for any reason whatsoever.
- If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t expose children to grownup things before they are ready. They have a long lifetime to learn the darker side of the world but the innocence of childhood is fleeting. Preserve it as long as you can.
- Makeup is magical. Remember that the next time you envy a gorgeous model.
- Miss your weekly grocery trip by one day and you’ll have a humble reminder of the millions of families who go to bed hungry regularly. Never take for granted things like clean drinking water, a warm bed, and food on the table.
- Teach your children to have self-respect by modeling it for them.
- Make your expectations clear to your kids, partners, friends, everyone. It’s not “demanding,” it’s speaking your truth.
- You are never too old to find a new passion, hobby, or career.
- Becoming a mother or father makes you better appreciate your own parents. There is nothing in the world as unconditional, selfless, and profound as the love of being a parent.
- Strive everyday to see the beauty of the world through the fresh, wondrous eyes of your children.