Today, I am 40.

Oh my gosh when I see it in writing it seems like I’m talking about someone else. FORTY.

I don’t consider 40 old. At all. I just thought I’d feel more adult-like by forty. My mom, who is 66, says that she still doesn’t feel adult-like; so maybe this is just life, and we’re all secretly kids wandering the world in our grownup suits.

Forty seems like the right age to stop and think about the things I am sure of—the things I want to make sure I teach my daughters. Hopefully I can help them (and anyone who reads this post) figure out some parts of life a little earlier than I did. So here we go, in no particular order, the best life advice I have to give.

  1. Travel as often as you can. It’s so important to see other parts of the world, to understand that we are all raised in different environments, and to learn that the things you accept as universal truths are not necessarily universally true. Get out there, talk to people who are different from you, and learn everything you can about them.
  1. You don’t have to finish everything you start. Learn the difference between wanting to quit because something is hard, and wanting to quit because something is toxic. You are allowed to put yourself first and walk away from the things that you know are bad for you, even if other people don’t understand it.
  1. Celebrate vulnerability. It is terrifying to take your mask off and just be real, letting people truly see you, even the parts you’re afraid to show. BUT- the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and there’s nothing better than the freedom that comes with having the courage to be imperfect. (While we’re on this topic- read every book Brené Brown ever wrote/writes.)
  1. Be thankful, but have high standards. I was raised to be thankful for everything I have, but it took me years to understand that it was okay to want more. You do not have to simply accept the hand you’re dealt in any situation. You can be thankful for what you have, and just as thankful that you have the power to change.
  1. You are not responsible for other people’s happiness. This is a hard. When you love someone, you want to make them happy. That isn’t a bad thing. When you want to make them happy at the expense of your own happiness and mental health, it becomes a problem.
  1. Try brussels sprouts earlier in life. Seriously. Roast them in the oven for 15 minutes, toss them with bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Thank me later.
  1. You are not defined by other people’s opinions of you. We’ve been told this for years, but seriously, say it to yourself out loud. “I am not defined by what ______ thinks of me.” The most important thing is that you like yourself. Which leads me to…
  1. Be kind to yourself. Pay attention to your self talk. (No I’m never gonna stop preaching that message.) It might feel silly at first. We’re taught at a young age that we shouldn’t be cocky about things (especially if you’re a woman). They tell us that we can’t let anyone know when we’re too proud of something we’ve done. They’ll think we’re full of ourselves. Listen. What if I told you it was okay to think you’re pretty great? What if I said, hey…you don’t have to downplay your achievements? It’s actually really easy to be happy with yourself and not be a jerk about it. Get out there and celebrate the glorious badass that you are every single day.
  1. For the love of God, when someone compliments you, say “Thank you.” Don’t  be embarrassed by it. Don’t brush it off. Don’t argue. Just. Say. Thank you.
  1. Say “No” when you want to say no. You don’t owe anyone a “Yes,” and no one wants your reluctant, resentful “Yes” anyway. Life is too short to waste time doing things you don’t want to do. (Having said that, start paying attention to how often you’re saying no to things, and make sure that “No” is driven by self-awareness rather than fear.)
  1. Don’t ask questions if you’re not prepared to hear the answer. If you ask a question and you get an answer you don’t like—accept it, and refer to number 4.
  1. People aren’t paying as much attention to you as you think. There is literally no one out there who is watching and waiting for you to fail. They’re far too worried about themselves to focus on you. If we just all tossed that one out the window—if we all automatically assumed everyone is cheering us on rather than waiting to ridicule us—just imagine all the new things we’d try!
  1. When you screw up, own it. Admitting mistakes and apologizing can be difficult, but it’s so much easier than hiding it and waiting for someone to find out.
  1. It is completely okay, wonderful even, to nerd out about the things you love, no matter how old you are. For some reason we tend to lose that as we get older. Just love what you love, and don’t be afraid to show your excitement.
  1. Recycle. Global warming is a real thing. Don’t @ me.
  1. Let go of the idea of who you’re supposed to be. Who decides such things anyway? Those ideas are often rooted in what we think other people expect from us, and as we already discussed in number 12, people probably aren’t even thinking about you. Even if they are, refer to number 7 and remember we are not defined  by what other people think. Look at who you actually are, not who you wish you were, and celebrate it.
  1. Figure out your perfect karaoke song and practice it every chance you get, so whenever you have the opportunity to do karaoke, YOU WILL BE READY.
  1. Life is short. Take care of yourself. Eat the vegetables. Take the walks. Do the yoga. You are worth the time it takes to give yourself the best chance at enjoying every last minute well into your golden years.
  1. Stop living in limbo between all these goals you set for yourself. Don’t think- “I’ll be happy when I have THIS” or “when I do THAT.” Think- what can I do to be happy right now, while I’m working toward my goals?
  1. We are imperfect people raised by imperfect people who were raised by imperfect people. Keep that in mind in all of your interactions with yourself and others. None of us know what we’re doing, but most of us are doing the best we can.

Happy Halloween, gang. Bonus life tip: hoard all the Reese’s cups.

3 thoughts on “Today, I am 40.

  1. Happy birthday to one of the sweetest, smartest, kindest humans I’ve ever known!

    I love this list. Number two is where I’m sticking right now. I end up killing myself trying to finish things that *I* arbitrarily decided I have to do!

    You continue to be such an inspiration to me, darling woman, and I love you very much. Thanks for loving me back even though I’m prickly and weird.

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