On Friday, I turned 40. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a birthday since my 18th birthday and I genuinely believe that 40 is the new 30.
“How odd,” I hear the cynic in you mumble. “You’ve just turned 40 years old, lady, not 20 or 30! Wake up! If you’re lucky enough to live to 80, 40 is about the halfway point for your life. It goes down from there…” Well, you party pooper, I have very good reasons to feel excited about the big 4.0. Let me explain…
Before you get to 10 years old, life is just about survival in a way, isn’t it? When you’re a small child, stuff happens around you and you just accept it as your normal.
You tend to find your ‘happy’ and to just be content with life as you know it, or at least accepting of your circumstances.
There isn’t much you can do to change your life.
My teens were formative, as are anyone’s teens.
You grow, you learn to fit in and slowly gain some life experience.
By the end of my teenage years, I’d left the village where I’d grown up and moved to Paris to study. I moved in with my then-boyfriend. We decorated our first flat. My dog moved in with us. I had a few part-time jobs, some not so successful (McDonald’s – I left after 10 days), some amazing (I loved being a nanny!), with holiday jobs to top up my cash flow. I travelled (by coach!) quite a bit around Europe.
I started my 20s in Paris, moved to the South of France, studied in three different universities, relocated to North London and generally had a good time. I also vividly remember always seeking validation: from my university tutors, friends, grand-parents, colleagues. Heck, even from complete strangers! From 23 onwards, life was all about my teaching career, which was also my passion. I met my husband.
We travelled a lot and got married. I was financially secure and it felt good.
Before I turned 30, we’d bought our home and had our first baby.
In my 30s, I was busy juggling family life with an evolving career, trying (and failing) to ‘do it all’ and also desperately hanging on to a marriage that was simply not working for either of us.
My four children were very small, I always had a newborn hanging on to a boob and spent my days dishevelled, walking from playgroup to café to preschool to school to work. I was in a constant daze but confident I was doing the right thing. Holidays were at my mum’s or my father-in-law’s 95% of the time.
Fast forward a few years and I now have 4 pretty decent human beings growing up faster than I can blink. Instead of financial security, money seems to come in and jump out of my pocket straight away. In place of a marriage, I have a parenting partnership. I have the most amazing circle of friends. My teaching career has been replaced with writing and photography.
Working freelance isn’t always the most financially stable of careers, especially when you’re on your own with four children, but I am there every morning before school and every afternoon after 3 p.m. for my children. They get to read to me, they can call me when the bus is late, I can see their plays, go to every ‘meet the teacher’ and ‘support your child with their times tables’ meetings. My freelance career is still in its infancy and I have fun every day creating photos, videos and copy for campaigns I genuinely care about. The flexibility and the fun far outweigh the cash flow issues.
I remember my mum’s 40th birthday. She was ‘old’ (well, old to 18-year-old me). Now I am 40, I feel as young and full of potential as I have ever felt. I know anything is possible and the world is my oyster. My children are happily growing up and every single one of them can wipe their own bottom (time for a pat on the back, Mel, because THAT is an achievement!). Yep, there is always at least one child in my bed every single night, but the sleep thieves have now learnt to rest at night (Alleluia!) so I can sleep too.
10 reasons why 40 is the new 30
1- 40 isn’t actually middle age
According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, middle age is between the ages of about 45 and 60. That’s when you’ve got to start watching your health more closely. Your body tends to slow down and might be more sensitive to what you eat, stress and sleep. Middle age is the period of time when you’re not seen as being young, but not actually old either. So when you turn 40, you’re still in the young bracket. Just like being 30, really!
I am well aware that a lot of people get depressed at the thought of hitting 40. It’s a major milestone, I guess, but I honestly don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Unlike people in our parents’ parents’ generations and those before that, we are still young at 40. People are living longer lives and with a decent lifestyle, there’s no reason to start feeling like we’re ageing.
2- Look at all those famous people in their 40s and older!
Who said everything had to go downhill once you hit 40? Look at people like Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith or Jennifer Aniston (they’re 50!) or Helen Mirren. They might all be well over 40, yet they all glow from the inside out.
Gwyneth Paltrow shared her thoughts in People: “I am no longer in my 20s and 30s, I am 46 and I love being in my 40s. I think there is this incredible freedom that comes with a woman in her 40s and understanding that this is who I am and I’ve stopped worrying so much about what people think of me.” (Source: People)
In an interview, Helen Mirren declared: “The best thing about being over 70 is being over 70. Certainly when I was 45, the idea of being 70 was like ‘Arghhh!’ but you only have two options in life: Die young or get old. There is nothing else.” (Source: AARP)
3- Age is just a number
Ageing really is all in our head, isn’t it? I know it can be tough to believe this when you actually see signs of ageing as you look in the mirror. Look again, though. Don’t you think you actually look better now than you did in your 20s? Seriously, look at old photos and see how much you’ve grown as a person, how much wiser and more serene you look.
4- At 40, you know who you are (right?)
When you get to 40, you know who you are. You tend to know what you want in life and you’re more in tune with yourself. If you have them, your children are probably no longer tantrum-fuelled toddlers. You can revaluate your life as it stands. If it’s time for a career change, now is the time to think about it. 40 IS the new 30, or maybe even the new 20!
5- When you get to 40, you care a lot less about other people’s opinion
Self-confidence is key. If you’re happy with the way you look, it shows. Women are glowing and look younger when they’re not seeking external validation.
6- Time to make plans and tick things off your bucket list
Forty is a great time to start making the plans you thought would no longer come. The holidays of your dreams? Start planning them and saving for them instead of wishing they’d just happen as if by magic.
The job of your dreams? Time to work for it! Retrain, make that jump you were so frightened of in your 30s. 40 is the time to get going and work towards the life you’ve always wanted.
7- New beginnings
I genuinely believe that life begins at 40. Find out who you really are. Don’t worry about your age, it’s just a label. Do what you want to do. Reinvent yourself.
8- Life experience
By the time you’re 40, you’re still young but you have built the skills and life experience to really start doing what you want with your life. When most people turn 40, they’re emotionally mature and have enough life experience to bounce back rather than feeling crushed by rejection or setbacks.
9- Wiser and less shallow
Youth is lovely, but feeling like you finally understand the world you live in and feeling wiser is a hundred times better. As you grow older, it’s so much easier to stop comparing yourself to others.
You realise that those perfect people with their perfect lives on Instagram are using filters, sharing only the best bits and generally curating their feeds. They’re not sharing real life, the struggle to get all the kids out of the door in the morning, the microwave meals or the cupboards of doom. They’re showcasing the fun times, the tidy corner, the perfectly behaved children posing in their colour-coordinated outfits.
Now just repeat after me: “I am good enough. I am pretty enough. My home is as messy as any normal house is.”
10- Be the best version of you
Share your skills, remain inspired and try to learn something new every day.
Be a joyful, fulfilled person who is constantly growing and evolving into the best version of you.
By regularly focusing on yourself and your self-development, you can become the kind of person you want to be friends with. How amazing would that be?
So is 40 really the new 30?
You know what? I don’t know for sure yet whether forty is the new thirty, but I can’t wait to find out! It all started with a celebration of the end of my 30s with a few school mums and neighbours, a trip to Gatwick to collect one of my oldest friends, an Airbnb in Shoreditch with 5 of my girlfriends and Brigit’s Bakery afternoon tea on a Routemaster bus with my closest friends. It was an amazing afternoon, filled with laughter, delicious food and pure joy.