40 Things I’ve Figured Out at 40 (that I wish I’d known at 20)

It’s official. I’m old. At least, I always imagined 40 was old—middle-aged.  My mom was 40 when I went to college. AARP somehow has my address already and they’re not afraid to use it. Strange silver corkscrews occasionally spring from my scalp.

But I don’t feel old.

I do feel wiser. Slightly. I still have so much growing to do, so much to learn and accomplish, but as I unwillingly cross into this new decade, I can appreciate the insight I’ve discovered the hard way. Some of these little croutons of knowledge I still force myself to digest each day. Others I chant like mantras. All of these tidbits I wish I had understood twenty years ago.

#185077520 / gettyimages.com  Catherine Lane

#185077520 / gettyimages.com Catherine Lane

  1.  It’s okay to admit that you don’t know something and/or ask for help.
  2. You judge yourself much harsher than anyone else ever will. No one else will ever notice 99% of the things you criticize yourself for.
  3. Realize that people aren’t mind-readers. They usually don’t comprehend how their words/phone calls/tardiness/silence affects you so much.
  4. Learn to let go. That friend who burned you, the guy who dumped you, the loved one who passed away. Whether it’s forgiving, forgetting, or just moving a loss to a less focal spot in your mind—let it go.
  5. Yoga can be as amazing for you outside as inside. Namaste, my friends.
  6. There is no reason to be out at 2 a.m. unless someone is in the hospital.
  7. There is no reason to be awake at 3 a.m. unless someone is puking or crying. (Okay, so people might have been doing this at 20.)
  8. Wear that bikini like crazy when you’re 20. Just because you can wear a bikini at any age, doesn’t mean all of us should.
  9. Your mom is right most of the time.
  10. Cleavage does not equal sexy. You can turn heads in a turtleneck if you radiate confidence.
  11. Don’t let anyone tell you how to parent. Or when to become a parent.
  12. Wearing all the “hottest” trends doesn’t impress. Find your happy niche between. And stop reading Vogue. Now.
  13. Negativity is like a riptide—it will suck all the joy from your life. Avoid negative people, even if they’re family.
  14. What you believe in will change. Maybe not cataclysmically (like going from a faithful Catholic to a devout Hindu) but your beliefs will evolve as you cope with devastating blows and your view of the world broadens.
  15. Jump out of that perfectly good airplane and bungee jump off that bridge while you’re ten-foot-tall and bulletproof…and before just imagining it makes you nauseous.
  16. Credit cards are evil.
  17. Those statistics classes you thought it would be no big deal to skip in college—they will haunt you in your nightmares forever.
  18. Wear sunscreen. ALL THE TIME. Skin cancer sucks.
  19. Blow drying your hair straight every day will fry it by the time you’re 30.
  20. Freckles are beautiful. So is pale skin.
  21. Take more computer classes. You can never learn enough.
  22. Always pay attention to what’s going on in the world. Listen to NPR. Yes, that butterfly blown from the sky in the Middle East will impact your life.
  23. Don’t be so afraid to flirt. Harmlessly, of course. Just because you smile at someone doesn’t mean they think you want to marry them.
  24. Stop being so afraid to fail. So being so afraid, period.
  25. Try running. Or some sport. You won’t always be able to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for dinner and fit into your jeans the next day.
  26. Write more.
  27. Learn how to cook, clean, and do laundry properly. You may never like doing any of those things, but you will have to do them (even if you share responsibility). You won’t have a maid.
  28. You’re life will never unfold as you imagined it. There is no straight line to follow; instead life’s path is more like a twisty skein of yarn. There is no “should have been.” Don’t beat yourself up for what you have not accomplished. Celebrate what you have done. You still have time to find your dreams, even though those dreams have changed.
  29. Not much in life is easy. Learn to fight.
  30. It doesn’t always pay to be the good girl. They get steamrolled, taken advantage of, and are accused of having no guts. Some rules can be need to be broken.
  31. But breaking some rules may break you. Other people will get away with murder. Literally. You’re not that slick. Think before you do something stupid.
  32. Pets are good for the soul, even when they break your heart.
  33. Appreciate the ordinary.
  34. Spend less. Save more.
  35. Stop judging other people’s relationships/bank accounts/tastes/lives. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. And you’re not responsible for their decisions.
  36. People can and will change—but not in the ways you may want.
  37. Stop craving things you can’t have. It will only make you miserable. Cherish what you DO have.
  38. Time does go faster as you get older.
  39. Never stop learning. You don’t know it all and you never will.
  40. You’ll never know if the best is yet to come, so enjoy each glorious/horrible/ordinary day.

 

How about you? Do you have any nuggets of wisdom you’d wish you’d known when you were younger?

 

8 thoughts on “40 Things I’ve Figured Out at 40 (that I wish I’d known at 20)

    1. Kerry Ann Post author

      YES! I wrote this before I went on a mini-vacation last week, but during that entire trip one our friend’s kids kept saying “but that’s not fair!” I kept wanting to say exactly what you wrote. Exactly.

      Reply
  1. Jillayne

    I’m not 40, but I’m inching closer every day. I love, LOVE this post. I think I’ve definitely taken a few of these important steps (as in, don’t worry so much about what other people think/have/do) and it’s made my life so much less stressful than when I was younger.

    Reply

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