It’s finally here — I’ve officially turned the big 4-0. It’s not like I have any choice in the matter, really, but mentally I’m along for the ride we call aging. I was recently asked if I was “one of those women” who is going to freak out about being 40. The truth is, the last thing I feel is freaked out.
When I turned 30, I was equally as giddy, largely because my 20s were a time of inner turmoil, struggles in trying to figure out who I am, who I’m supposed to be and what the heck I want to do with my life. I was glad to bid adieu to that hot mess and really sink into the woman I had become. A decade later, here are 15 pivotal things I learned in my 30s:
1. There’s no “better” you, only you
I found myself often thinking in the past decade that I wanted to be a better person, the best version of myself, when I all I needed to do was just be. After lots of work and therapy, I realized I already am me — the beautiful, loving, peaceful me that was there the minute of birth, just like all of us. Instead of being someone different, I had to peel off all the crap and self-preservation mechanisms I’ve acquired up until this point to let my true self shine.
2. Ask for help
I went into the last decade as I did with the others before — with an “I got this” attitude. I was soon humbled and finally asked for help, because at various times throughout my 30s, I’ve needed advice, food, therapy and even a roof over my head. When you simply learn to ask, the response is overwhelming.
3. Believe the universe is kind
The term universe has now become a bit of a joke, but I don’t care. It could be that trees are kind or there’s a magic chrysanthemum, but you must continue to believe that good prevails. If you allow the crappy experiences you’ve had to keep your outlook as a “life sucks” mentality, you’ll be forced to replay that crappy story over and over and over.
4. You finally get to see the “why”
The phrases Everything happens for a reason or This too shall pass are actually difficult to truly understand when you can’t see the forest through the trees. Yet your 30s brings about many points where you finally get to see where the dots connect from your life experiences up to that point. You get to understand why some things happened, as terrible as they may have felt at the time.
5. It has nothing to do with you
From criticism and anger to jealousy and rage, uncontrolled emotions are being flung at you that have nothing to do with you whatsoever. There’s so much peace in understanding that when someone criticizes your appearance, for instance, it’s not because you look bad, it’s because they don’t feel good about themselves.
6. Take care of your health
It should go without saying, but for heaven’s sake, get regular checkups — it’s not that hard. I’ve seen lives saved over this decade of friends who have the good sense to get annual exams and regular physicals.
7. Handpick your tribe
One of the greatest discoveries in the past few years has been the realization that I am handpicking my own tribe. It’s like fantasy football but for friends. I had felt locked into friendships by blood relation, history or a false sense of obligation, but the truth is if someone in your life doesn’t love and respect you, they’ve got to go — period.
8. Life is too short
I finally truly understand that phrase. It wouldn’t matter if I live until I’m 100 years old or die tomorrow, there are too many more productive and enlightening ways to spend your time than to be around negative people or things or waste your time doing something that doesn’t make you happy.
9. Speak your truth
Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Women have such a hard time saying no or being really honest whenever they feel it may hurt someone’s feelings. Does everyone worry about how you’ll feel about what they say? No, they don’t. When I say speak your truth, that also goes for not trying to force your truth on someone else, because they have their own. Never be intentionally hurtful, but if someone doesn’t understand or respect your truth, they don’t need to be in your tribe.
10. Someone is always ready to share your joy
I can say few things with 100 percent certainty, but as gloomy as this world might seem, we are all ready for joyfulness. Anytime I’ve belted out a show tune walking down a city street, busted a dance move at the gym or laughed inappropriately, someone has always jumped right in — always. It’s right there under the surface for all of us, so why not be a catalyst?
11. Love is all there is
It really, really is. Be love, share love, give love, accept love, and tell those you love how much you love them. This one I’ve believed since I was a child, and it becomes more poignant with each day I am blessed to walk this earth.
12. Let it go
This can be easier said than done, but really, you’ve got to let it go. It’s OK to mourn, to be sad and to be disappointed — just don’t stay in there. Holding on to things does you no good.
13. Everything is perfect, even you
When you let it go and eliminate the judgment of good or bad with situations or with yourself, you can realize that everything is perfect. When in a bad situation, ask yourself, How is this perfect? Learning opportunities are everywhere, and that in itself is perfection.
Some of the worst offenders around are the ones who need the most forgiveness. Carrying around hate will eat you alive, so forgive someone for you and your own peace, not for them.
15. Don’t let someone else be the measuring stick for your greatness
Our paths are our own, so don’t judge your success based on someone else’s timeline. Constantly comparing yourself with others will get you nowhere except depressed. I have my own path and my own timeline, which 40 finally gave me the peace to embrace.