This past January, I turned 40 years old. Once upon a time in my life, 40 sounded so old.
But this transition to my fifth decade has been certainly much smoother than I would have anticipated.
For you younger-than-40 readers, I want you to know that growing older doesn’t have to signal your demise! Growing older is what you make of it.
For me “40” is a just a new age stamp I happen to be wearing in my life journey. I am older than I was at 15, 26 and 30. But I’m also more seasoned and experienced!
Yes, I’ve sprouted a few gray hairs and I don’t have the same metabolism or elasticity I had a decade or two ago, but I’m feeling great and I’m certainly grateful for that.
As you age, you also gain life experience and wisdom from all the mistakes you make along the way.
At this stage of my life, I know myself better than I did when I was younger. I can more confidently articulate what I like, what I need and who I am with less concern about what other people may think.
This is something that’s become easier with each passing year. For example, I have an introverted personality. By definition, introverts tend to feel drained after experiencing stimulating environments and social experiences, but can regain their energy by spending time alone.
As a more introverted kindergarten teacher and mom of four, I need to incorporate rhythms of quiet and solitude within the hustle and bustle of my day-to-day life to recharge my batteries. This involves some compromises. I’ve learned that it’s best for me if I don’t accept every opportunity for socialization — whether that’s an after-school event / evening gathering with adults or allowing my children to invite friends over, which adds more noise and excitement when I might need downtime. (Social distancing, as you might imagine, hasn’t been as hard on me as it’s been on others.)
Some people characterize actions like this as anti-social, but it’s not personal; it’s just how I tick, and what I need to do to stay balanced, productive and healthy.
It took me years to develop this understanding of myself and to have the confidence to start saying no.
In the past few years, I’ve found ways to find this quiet recharge time by waking up early, having a peaceful cup of coffee and doing some yoga or writing. Oftentimes,
I escape for an hour for a hike or run. For my 40th birthday, I actually purchased a fat-tire bike in lieu of a big party, which has been a fun new avenue of outdoor exercise/escape/recharge.
My confidence and understanding of myself, who I am and what I need is reflective in my assertiveness to take time for myself in these ways.
At 40, I have a stronger appreciation for my own health, wellness and also for the presence and wellness of people I love and care for.
The longer you live, the more you see. As an individual with a large extended family — and roles as an educator, friend, mom and more — suffice it to say I’ve witnessed a lot of unfortunate situations. Most recently was the devastating loss of my brother, Ben, in a tragic accident.
My life may have its ups and downs. But overall these first 40 years of my life have been full of blessings. I have four healthy children and a husband who’s not only my partner, but also my best friend.
Most recently, I’ve been thinking about the blessings of my mom and dad, who both turned 70 this past March and who both are sharing their presence and love with our family. I’m so grateful to have them in our lives.
I also appreciate my own physical and mental health; and I’m doing what I can to nurture and take care of it with my choices and actions.
So yes, in appreciation for 40, I feel grateful and blessed, gray hairs and all!
Megan Devine lives in Northeastern Minnesota. Follow her blog Kids, Lakes, Loons and Pines.