Recently I celebrated moving well into my fifth decade. For so long, I thought your forties meant truly getting old, the time of your life where you settle into paying bills, thinking about insurance, going to the doctor more. I mean that isn’t wrong, some adulting truly sucks, but I’m learning that my forties may be my most fulfilling years yet.
To start, I’m comfortable in my own skin in a way I’ve not felt before. My body, though imperfect, is something I’m proud of and thankful for. I'm still strong, still able to keep up with my kids, and still able to adventure the ways I want to. (My dream of being a tennis pro has long since passed.) It helps that I’ve finally, after ages of neglect and false starts, established a fitness habit that fuels my muscles and my mind.
Of course, I also feel like I know more. Maybe it’s less about wisdom gained, and more about confidence in my own decisions and pattern matching. I’ve seen so many shapes of problems, of joys and concerns before. There's also so much more to discover. I find great joy in always learning; feeling like “I don’t know” is an opportunity instead of an obstacle. I’m also able to focus on exactly what I care about rather than worrying about what others think I should.
A huge part of this change is no longer confusing my work for my identity. While I'm extraordinarily proud of the work I've accomplished in the last few years, there is so much more to me than the companies on my resume or the products I build. While I used to aim to have my work revered or my name well known, now I take great pride in simply doing great work that speaks for itself. Furthermore, I also enjoy working on things people never see, skills like playing piano or cooking that take decades to master and only with small steps. I've learned how fun it is to be average at something you love doing for yourself.
That confidence I mentioned means I also care much less about the random opinions of others. I'm human so of course I want others to like me, but I like to think these days I’m driven more by mission and values than the desires of anyone else. That deeply rooted sense of purpose is something I aim to pass on to my kids; knowing and loving yourself is the basis of real happiness.
Speaking of which, my partner, my kids, and my family play a vital role in my own well being. The older I get, the more I want to embrace them constantly. You know how when you’re a kid, your family is your entire world? How when your parents’ emotional ups and downs feel directly connected to your own mental health? That’s a bit like having a family. Ensuring that they experience love and joy and play, guiding them through life’s lows, and watching them grow without your holding hand is the greatest role I’ve ever played. It’s an honor just to spend time with all of them.
Today, I took the day off to reset and let all of the love I felt this weekend really set in. As I age, I try to practice the art of gratitude, being mindful of what I have instead of focusing on what I do not.
Onward and upward.