I’m now in that era where life is supposed to begin. Yes, the dreaded 40’s. When I was in my 20’s, the very number 40 sent a shudder down my spine, but here I am, a third of the way through and probably the happiest I have been. I am now at that “oh I wish I knew then what I know now. Life would have been much easier” phase.
So for all you pre-40 people, worrying about the future, let me share with you the things I’ve picked up along the way.
Ten things I’ve learned as I’ve grown older
1. It’s not the number of friends you have, it’s the quality.
Yes, give me quality over quantity any time. When I was younger, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist (yes, I am THAT old) but I know I would have been the person desperately sending friend requests to anyone I had even the weakest connection with. I still see colleagues doing this and I realise it is due to their own self esteem issues (they believe that having the biggest number of friends makes people think they are popular). I even had one colleague virtually stalk my friends list; when we got to 90+ mutual friends (including a hotel they’d never been to), I realised that was why the “unfriend” button was created. It is definitely the quality of friends, not the quantity.
2. It’s not worth spending your time chasing the people you want to be your friend, give that time to the people who are there – ready and willing to be your friend.
Making new friends is great and I love that excitement of “oh you like him too, oh you’ve read that” but stop chasing them. Friendship is a two way thing and spending your time chasing the people you want to be friends with means you are not spending time on those people who are your friends. Using the time to focus on those relationships will give you a much higher return on investment.
3. It’s not worth spending your time pretending to be something you’re not.
When I was much younger (late teens), I seriously believed that my new friends would only like me if I had money, an exciting lifestyle etc. Well, guess what – they didn’t but it took me so long to realise. Being something you are not takes up too much time and effort; it also makes you struggle with your own identity. You need to be you to learn by your mistakes, to develop as a person. When I look at the image I portrayed in my 20’s and the person I am now (the real me) – I most definitely prefer the me now. It also means I don’t have to remember any of the little embellishments I was so fond of in my 20’s.
4. Real friends accept you – warts and all.
Yes, even now in my 40’s, I get it totally wrong! I make mistakes, I get carried away in the moment. Often I am so exhausted that I jump to conclusions and make rash decisions. Let’s not even start on the menopausal hormones and the Jekyll/Hyde changes they can bring about either. However, real friends know this. They know that even if you make a few slip ups, it doesn’t make you the big bad witch of the west (or the South East). I have made a few blips and lost some friends over them. I have also spent weeks and months upset at losing these friendships and the fun or support they brought but eventually I had to accept that true friends would have accepted that I was human and made a mistake. This has been the hardest lesson but probably the most valuable.
5. Friends are not always for ever.
As someone once pointed out to me, people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.
When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway); and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.
It can really hurt when someone you thought was here for a life time, is only here for a reason or season, but it’s best to move on and just be thankful for whatever that friendship brought.
6. The sun really is not your skin’s friend
I was a holiday rep (many years ago) and I also spent a lot of time overseas with my job (pre-children). When I was a rep, I was the silly English bird using baby oil as sun protection at the water park! As reps, we competed over who had the darkest tan and boy am I now paying for this. By my 40’s however, I have learned the lesson and I’m the bore who has a whole array of sun protection on offer in my garden every summer. Ladies, apart from the obvious issues around skin cancer, just remember that leather skin looks old and is definitely not something you want to be aiming for.
7. Making time for yourself is not a luxury.
When I was in my 20’s, I was young, single and the only commitment I had was paying my rent each month. So I partied – hard! I went to work, went straight to the bar after work and staggered home, only to repeat it all the next day. Weekends were the time for Sunday pub lunches, trips to Portobello Market, cinema, thai restaurants and trips to Brighton. Having my hair cut and coloured was a monthly event, MAC make up was essential and if holding a dinner party, then pudding had to come from Harrods. Oh yes, I was in that stage of trying hard to be something I wasn’t.
When I had children, wow did this change. My skin care became Baby wipes, my hair colour was out of a box (every 6 months) and dinner out was something I could only remember with fondness.
As I have hit my 40’s though, I have realised that making time for me is not something I should consider a luxury, it really is essential. Since I made a resolution to give myself some “me time”, I am so much happier and taking on the world is more tolerable. Pudding still doesn’t come from Harrods but I am very happy with my children’s cup cakes (especially the ones with a million sprinkles and glitter on).
8. It’s okay to say No.
I am still working on this but over the last 12 months I am definitely getting better. I am also working hard on not always being available to help those who, when asked, are too busy to help me. It isn’t always about getting something in return but no relationship should be all one-sided.
Saying no is okay, Making yourself unavailable (turning off notifications) is also fine. I have just taken a week off to visit family and although I didn’t manage a full week off, I did manage to only check my emails once a day rather than once a hour – guess what, the world didn’t end either.
9. It’s important to have goals
Having goals – proper goals written down with time scales – is so important. It is even more important that these goals are your goals and that you are not just working hard to help someone else achieve their goal. It’s ok to help others but not if it comes at a cost of your own goals.
I now have a journal where my goals are written down. I read them every week and work out a small step to take towards achieving them. Is this making a difference? You bet!
10. If your husband is your best friend, you’re never alone
My hubby is a typical bloke. He can’t lift the lid on the laundry basket, he thinks just-cleaned empty breakfast bars are there for him to dump everything on and he is not a fan of DIY (a real problem when his wife is a fan of Pinterest) but he makes me laugh, he knows how to cheer me up, he fully supports what I do and is a sounding board for my moans (his word not mine)!
Remember, growing old is inevitable but growing up is optional. What would you tell your younger-self?