40 is a study in contrasts, in contradictions that shouldn’t make any sense, but are still somehow true.
It’s not just because 40 is the age that you probably thought of when you were younger as the age when you would be OLD or gasp middle aged and yet when you turn 40, you still feel young.
And not just because your Sephora order arrives on your doorstep containing both miracle wrinkle-reducing night serum and acne treatment cream.
But in ways that would have sounded nonsensical to your younger self, who saw things more in black and white than the gray you know almost everything is.
You are somehow way less judgmental and way more judgmental.
Other people can do things you don’t like or agree with, and you simply shrug your shoulders because it’s not affecting you or really anyone else but that person, so you don’t waste your energy getting upset- you may even have changed your stance and found whatever they’re doing less offensive than you did once, simply because you know that it’s not your place to say anything. Most of the time, you don’t even think about it because you’re too busy living your own life to expend energy on something that affects you and yours not at all.
But you’ve also learned what the issues are that you won’t compromise on. Those actions and ideas that set off alarms in your head that screech THIS IS NOT OKAY. No matter who it is that’s doing it, you’re not okay with what they’re doing and you fully believe they need to stop. And if they don’t, you may need to no longer be around them because you will not accept that sort of behavior in your life.
You believe both “that could happen to anyone” and “that will never be me.”
You’ve learned that life takes many unexpected twists and turns. You’ve had things happen in your own life that you never would have predicted. You know circumstances can change in a heartbeat and that you could easily find yourself in a situation beyond your control. You see others’ hard times and know just how easily that could be you someday and maybe even someday soon. You don’t think you’re immune to having the rough stuff in your life.
And yet, you have a few hard lines carved in the sand, perhaps lines set in concrete, that you know you won’t cross. Not the naive “I would never do that’s” you proclaimed when you were young and foolish and had no idea what real life would be like (just think of what your pre-kids self said about what you would never do as a parent and go ahead and laugh at all of those you’ve broken). But those few actions that would go against every fiber of who you are and you can say with certainty that will never be you, you will never do that.
You’re way more forgiving and way less forgiving. Quicker with an apology and also likely to never apologize.
So many things roll right off your back. You know what doesn’t really matter and you let it go as if it never happened, most likely never thinking about it again after it happens.
But when something truly matters and is hurting you or (and maybe even especially) those you love, you find you don’t have the patience to deal with it, with that person inflicting the harm. And, at this point in your life, you know you don’t have to.
And when you screw up, you’re quick to make amends, to own your mistakes, to do what it takes to make it right with whomever you have hurt or offended.
But you’re slow to apologize, or maybe never apologize, when you feel strongly about your choices. When someone else is offended or doesn’t like your actions, but you feel like you’re doing what is best for you and your family- you see no reason to apologize because really, all you’d be saying sorry for is that you’re sorry they don’t like your choices, not that you’re sorry for those choices. You know that, in these circumstances, those bad feelings are something they have to deal with, that it’s really not on you, it’s something they need to work out themselves.
You’re more willing to try new things and less willing to do what you don’t want to do.
It might be waking up as a 40 year old and being a bit confused as to how you’re not still a college freshmen or maybe how you feel like you blinked on your 30th birthday and now 10 years have passed- but you know that life is short, that the years go by ridiculously fast. And so, you don’t want to waste your days.
So, you might be more willing to try new things. Things that scare you or that you think you’ll fail at. Things that have been on your “someday I need to do this” list but that you hadn’t yet gotten around to. You let go of your fears (or go on in spite of them) and you no longer care if you fail or look ridiculous while you try- you know no one’s really watching anyway. You go ahead and do them, adding items to your list of accomplishments and experiences.
But you also know what you don’t want to do. You know you don’t have forever so why would you spend a day, an hour, doing something you hate? Unless it’s because it would mean the world to your kids or spouse or someone close to you- you probably do still give in then. Maybe that changes on a different milestone birthday. But if it’s something you truly don’t want to do, you have a much easier time and less guilt saying nope, no, not for me, and sitting it out… or better yet, spending that time doing something you did want to do.
You care more and you care less.
About people, about issues, about… everything.
You know what’s important, who is important.
And you’re passionate about that.
And you don’t waste your time on what you know doesn’t matter.