I turned 40 this week.
There’s nothing magical about 40, although the greeting card and party planning people want you to believe it is a feat worth celebrating.
To me, it’s just another year. Another trip around the sun. I certainly don’t feel 40. I don’t feel more than a day over 39, to tell the truth. But it is here and I must face it: My parents are not middle-aged. I am middle-aged.
I am okay with that. In fact, my 30s were the first time I felt pretty comfortable in my own skin. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good.
In the last decade, we’ve paid off all of our debt except our mortgage. We’ve managed to keep out of debt through car and home repairs. I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom, and later turned my passion for writing into a way for me to continue to work from home while the boys are all in school. I’ve lost friends and family near and dear to me. I’ve watched others struggle with financial troubles and poor health. I’ve watched people turn their lives around through hard work and prayer. I’ve celebrated new babies and weddings and family reunions and vacations. And through it all, I have learned so much.
I have learned that money isn’t everything.
Money is only a tool we use to purchase goods and services. It can be used for good. It can be used for evil. We can give it all the power in the world and let it control us and try to use it to control others, or we can break out of debt, stop overspending and watch its power fade away.
I have learned that kindness matters. I have learned that so many people are suffering in so many ways and we can’t always see it. It costs nothing to be kind to people, to animals, and to the planet. And it means everything.
I have learned that we need to be kind to ourselves, too. We are often our own worst enemies, letting our insecurities prevent us from reaching our goals. We need to learn to forgive ourselves for being human and making mistakes. We need to learn to take better care of our mental health and our bodies.
I have learned that quality is more important than quantity. It is better to have one, really well-made piece of clothing, then a wardrobe full of junk. It’s better to invest in good shoes and mattresses and vehicles than to focus on whatever is the latest trend.
I have learned that the little things you do add up to big things. The snack you skip at the convenience store today could be the family vacation of tomorrow. The coupons you use on your shopping trips could add up to be your kid’s birthday present. Spending time offline could be what saves your relationships. What could you do with just a little bit of effort today to make the world better tomorrow? Do more of that.
I have learned that less is more. Less stuff means I can appreciate more the things I do have. Less clutter means more freedom and space. Less on my schedule means more time with my family. Life doesn’t have to be one wild roller coaster ride to the finish. There’s time to stop and look around.
I have learned that there is so much that we cannot control. All I can do is control my response to the situation. I can let a setback destroy my mood and wreck my week, or I can just pick up the pieces and figure out a new solution. All I can do is all I can do.
I have friends who act like 40 is the beginning of the end. It’s not. It’s just one stop on what will (hopefully) be a long journey. My opinion on age is much like my opinion on money. It all starts with attitude. What kind of attitude will you have? Where will your journey take you?