Turning 40 is not great. Your beard goes grey, things start to hurt, you need to pee more during the night and your idea of a great night out becomes a takeaway pizza and Netflix, anything else is too tiring. But one major benefit of turning 40 is losing your ability to deal with bullshit and simply stop caring about those pointless things that took up so much of your increasingly valuable time before.
Lets face it, no one likes the idea of getting old and the idea of being 40 is – up until the point you actually reach it – a little daunting. You don’t like to think about it. You push it out of your mind and try and ignore it. You pretend like it isn’t happening.
And then when it does, you find you really don’t give much of a shit, because turning 40 has a special kind of superpower, much as in the same way your 20s is a vehicle for self discovery and growth, your 30s can be your time for finding and getting what you want out of life, your 40s is a time where you find out you can jettison all the bullshit of the last 40 years and stop giving a shit about all those stupid things that don’t really matter.
What people think about you.
I’ve spent 40 years on this planet now. 40 years of going through all that crap of peer pressure, social groups, trying to impress friends and members of the opposite sex. 40 years of biting my tongue, holding back my thoughts and conforming to social niceties out of a misplaced obligation to be polite. It is bloody exhausting!
The good thing is I have also spent a significant amount of time travelling the world solo, learning to enjoy my own company and learning who I am independently of anyone else. That experience has given me the confidence to be my own man, to know my own thoughts and express them without fear or reprisal and the ability to back them up with evidence and reasoned argument.
If people don’t like that, why is that my problem? I am who I am, I like who I am, and if other people don’t then why should I give a shit about their opinion?
Never care about the opinion of someone you would not go to for advice.Tweet
That perfect six pack.
I have always tried to keep up a fair level of fitness for as long as I can remember for a wide variety of reasons, first it was to get better at martial arts, then it was to get bigger and more muscular, then it was just to maintain that physique to an extent and stay fit, but there was always that small benefit of looking good that I always tried to achieve too. I never quite achieved it of course thanks to my natural somatotype and penchant for Judo, but those perfect six pack abs still mocked me from every movie and magazine cover. Anyone who tells you they don’t want those perfect abs are lying.
But when you hit 40 you stop caring so much because frankly you stop caring as much about what people think of you. I mean what’s the point? I’m still healthy, I’m within a healthy body fat range, my muscles are still pretty decent, so who the hell am I trying to impress? I’m still staying fit and healthy of course and I try to stay in shape but I don’t need to go to the extreme anymore, I really don’t care what I look like on the beach and I’m not trying to be a fecking Instagram model, so pass me that extra pizza slice.
I feel really lucky that I got to experience the dawn of social media, because as much of a benefit it is to society, it has given me a whole new career after all, I also got to experience life without it and that I am truly grateful for. When I took my very first gap year 20 years ago I turned up to Khao San Road with nothing more than hopes, dreams and an old battered guidebook. I had no plan, no smartphone to book everything for me and no real clue what I was doing. And it was one of the best adventures of my life! There was no such thing as social media to get in the way of things, no pressure to create a perfectly curated timeline and there was certainly no screen addiction to take me away from the amazing moments I found myself in. I didn’t even have a mobile phone then because they weren’t obligatory!
I think that Gen Xers like myself are probably the last generation that can get to say this but we got to experience life as an adult without social media. As much as I can enjoy social media I don’t need it. I don’t have an irrational need to share every single second of my life on the interwebs, and in fact I really love that.
What you look like.
This isn’t entirely true, I haven’t gone full unhinged hobo here, but reaching 40 means that I have grown more comfortable in my own style and care even less about fashion now than I ever did, which to be fair wasn’t all that much anyway.
I still dress up when I need to, I put pants on if I really have to, but most of the time I dress for comfort. My usual uniform is backpacker chic, cargo shorts, T Shirt and flip flops, and I am not changing that for anyone or anything!
I still shave regularly and keep my hair tidy, but I’ve stopped caring about those tiny flecks of grey that have started to appear around the edges and I’m not overly fussed if the ‘just out of bed look’ is quite literal. I’m 40 for crying out loud, there should be a few flecks of grey, I’m not bald and no one notices when I shave them off anyway!
I have more than my fair share of scars and imperfections too. I used to hate when the hairdresser would ask about the scar on the back of my head from where it got in the way of a large bottle, that other scar on my thigh I would never show anyone or that strange bump below my knee that just looks a bit weird, but I have learned to accept them as just part of who I am, and that’s okay.
Comparing yourself to others and losing that FOMO.
Now to be fair on this one I have kind of had 20 years of practice of not keeping up with the Jones’ next door. You see most people when they leave school hop straight on that treadmill of work, consume, work, consume and then die. They spend their entire lives defining themselves by the products they buy, by how big their house or fancy new car is, and compare themselves to friends or neighbours who have less or more than they do. They feel superior to those who have less, and jealous of those who have more. It is a Western curse most people succumb to.
This definitely isn’t a product of turning 40. I was lucky that I never really fell into that trap because I have spent the last twenty plus years travelling the world. When all my old college and university friends went off to settle down, buy their houses and spend way too much on the latest gadgets, I was sacrificing all of that to save up and take as many gap years as I could! And although at times there was a tiny sense of missing out that came along with that sacrifice, when I hit 30 and didn’t have my own home or even a car but all my old friends did, or when I hit 35 and was the last man standing as everyone else had gotten married, had the kids and weren’t playing out anymore, now I have stopped caring altogether.
Once I hit 40 I had managed to achieve all that too. I had achieved a high position in my former career as a nurse. I had started my own business, fulfilled my dream of being a published author and now have that house, that car and that fancy big arse TV! But they aren’t the status symbols everyone else sees them as because I also have 20 years of memories of travelling the world, ticking off every bucket list item I could think of and having adventures that everyone else I know could only ever dream of (and now wish they had).
And I learned one thing in all that time, that keeping up with the Jones’ is bullshit. That fear of missing out is absolutely bullshit. Everyone will reach the point they are meant to be at at the time they are meant to be there. So what if I bought my home 20 years after everyone else, I still have one and I also have a lot cooler stories than they do too!
At 40 years old, just like I did when I was 30 and when I was 20, I have learned to simply enjoy where I am and who I am. There is no need to compare myself to anyone else.
The best place to be, is here. The best time to be, is now.Bill and Ted.
Other people’s bullshit.
40 years of experience means that you have become set in your ways. You know what you like, exactly the way you like it and you have four decades worth of education and experience informing your opinions and views. You know your own mind. Your self confidence and comfort in your own self is at its peak, and all of this is a glorious thing. You are your own man.
Unfortunately this also comes with an increasing intolerance for everyone else’s bullshit and an inability to deal with anyone else who have habits that annoy you. Stupid opinions suddenly run the risk of being called out with a rush of inventive Gaelic expletives because you just don’t care about the response. Social niceties only get as much allowance as is needed to ensure you aren’t arrested or murdered. Drama is avoided and ignored as much as possible because honestly you’d much prefer to be sitting in your pants at home playing Call of Duty or binge watching a box set.
Once you hit 40 you lose any tolerance for dealing with other peoples bullshit, because you are your own man and frankly your time is too precious to waste.Tweet
The one thing I have learned is that your priorities shift when you hit 40. For some it may happen a little later, or a little earlier, but it happens to all men eventually. You find out what is important to you, concentrate more on those things, and everything else and everyone else is just increasingly dismissed as unimportant.
I have spent 40 years on this planet now and I have learned a few things along the way, but one of them – perhaps more important than any other – is that age is bullshit anyway. Apart from the fact that the first car I received through the letterbox when I hit 40 was from my GP, reminding me I was getting old and needed a prostate exam, I just stopped caring about the numbers. Age isn’t that important. Birthdays aren’t even that important. Of course it is always nice when someone gives you a gift or buys you a pint but frankly the day itself comes and goes like any other. And that isn’t a bad thing either.
Being 40 is awesome. Being a man is awesome. I am living a pretty good life so far, and losing my tolerance for the bullshit life and other people throw at you will mean that I will be able to get through the next 40 slightly saner and a lot easier.