Worried about turning 40? If so, you’re probably in the majority. But before you decide to buy that new Harley, take a look at a few things I wish I would have known before turning 40.
My life got busy after finishing college. I ending up loosing track of many of the friends I met in classes and residence hall. I have some great friends that I’ve met in the years that have passed, but I wish I would have taken more time to care for relationships with the college roommates who helped me cram for big exams, took care of me when I was under the weather, or talked me through a difficult break-up. I had no idea at the time just how much of an impact those friendships really had on me.
Back in high school, my economics teacher explained how if each of us saved a few hundred dollars each month, the magic of compound interest would see that we were millionaires by our 50s. I was way too young then to heed such sage financial advice, so of course I spent much of the next decade spending money on movie nights with friends, expensive restaurants, and the latest and greatest clothing. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite memories are from going out with friends, but as my 50s get closer and closer, I know that saving that money sooner would have made a huge difference. It could be the difference between retiring at 55 and retiring at 70.
In my teens and twenties, I burned a lot of bridges. At times, it was through stupid things like getting offended at a job and quitting rashly. In other cases it came down to cutting off contact with a good friend or ex-girlfriend over petty disagreements. What I didn’t know then was that every positive relationship can be built on in the future. You’d be surprised how many co-workers you run into who have connections with a company you were at previously, or how many people you meet who knew an ex or an old friend of your’s.
In some countries, young adults take a year off to travel extensively, while staying in hostels and backpacking. There are huge benefits to traveling while you’re young. However, instead of taking the time to see the world or volunteer abroad, I was anxious to get to work. With financial commitments that have increased as the years have passed, I seldom have the money to travel abroad. Unfortunately, I may have to wait until retirement to enjoy some of those experiences.
While being over 40 doesn’t mean that I am ancient by any means, I can definitely see differences in my body. I wish I would have begun to focus earlier on caring for my joints while maintaining my weight. Instead I’ve spent far too much time focusing on heavy weight lifting without giving much regard to proper pain management. I also envy people who embraced healthy eating when they were young, maintaining a healthy weight and building good habits over the years.
Now that I am older, I realize how important small acts of kindness are. We are all connected in some way. There is no reason to become hostile with waitresses or customer service reps over petty things. Taking time for little things, like letting someone with two items pass me at the grocery store when I have an overflowing cart would have been, in retrospect, well worth the sacrifice.
I don’t know if worrying is really the cause of some of these wrinkles and gray hairs, but I do know that constant worrying can affect the chemicals in the brain. Most things tend to work themselves out in the end. I’ve found that shifting my focus to the things I can control, helps keep the stress away and keeps me more in tune with my family and the things that matter most.
Over the years, I have filled my home with a lot of stuff that I didn’t really need. Many of these “useless” items were expensive. All of these things represent wasted money and require space, leading to the necessity for a bigger house just to store all of the stuff. In recent years I’ve tried to adopt a much more minimalist lifestyle, funneling more money into paying down debts and investing in things I really want/need. My “stuff
When I was younger, I spent plenty of time on hobbies to keep me occupied in my spare time. Playing sports with buddies, hitting the golf range, or reading books were welcome breaks from responsibilities at school and work. As I’ve gotten older and the focus has shifted more directly to family and work, many of these hobbies have fallen by the wayside. Having a hobby is a great way to keep yourself active and keep your mind sharp.
Although I may look 40, my mind thinks I am a teenager in many ways. I still want to do many of the things I neglected to do at a younger age. This is actually one of the more pleasant aspects of aging because it means that I can still have fun and learn new things. I can choose to make new friends, change my diet, and go back to the golf course. Turning 40 has given me a new perspective on life, on my priorities, and what I want the future to look like.
Don’t slow down. 40 can be the start of your next great adventure, a time to invest in what matters the most, and a chance to start fresh! What are you going to accomplish in your next 40 years?
Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aigle_dore/ via flickr.com
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