Embracing My 40’s: What I’ve Learned So Far

Last week, I turned 43. As I always do, I took the day off from everything ~ for me ~ to be with friends and family, and have some alone time doing what I enjoy. I bought myself a beautiful bouquet of flowers; just because. I took time to wander, to leisurely read a book over a long-anticipated Starbucks Caramel Macchiato (half sweet with almond milk, of course), and to enjoy a day of shutting off from the pressures I’ve faced with starting a business and keeping up with this blog.

My 40s have ushered in significant change and discovering myself in a whole new light. Although it’s been filled with turmoil, depression, and some anxiety, I suppose it’s only fair to feel those things when you’re getting a chance to truly discover yourself. To be honest, I’ve never had this opportunity before, and I’m very happy I’ve embraced my 40’s.

Here are just a few of the highlights over the past three years:

  • I lost and grieved a 16-year sales career at 40 (2015).
  • At 41, I did an epic 1600-mile solo road trip of California – just me, one suitcase, and a small Ford Focus (2016).
  • I decided I’d had enough of corporate and committed to doing “my own thing,” whatever that ended up looking like.
  • I dove headfirst into minimalism and creating a slower, simpler lifestyle (fall 2016).
  • Relaunched my previous blog as The Classy Simple Life (fall 2016).
  • I took a part-time job as a barista serving coffee to supplement my dream of becoming a writer and coach (fall 2016).
  • At 42, I lost my last living grandparent and, as a result, watched my dad crumble and wither (he’s better now); I put my all into being there for him (2017).
  • Now, at 43, I’m wholeheartedly pouring myself into this blog, helping others create the simpler life they dream of and officially launching the freelance writing business I’ve been building for the past few years.

I started my 40s with a strong feeling that my career was going to end sometime soon, that I needed to get off the corporate crazy train and inject more simplicity into life. And like most intuitive empath types, I knew the end was coming, and it did. I lost my job right before Christmas in 2015. Nice, eh?

In the past three years, I’ve learned how to be a voice-over artist, plan and execute a serious solo road trip, be vulnerable and share some deep feelings with a group of complete strangers, live on only $1000 a month, face a period of deep depression and hopelessness, be a better blogger and writer, practice tenacity, support someone wholeheartedly in their greatest time of need, give even when you have nothing to give (literally nothing – very little money), and the most important things – to be grateful no matter what and that miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the smallest ones are the best ones. 

The negative emphasis society places on turning 40 and the stigmas surrounding it are, unbelievably, still around. In subtle ways, people hint that you’re getting old and make you feel as if you should be put out to pasture. I experienced this most in the job market. But, thankfully, the younger generation I work with at the coffee shop tells me I’m not old on a regular basis. I’ll take what I can get because, you know what? 40 IS NOT OLD. THERE IS NO “OVER THE HILL”. YOU’RE NOT PUTTING THIS WOMAN OUT TO PASTURE!

I’ve found so many women in their 40’s and 50’s (and beyond) inspiring age positivity. And you know what? I love it. Rock those greys. Love your changing body. And ignore the numbers. After all, it is just a number.

My 40s have been filled with almost every emotion imaginable; from depression and hopelessness to finding the courage and strength to start again.

Here’s my list of some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my 40s:

1. Raising your standards and embracing change lead to massive growth and spiritual healing.

The Universe works in beautiful and mysterious ways. Sometimes a message we receive in life shouldn’t be taken at face value; it should instead be taken as a message that we need to change and follow our intuition. When I lost my job, I did what most of us do; I went searching for a new one. But the funny thing? Every step of the way, my path was blocked. Or my intuition gave me a feeling of dread and nervousness deep in my gut. You know the one: nervous jitters that usually mean you’re not going in the right direction. 

So I was blocked at every turn and was faced with people subtly hinting I was “too old,” “too experienced,” or “too expensive.” I often countered back that I was willing to start at the bottom or take a pay cut, but no one listened. Finally, I understood what the Universe was trying to tell me:

Yes, start over by all means BUT not doing what you were doing; please do what you’ve been called to do. Thanks.

Sincerely, The Universe. 

P.S. You know what you were called to do.

And so, I embraced change. Just as I did when I went through a divorce. I chose to raise my standards and follow a different path.

2. You’re never too old to do something new or start again.

It’s hard to believe that we need to hear this regularly. And that society keeps trying to tell us that we somehow become useless after a certain age. When I first lost my job, I turned to Google for answers. I often asked Google, “how to start again at 40”, “what to do when you feel stuck,” “how to find your purpose in life,” and “how to change careers at 40”. And you know what? None of it helped. Instead, it made me feel more lost.

Want to know what helped? Telling myself that this is my life and that I’m allowed to do whatever I want, whenever I want. You can change your life whenever you feel like it.

And the next best thing that helped? Reminding myself I’m not old, I am young and to take action and do something.

It’s true. You are never too old to do something new or start again.

3. Gratitude gets you through tough times.

When I was in my darkest moments of despair, of feeling lost and unsure of what to do next, gratitude kept me going. When I felt like giving up and that I’d never find a job or figure out a career that I could pursue, being grateful for what most of us take for granted  – having a roof over my head – got me through. It let me know that even though this felt like rock bottom, I had a lot in my life that many people don’t have.

I practice gratitude for the things most of us take for granted – healthy food to eat, a warm, comfortable bed to sleep in, a roof over my head, a fully functioning car to get me where I needed to go, and family and friends who understood and were supportive.

4. Self-love.

As hard as it is for me to say, it has taken me nearly 40 years to love every bit of myself. But you know what? I’m grateful I figured it out. A lot of people don’t, or they put others first all the time. They go through life having bad relationships, wondering why they hate their job, and never really loving themselves enough to change.

Sure, it took work, a lot of mental work, but I love myself a lot more than I used to.

And here’s the thing…

Self-love is something that needs to be practiced daily. Because we never really rid ourselves of the negativity monster that resides in a part of our brain. Some days, that negative talk track is on repeat and hard to turn off. But day by day, the more you tell yourself you’re enough, that you’re worthy, and that you love yourself; you’ll stop focusing on what you thought were imperfections and embrace them for what they are – the things that make you unique, and well, YOU.

5. Appreciating the change that occurs in the silence.

How’s that for poetic? Kidding, of course. I’m a hopeless romantic who loves all poetry. My 40’s have brought more stillness, simplicity and peace. It’s quite the opposite of my twenties and early thirties.

But the real trick?

Appreciating all the massive change that occurs in being silent and still and blocking out everyone else’s noise. We can only create impactful change when we become still and are comfortable in that stillness and silence. We learn so much about ourselves when we listen to and observe our bodies and minds.

A perfect example? Yoga. Yoga is a relatively new practice that I’ve embraced in my 40s, and it’s taught me to listen and interpret where there may be tension in my body or when I need to let go and relax. 

So you see, embracing my 40s is proving to be quite the adventure. Sure, there’s been tough times, but it’s no different than when I was younger. I feel as though I’m stepping into who I am instead of battling against it like when I was younger. I’m okay with it. I’m okay with 40. I’m loving it.

If you’re in your 40’s, what’s it been like for you? If you’re not 40 yet, what are you hoping it looks like for you? 

Comments +

  1. Kim says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I really enjoy reading your posts and have been following you for some time. Your writing is always so thoughtful and interesting and makes me think about my own life and how I can make it better. I’m 44, and at times struggled with getting older, but your stories are encouraging. I rarely read blog posts end to end, but I always read yours because I find them so interesting in the way that you share your wisdom and tips.

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Kim

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m so glad that you find my posts helpful! Society definitely doesn’t make it easy getting older, but I’m happy to see things are changing. Women are embracing age positivity and more are speaking up.

  2. Dee says:

    Wonderful post! I’ve been loving my 40s so far. It didn’t start off very well because I lost my job as well, but in retrospect that was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks Dee! Oh dear! Well, I guess we’re two peas in a pod then aren’t we? 😉 I agree! It was the best thing that’s happened to me too. It’s taken a bit of getting used to, as with any change, but I’m all for creating a life I want.

  3. Kerstin says:

    We share the same birth year! I spend quite a bit of time journaling, which helps me at the time and also as I look back later. This morning I found this thought that I want to share in terms of what I’ve learned in my 40s. On June 6, 2018, I wrote, “My value is not a product of my performance — what I do or don’t do. I am valuable in and of myself.”

    • Michelle says:

      Yay! Journaling is fantastic isn’t it? It’s funny when I look back at some of mine…during rough periods I was shouting in my journal! It’s funny to see and gives me a laugh at how emotional I was and took it out on my journal.

      I love that thought! It’s always an ongoing battle but doing the inner work and learning to love yourself are keys to success in life.

  4. Kizzy says:

    I turn 40 next year and feel heartened by your honest post. It really is never to old to learn something knew. Since turning 30 I have got a 1st class honours degree and I hope to put it to use and write books etc over the next few years to fulfil my dream of being a published author. Thanks for this.

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks for the kind words Kizzy! I always told myself that 40 is just a number. Most days, I still feel like I’m in my late twenties.

      Congrats on your 1st class honours degree! You’ve got this, looking forward to seeing you published.

  5. Anne says:

    I’m about to turn 45 and I think my 40s have been the best so far, even though in lots of ways they’ve been the worst. There’s just this confidence and resilience that I never knew before. I’ve lost parents and grandparents, had my own health issues, fallen in love with solo travel, quit my full time job and struck out – successfully- on my own in private practice. Made my highest ever annual salary when I was 42, discovered new hobbies, deepened my minimalist values, and so much more. I think at this point, we know what counts and we can weather the hard stuff and we appreciate the daily good stuff so much more. And we also know that things aren’t all or nothing, I say this as we just finished a frugal bean based dinner while planning a trip to Hawaii!

    • Michelle says:

      I love this! Your words are so inspiring. And I have to agree, as I get older, I feel more confident and that I can bounce back from things faster. Solo travel is so much fun isn’t it? I love discovering new places.

      “we know what counts” — YES!!

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