The Perks Of Nearing 40

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by Lulu Lee
The Reluctant Feng Shui Practitioner

One year older, one year wiser and proudly so, one year significantly more immature. Having recently celebrated my birthday, I find myself one year shy of forty and occasionally trying to figure out the official stance I should take towards it.

There is the generic dread that many people love to exclaim, the cliche “I’m growing old!”; there is also the less prolific but equally trendy “life begins at forty” philosophy; and finally, there are the more contemplative approaches questioning what life is about, and/or involving deep analyses of your bucket list vis your achievements, and deriving an action plan for your remaining pre-50 years. I feel that I fast need to decide which approach represents me, and then to internalise it and live it.

I honestly do not feel a day over 18. I clearly remember being 18, feeling so young and green towards the world and finding everyone else so old and intimidating. But having arrived at 39, I best describe it as a feeling of versatility. I find myself able to converse with teenagers as easily as with my peers, more so when I have to endure serious manifestations of the latter who are unable to talk about anything other than news headlines or political opinions.

The force of immaturity runs strong in me, and I am a keen advocate of avoiding serious conversations because they are simply downright boring. The last thing I want to do outside of work is to be serious, and I am loving my age and the versatility that comes with it – to be able to act any age you want and adapt accordingly to different social situations. I would not trade this freedom of choice for anything in the world.

I also feel very comfortable in my own skin. I do not know when the big change happened, but at some point, I realised that life is too short to worry about what other people think. And it was at this point when I truly let go and started enjoying the moments rather than worrying about everything and everyone around me while moments flew by unnoticed. I believe that there is no shortcut to the concept of letting go, you generally need to clock up the years in order to be able to live by this mantra, unless you have had a life-changing experience which I would not wish upon anyone.

Many people like to say life is short, but I notice that few of them actually practice it. To do so, you need true detachment from societal norms and pressures. But if and when you do achieve this stage of enlightenment, life becomes very different – it can only be described as enjoying the best cup of tea in the world, without worrying about whether your pinky finger is standing up straight enough.

On the flip side however, I do not feel great physically. Having always loved a good physical sufferance, I could never imagine a day when I would skip a workout session due to the effects of a previous one. Yet in the last few years especially, I have noted an intense decline physically. I seem to work out relentlessly, but the muscle definition seems so impossible to achieve. I have also spent many a day walking as if I accidentally sat on a pogo stick because the persistent aches and pains from the gym the previous day do not allow me to walk properly. This part of age I do not enjoy, but ironically, with the detachment spoken of above, I find that you simply do not care so much about physique because you have come to the realisation that you have so much else to offer. In short, those who judge you only by your shape and form can go trip over some gym equipment, and hopefully stub their big toe very hard whilst at it.

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Beneath my trendy whinging about needing to work out more, I actually consider my flailing stamina and degenerating physique as something to laugh about and work around. Truth be told, I secretly accept that I have had to trade taut rubbery skin and biceps for life wisdom and enlightenment, and I have no objections.

With age also comes the liberty to do more things unquestioned and to live life to the fullest. It becomes a different type of permission sought to do things. One that considers commitments and responsibilities rather than assessing whether or not a proposed action is considered acceptable. At near forty, if you want to have a drink on a school night, you may; if you feel like staying up all night, you may; and if you feel like taking off on a whim to some faraway place, you may. No questions asked and no eyebrows raised, so long as commitments, responsibilities and safety have been addressed. I would not trade this part about age for anything, not even a cute little six-pack.

I am loving my age and the versatility that comes with it – to be able to act any age you want and adapt accordingly to different social situations

When breaking it down as I have done above, age does not seem so bad after all. In fact, everything aforementioned should technically continue to improve with age, much like a fine wine or smelly cheese. So if this is a taster to what life is at forty, then I truly believe that life begins at forty and I cannot wait for it.

Also, I am not sure if it has been good fortune or good Feng Shui, or perhaps both since the former is a function of the latter, but I feel blessed to be able to say with certainty that if I were to die tomorrow I would have no regrets. I feel like I have achieved everything I want to in life – my bucket list is in fact empty, while my jar of contentment is full. However, so as not to sound like I plan on spending the rest of my years wandering around aimlessly, I resolve to revisit the bucket list and set some new life goals for the next 10 years.

J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote “not all those who wander are lost”. I cannot wait for the next decade of wandering, but I acknowledge that some general direction may be beneficial. As may be a fresh dollop of Feng Shui magic in order to ensure that the next decade is as wonderful as the last 4 have been.