I turned 40 over the weekend. For a long time, I dreaded it. I did not want to turn 40. Every time my boyfriend teased me about it, or my kids mentioned it, I would groan and roll my eyes. I was not looking forward to it.
But then a few weeks ago, it all changed. I just “settled” into the idea of turning 40. It began to feel good. Right. Comfortable. I now feel at peace with being 40. Proud, even.
And the difference, I realized, is that I had been looking at turning 40 as a bad thing. I saw it as a sign of aging, as a sign that I’m no longer as youthful as I once was. I saw it as an indication that I’m edging ever closer to gray hair, menopause, maybe arthritis or heart trouble or merely living alone in a house in my old age.
The change came when I had a shift in perspective and instead saw it as a “finish line.” I began to think about all the things I’ve done, and seen, and survived until now. I realized that turning 40 was not a sign that I was getting old, but a sign that I have lived, learned, and thrived.
So, what have I learned in 40 years on this planet?
Staying in shitty relationships is never worth it
I’m going to share a little secret with you that I’ve never shared with anyone else: when I married my ex-husband, I knew before the wedding that we would end up divorced. I knew it the same way you know you’re burning dinner by the smell. And yet I married him anyway, because I thought maybe things would get better.
I did the same thing several years later with another guy. I knew that our relationship was going nowhere and yet I stayed, thinking maybe it would get better.
And even before that, there were other boyfriends with whom I knew that the relationship was a dead-end, but I stayed anyway.
It took me until the catastrophic end of an abusive relationship with a truck driver to finally realize that staying in a shitty relationship is never worth it. It’s just not.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to fix your relationship before ending things. But if you’ve tried everything to fix a relationship, and you’re just not happy, then end it. Break it off and walk away, without guilt or regret. I promise being alone is better than being in an unhappy relationship.
And if you’re in an abusive relationship? Don’t even try to fix it. Just get out as soon as you can.
Letting other people influence how you feel about yourself is a waste of time
I was bulled in high school.
My ex-husband cheated and blamed it on me, and when he became abusive, also blamed that on me.
The abusive truck driver also blamed me for his behavior. A great example would be how he expected me to spend all our waking hours on the phone together and when I didn’t have enough to talk about, asked me how stupid was I that I couldn’t talk to him and carry on a normal life at the same time.
All of these people, and some others, left me feeling inadequate, insecure, incapable and stupid. As a result, I settled for dating men who treated me badly or didn’t really want relationships. I didn’t go after jobs I really wanted because I didn’t think I was capable.
I missed out on a lot of opportunities because I let the bullshit of others influence how I felt about myself. And it held me back across all areas of my life.
Once I stopped doing that, my entire life changed. I found an incredible man who adores me. I started not one but two businesses. I began to believe in myself, my abilities and talents, and my intelligence. And I found the confidence to be who I truly am, regardless of what other people think of who that is.
I won’t say that I’m never affected by what other people think of me. I’m human, just like you, and sometimes my feelings get hurt or an opinion upsets me. But for the most part, I ignore what other people think of me.
After all, as the saying goes, it’s none of my business.
Some battles just aren’t worth fighting
My divorce became final days after my youngest son was born. My ex-husband was never a good father while we were married, and that didn’t change after our divorce. For years, I fought to try to make him a better father. After his visits with the kids stopped, and his child support payments stopped, I took him to court on a regular basis to have him held in contempt.
For years, I wasted my time, my energy, the gas in my car, the income I lost from work I missed to sit in the courthouse – and he never even showed up for those hearings, much less paid a dime in child support. He’d be held in contempt, and eventually they’d arrest him. He’d either do some time or pay a purge to get out, but he still never paid child support.
Eventually I simply realized that this was not a battle worth fighting. It wasn’t changing him. It wasn’t benefiting my children. Even my thought that “I’m teaching my kids to fight for what’s right” was misguided – I was really only teaching them to keep beating their heads against a brick wall.
In fact, it was costing me. It was costing me the money spent on gas to drive to the courthouse, costing me time and income from missed work, and costing me my peace. I gave up the battle, stopped fighting for child support and decided the Universe could handle both child support and my ex-husband as it saw fit.
We always think that fighting on principle is a good thing. Fighting for what’s right, what’s owed to us or someone we love, or what we believe in is necessary. But some battles just aren’t worth fighting. No matter how strongly you believe in it, how clearly you’re owed, or how right something is, sometimes it just isn’t worth the price you pay – financially, energetically, or with your peace of mind.
Being single isn’t so bad
Look, I love my boyfriend. I intend to spend the rest of my life with him.
But between the time he and I started dating and when my last relationship ended was six years. And in that six years, I didn’t date anyone. Not a single date. Not even a first date that went nowhere. In fact, during those years, I often thought to myself that a bubble bath and some wine sounded way better than the idea of getting dressed up to go on a date.
I spent those years getting to know myself again. Enjoying the things I’ve always enjoyed, like reading, watching favorite movies, playing games with my kids. I learned to enjoy being with myself. I did some work on myself, eventually coming to understand why I’d made the bad choices I had when it came to men.
And here’s the thing: when my boyfriend and I started dating, I wasn’t looking to get super involved. I started dating him because he was fun. And slowly, I began to see that he made my life better. I enjoyed spending time with him, and I began to see a future with him.
But if I hadn’t? If I hadn’t enjoyed spending time with him, hadn’t seen a future with him, or decided that he didn’t make my life better? I’d have dropped him in a second.
Being single is sometimes the best thing you can do. Taking the time to get to know yourself, to learn who you are and what you like and what you need all without the influence of someone else, can be very liberating. It can give you the perspective you need to make better choices in your next relationship. It can give you the confidence to end a relationship that isn’t working for you because you know you’ll be just fine on your own.
Turning 40 isn’t so bad
Turning 40 now feels more like a badge of honor. I’ve learned a lot, gone through a lot, and yet here I am, at peace and looking forward to the rest of my life.
I’ve raised incredible children. I’ve found the love of my life. I’ve found two career paths that I enjoy and that allow me not only the freedom to work for myself, but also the ability to help others. I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are happy, thriving, and supportive.
I’ve let go of things that aren’t any good for me. I’ve learned to carefully consider new things before adding them to my life.
And my life is better now than it’s ever been before. And I intend to make sure that this year, I take “forty and fabulous” to heart and make this the best year of my life.