From the Terrible 20s to the Naughty 40s
I started to take stock of my life towards the last leg of my 30s. I recently approached my 40s and something inside me changed.
Living in a world where we typically highlight milestones like our entry into adolescence, pre-teen years, and teenage years, people seem to think that once you are done with your 20s, it is all bound to go downhill.
I learnt that my 40s are my walk uphill; challenging yet rewarding. I realised that the “duty calls” part of me had to sit back on the side seat and the driving seat had to be occupied by the “nurturer” in me. What I was nurturing during this phase of my life was myself. I needed to nurture my brain before the mundane activities enslaved me.
It was a step-by-step transition to what has now become the best phase of my life. At a younger age, someone in their 40s seemed like an old hag to me. But when it is you who turns the big four-zero, you realise that it is the mind that should not age. Today, I believe that 40 is the new 20. Many readers may disagree, so let me explain why.
We are a lot like water. Water, if it does not flow, stagnates. To flow is to be alive.
During the earlier decades of one’s life, we live in a perpetual state of “what next”; education, career, marriage, children, retirement and so on. Each day is just a stepping stone. But by our 40s, the scenario somewhat changes and you can focus more on yourself. Work and family have been the main focus in my life since I graduated, and they will always be, yet the “me” in me needs time and nurturing also.
A woman hitting her 40s should cherish this special phase of her life. She now knows herself better than before. She is in a phase where her inhibitions are negligible; she is brimming with confidence and no longer feels the need to prove herself. Her kids are at an independent stage in life, her marital status is in a safe zone – whether she is single or married – and her finances are cushy. She is now in a position to indulge in whatever entices her.
The result: serotonin flowing through her blood stream. And the happy hormone comes from doing things she loves doing.
Forties are for friends. I started reconnecting with old friends and investing in new relationships. Social media is a great tool for communicating. It exposed me to new and exciting activities I had long given up.
Boring and never-ending weekdays turned into exciting days with a coffee break with one of my girls or visiting an exhibition for an hour. I have started loving experiences I take up consciously, such as reading an inspirational book, trying a new cuisine or going strawberry picking at 9am on a Sunday.
Connecting with interesting people is as energising for me as buying a collectible. I have always enjoyed music but was never obsessed with it. But recently, I have been drawn towards qawwalis, Sufi music and old classical songs. As I learnt how to download music, I feel passionate about it.
I have pushed my rigid boundaries by wearing red lipstick and taking more care of my hair. During our 40s, a woman must always look and feel good. That is the key to happiness.
The main challenge at 40 is being able to make yourself happy without feeling guilty about it. And for this, a key aspect of self-actualisation is learning to make what I call “trade-offs”. You cannot have it all, so make informed choices. Accept that making trade-offs are an integral part of life; a lesser grade for your child versus a premier of a movie, an afternoon walk or going grocery shopping. The ability to make a trade-off is a challenge and not fretting about your decision later is even more challenging.
The human brain is like a landscape with different terrains. Different decades are different terrains. Each is different and exciting as we go along. Our mind is like a spiral which expands with each additional circle and contracts again if the needed stimulation is not given. Mentally stimulating activities such as reading, sight-seeing and socialising helps us evolve as individuals.
Knowledge in the shape of a new memory, acquiring a taste for a new cuisine or even reading a new book, a new fragrance, a walk, change in routine and so on. When we start investing in ourselves and learn the skill of cherishing moments, the returns are exponential.
A happier woman is a better boss, daughter, wife and mother. But above all, she is just happier.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.