When I was a little girl, around 6 years old, I had these age-related milestones in my head. I had no idea how they came about, but I still remember the details vividly. 19 was going to be the “best year ever” as 19 year olds are allowed to go on a date, drive a car, and stay out late. 25 was going to be the year that I find my dream job, live with my best friend, and travel the world. At 30, I anticipated myself getting married, having babies, and “settling down,” whatever that meant. And 40…..well, in my 6 year old mind at the time, 40 was the definition of old. 40 meant staying at home more often and reading the newspaper, shuffling my kids to/from activities…maybe taking up knitting as a hobby, and having dim sum with my friends regularly.
Well, fast forward 34 years later and today, I officially turn 40. The year where I’m suppose to be really old. The year where I’m not suppose to be fun anymore. The year where my life is suppose to revolve around my kids and house chores. The year where my life is suppose to be monotonous and boring….the year where it’s suppose to start going “downhill” because I’m old.
LOL, right? Maybe I’m still old to the eyes of 6 year olds right now, but as far as my 40 year old self is concerned….besides the reality of having to check a different age group box on all forms going forward, life is just beginning.
I saw the image above on Pinterest awhile back and had to snag it for this post because it truly sums up how I feel today as I transition into the next decade of my life. I am a big believer of life learning, so clearly I don’t see this milestone birthday as the end to the struggle of figuring out “life” itself. But, in many ways, I do see it as the point in my life where I am much more clear about what constitutes a meaningful life to me….after some very hard lessons during the first 40 years of this “childhood” of mine 🙂
I graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Mass Communications degree at age 22. If someone had told me then that I would be married by age 25, have my own wedding planning business for the next 15 years, and eventually be a homeschooling parent, I would’ve asked what they were smoking at the time.
So how did my life unfold so drastically different than I imagined it to be upon graduation?
In hindsight, I must have always had faith inside my heart. Faith that there is a higher being caring for me, leading me. That faith was precisely what gave me the courage to be a big risk taker throughout my 20s and 30s. The courage to enter a career that most people, at the time, labeled as frivolous. The courage to get into entrepreneurship in an industry that I knew absolutely nothing about. The courage to marry young, to someone whom I had only known for a little over a year. The courage to take the road less traveled with our daughter’s education. The courage to accept the Lord back into the very center of my life, at age 38. I do not regret taking any of those risks, despite the many obstacles and oppositions that it caused me along the way. Those experiences have shaped me into who I am today, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”–Matthew 6:34
I was perusing around Paper Source the other day, and saw so many products that were all screaming “Buy me! I promise I can make you happy!!”
No matter our age, at the very core of our being and existence is a continual search for happiness. We just seek for different things at different stages in our lives. I’m grateful that at 40, I know better than to trust a particular soap to “scrub my troubles away,” or that I need to rely on a list made by a total stranger to guarantee my happiness. At 40, I realize that to obtain real joy for myself, I need to go back to the basics. The basics of focusing on things that matter to me in the long run, and not the instant gratification we are used to expecting. The basics of “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The basics of true, authentic relationships. The basics of being and living in the present, instead of the past or the future. The basics of living humbly, and living a life with humility.
And with that, here are 10 very simple things that bring me an abundance of joy at 40:
- Quiet walks with my sister
- Watching my baby nephew giggle and frown
- Finding solace through praying
- Reading children/young adult books, but from a parent’s perspective
- Hearing authentic stories from friends, family, or strangers (in real life, not a filtered version on social media)
- Using my time to help and serve others
- Family dinners…whether it’s with Alan and Bridgette, or my huge extended family, I love being amongst our family
- Traveling to spend quality time with people that matter to us, or to immerse ourselves into a completely foreign culture
- Watching how Bridgette learns every single day in the context of our life
- Writing–whether it’s journaling, reflecting on bible verses, or blogging, writing has always been therapeutic for me
There’s more for sure, but my point is, when I review my own list of happiness, it’s really not about wealth, or material goods, or social status. It’s about relationships, and how I choose to spend my time because, as we all know, time is finite no matter who we are. Despite the gloomy outlook on the current state of our country and its leadership, I take comfort in believing that God always has the final word.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” — Psalm 32:8