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What You Learn by Your 40s

40 Brutal and Beautiful Truths I Learned by 40

Four decades on the planet will introduce you to some brutal, beautiful truths. There will be some happiness; there will be some sadness. Along the way, you will find that there are things that no amount of money can buy that will mean the most, and hopefully, you will always keep learning. Here are 40 life lessons that may be tough to swallow, but which will help you grow.

  1. You don't have to explain your evolution. Not everyone deserves your story.
  2. Changing your mind can be a good thing. It means you were open enough to consider that you could be wrong or that there could be a better way.
  3. Not all relationships are worth your time, your effort, or your tears. But the ones that are really are.
  4. Love yourself enough to set strong boundaries. Love others hugely, but not at the expense of your soul.
  5. Find your thing. Everyone has one, and you won't know what yours is if you don't look.
  6. People will let you down. If you let it make you jaded, you are giving them power they don't deserve. Don't let it make you guarded. Let it make you smart.
  7. Educate yourself. You are part of this world. Learn about it.
  8. Don't wait until you lose 10 pounds or get your closets organized or go to the gym three times a week. You are worth treating well right now, as you are in this moment.
  9. The one thing in life that shouldn't be mediocre is love. But if you are ridiculously content and fulfilled hanging out on the couch watching Netflix and eating ice cream sometimes, that's not mediocre. That's awesome.
  10. My only parenting tip is this: make them know they are loved, and remember that they are people. People who, fingers crossed, will be adults one day. Teach them how to be an adult — a good adult. Show them how, and let them know you are confident in them. And hug them a lot.
  11. Notice people. Most people want to be known and understood more than just about anything. They need to know they are seen.
  12. If you think something kind and positive about someone, say it.
  13. People can change, but most of the time, they don't. Be someone who grows.
  14. Life is going to sucker-punch you. Get back up. Just get back up.
  15. You can survive things that you think you can't. You are not as fragile as you think.
  16. Love your body. Feed it good food and move it around a lot. Sometimes good food is a salad. Sometimes it is cake. Find ways to move that you enjoy. It's easier to keep moving than it is to start.
  17. Decide whose opinions matter to you. It isn't realistic to not care at all what people think. But you can decide on the circle of people whose opinions you will take into consideration. It should be a short list.
  18. What are the 10 most important things in your life? When you are asked to something, consider whether it will enhance those 10 things. If it won't, maybe don't do it. Unless you really, really feel like it's the right thing.
  19. Don't wear clothes that don't feel good, even if they cost a lot of money. Wear things that make you happy and comfortable.
  20. Let your kids make a mess sometimes. Hell, make one with them. And then at least try to get them to clean it up.
  21. Some of your biggest regrets will come from trying to shrink yourself into boxes that other people have created. Build your own box. Or forget boxes and hang out in the open. It's easier to breathe there, anyway.
  22. Sometimes you will be given a new reality that you don't want. You get to write your story. You may not always be in control of the plot, but you are the main character and you get to decide how you respond. It's like your very own real-life Choose Your Own Adventure book.
  23. Do things. Explore. Say yes. Let go of the familiar once in a while.
  24. Tell the truth. Don't be unnecessarily cruel or brutal, but don't lie. The truth is powerful and terrifying, but it is worth it.
  25. Speak up. You never know who needs to hear what you have to say. Speak up for yourself, and for those who can't do it for themselves.
  26. You will lose people. It will be terrible and lonely and you will question everything. But you can survive.
  27. You don't have to let people treat you badly. You have the right to walk away.
  28. Do nothing sometimes. Even when there are a million things to be done. Especially when there are a million things to be done.
  29. You don't have to have all the same interests as the people you love. But you have to listen and care because it is important to them, and they are important to you.
  30. If you fail, no — when you fail — at least you tried. You got out there. You risked. There will be people who say you can't. They might be right. So what? Try. And try again if you want to. Maybe you'll get better. Maybe you'll love it even if you suck.
  31. Soulmates aren't just for romantic relationships. You can find them in friends, too.
  32. If you pretend to be something long enough, you might actually become it. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing.
  33. There's no step too small. Sometimes all you can do is get up. Life can be overwhelming. Just take the first step.
  34. This is your life. Live it your way. Do your thing. Others will adapt or move on. Own it.
  35. If you like something, don't let other people ruin it for you. Embrace your weird and find your weirdos.
  36. It's OK to laugh. Even if you are sad or grieving or lost. Life is hard and dark and mean sometimes. But it can also be amazing and beautiful and hilarious. Even in the darkness. Just because it sucks doesn't mean it can't be funny, too.
  37. The people who want power are very rarely the people who should have it.
  38. Call yourself out on your crap. Acknowledge your weaknesses and flaws and work on bettering yourself. Know yourself well enough to know when someone has a valid point about your behaviors and when someone is just being a jackass.
  39. Love is risky. Vulnerability is risky. Being authentic is risky. Speaking up is risky. Making a change is risky. Love is courageous. Vulnerability is courageous. Being authentic is courageous. Speaking up is courageous. Making a change is courageous.
  40. Don't die wondering "What if?".
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