Thursday, 14 June 2012

Other Side of 40



Recently I turned forty. I always said that by the time I hit the big Four-0 I'd know what it was that I'd be doing for the rest of my life. Somewhere along the way I arrived at the thought that waiting on the other side of the milestone would be a huge neon sign that read 'congratulations, you have just reached wherever it was you were going'. All I found however was a plain old speed sign that said 40.


With forty years of life experience now under my belt, there was also enough wisdom between the ears to realise what it meant. Just like driving a car, it was a sign to slow down, enjoy the stage of life I now find myself in, or risk burning out. If you want to make good time in getting to your destination, then you'd better be sure you have something in mind to do when you arrive. Otherwise, what was the point in rushing to get there? Keeping that in mind, it seems ironic that I still sensed the milestone presented an opportunity to embrace a new era. Perhaps a chance to try my hand at something new? A new career? A new wardrobe? A new hairstyle? An entire new look? I chose instead to undergo some man-scaping to mark the occasion, ala Steve Carell style.


Good grief, I don't know which is more painful. The act of having one's chest waxed, or the realisation that only three days later it had already started to grow back. Although I managed to refrain from cursing for the entire session, unlike poor old Steve Carell in the 40 Year Old Virgin who called it quits half-way through, it was the perfect reminder that no matter what we do to try and change the superficial nuances in our life, the person we truly are will still emerge. Hair and all. It quickly put into perspective any thoughts of altering the things in life that work just fine on their own. Change for the sake of change can be unnecessarily painful. Sometimes in life it's important to stop and appreciate where we are. Life isn't an endless quest at self-improvement, climbing the ladder or re-inventing ourselves. It's about finding a place where we are comfortable enjoying what we do and more importantly, who we are. And if that describes life on the other side of 40, then there's nothing else to do but slow down and enjoy the drive.

I've finally realised that I am already doing the things I set out to achieve by the time I was 40. In the four decades I have been alive, I've outlived all of the job positions I've ever held. So it's comforting to know that work isn't everything. Whatever I find myself doing for a living right now to support my writing is not what I will be doing forever. I once held a position as a Warehouse Supervisor for seven years before parting ways with the company. Leaving didn't turn out to be the end of the world. I'm still around, the company on the other hand isn't. What you do for a living shouldn't define who you are. Otherwise if the company you work for dies, you'll die alongside it. By comparison I've been writing since I was 9 years old, we're talking three decades, and I've been a father for almost 18 years now. I wouldn't change neither of these periods in my life. And that, I feel, is a far more notable achievement. It's the things we don't feel the need to change that best provide an example of who we really are. It's often when we remove the superficial details that clutter our life, and it doesn't have to be in such a painful manner as waxing your chest, that our true self emerges. And when that moment arrives, be sure to enjoy it, instead of feeling the need to find things to change.