Your 20s can be a funny old time. You bob about like a lost cork in choppy seas, amid waves of work drama, fickle friendships and financial uncertainty, while your brain continues to grow. Like any crisis, at the time it feels fine. But afterwards, you look back and think, “how did I interact like that?”
Which is perhaps why presenter Cathy Newman hailed her 40s as the best time in life. “Remember, your 40s are so much better than your 20s because you realise how strong you are,” the Channel 4 newscaster told The Telegraph. We couldn’t agree more – even travelling solo in your 40s has beautiful perks. Here are the ways in which that strength comes into its own for life in yours 40s.
Flaky friends are less of a thing in your 40s
At a younger age, every break-up has the power to wind you, punching you in the gut and rendering you a teary, chocolate-chomping cliché. It’s not like this pain gets any less when you’re in your 30s and 40s, but you do become more familiar with it. And, in the grand old therapeutic tradition, you can welcome it in like an old friend. Sure it can mess with your head for a while, but you know eventually it’ll quieten and leave and you’ll be able to evaluate the lessons you learnt more while seeing the positives.
Similarly, flaky friends are less of a thing in your 40s. You get to an age where you know your boundaries better and accept friendships that feel more nourishing. You’re now old enough that you can spot someone who won’t match with your values and you’re confident enough to let that relationship go. The same goes for annoying relatives. We all know you should live your life with the people who count, but in your 40s, people tend to actually start doing it.
Think of this decade as your career carpe diem
“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” is one of the top five regrets of the dying, according to this popular article. And yet way too many of us continue to do exactly that. When you’re in your 20s, you’re heavily invested in your work. In fact, you don’t even think about it: you just dive right in straight out of college and plug away in a relentless cycle of promotions and pay rises (or, more likely, just worrying about both without getting either).
In your 30s and beyond, you suddenly look up and think ‘Is this it?’ ‘Is this what I want?’ ‘Am I happy?’ All the questions you never even considered before come swirling to the surface. Think of it as your career carpe diem. The trajectory that you followed in your 20s loses its weight as you start to think about what you really want. And that pay rise? If it doesn’t happen, you know your value more.
Whatever it is you want to do, in your 40s, you’ll dive right in
Call it impatience or perhaps a clearer sense that life is short, but in your 40s you start making room in your life for the things that really matter, too. Sure, work is great but you have the confidence to clip its wings for a while as well. You become more ambitious about different qualities in life: people, time, adventures. This all comes down to the old saying: “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
Greater financial independence helps but it’s also to do with having the gall to make things happen. In your 20s, you’re so busy living life and tackling challenges that you don’t think about the why. Fast-forward to your 40s, and you’ve developed that steel that says ‘I’ve messed around long enough; now I’ll do what I like and I’ll do it well’. Abseiling off Table Mountain, zip-lining in Guatemala, boating between beaches in Zanzibar: whatever it is you want to do, in your 40s, you’ll dive right in.
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