There was a time in my teens and twenties when being forty seemed like being really old! I had this feeling that it was an age meant only for parents, professors, bosses, uncles and aunts. I was sure that I would die before I was that “old”!! But strangely I am alive ( and kicking!) today and not feeling all that “old”!
In fact I would say that being forty and plus is a wonderful age to be! For starters, you are not worried about things that bother you in your twenties- your looks, whether people like you, whether you are wearing the right clothes, saying the right things. You are at this stage where you are ready to tell the world ( and your inlaws) to get lost if it (they) is ( are) not willing to accept you for what you are. You know who you are and that is the most important thing.
By the time we hit our forties, we know what are our strengths and weaknesses. We have had our share of success and failure – professionally and personally. We are clear about who our friends are and we no longer waste time cultivating relationships that we know for a fact have no future!
As a woman, being forty plus has made me completely unselfconscious. I am very surprised when I think back to that time in my twenties and thirties when I used to be terribly embarrassed to be seen using a toilet by someone male ( don’t ask me why. I suppose I wanted to convey the image of being someone who was devoid of bodily functions).I think at some level I consider myself “desexed” now . I have worked in all male environments/ teams and these days I find that it hardly bothers me that I might be the only woman somewhere. But people tell me that this feeling of having transcended gender might actually be dangerous because I might just think I am safe in some place while in reality I might be vulnerable as a woman to the same dangers.
I guess life has the ability to either build our confidence or smash it depending upon how we cope with what it deals out to us. A lot depends on the people around us and the support they offer. I have been very lucky in this regard that I have had a family that was supportive whenever I was down and this has helped me develop the confidence that I have now.
But it is not just confidence that we develop in our forties. We also learn patience and tolerance which makes life easier for us. I have learnt to suffer fools gladly and pick my battles. There used to be a time when I would lash out at anyone for anything. But today I think if it is indeed important to waste my or energy on such a person? People tell me I have “mellowed” down. I would like to treat it as a fact and not like the compliment that it was meant to be.
The forties are also the stage in a woman’s life when she starts exploring possibilities that she had never thought of until then. It is actually the time that she starts thinking beyond home and kids. The number of women my age who come to the gym that I go to is a sure indication of this fact! It tells us that we are willing to invest time and resources towards our good health and fitness. There are many women who switch careers in their forties, some women become entrepreneurs at this stage while others might do something that they had never had the opportunity to do when they were younger. It is not just the time that many of us might have now in our hands. It is also the confidence that comes with having lived life for four decades and more. I want today to do things that I never thought of when I was younger- I want to climb mountains, do paragliding, learn to dance the salsa and write a novel. My daughter is completely embarrassed when I talk about this ( "Dance the salsa! With whom" ? ) because I guess she is now at that stage in life when being forty is like being “old”.
However it is not as if the forties are without their share of worries. We worry less about ourselves and more about our children. Will they make it is one question. We try to ensure that they do not make the same mistakes that we did. But it is not easy to get them to understand that. They have to make their own mistakes and (hopefully) learn from them- but that folks is another story in this circle of life!