A recurring topic of conversation among a number of friends recently has been around turning 40. Is the age just about the number, or does it mean more than that?
For me personally, the number itself isn’t that important. I’m 38 now; one day later this month I’ll wake up and I’ll be 39 … but nothing will have changed. My friends who turn 40 this year will be 39 until the clock turns to midnight on their birthday and in a split second, they’ll be 40 … but nothing will have changed. Their bodies won’t suddenly morph into something else, their lives won’t change, there is no concrete template for what a 40 year old person should be … everything will still be the same.
I think that for some people, their beliefs around what it means to be a particular age really do cause them to change once they approach that particular birthday. If someone believes that turning 40 labels them as middle-aged, and for them, ‘middle-aged’ has certain behaviours or ways of being attached to it, then they’ll no doubt rapidly change. For those people who still believe that ‘life begins at 40,’ then they’re more likely to enjoy entering their fifth decade and make the most of the life they’re living; it might even give them permission to begin enjoying life.
Forty, as an age, does carry some significance however. It’s near enough the mid-point of average age expectancy. People tend to have established their careers or have some career experience behind them along with families, marriages, divorces and significant deaths. By 40, people do have a lot of life experience behind them and it can be a time to reflect on the years that have been lived and to evaluate life up until that point. It’s a time by which childhood ambitions have maybe been fulfilled or recognised as childish dreams. Or it can be a time to take stock of life and to make plans for the ambitions yet to be fulfilled. And this is where the so-called ‘mid-life crisis’ (which it is said can take place anytime between 35 and 55) steps in.
In Jungian terms, the mid-life transition is simply part of the maturation and individuation process that we all experience as we become more true to our inner selves. And for me, this is an exciting, sometimes scary, and important part of our life’s journey. It’s not necessarily a comfortable process, but it can be hugely rewarding as the ego is left behind and one’s Self or Soul comes to the fore.
For me 40 is an exciting age and people are at such different life stages. Some people have 1, 2 or more marriages behind them whilst some still remain single. Some people have grown up children, whilst others are still raising theirs, and even others, have yet to have their children. Some people have made their name in their career; others are still climbing their particular ladder, changing careers, or simply happy where they are.
It’s an age at which we’ve experienced a lot, have learned a lot, and have made many mistakes. But there’s still potentially a lot of life yet to be lived. And as we take the lessons and learnings from our first forty years in this life forward into the future, we have the potential to create our own unique greatness and individuality.
Everyone is unique. Everyone’s life experience is unique. And so, everyone’s experience of turning 40 is unique. I’ve enjoyed being in my thirties, and I intend to make the most of this decade’s final year, but I’m also looking forward to turning 40. For me, it’s the year I hope to complete my PhD and that will hopefully be an opening to a whole new world for me. And at 40, I hopefully, have lots of years ahead of me to continue developing my skills and knowledge and sharing that information in many forms for the benefit of others.
For myself, my age is just a numeric symbol of how many years I’ve been alive. It’s a number that has no other meaning …
Wishing you all a happy 40th birthday, whenever it happens, and whatever it means …