9 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 40-Year-Old Self

I think it’s pretty obvious that you know everything when you hit your mid-twenties. You no longer go to events simply because you saw a poster for free pizza, and thus you have insight into the inner-workings of the world. Therefore I thought I could help out my 40-year-old self with wisdom from her earlier years.

1. You are welcome.

I worked my butt off as a 20-something, so I hope you appreciate it. You might remember the late nights working with fondness, but do not forget that I am doing this for you! Because of me, you should have the time and energy to do steps 2-9.

2. Master a skill.

If you haven’t mastered a skill yet— please get on it! There will always be something to distract you, but if I haven’t gotten around to mastering something by the age of 40, you have to remedy that for me. Sorry for procrastinating.

3. Pick up a new hobby.

You have tried a few by now I’m sure, from skiing to photography to improv, but it’s time to shake things up. Move to the ocean and pick up surfing (please tell me by 40 you’ve already become a beach bum!) 

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Then share way too much information about your new hobby with loved ones, because that’s just what happens naturally when you learn something new.

4. Continue learning.

It’s been some time since you’ve set foot in a classroom. Maybe it’s time to pick up some classes at the local community college. Sometimes they have classes to make something.

Surround yourself with power tools. Make a guitar from scratch, or a custom bicycle. Try something different, like a dance course.  I hope you’re the type of 40-year-old that swoops in to do the tango when musicians begin to play in the streets.

5. Embrace the crisis.

You bought a car for your quarter-life crisis. Surely you will have another wacky plan for your mid-life crisis. What is it? Will you join an Ultimate Frisbee team that travels to Australia for a tournament, like your middle school math teacher? Will you move to the mountains to be the ski bum you wistfully think you should have become after college?

Whatever the crisis– embrace it. It won’t be the first crazy thing you have done, and it certainly won’t be the last, but crises are sometimes the wake-up call we need to remember what we value in life.

6. Let your hair go grey.

I don’t have any grey hairs yet, so I’m not sure how I will feel when they start growing in. However, by 40, I hope you have the confidence and charisma to be giddy in grey.

If not grey, forget about that time in middle school when the dye job went terribly wrong. You’re still carrying that around with you at 40?! Get a grip. Dye your hair some crazy colors!

7. Keep up-to-date on “what the kids are saying these days.”

It’s not about being ‘cool,’ but being able to speak the language and keep up with subcultures is important to make people— especially young people— feel heard. I know some things they say might seem beyond you, but trust me, it’s worth it to learn!

8. Spend time with loved ones.

If your focus hasn’t already shifted away from career and towards spending time with the people in your life, make the shift. You had plenty of time to pour into meaningful work, and you can continue your mission. But reassess how much time you are spending with the people that matter.

9. Don’t blame me!

People often point back to the dumb decisions of their 20s for why they aren’t on a great path right now. I’M DOING MY BEST OKAY. So I hope you merely chuckle at the silly things I’m doing now.

What About You?

What would you say to your 40-year-old self?

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3 Comments

  1. Great twist on the classic “tell your younger self”. We should all create a list like this and look at it every couple of years.

    I think the most important thing I would tell myself is similar to the “spend time with loved ones”. Actually I don’t expect this to be a problem. But in case it ends up being a problem I really need to tell myself to snap out of whatever is taking away my time from friends and loved ones.

  2. Thank you for the amusing post! So you are going to be a grey haired surfing beach babe?! I think there is great value in picturing who you want to become. And conversely who you do not want to become. I want my future self to avoid getting into a rut. A friend of mine takes this very seriously saying “you never know how much time you have left on this earth”. He has cut back on work in order to fulfill his dream to lead guided wilderness trips. This is an inspiration for me. It takes work though and a conscious effort as you so rightly pointed out.

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