Sunday, 12 March 2017

What forty looks like

Here I am, a few hours away from waking up on my fortieth birthday. I’ve been trying for a while to write an article about it. Summing up forty years of my life on planet earth in words has been more difficult than I’d thought.

The world has changed a lot since I was born in Cornwall forty years ago. No more running to phone boxes to call friends and family, my beloved red Sony Walkman is now obsolete and the worn VHS copies of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from our childhood, are long gone.

Today I am sitting at a computer with a wireless keyboard and a touch screen monitor, with a crazy thing called the Internet about to make it possible for me to publish this in a nano second for all to see.

My child-hood was by all accounts pretty special. Growing up in such an idyllic place with the beach on our doorstep, green fields to run in and a village community that was basically an extended family. I can’t help but think I am one of the last generation to have had such carefree, young years.

So, the question is, how do I feel about turning forty?

It’s something I’ve been asked a lot over this last year and it started me thinking. How do I feel about it? People have been approaching me with trepidation like it is something ghastly that I should be preparing for and in all honesty, I had started to feel a little nervous about it.

My thirties have been fantastic and totally jam packed. I’ve worked in television, travelled, had two sons, moved house four times, moved countries twice, got married, re-discovered my love of writing, re-affirmed old friendships, formed new ones and tentatively started to forge a second career in broadcast radio.  Some would say I’ve been lucky in life so far, I don’t think I believe in luck, I believe that you create your own opportunities and positivity breeds positivity. I remember being told once that nothing just ‘lands in your lap’ and this is something I have never forgotten. The next decade certainly has a lot to live up to.

I think for many of us our thirties are our years of figuring out who we are and what we want. I now choose my friends a lot more carefully as I am conscious that I need to be surrounded by people that are driven, warm and emotionally generous. Essentially the glass half full people in the world. Enthusiasm for life is contagious, and they are the sort of people I openly and unashamedly want to be spending my time with these days.

Becoming a parent seems to have uncovered the real me. There is no hiding who you are when you have children and this is something that has been my biggest learning curve. Learning to celebrate who I am and be proud of it whether I’m showcasing the good the bad or the ugly is, it has to be said, rather liberating.  

I’ve decided whether you feel ok about it or not, it’s hard to get to forty without feeling like it is a milestone one way or another. It has made me look back at the life I’ve had so far and assess what I’d like to do in the future. By now you have usually survived a certain amount of heart ache whether that be through relationship breaks ups or grief. You’ve had various jobs and encountered a good deal of people in your life both personally and professionally. All these things seem to provide perspective when looking back and for me at least, greater clarity for my wants, looking forwards.

I’ve mentioned in previous articles that I am a life crammer, I don’t ever want to be guilty of wasting anything I’m given and that includes time. I guess the older I get the more this is important to me.
I was also very keen to see what was important to others.

Not so long ago I put a question out to friends, family and acquaintances that had recently, or were just about to, turn forty. How did they feel? What did it mean to them? The responses I had were all different and fascinating. I feel privileged that they shared their thoughts about it, whether the insights were frivolous or more emotional. With their permission I have included some quotes from various messages I received from both males and females all over the world.


‘I had decided that 40 would be my cut off point for starting a family. Fast approaching my late 30's with no potential partner on the horizon, I chose to be realistic and told myself if I hadn't had a baby by 40, I wasn't going to start after this age. Funnily enough, I married at 41, my husband was 49 and had a grown up son from his first marriage who had just become a father himself. I didn't feel pressured to be a mum as being a granny by default suited me fine…’

‘I thought I'd offer a perhaps different approach. I turned 40 in October. Whilst I was nervous about the onset of age into my thirties, 40s were very different. As someone whose life expectancy was always much less than 40, I see this as a huge milestone and something to be celebrated in a really positive way. And that is from a single person, without kids, and by no means having what one might term as a 'perfect' life. For anyone feeling glum about being 40, ask the question, how would you feel if you were not expected to reach 40?
I am loving being 40. I can't tell you how many times I've said, 'i make no apologies, being this way got me to 40!' What more can I say......bring on the confidence that turning 40 has given me.....heaven help us all!’
(Cystic Fibrosis sufferer)

‘So turning 40 at times I do not mind but then I think 40!!! Really 40!!! That's old like really grown up, inside I still feel young but 40!!! No not looking forward to it at all. However,you can still be naughty at forty right?'

‘Regarding the big 4-0, I'm looking forward to it. Feeling happy & content in myself which I'm sure has to do with age....they say 40 is the new 30 or something like that....despite health not being great, I'm loving the freedom of not feeling the need to compete/compare with anyone....’

‘As I sit here on my 40th birthday! My main thought today is WT actual F!!!
I'm not majorly sad or depressed about it but surprised, and actually slightly alarmed! 40 is for grownups and I am not, and refuse to be one of them! I am a natural pessimist (haven’t grown out of that!) so have a tendency to get a bit melancholy and reflective on these occasions, I am very good at looking back at good times and allowing myself to be sad that they are over rather than happy they happened to me. I think being 40 has definitely made me think like this. Life goes so damn quick! So two fingers up to the big 40- you can bog off’

‘Funnily enough I felt like an old git when I was 39 but since I turned 40 the dementia has kicked in and I've forgotten how old I am....’

‘I'm generally feeling ok about it which I think is because I am satisfied with where I am with my life. I am happily married with 2 kids, a nice house, good job, financial security - low mortgage and savings etc. I had none of this when I turned 30! I would imagine I might feel quite differently if I didn't have these things? The downside of 40 is a few grey hairs and less energy...’

‘For me it was something I wanted to celebrate. So much so, I put the word out that I wanted to go Vegas - anybody who was keen to join in the celebrations was welcome to come. There was a small group of 8 of us who made it to Vegas & we had an absolute blast! It was a moment when I reflected on what I had personally achieved in my time. I must admit, I felt slightly proud of the decisions I'd made, the risks I'd taken, the jobs I'd had & the fact that I'd bought a house all on my own! I was single & happy to be single - a concept not everybody understands!!! Many people think that if you're pushing 40 & single, then a part of you must be sad & lonely ..... nothing was further from the truth. I loved where I was at 40 & what I was doing. There was NO WAY I wanted a relationship. Life was too good & I wasn't ready to change any of the dynamics. Interestingly, I accepted that I was never going to have a beautiful tan or bigger boobs & I was perfectly fine with all of that. My figure had changed for the worse, there were signs of cellulite & it was a sudden realisation that things really do go south when you're in your 40's!!!! Something I'd always believed older people told you but secretly believed wasn't going to apply to me!!! How wrong was I??!!! My smaller, close circle of friends became even more important to me, I do believe that as you get older, your true friends become very dear to you & are more important than you ever knew they were. Amongst true friends, everything is celebrated .... the next big one now is 50!!! Vegas anyone?!!!’

‘Personally, I started dreading it from around the age of 38! As the day got closer the feeling of impending doom grew larger and although I knew there was nothing to be done I just wanted to stop time in its tracks and never get any older. Just the very thought of being in my forties seemed wrong as in my mind I still felt like I was in my twenties (the body tells a different story!). It felt like I was on a runaway train heading straight for the barrier at high speed! How could I have reached such an age so quickly! I remember when I was little I never wanted to get old and I of course thought 40 was ancient, I used to think 'I never want to be THAT old'!!! on the actual day I woke up feeling a little depressed and said to myself 'oh God, it's happened, it's today, I'M 40!!!' I did have a lovely day though and I kind of look back and wonder how I managed to become so overly dramatic about it all! Mentally I also seem to have put myself in an old lady category, we have quite a few 20 somethings at work and in my mind they have become 'kids' somehow, it's just weird! ……So basically I'm saying that I found turning 40 traumatic and ever since there just seems to be one more weird aging development after another! There's just no future in getting old!!! On the bright side though I no longer give a shit about what people think of me, like me, hate me I don't care - it's surprisingly liberating!’

‘Although I am currently very optimistic about how turning 40 could be an excuse for a party there is a part of me that wonders if this negative reflection is inevitable? For friends at 40 who have a nice home, partner, reliable job, or even successful career in something they love - what can they feel they don't have, whats missing to feel sad about? Or maybe its not even that? Maybe its reflection on 'what I should have done' even if you are happy with what you've got? - But I think that's the important bit for me, to be grateful for what you've got.'

‘I think that as we approach 30 we are conditioned to reflect on material achievements more - whether you have a house, car, career...and maybe a partner - all the components of being a bonafide grownup? I like to think that 40 is more about working out who is important, and who you've got - i think that maybe this is why some people can be negatively reflective - because they are lonely or fearful of being alone? Also I guess it’s just a significant milestone of realisation of all that has happened, its history!...Its interesting! 40 sounds fun.’

So ladies and gents. Whether you’re apprehensive about it or not, we’re making history and we're lucky to be doing so.
Come on Forty lets be havin’ you, I for one am grabbing you by the balls.

Betty x


  1. Hi Betty, welcome to the forty- somethings!!!
    All I can say is that I loved my forties- 2 international moves, 2 national moves, 4 jobs, two young children, lots of new life experiences- some not so nice, feeling comfortable with who I am, and what I do can't be bad.
    As I began my 5-0 last month, I can honestly say "bring it on!", and 50 is the new 40!! Enjoy.

  2. Hi Nayna,
    Thanks for your message. So far so good for me! I totally agree with the being more comfortable in your own skin. Enjoy your 50's, I've made a decision to embrace all the numbers I get :-) Betty XX


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Betty x