Turning 40 years old is a milestone. It is one of those birthdays where people tend to freak out, declare that they are “old”, and get super emotional. Age 40 has been described as “too old to be young, too young to be old.” People who are about to reach this particular birthday tend to feel the need to re-evaluate their lives, make “mid-life crisis” types of changes, and spend time worrying about how their lives might have turned out if only they had made a different choice at a critical moment. Many focus on what they do not have instead of all the things in their life that brings them joy.
Except for me, that is. Instead of doing the whole overly emotional “drama” thing, I will instead do something useful. Here are 40 pieces of wisdom that I have learned through the course of my life. I will happily share my knowledge with you so that you can make your life better. These are not in order of importance, or any other kind of order.
1. You are not obligated to take care of, maintain a relationship with, spend time with, spend money on, or converse with anyone who treats you like crap.
2. Stop worrying about what “other people” think about you. Their opinions about what you wear, the music you listen to, the words you write, or the art you create is irrelevant. Be who you are. Love who you love. The people who throw temper-tantrums about it are not important.
3. Use the “block” buttons on social media. You are not obligated to put up with “those who cannot play nice with others”. Get rid of the horrible people, and your experience with social media will go back to being fun again.
4. Be honest. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is always the right thing to do. Living this way requires a certain amount of bravery, but is worth it. Also, it is a good way to prevent yourself from ending up in the uncomfortable situations that lying can get a person into.
5. Go after your dreams. Do it now. Whatever it is that you want will not happen unless you go out there and work your ass off to get it.
6. The religion that you choose to follow should make you feel good. If your religion makes you feel guilty, ashamed, or worthless, then it is time to leave that religion. Staying in situations that make you feel bad is unhealthy.
7. Change can, and does, happen when lots of people speak up and insist that a change be made. There is power in many voices speaking as one. Sign those online petitions. Write blogs about issues that are important to you. Contact your Congressman. Tell the company that you won’t buy their product because you don’t like their actions. Your voice can (and will) help make the world a better place.
8. Whatever abuse was done to you was not your fault. It is entirely the fault of the person (or persons) who made the choice to hurt you. Don’t ever let anyone convince you it was your fault (no matter what the circumstances were).
9. You cannot always believe or trust a person’s words. It is their actions that reveal the truth of the matter. Pay attention to what they do. That will tell you everything you need to know.
10. There are people in this world who are chronologically adults, but who behave as though they are “stuck” in the developmental stage that is typical for 12 years olds. It is not your responsibility to help them grow up. You are not obligated to put up with their immaturity and annoying, attention seeking, behaviors.
11. Always go with your “gut feeling”. If you meet someone new, and your “gut feeling” is telling you to get away from that person – LISTEN. If something feels wrong about a situation, get out of there immediately. Just go. It is much better to temporarily risk looking foolish than to end up in a really bad situation that you cannot get yourself out of.
12. “Happily Ever After” does not exist outside of fairy tales and Disney movies. Real relationships take work. Both of the people in the relationship need to be willing and able to continually work on the relationship, or it will fail.
13. You cannot save a person from his or her addiction(s).
14. A person will never change until he or she is truly ready to do so. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
15. Do not let the bullies silence you. There are people in this world who believe that if they keep picking on you it will prevent you from speaking the truth. Typically, this is because the bully fears the truth you are making people aware of (as well as the consequence that it could bring to him or her if people find out about it). Don’t back down. Get others to help you (if you need it).
16. You are never too old to have a happy childhood. If your childhood sucked, make up for it as an adult. Watch cartoons, color pictures, make up songs, read amazing books that are intended for children. Allow yourself to experience the things you missed out on.
17. You will never be too old to play. Those who forget how to play, however, quickly become old.
18. Crows are able to identify, and remember, humans who behave badly towards crows. When a crow sees that person again, the crow will make loud noises and chastise the person. Other crows will join in. Listen to the crows. If they don’t like someone, chances are you won’t either.
19. There are people in this world who are not intrinsically motivated to do good things. There is nothing you can do to help them “grow” a conscience. However, you can often influence them to change their behaviors, or cease spewing hatred, if it appears that they will lose money (or their job) by continuing their course of action.
20. The things that make you happy are never a waste of time.
21. Stand up for the rights of other people. Society is stronger when there is equality.
22. Those who try to force their religious or political beliefs upon you are not doing it because they care about you or because they want to help you. They are doing it because they want to control you. Not sure if that is really what is happening? Question one of their beliefs. If their response involves threats and name calling – it is obvious that they don’t care about you.
23. Learn how to fact-check. Learn how to discern a credible, reliable, website (or other source of information) from one that is biased, factually incorrect, or an opinion piece. Knowledge is power!
24. Take the time to become an informed voter. Find out how a candidate voted on issues that are important to you. Believe it or not, your vote really does matter. (If you need help becoming an informed voter, let me know. I will be happy to teach you how to do it, or to find the information you need.)
25. If you stop communicating with someone, he or she will, eventually, go away. If you want to encourage someone to stay in your life, don’t shut him or her out. On the other hand, if you really do want someone to leave you alone, an effective way to do that is to stop responding to them. (This works in real life as well as in getting rid of net trolls.)
26. Take good care of yourself. By this, I mean that you should do whatever you are able to that will nurture your physical and mental self. For some, this means eating better and getting more exercise. For others, it means ceasing to self-harm. For many, it means fighting the demons from your past and slaying them. Realize that you deserve to be taken good care of. The quality of your life will improve when you take good care of yourself.
27. Don’t be afraid to push out of your comfort zone. Another way to say that might be “feel the fear – and do it anyway”. Everyone has something that they know they should do, that is healthy for them to do, and that they want to do, but are too scared to. Go do it! For me, this meant forcing myself to get past my driving phobia by intentionally driving places that I was unfamiliar with. I was completely uncomfortable, and shaking, the whole time… until I wasn’t. Whatever that thing is for you – go do it.
28. “Someday” does not exist. If you want to achieve a goal, make a change that will improve your life, or create something – do it now! Start with a small piece of it. Keep going. Don’t give up. Waiting for “Someday” = it will never happen.
29. A panic attack will not kill you. Sometimes, it will make you feel like you are going to die, but you won’t. Breathe. It will pass, you will survive, and you will feel better after that. Trust me on this one.
30. Don’t have time to read anymore? Bring a book with you into the bathroom. The few minutes you are sitting on the toilet, or the much longer span of time you are sitting in the bathtub, can be used to get a little bit of reading done. Added bonus – few people are going to bother you when you are in the bathroom, so you can read a bit longer if you want to. (Disclaimer: I realize that people who have small children are going to have to wait to use this advice until their kids are older.)
31. There is a reason why you broke up with your ex. Keep that in mind, and you can avoid returning to a dysfunctional relationship. You weren’t happy with that situation. There is no logical reason to believe that things will be any different the second time around.
32. You are not required to forgive a person that has abused you. It is entirely possible to heal without granting that person forgiveness for what he or she said or did. You are not required to give that person anything – including forgiveness. They are the ones who did something horrible – not you.
33. There are times when it is more effective to let a person continue to make an ass of himself or herself than to try and reason with that person. The person may think that he or she has “won” when you allow them to finish ranting. It doesn’t matter. The truth is that other people, who saw, or later hear about, how that person chose to behave will rebuke them for you. (We see this online all the time when a celebrity or politician has a meltdown on social media. It works offline just as well.)
34. Put your keys in the same place all the time. Put your keys in that place immediately after you come in the door. You will never have to spend time looking for lost keys ever again.
35. Take naps. Take a lot of naps! I cannot think of a better way to recharge. A nap is an excellent way to “restart” you day. Naps are also really helpful when you are sick and trying to get better. Personally, I find that I tend to “write” things while I am asleep. Suddenly, the blog I was “stuck” on just flows out of my fingers, through the keyboard, and into the blog.
36. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Making a mistake is a wonderful opportunity to learn something. Ultimately, those mistakes will help you to become better skilled at something, to gain a better understanding of something, or to avoid making the same mistake again.
37. Learn how to control your anger. This is one I struggle with. You may not realize it, because I have learned how to keep it in check before doing or saying something that I will regret later on. I highly recommend that those of you out there who also have anger management issues put in the effort to learn the skills you need to prevent yourself from giving in to anger.
38. Other people may not like the music you make, the art you create, or the blogs or books you write. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your work is not good simply because someone didn’t happen to like it. You may have a situation where a person responds to what you created with words that are intended to hurt you (or to convince you to stop making your art). Never forget that good art, writing, or music should make a person feel something. If your work “hit a nerve” for someone – it means your art is really good!
39. Learn how to accept a compliment. When someone gives you a sincere compliment, don’t try and “talk them out of it”. They mean it. They want you to accept it. A simple “thank you” is an appropriate response. Over time, you will find it much easier to accept a compliment (and will find that receiving a compliment makes you feel good instead of upset).
40. Losing your job is not the end of the world. Sign up for unemployment insurance benefits immediately (because it takes a while before you will begin to receive benefits). Now is a great time to look for a job in a different field than the one you were working in, or to try and start your own business. When I lost my job in education, I ended up becoming a freelancer writer. I’ve never been happier.