Let the 40s Begin! (and 3 Valuable Life Lessons Realized in my 30s)

Feb 28, 2019

I have been excited about turning 40 for quite some time. And the closer the new decade neared, the more eager I became for it to begin.

Why?

Perhaps the better inquiry is to ask the question that often precedes the topic of most Wednesday posts here on TSLL – Why Not (or shall I say pourquoi pas)?

American culture would have us accept the untruths that too often we accept unconsciously and just as unconsciously project onto the women around us whether they are older, younger or our own age. And the best way I can think of, and try to model and inspire here on TSLL, is to question the culture if it isn’t working for you (I have no doubt men too have their own untruths projected onto them, but I can only only speak from my experience; however, the beneficial shift is not synonymous with any one gender).

Truth resides in reality, and the only reality that should be perpetuated about reaching 40, heck 30, and even 50, 60, 70 and beyond is that it is the number of years we have had the good fortunate to be alive.

The next question I pose to myself when I recognize how many years of life I have been given is, “How did you spend them?”

Forty years is a healthy amount of time, roughly equal parts youth, under the guidance of parents, and adult, under the own self-navigation, to cultivate a foundation of awareness about ourselves and the world, and thus come to some clarity regarding the direction we wish to travel in the next decade and beyond.

Subsequent questions that follow: What have I done with those years? How have I chosen to grow as an individual, expand my awareness, and how have I applied the lessons gained from the obstacles that life presented and the lessons I have gained from the successes achieved?

First, I’d like to share three ahas I have discovered over the course of the past 10 years in response to the above questions, and then I will explain why I am completely giddy about turning forty today – February 28th.

1. Focus on Substance or Surface

The quality of our lives elevates when we focus on substance over surface. From strengthening our overall health and understanding the value of muscle and flexibility in our physical body as well as our mind, and letting go of the myths of skinny for societal acceptance and instead embracing the gift of a body that enables us to downward dog, soul cycle, slice through the water, climb the mountain or navigate a challenging negotiation in our careers, when we choose substance over surface, we choose to live well. In other words, the fundamental areas of our lives: health, relationships, career, and self-care are strengthened when we go deeper, and refrain from seeking acceptance and instead seek understanding from which we can apply the knowledge to our lives.

2. Be Determined or Deterred

Throughout our entire lives, of the first 40 I am certain, and here after, I would imagine as well, we will face challenges, but as I traveled through my 30s, I was butting up against challenges in areas I was nervously certain were my passion and others I was told I should pursue but was not convinced of myself. Through these challenges, I discovered that the challenges I persevered through until I was able to navigate and reach the other side were indeed ones for which I held deep passion and clarity as to why I pursued them in the first place – for my journey – for what was important and innate to my life and eventual legacy.

The challenges that I eventually lost the energy to fight or felt I was banging my head against a wall with no hope of attaining what I sought were pursuits that did not have substance in my life, held no value, no purpose and often would diminish what I could offer or who I was. Letting these challenges become lessons in where and what not to place my energy in was a liberation, and gave me more energy to pursue the true passions and purpose in my life.

Often, upon reflection, there was one clear distinction between the different pursuits – (1) the ones I persevered through and (2) the ones I recognized to be not in alignment with who I am: the former was pursued from an innate place within myself and the latter was pursued because I felt it was the “thing to do” or “the right thing” or “the safe thing” or “the easy thing” to do.

It has been my experience that my 30s revealed to me what courage I have within myself in order to be my true self. And it was through each of these challenges that I became clear about who that was without the societal scripts leading the way.

3.Choose to Soar or Conform

I didn’t attend my 20th high school reunion. I don’t have any regrets about this, but of course there are classmates I wish I had the opportunity to catch up with as I know them to be the most amazing of persons in their intellect, kindness and integrity. One reason for not attending may have been not having the energy to explain my journey one more time to others of my same age who had chosen the more “valued” path by the zeitgeist. And while this is a lame excuse, I simply wasn’t ready or strong enough at that time to fully stand in my journey. But the good news is that the strength was building, and finally, after just two more years, it would be with much more ease that I would look forward to attending.

However, there is a divide that happens unless we actively choose to remain respectful of the reality that there are many paths to live and live well. So long as both parties in friendships, familial, collegial and acquaintance relationships support this understanding, we enable each other to soar. But if we find ourselves in relationships in which we are being passively or directly asked to conform, then in order to soar, we must let go.

The letting go became easier and easier in my 30s, and now, I am more clearly able to discern from the initial get-to-know-you period whether I want to invest more time and energy.

The soaring, when we choose to build a social support structure and also partake in others’ social support structure, enables each of us to try what we dream about, slip and fall but have the strength to stand up and continue striving for what we have the curiosity to pursue.

Conformity asks us to hold back, asks us to shrink, to become less, even if we don’t fully know what we can become. In conformity, there is a perceived “known” which is what feels safe, but in remaining, we are not able to reach our fullest potential and thus the world is lacking a gift that only we each can give.

I am confident that the most difficult part of soaring is in the first few stages. For when we leave the ground, fewer obstacles are in front of us. That doesn’t mean we can be complacent. We must continue to fine tune our wings, our minds, as it would be, so that we can navigate successfully, but think about a bird as it soars through the air for a moment. There are moments when it just glides – heading in the direction it desires and sometimes swirling (dancing) about for fun. In such moments, not as much energy is asked or needed. Then of course, the head winds come, and it must maneuver wisely, but it can because it has conserved its energy.

I know the analogy is not perfect, but if you are stuck in a place in your life where you are considering conforming versus soaring, just know, it is the getting off the ground that is often the most difficult part of the journey. My thirties, I have felt, were the getting-off-the-ground period, but it all began with choosing to get on the runway, gather up all my gumption and run full speed with all of the tools made available to me at the the time. And then, I found some courage, brought along the support from those who believed in me and took a leap.

It’s okay to look down from time to time, but enjoying the flight, being present, is quite sweet indeed. Because while yes, it is in looking down, we see how far we have come; it is in being appreciative of our ability to soar that will keep us vigilant, conscious and thoughtful about each next direction we take.

Let the Decade of My 40s Begin

American publisher, writer and literary agent Walter B. Pitkin may have been right when he wrote his book Life Begins at 40 (copyright 1932), and while my first forty years are filled with beautiful memories, moments, struggles and experiences I could not have dreamed about and feel most fortunate to have part of my life’s journey, I am giddy about the opportunity to turn 40 and strive forward. And while I will certainly, as readers would expect per the approach of living simply luxuriously, be living a life that is true to my strengths, passions and values, I look forward to playing my part in shifting the perception of what being 40 and beyond can be for women and, for that matter, anyone who dares to let go of societal limitations and live their best life.

~PAST BIRTHDAY POSTS from the ARCHIVES:

~15 Lessons I Am Carrying into My 39th Year (2018)

~12 Discoveries Unearth During My 38th Year (2017)

~10 Birthday Revelations after 37 Years (2016)

~A simpler approach this year – (2015)

~Appreciative & Exhilarated (2014)

~A Work in Progress (2013)

~33 Lessons Learned (2012)

~Traditions: To Follow or Not to Follow (2011)

~A Simply Luxurious Year (2010)

Image: captured during my trip to Provence this past summer – note to self – when you find something that takes your breath away, that once was only known through photographs and brochures, find any space you can along the side of the road, stop the car, get out, who cares if people smile at the silly tourist, and soak in the reality of the moment that you have the good fortune to experience.



62 thoughts on “Let the 40s Begin! (and 3 Valuable Life Lessons Realized in my 30s)

  1. Happy birthday from Scotland Shannon!! I hope you truly have a wonderful day and year. Thank you for your fantastic blog, podcasts and books. I have followed avidly for several years now and you always manage to make me smile. Thanks again. Xx

  2. Dearest Shannon I wish you the happiest of birthdays. So often we say ‘if I knew then what I know now’, things would be different. Through your wonderful attitude to life you are in the enviable position of appreciating the things of value in life at an early age and encourage us to appreciate them too. Have a wonderful day and here’s to the next chapter. We look forward to joining you! Much love, Sue, England.

  3. Happy birthday Shannon! I look forward to seeing what you get up to in your celebrations! Love this post and all the optimism of turning 40. I am also hitting this milestone this summer and you’re absolutely right, how lucky are we? I feel better in myself now than ever before and appreciate all that life has taught me thus far. I didn’t go to my 20th reunion either, couldn’t be bothered!
    Have a fantastic one,
    Lindsay

  4. Shannon, I hope your birthday is as wonderful as you are. As one who also took the lesser traveled path and have never regretted it, I bow to you for leaving a bread crumb trail behind showing that it is possible to not only survive but thrive by doing things your own way.
    Dora from Ohio

  5. Happy birthday! Today is my 60th birthday and I agree with you totally. I feel fortunate for the time I have been given! Enjoy your day, birthday buddy!

  6. Happy Birthday Shannon , sending you love and best wishes for the start of a new year and a new decade !
    May it be a happy , healthy , exciting and fulfilling time for you .
    Many thanks again for your blogs, podcasts and photographs , they are always a delight , and frequently provide inspiration !
    Have a wonderful day 🎂🎈💐
    Anne

  7. Happy Birthday! I turned 40 last summer (after moving across the country, no less!), and have found this year to be completely gratifying because I feel more myself than ever and am CONTENT with who I am! It seems you are well on your way to feeling the same way. 🙂

    Thank you for always being a thoughtful voice who encourages her readers to be who they truly are as one of your ongoing themes. Wishing you a day of joy and peace!

  8. Happy, happy birthday, Shannon! Hope it’s a wonderful day filled with unexpected surprises and enjoyment. Forging your own path is an inspiration to those around you, whether in your neighborhood or followers of your blog. I didn’t attend any of my high school class reunions, either; while I graduated with some very kind people, several of whom I stay in touch with, I want to focus on what I’m becoming, not what I was.

    Keep moving forward with your usual – and appreciated – optimism!

  9. Happy Birthday Shannon!!!! I hope you will be surrounded by people who love and support you for who you are. Staying true to ourselves in this world can be so hard at times, but so worth it! Have a lovely day!:)

  10. Happy Birthday Shannon!! I turned 53 this year on February 2nd and am happy about that! I too have always enjoyed every birthday as I see it a sign of being blessed. I have taken care of seniors for 20 years and love their wit, wisdom and zest for life! I see every birthday as a true gift whichever path we have taken! I love your emails and look forward to reading them every morning with my coffee and two poached eggs!! Have a ridiculously wonderful day!!

    Sandy❤️

    1. Ridiculously indeed! Thank you for the encouragement Sandy and for sharing a glimpse of your journey. How lovely and I do love your attitude. Thank you for your continued interest and wishing you a lovely next morning 😉

  11. Happy Birthday Shannon, Your writing today is good to read at any age. Milestone birthdays are a cause for reflection and celebrations. As I look back I see dear friends who are no longer here and adventures and friends I have yet to meet. What I have learned to to make opportunities, keep your inner light bright and and prime the pump. 🎉🎉🎉🍾

  12. Happy, Happy Birthday Shannon! As someone who recently turned 40, I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I look forward to being inspired by you for many years to come!

  13. When I turned 40, my beautiful cousin who is 15 years older than me, wrote me a wonderful letter about how the 4th decade is one of the best. You are arrive knowing better than any other time who you are and where you would like to go without clinging to the approval of the past or your peers. You love more and without excuse or need for explanation to others. Not because you don’t love them or your past, but because you really can love yourself and mind YOUR OWN business and let others tend their own opinions without burden to yourself. Go fly, Girl! It’s a thing of beauty!

    1. Sherrylynne, so beautifully said and what a lovely cousin to have in your life – a very thoughtful and insightful letter it sounds. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of her words with us all. 🙂

  14. Happy Birthday Shannon 🎂🎉. Thank you for your inspirational message, your books and your daily musings . Every young lady starting out on life’s path needs to meet you.
    Have a wonderful day with your sweet boys.
    Nancy

  15. Happy Birthday to you Happy Birthday to you🗼❤️🎉🎂, I hope your having a wonderful day turning forty is such a wonderful time.

    Just keep being true to yourself and continue to love your journey .

    Cheers to you Shannon!
    Judi Kjartanson

  16. Happiest of birthdays Shannon! I’ve no doubt you will fill the day with many simple luxuries and hopefully a splurge or two. Thank you as always for taking us along on your journey. You’ve blessed many with your transparency, insight and inspiration.
    Cheers!
    Amelia

  17. Happy Birthday Shannon! You’re in great company. The best is yet to come!! Thank you for all you do to add great texture and inspiration to our lives.

    Have a great day!

  18. I so appreciate the level of intentionality with which you navigate your life. I appreciate how often you stop to reflect and process your life and experiences. Thank you for these insights as they always provide me with food for thought. May you have a wonderful birthday today! I am so grateful you are here on this planet! Thank you for sharing yourself here in this space. Would you feel comfortable sharing how you choose to experience your birthday day? I would love to hear how you honor yourself and what that looks like with all that you have going on!!

    1. Margi, Thank you for your very kind comment. I will be sharing some glimpses of my day on Instagram via the Stories if you’d like to take a look there. So far, the day has begun with a trip to the mountain to go cross country skiing with Norman and then to the market to pick up some food (and sparkling wine) for celebrations with family. 😉

  19. Happy 40th, Shannon. The best is yet to come! Ditto everything Sherrylynne said. You’ve got so much of life figured out already that the next several decades will only see you soar higher and higher. It is with a confession of envy that I say you’ve done so much in your young adult life, and there are so many more dreams to come for you. You’ve got this! Enjoy!

    P.S. Thank you for all your work here and showing us all how to soar at our own heights!

  20. Happy Birthday Shannon from England!
    I’ve been a long time reader and find you so inspirational. I read every newsletter during my Friday lunch break!
    Thank you for sharing your work with the world. Happy Birthday!

  21. Happy Birthday from Australia. I am shortly turning 51, and although I have gone down the ‘traditional’ path of marriage and children -I really do ‘get’ the life choices you have made and are thriving with. I don’t think any life can be viewed in black and white and ultimately whatever path one chooses is no one else’s concern. My 92 year old mother died 8 weeks ago, and it has really given me a jolt to live in the present and to be more savvy with my time. I appreciate your blog, it’s such a lovely snapshot into a life that in many ways is different from mine, yet has some remarkable similarities.
    Again – enjoy the coming decade. Gabrielle
    PS – when are you visiting Australia?

    1. Gabrielle, thank you very much! Thank you for sharing part of your journey, and my thoughts are with you with the passing of your mother. I would love to come to Australia some day. Thank you for the encouragement. 🙂

  22. Happy birthday! This was a great post that I can relate to as I will be turning 40 later this month. To the surprise of many of my friends who either just turned or will also be turning 40 this year, I am excited to turn 40 and to embrace this next decade. Cheers to you and hope you had a lovely birthday.

    1. Nalani, Thank you for stopping by and for the birthday wishes. Our mindset determines the quality of our lives in so many ways. Wishing you an upcoming wonderful 40th celebration! 🥂☺️❤️

  23. Happy Belated Birthday Shannon from Canada. I found your newsletter, blog and books by accident last year and have been following and devouring the information that is so beautifully and thoughtfully presented each and every Friday with my cup of tea. You have provided me the spark that I needed badly to live my life as you have stated ; Simply Luxuriously. Thank you for sharing your passions with world.

  24. Happy Birthday. I am a fairly new reader after seeing you on The Daily Connoisseur last fall and I have been enjoying your podcasts and blog. Like you I am also an educator. I am at the tail-end of my 40’s and will be hitting a new milestone later this year. I really think women come into their own during their 40’s. The career is usually figured out or we are willing to take new risks and try something new, we have our families and friends, possibly some financial stability, we know our likes and dislikes, and we stop putting up with things that don’t bring joy to our lives. I wish you complete joy in your 40’s! 🎉🎂

  25. Bon Anniversaire🎀🍀🎆 you are correct and that with a cultivated life, eyes heart and mind open it gets better and better. I get to turn 53 this year and each year is such a gift. Many blessings to you Shannon. Thank you for your podcasts I enjoy them especially the French inspired ones.
    I say for big birthdays like 40 50 60 excetera a whole year of Celebration is in order: enjoy

  26. Happy belated birthday, Shannon!
    I just entered my third decade earlier this month, and I really appreciate the insights and experiences you so generously share here on the blog and also in your books and podcast. You are one of my role models for living an authentic, engaged, and fulfilling life, especially as a fellow introvert who is not inclined toward the traditional 2.5 kids in a suburb default (though that was how I grew up, though it’s not for me, I definitely appreciate that route!)

    May you have a happy and wonderful year (and decade)! I look forward to those parts of your future journey you will share in the future.

  27. A belated bon anniversaire! I just read this post and realized we have the same birthday. (51 for me!)
    I hate to say it but 50 was a dreadful year for many unforeseen reasons – but *not* because of my age which I joyfully embrace. Happily, age 51 is proving to be much lovelier and I think I appreciate all the good things in my life even more than I would have without the events of last year.

    Wishing you good health and happiness in the year ahead.
    xo

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