There is something about being forty – in fact, there seems to be an awful lot said about being forty! Much of what is said is totally contradictory: On the one hand, those who haven’t yet reached 40, but are ‘facing’ it, are likely to hear words of encouragement such as, ‘Life begins at 40’. As against this, I remember at the dances back in the day (when dances were dances!) hearing many a fair maiden complaining about ‘oul lads of forty gong dancing!’ It doesn’t seem as if life was beginning for those poor unfortunate single guys who still preferred Mammy’s cooking. One way or another, we shall give you the answer at the end of this article as to whether or not life really begins at 40 – but you will need to wade through a bit of guidance first.
I was reminded of the dilemma of whether or not it’s good to be 40, when a friend wrote me that he would be 40 in a few weeks and this had spurred him on to seeking a career change. The fact is that this talented individual could make a career change at any time, so why then was it the signpost with the big four-O, which triggered his urge to make a move?
If you think about it – or prefer to let me do it on your behalf; it is fair to say that 40 is the half-way mark on life’s expectant hike. The fact that it is only the half way mark should in itself be comforting; because at the turn of the twentieth century your life expectancy at 40 would only have you down for a further 8 years.
Another thing which I read in some motivational jargon said that ‘whatever you are going to be, you will be that at forty years of age?’ Now, before we go another inch forward, let us debunk that nonsense right here. The history of business, entertainment, romance, literature and adventure is laced with people who made their first successful breakthrough in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. As one of the Lads is prone to say; ‘why rush the thing, when Mammy still boils the best bacon in the parish!
Pausing for a moment whilst sitting on the 40 milestone, I suppose a bit of reflection is understandable. Friends are recommending supplements for this and that and you have to carry the reading glasses and are dreading the day when you have to wear them all the time. You look in the mirror, count grey ribs of hair and then start scratching your face and neck looking for wrinkles. Your back gives you a bit of bother and the thing in the room isn’t as frequent or as spontaneous as it used to be. Stop it! That’s not what you should be dwelling upon – and just for the record; grey hair does distinguish a man and a woman can definitely be more beautiful at 40 than she was at 20.
Instead of fearing forty, look instead on all the good things it has brought you. Think of what you have learned even since you were 30. You are now more your own man, or woman. You are more confident and self-assured – and those embarrassing blushes of immaturity are no more. In your 40s, you will worry less about what other people might think – but believe me, you are not far off the mark when you won’t give a damn at all. The worries and regrets that used to keep you awake at night are now totally unimportant in your life. You know what your priorities are, you know who you are and what kind of person you want to be. The good news is that a recent review by somebody or other, found that people are happier in their forties than at any time up until then. There may be a bit of a ‘mid-life crisis’ in your later 40s, but just hang tight and ‘this too shall pass.’
So to answer the question, does ‘life begin at forty?’ The answer is, of course it does. But it also begins at every other age and in fact, life begins every day you get up – because this day is the first day in the rest of your life.
If life were to begin at forty, well then what do you think of those of us facing the clock going around for the second time? You see, it doesn’t matter as long as the engine is still running; or as Jim Bourke might say about an old car, ‘there’s lots of miles in that thing yet!’ There is nothing bad about being 40, or hitting it for the second time round – or even facing into the third 40 year span … just ask ‘Micko’ O’Dwyer!
People usually feel they reached forty prematurely.