When I turned 40 I brought with me a lifetime of experiences that shaped the person I am now. There’s a lot to be said about accepting yourself for who you are, recognizing your limitations and finding peace in the decisions that you have made. You cannot go back and change anything. You simply have to move on with what happened, make gold from dirt and take responsibility for your life and your future.
One of the greatest revelations for me was that I am, in fact, an introvert with polished extrovert skills. I suppose I always knew this about myself, but the truth of it became more focused in my 40s. I truly enjoy being alone, by myself, surrounded by the simple pleasures of life. When I fully embraced this about myself I ceased doing what brought me anxiety, and that in large part, was socializing with big groups. When I stopped guilting myself to kowtow to obligations I felt a sense of relief. Now, at 42, there is nothing more pure to me than sitting by the lake and listening to the sounds of nature that permeate all around me.
Another great lesson in middle-age is not to waste a single moment with people you don’t like. Or doing anything that doesn’t bring you a sense of serenity. Even if it’s a morsel. I don’t spend a second anymore listening to my friends whine about their problems. I don’t waste my time with any sort of confrontation. I don’t reveal much about my personal life to anyone anymore, because I find it all so boring. What I prefer are quiet morning or afternoon walks, alone, with my own thoughts. I’ve replaced friendships mostly with books, and art. The purpose of this is not because I dislike people but because at 42 I’ve experienced almost everything twice over, and I’ve heard every type of personal problem time and again. If my friends are complaining about the same issues for years, I simply disengage and find more constructive ways to pass my time with. They’re usually better for my soul anyway. What I remind myself of is simple: this is the only life I’m ever going to get, best to learn from what makes me unhappy, and grow into something new and more healthy. I don’t listen to anyone moan about their personal relationships anymore, for it’s their issue to sort out, and not mine to indulge in.
One of the things I observe about people my age is how much they neglect their health. It is important for me not to look younger, but to look healthy. I run often, I go to the gym, I eat well, which means makng my own food from natural ingredients. I’m amazed with how lazy people in Canada are. How little physical movement they engage with in a day. I have always been aware, and perhaps it’s from working with kids with physical disabilities for so much of my life, of how lucky I am to have mobility. To be able to walk, to run, to swim and to even trip. It’s a gift, so why wouldn’t I nurture that gift by treating my body well?
But mostly what I think is unique with those in my peer group, is finding a person who is curious about a world that does not always involve them. I do not associate with anyone who has emotional issues, that includes addiction issues. If I learn that an individual is an alcoholic, or has a dependency on drugs, I don’t waste my time with them. Mostly because I am a sensitive person, and I’ve learned through the years that I take on their problems as my own, and I internalize their personal problems, to the point that I suffer. I don’t do that anymore. I attempt to talk about ideas, and do not engage in mindless gossip. I do not care about anyone’s personal relationships and I do not waste a single moment with rumour.
What I realized when I turned 40 is how lucky I am to be alive, and to be here, on this glorious planet. I’ve been lucky to have lived in Canada, England and Argentina. I’ve been fortunate to have a home for the past 15 years, to have a summer home to escape to; that I am surrounded by nature, the smell of an autumn afternoon, the sight of fresh snow on the ground, the sound of purifying rain.
This to me is what makes life worth every second. It’s what I focus on most: my environment. Not on idle gossip. Not on the permeation of rumour. Not on toxic, unhealthy relationships marinating in negative, mean-spirited, insecure nonsense that has nothing to do with me anyway.
I get up every morning, as a 42 year old man, and I make my day beautiful. Isn’t it fortunate that I can live in a country like Canada, where that is possible?