help teach an old bag some new tricks
July 31, 2008 10:14 PM   Subscribe

So I'm 40, what next?

Today's my 40th, christ I'm old! Of course back when I was your average gothy teen, I figured my life would end like some Cure video, and never even guessed I'd BE this old, much less be motivated to do stuff and try new things at my (yeah, okay, admittedly not that advanced) age.

Please suggest some awesome goals to keep me looking forward. It could be just about anything, I'm open to ideas. For you young whippersnappers, what do you think is excellent and inspiring that your parents do? Those of you in the same boat as me, what keeps you on your toes? Older generations: What do you wish you had begun, or better yet, still hope to accomplish?

I know this is sort of open ended but I'd rather not limit it by setting too many parameters. I just remember turning 30 and having this weird "oh god what now?" sort of thing going on in my head. Patently absurd, yes, I know, age is just a number, the calendar is arbitrary, what's so different about 40 that's not different about 39, bla, bla, bla, yes, I get it, but I'd also like to see if I can head off the angst trip this go round.

minor details: I am female, no kids, no plans for kids. I ride bikes (a lot, and race regularly, don't even own a car). I never went to college tho I have recently attended a couple night classes just to get the ball rolling. I have a day job and a long commute (bus) that I should probably take advantage of somehow, beyond reading trashy sci-fi and fantasy novels, that is. I am also kind of a nerd dilettante, meaning I enjoy stuff like geology / natural sciences and pore over CNET and gadget gear, tho I've very little clue how it all actually works.

I'm not much into the old growing-old-gracefully thing, either, since I tend to do stupid shit like crash my fixed gear on icy streets, and I officially have more scars and broken bones than both my neighbour's teenage skater kids put together (we counted).

Have at it!
posted by lonefrontranger to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Kids are pretty much the only reason I can think of why you'd change what seems to be a good life.
posted by rhizome at 10:33 PM on July 31, 2008

I'm sorry, I'm weak and couldn't resist. I'll deserve what I get for it.

Anyway, from a young whippersnapper: Travel! Keep it up! Backpacking isn't just for 20-somethings. I love older people who don't accept what society tells them they can do. My 91-year-old Grandma just traveled abroad. To an eastern-European country that was once Communist; I bet that blows her mind to consider. I love that, it's so inspiring. I hope I can be like the one day.

Compared to that, 40 is nothing. My 50-something parents are moving to Germany - they don't even speak German. They're just taking advantage of an opportunity. The biking thing is cool, too. Learn something new. I like seeing non-traditional students in my classes, too.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:34 PM on July 31, 2008

I think [solon and thanks]'s advice is good. People say 40 is just a number, but it's always good to remember our morality. It really focuses you on what's important.

Take advantage of the fact you're not tied down. If you're even remotely interested in travel, go for it. Don't overthink it, pack light.

Often, but not always, older people have learned how to deal with existing to a greater degree than young people. Young people, often, hate listening to this advice from authority figures like their parents or teachers. But if you can be a non-square adult, you can perhaps impress important things on them.

Do you have any creative impulse? Act on that.

Other people have started great things older than you have. Are you going to be an internationally beloved painter? The odds are slim. You shouldn't do these things, at any age, to measure up to others, but to see how far you can go.
posted by phrontist at 10:53 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm 35 and have recently taken up roller skating again (quad speed skates, not inline skates). I love it now almost as much as I loved it when I was ten and was shocked that it was pretty easy to get back into.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:53 PM on July 31, 2008

keep your body active
. learn rock climbing
. run a marathon
. learn to sail
. learn to fly a plane

stretch yourself, stretch your mind. go someplace you've never been. go camping alone. buy a camera.

do something you were always afraid to do. survive that. now do something else that you were scared of. could be something like public speaking.

don't settle, don't ever settle.

that's what your 40s could be about. I'm living this, and I love it.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:53 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I turned 40 last year. In the last couple of years, I've lost 50 pounds, quit smoking, quit drinking, am 3/4 through a degree in multimedia done completely through distance education, have built a small business that services academics, and in the next few years I'm planning to:
* move with my husband (but not my teenage children) around the country living in an area for a couple of years to explore it
* take a year off and walk the Australian national trail (hopefully with donkeys)
* keep entering photographic competitions and hopefully place.
* start entering art competitions and likewise
* maybe learn guitar or how to ride a motorbike

The world is your oyster. The fact that there is a zero in your age makes no difference whatsoever to who or what you were at 39. It's a social construct which doesn't even make sense because some of us have far more living experience, and some of us age quicker. Okay, you know that stuff. The answer to your question is, whatever you want to. What do you want to do? Well, go do it.
posted by b33j at 11:38 PM on July 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

First -- Happy Birthday.

You sound really cool. You've already achieved -- or so it seems to me, from what you've written -- what most people do not ever achieve; you appear to be happy. It looks from here that you're having fun.

Continue with this.

Age -- bah. It's all crap. You're very young. I've met people in their twenties who are old, people in their sixties who are young. I don't know the source of the quote, that beauty in the young is just a genetic tumble of the dice, but that from 40 years old and on we are responsible for our face, but it's a cool quote, and accurate, for the most part. I'd bet you're face is great.

Do you love the place you live in, the city you reside in? I think that's important. If the city you live in is a drag, find another place to hang your hat.

I'm not much into the old growing-old-gracefully thing, either, since I tend to do stupid shit like crash my fixed gear on icy streets, and I officially have more scars and broken bones than

I just LOVE this part of your message to us. But wear a danged helmet, and don't get too carried away, don't fuck up your body -- you're going to want it, so as to get you around, and keep having fun.

Who says it's wrong to read books you like? Does it bring you happiness? Then do it. I'm not saying become a reclusive mope with odd books towering around your bed, but if you've found something that you like, then like it, enjoy it.

Here's the secret of life, that isn't a secret but it might as well be, as so few live by it: If you're happy, no matter what in your life isn't perfect is okay. And: If you're not happy, it doesn't matter what you've got, it's not enough, it's never enough.

The most important part in my life is in my interactions with others; I'm blessed, I'm in a position where I get to intersect deeply into the lives of people who I really care about. This brings me real joy. If you are living superficially, that might be something to look into; get into gardening, grow you some relationships. Go to the people store, and select some interesting ones, and go out for tea with them, listen to them, give them support and love -- it comes back ten-fold.

You sound happy. You sound cool. I bet you are. Keep it up. Yeah, sure, travel and all, climb every mountain, ford every stream, go to school if you want, buy yourself a new hat. Yoga, for sure -- I'm a believer in it, can give you chapter and verse about why your ought to be also. But what you're doing now looks pretty good. There are millions -- millions upon millions, actually -- who would give most anything to live the life you are living, they're caught up in mortgages and cars they can't afford and paying tuition for children who think they suck, millions upon millions who haven't been on a bike in decades, much less broken a bone or two while rounding a corner way too fast as the blood and adrenaline pour through their bodies; the race they are in is the rat race, they sit at a desk in some horses ass office and die a bit more every day. Not you.

Keep on keeping on, Ma'am.

I hope that this finds you well. And I bet that it does.

posted by dancestoblue at 12:39 AM on August 1, 2008 [11 favorites]

Comfort murders passion and walks grinning in the funeral.
posted by zoinks at 12:44 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

Turning 40
40 things about being 40

From a personal perspective, I was 40 when I got sober after ~22 years of alcoholic drinking. Looking back now 15 years later, I see it as essentially when I became an adult. As a practicing alcoholic I was still living emotionally as a teen. When the fog cleared in my brain, the mind matured, and the world made a lot more sense.
posted by netbros at 1:16 AM on August 1, 2008

Just decide that you're 38, if it makes you feel better. You're right, age is just a meaningless number.
posted by mpls2 at 3:38 AM on August 1, 2008

Meaningless up to a point, but age isn't meaningless when your joints start giving out and your skin starts to sag, let me tell you...

I'd nth the travel thing, with the proviso that you should do difficult travel now and leave the cruises for later. I'd have a lot of sex, too. Maybe you'll still be having an active sex life when you're 60: maybe you won't; all I'm saying is, it won't do any harm to get plenty in while the going's good.
posted by Phanx at 5:04 AM on August 1, 2008

You sound like you're livin' right. If anything, maybe switch from riding bikes to another sport, just to switch things up - running, swimming.
posted by notsnot at 5:22 AM on August 1, 2008

Get a new bike. Single speed MTB, tandem, race cross, ride the brevet series on a fixie, take a frame building class at UBI...
posted by fixedgear at 5:26 AM on August 1, 2008

I turned 40 a couple of years ago. Welcome to the club.

It takes ten years to become an expert in something. Why not pick something and start now? Learn to play the piano; Read all of Shakespeare's plays, watch every movie version, read tons of criticism, and become a Bard geek; learn to be a gourmet cook...

Wouldn't it be cool -- when you're 50 (and still have decades to enjoy what you've learned) -- "I started learning X when I was 40"?

Heck, when you're 50, you can start another something and master it by the time you're 60!
posted by grumblebee at 5:42 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

First thing last thing: You're not even halfway there yet. Every morning you wake up and there is something to do. Make that something part of a long term project and you'll be happier for it. Trully, it makes no difference whatsoever what that project is, as long as it leads off into the future. In my case my first child was born after I turned 40. My youngest won't be out of college by the time i'm old enough to retire. I took up yoga just to keep up. One thing just keeps leading into another and I'm still happy to get up every day.
posted by ptm at 6:13 AM on August 1, 2008

I am turning 60 in a couple of weeks and could ask a similar question about turning 60. For me, 60 is the new 40. There are very few limitations on what is possible, even more so for you. I agree with the previous poster about having more sex if you're into it, because that's the first thing to go.

One thing I would suggest is putting a couple of years into getting a college degree in something you are passionate about. Passion for something is the lubricant that transcends age. Remember, the limitations only exist in your mind. Anything is possible. Oh, and have fun.
posted by Xurando at 6:21 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm 52. I have reinvented myself, on average, every 5 to 7 years. I have been an artist, a music entrepreneur (classical music), a tour manager, a mother, a fundraiser, and a skating coach. I have traveled to 7 countries and 16 states, about half of them since the age of 40. I taught myself Spanish. I started a garden when I was about your age, and it's still going strong. I have raised two incredible children who are now grown and starting this amazing journey. Forget Life Begins at 40. Life begins every single day, and tomorrow is the best day yet. Sounds trite, but, man it is so true.

What have you done so far-- in 40 years, you've accomplished a lot. Here's the deal-- you have 40 years to go, so you can do it all again, the same or different. In fact, better, because now you have a clue. You don't have to waste 18 or more years of it in childhood. You already speak the language. There are no grownups telling you what to do. Adulthood is awesome, and you sound like you've figured out a great path.

Happy Birthday, and enjoy the ride!
posted by nax at 6:33 AM on August 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

I actually just turned 40 a couple weeks back as well. If anything, it just makes me want to speed things up...

After all, if I slow down now, how am I ever going to read all the books I want to read, see all the places I want to see (all of them!), taste all the foods I want to taste, try all the cocktails I want to try, listen to all the music I want to hear and meet all the people I want to meet?
posted by JaredSeth at 7:56 AM on August 1, 2008

I'm in the same boat as you. I'm 42. No kids, no desire for kids. No clear-cut goals. I'm a freelancer, so even climbing the corporate ladder is not an option, unless I decide to become an employee somewhere.

I don't have any answers. I try to make everyday life interesting, and occasionally succeed. And while I don't have clear-cut goals, I do like to think I'm open to serendipity. For a variety of reasons, 40 wasn't the birthday that made me sit back and reconsider where my life was going, 36 was. And it's also the year, oddly enough, that I got involved in a side-project that gradually had wide-ranging, deep, and positive effects on my life—not that I planned it that way.

Things I wished I accomplished? I've always been interested in computer programming, but never really waded in above my ankles. I'd like to be better at it. I occasionally pick up a programming book and start working through it, but get distracted after a few weeks. I wish either I had gotten good at it at a younger age, or was able to focus on it for 6 months now.

Also, based on reading your comments here on MeFi and having run across your blog, I think you kick ass.
posted by adamrice at 8:09 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're enjoying things, then keep at it.

If you want a bit of change, why not go to school? Do a 2 or 3 semester stint as a student chasing the natural science sort of stuff. See if it sticks. Sounds like you'd probably like a field position where you get to lug around high-tech gear in the backcountry or doing some sort of ground-truthing of data. Heck, with a little schooling you might be able to hookup as a seasonal research associate/assistant and get involved with some seriously cool stuff. And roll from position to position as you see fit.

FWIW, my 56 yo wife is heading back to school this fall to work on masters #2 and going to live in the dorm, to boot. This after 10 surgeries in 42 months that included a major back surgery and breast cancer. I am continually impressed by her tenacity.

You'll do what you want to do, when you want to do it... :)

Best of luck to you!

posted by sandpine at 9:17 AM on August 1, 2008

The one thing you haven't mentioned, is Travel.

You ride a bike, so you're in a much better position then many people - You can go some where cool and cover a lot more ground in a more interesting way on a bike, then say, been stuck on a coach. I have a friend who regularly goes on group biking holidays all over the world, many of which let you bike from hotel to hotel, while they ferry all your extra luggage around for you.

Plus, a bike + travel options up lots of options for cool new gadgets, fill your commuting time learning a new language and so on.

There isn't really anything you can't do at 40 (or 50, or 60) though some times you might have to look further to find peers wanting to do the same things, expand your social circle to encompass what you want to do, or go solo more then you might have at a younger age,

To put my view in perspective I'm approaching 29 myself, but a good number of my friends are still in University in their early 20s, and I have friends at 40 going back again. My Dad still stewards at festivals and I go to gigs with him every six months or so, another friends Dad has just come back from spending 3 months in India traveling so I'm surrounded by people shunning traditional ideas of what you can and can't do at certain ages.

No matter what it is though, people who keep doing the things they love when other people are giving it up because they don't feel they should be doing things like that at their age, are always the ones having the most fun.
posted by paulfreeman at 9:20 AM on August 1, 2008

Hey, happy 40! I turn 40 at the end of the month. Over the past year I've made some pretty drastic life changes to help prepare myself. I now really do feel like this is the prime of life. Think of all the things you are prepared to accomplish. You have the perfect mix -- 40-years worth of life experience behind you combined with the desire and capability to learn new things.

If new opportunities present themselves to you, your default answer should be "why not?"
posted by Otis at 12:53 PM on August 1, 2008

Most of the older types that I look up to at this point in my life have a balance that you've described so you can't be too far off the mark. A more or less rewarding job, non-resentful outlook on life, constructive hobbies etc.

I can trace back certain periods of my life in various projects I've completed with whatever skill-set I was using at the time and it definitely helps you deal with the milestone blues.

I know you've posted a ton of photos on RBR in the past, have you thought about submitting some to some bike rags or even racing press websites (ala VeloNews)? Maybe start a collection of photos to turn put into a book, there's a lot of self-publishing places on the web now.
posted by asterisk at 3:32 PM on August 1, 2008

First of all, thanks to everyone who has responded so far. This has already given me a ton of great ideas. I can't login to MeFi during work, so I've been looking forward to reading this all day. I'd like to mark every single answer here as "best" because each and every one has weight and meaning to it. The quality of response on AskMeFi continually amazes me.

!! you young whippersnapper, how's it going? I actually just got a few pics published in the ACA rag recently and they've gained some interest, so let's see where that goes. I have several cards of stuff since, oh about mid-June that I need to go back and process, actually.

Solon, much appreciated. BTW, I saw your first post and regret that it got deleted because fwiw, I agree with the sentiment behind it, and what phrontist said: we should all strive to remain conscious of our morality, without dwelling on or being terrified of it.

fixedgear: I actually just bought a 5" travel dual suspension trail bike that is honestly more bike than I can handle (or comfortably afford). In fact, the mister and I got kicked out of Cheeseman Park a few weeks back for dialling in the rear susp. by riding down the stairs at the pavilion *grumble grumble* rentacops, they kick us out and yet completely ignore the facking teenagers setting off the (ginormous! patently illegal! dude there's like, a fire ban!) fireworks 200 yards away... Ahem. I now own seven bikes, and race road, track, alleycats, XC, enduros, 'cross and even dabbled a bit in BMX this summer. I think I've got the bike thing pretty well whipped, but your point is taken. I actually picked up BMX and started doing more alleycats again recently because I got burned out on road racing a few years back and didn't want that to happen again.

seawallrunner: yeah... I have been thinking harder and harder about how to finagle flying lessons, but god damn are they ever expensive (even worse now with the cost of avi fuel). It's been a dream of mine, tho since I was old enough to say the word "airplane!".

adamrice: Man, I hear you. I seriously need to just kick my own ass and learn to program. I could say the same, and I love computers. Actually I probably love the idea of being a code warrior much more than the mundane reality. I have a Java coding book and some perl stuff that's been collecting dust on my shelves for a couple years. I'll look into getting some classes because so far I've not been doing well at self-starting this one.

Everyone else: thank you, thank you, thank you! Like I said there's a lot of good stuff here.

One of my biggest challenges with flight lessons or international travel or going to college or a lot of these really fantastic ideas is that to be honest, one of the ways I pay for my independent lifestyle and flexibility is by being pretty close to broke most of the time. I'm not complaining, though. It means I get to screw off and go ski all day on a Wednesday if that's what I honestly feel like doing.

Not that I'm dismissing any of these ideas at all, they're all fantastic. There's also nothing preventing me from renting a jalopy and spending a week driving up/back to Canada or something like that. I love road trips. I plan to Amtrak cross-country at some point in the next 2-3 years, just because I dig trains. Stuff like that.

Please, keep it coming!
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:49 PM on August 1, 2008

Thanks, lonefrontranger. I really should have incorporated my first post into my second, to avoid the glib tone it ended up with. To better explain the way I see it, my post was an immediate reply to your "So I'm 40, what next?" (it was, for the record: "Death.")

As in, I do feel some people hit a certain age and think there's nothing else left that's new for them to try or discover or fall in love with. That it's all downhill. While being aware of your morality is good, it's also great to be aware that 40 is also so young in today's world.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:33 PM on August 1, 2008

As a fellow 40 year old I have had a few attempts to come up with a reply that offers anything other than solidarity - maybe people who are significantly younger or older will be best placed to offer the best advice.

However since you are employed and yet "close to broke" maybe some time learning about money management would pay off well - you might want to read "Your Money or Your Life" for example. It proposes a fairly ruthless program to rid you of debt and establish savings to cushion you against problems/retirement. Learning to live a life of frugality - where you focus on spending only on whatever gives you the most reward - and become expert in wringing the most pleasure out of this - is right up there with the "10 year skills" that others have mentioned. You might find it worthwhile however.
posted by rongorongo at 3:42 AM on August 2, 2008

Mortality...not morality.
posted by aperture_priority at 6:03 AM on August 2, 2008

« Older Event listings for Wordpress?   |   Where can I purchase the song(MP3) "Graciosa" by... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.