I'm Gonna Be 40! 39 Choices that Made All the Difference

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I turned 39 last week. And I have been doing a lot of mid-life-crisis whining lately. Time is running out!I haven’t done a tenth of the things I thought I would do by this age! I thought I would be J.K. Freaking Rowling by now! Where is my beach house and movie royalties? And where the hell did the lump of fat on my lower back come from? What have I done with my life? Why is nothing happening? Why am I nothing like I hoped I’d be by now? (And why l hasn’t Oprah called me? We have things to discuss.)

In my panic about the dreaded and impending birthday I took to Pinterest (as one of a certain age group is apt to do) and I started making a list of the 40 things to do before 40.

Dumb.

It was depressing. The more I pinned the more I realized: This is impossible. No one can do, get, or have ALL THE THINGS one wants in one lifetime.

Allthethings

Allthethings

We have to choose. And choose wisely.

And so I stopped pinning. (OK, let me be real. I stopped for ten minutes. I mean a lady stills need to pin recipes she’ll never try, clothes she’ll never buy, and inspirational quotes that are pretty much lost on said ladies (ahem, me) who are pinning quotes about seizing the day, whilst in their pajamas, noshing on nachos on a couch during a House of Cards binge session.)

But in those ten minutes, I started to think about all the choices—the one’s that I made leading up to now—and the ones I will have to make in the future. And I thought: It’s OK. It’s all going to work out. I’ve got this. I will make the best of the time I have left, because I’ve learned a thing or two in my 39 years of living that will help me in the next 39 years to make better choices, so that I may not get ALL the THINGS. I will have all the things that matter.

So after my self-allotted-annual-five-minute-pre-birthday-pity party, I sat down and thought about the choices I’ve made.

And in 39 years I’ve learned if there is a choice between:

  1. Playing it safe or loving the wrong person and getting hurt, choose to get hurt. The love you give will teach you more than never having loved at all.
  2. Feeling lonely, scared, and hopeless or calling a friend, call a friend.
  3. Feeling like a loser who has never accomplished anything or like a person who is grateful for everything in life, choose to be grateful.
  4. Feeling bitter over a past hurt or forgiving the offender(s), choose to forgive. Bitterness and anger will destroy you more than the one who hurt you.
  5. Being right or being kind, choose to be kind.
  6. Watching your calories and avoiding your own birthday cake or eating it, choose to eat it. For Christ's sake, eat it. Eat two pieces. And enjoy every single bite of it.
  7. Attending a work meeting or attending your kids’ school event, choose your kids. You’ll never remember the meeting. And there will be more. Your kids are only young once.
  8. Saving money or going on a small vacation with your family, go on vacation. The kids are only with you for 18 short years. Just go. That time alone together is priceless. After they are gone you’ll have plenty of time to save. And if you don’t have time (because you’ll be dead), well, your bills won’t matter anyway.
  9. Staying home and watching a movie with your family or going to a networking event for work, choose your family. No brainer. Small talk is small. Family is huge. Family always wins.
  10. Complaining about what you want to do but can’t or just doing it, choose to just do it. Whether it’s reading, writing, cooking, or sleeping—if you have 30 minutes to whine about it to someone, you have 30 minutes to do something about it.
  11. Talking about someone behind their back or confronting them, choose to confront them. The worst thing that can happen is the person hates you. Sometimes the best thing in life is getting rid of the people who dislike you. It makes room for the people who do like you.
  12. Getting people to like you by being someone you’re not or being yourself, choose to be yourself. It saves everyone time. The closer you get to being who you are and knowing what you want, the better you are at attracting genuine people in your life.
  13. Caring about your friends, family, and loved ones or caring about celebrities, choose to care about your friends. They will be at your funeral. I assure you, Kim K, won’t.
  14. Sleeping in because you’re exhausted or getting up to unload the dishwasher and fold laundry, choose to sleep. Housework will always be there. Take care of yourself.
  15. Taking a walk or sitting on the couch, choose to take a walk. I have never had a problem or a mood that walking didn’t solve.
  16. Picking a job that pays well or choosing a job that gives you freedom and flexibility, choose the one with the most freedom. Life is short. If you can’t enjoy it because you’re chained to a desk or a phone, no amount of money is worth it.
  17. Finding a guy that will make you laugh or picking one that will take care of you, choose the one that makes you laugh. You can take care of yourself. You’re a grown up. Be with someone who will laugh with you throughout all that you accomplish (or don’t) together.
  18. Telling your daughter she’s beautiful or telling her she’s intelligent, choose to tell her she’s intelligent (or artistic, or a great singer, or a good friend). Intelligence and character never fade, and besides she has more control and power over her intelligence, artistry and attitude than her beauty.
  19. Telling your son he’s tough or to power through after he falls or hugging him, choose to hug him. He doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. And you’ll only get to hug him for so long.
  20. Screaming something really awful and mean (but feels good to say) or waiting to cool down, choose to wait. You will always, always regret the things you said when you’re angry.
  21. Forcing something to happen because you want it more than anything, or just waiting to see what is meant to be, just wait. People can smell desperation a mile away. Just have confidence everything will work out as it is meant to be.
  22. Ignoring a major health issue for fear of what the results will be or going to a doctor, just go to the doctor. Don’t be a hero. You can’t power through it. Everyone on earth dies. No exception. No one has ever been so “tough” that they didn’t die or get sick. It’s not a moral weakness to say: “Help me.”
  23. Saving extra for your retirement or sending your kids to good schools, camps, and enriching experiences, choose to spend on your kids. It goes against what every Suzy Orman out there says to do. But, if you don’t invest in your kids who will? There will be plenty of time to work and save later. Take care of your kids and they’ll take care of you.
  24. Splurging on the perfect color vase, picture, or dress or settling for something cheap, choose to splurge. You’ll always turn on the things you settled for.
  25. Judging someone for making different choices than you or trying really hard to empathize and understand why they chose what they did, choose empathy. You’ll never know the weight someone is carrying, unless you pick it up and carry it yourself.
  26. Reading a book Kirkus or the NYT recommends or the one whose book jacket sounds fascinating to you, choose to read the one you will enjoy the most.
  27. Choosing to make a major life decision based on how it makes you feel right now or how it will affect you five years from now, choose how it will affect you five years from now. Things that hurt (or even feel good) now, may or may not be the best thing for you in the long run.
  28. Voting for a candidate because a party tells you to or your parent/family/husband votes a certain way or voting for one who shares your vision and goals, choose the candidate you approve of.
  29. Sitting in your office and eating alone or calling a friend to meet you out, choose to call an old friend and catch up. Never lose touch with the people who got you where you are today.
  30. Arguing with your spouse about the same fight you had ten years ago or choosing to drop it, choose to keep at it until he knows you’re right. (I am kidding.) Drop it.
  31. Turning up the radio to hear your favorite song or keep listening to your kids tell you the seemingly most inane or boring stories about their day, choose to listen to your kids. They know when you’re not, and eventually they’ll stop talking to you about all the important stuff too if you don't listen to the small stuff.
  32. Listening to someone criticize you or give you advice who doesn’t have to live the consequences of those choices, or listening to someone who will be right there with you the entire time, choose to listen to the one who will be there with you. Everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter. Ever.
  33. Failing at something or not trying at all, always go with trying.
  34. Traveling to a new place every year or going to the same places over and over, choose to travel to place that will surprise, you teach you, and force you to explore.
  35. Writing stories that you think will sell, or writing stories that you feel the most alive while writing, choose to feel the most alive.
  36. Blogging about what you think others want to hear, or what you think you know to be true, choose to speak your truth.
  37. Telling your kids you never messed up or telling them all the ways you did, tell them the truth.
  38. Fearing getting old or embracing that with each new year something magical and awesome could happen, choose to embrace the magical and the possible.
  39. Admitting you’re not perfect and quite possibly not all that you thought you would or could be or trying to be perfect and someone you’re not, choose to admit there is a lot more work to do, and be happy you have the time to do it.

Hey, somebody should pin this.