First off, let me preface this very long list of lessons learned by saying that yesterday was my 40th birthday, and while I have always been one to embrace life and roll with its punches, this trip around the sun was a rather difficult one for me to swallow. “Forty” just holds a certain weight to it that the numbers that come before it did not — at least for me they didn’t. I’ve spent the last few months of my thirties reflecting much more so than I ever thought I would. It’s been an interesting, albeit emotional, yet somewhat beautiful season for me.
I booked a flight to New York City last week to not work and to ring in my fortieth year on my terms. I went alone and it was the greatest birthday gift I could have given myself. I spent my days walking. Several miles a day in fact, popping into book stores and interesting little bauble and vintage stores, coffee shops, and cafes. I discovered the best iced matcha latte I’ve ever had and went back again for more and to study the process as they made it in hopes of recreating the simple and satisfying drink at home — spoiler: the magic is in the homemade almond milk. I recreated it with great success and am drinking one right now. I ate incredible meals, stopped into various bodegas and markets to collect unique snacks and teas that I couldn’t find back home. I spent my free time reading and soaking up the sun from the rooftop of the apartment where I was staying. I had no expectations, nowhere to be, and no commitments in place. I spent much time in silence. I went on the ferry. I stayed off of my phone.
If this sounds like a dream, it truly felt like one. The time away helped me settle much of the “mid-life crisis” state of mind, or whatever it was, just in time to return home to the open arms of my family the evening before the big day. And the big day was pretty wonderful incase you were wondering. Being a 40-something may take some getting used to mentally, but I keep hearing people say that their forties are (and were) the best years of their lives, and if that is what I have to look forward to in the decade to come then fuck yes, bring it on, I am ready for you!
Now that we’ve gotten that bout of vulnerability out of the way, let me say this: I have been alive for quite some time now and I have absolutely learned a lot of things over the past four decades. Here are 40 of them worth noting…
- Adopt good daily habits: wake up early. Move your body. Apply SPF. Wear matching underwear. Say good morning to the neighbor. Drink more water. Get some sun on your face. Cook from home as often as possible. Recycle. Read more books. Take care of your skin. Go to bed early.
- Work hard. Play hard. Work harder. Play harder. In that order.
- Do the things that scare you. Step out of your comfort zone. It’s how you grow!
- When in doubt throw on jeans, a clean white t-shirt, a black blazer, and comfortable shoes. Done.
- Take your time. We are in no rush.
- Go with your gut — always.
- Pay attention to what’s going on in the world around you. Educate yourself. Form educated opinions. Stand up for what you believe in. Help people. Donate your time. It’s your world and your responsibility.
- Your friends are your chosen family. Choose wisely.
- Dancing to your favorite song in the bedroom will cure any bad mood.
- Do not over-pluck your eyebrows.
- Don’t take yourself or life too seriously. Be spontaneous. Bend the rules. Being a conformist will do you no good.
- It’s okay to admit that you’re wrong.
- When people are critical of you or put you down, it is ALWAYS a reflection of themselves and what’s going on in their lives. It has absolutely nothing to do with you. (Remember that one ladies, and maybe suggest they watch Won’t You Be My Neighbor for a good ol’ fashioned reminder that it’s cool to be kind.)
- A hangover once you hit your late thirties is never worth that third margarita.
- Comparison truly IS the thief of joy. Try not to do it.
- Get off your damn phone, go outside, and live your life.
- Buy yourself flowers.
- Know how to make three delicious recipes well: a good salad, a no-fail pasta dish or roasted chicken, and a guaranteed-to-please dessert.
- Proceed with caution when going into business with someone. It’s essentially a marriage. Know them well.
- Wear white after Labor Day. Wear Ugg boots. Wear whatever you damn well please.
- You should always, always ask for help when you need it.
- Never rub your eye after chopping jalapeños.
- Smoking was never cool.
- Turn down that mid-week party invitation, stay home, order Thai food, and watch Sex In The City solo on the couch in your pajamas.
- Call your dad (or your mom, your stepmom, your aunt, your friend). Ask them how their day was and tell them that you love them.
- The most uninteresting thing about you is how you look. Stop counting calories, stop obsessing about that smaller pants size, eat the fucking cookie, eat the carbs, go back for seconds. Invest in your health and in your wisdom.
- The skeletons from your past have made you who you are. Stop shaming yourself. Don’t regret. Stand up tall and be proud of what you’ve overcome.
- Keep a stash of Baies candles in the closet at all times incase you’re in need of a last-minute gift.
- Stop caring about what other people think of you. Don’t strive to be doing things like someone else. Do not desire to be liked or admired.
- Make the Calico Critters talk to each other, have Pokemon card battles, embrace the messy and disgusting slime, and read bedtime stories in funny voices with the kids. Even though you have other things to do, they love it and they will be better for it.
- Surround yourself with people that make you laugh. Laughter is medicine.
- Don’t piss the mail lady off. She is more powerful than you think and can simply choose not to deliver your letters and parcels.
- Never give unsolicited advice. Be a good listener. Being an observer is better than being an attention seeker.
- Changing your mind is the cheapest form of therapy.
- Every woman should own a vibrator.
- Try that thing you are curious about no matter what it may be: a new food, a new style, a new hair color, a new hobby, a new career path.
- Speak to your children the way you would like to be spoken to.
- Really think twice before getting that tattoo. Having it removed will cost and hurt you 100x as much as it did when you got it.
- A new pair of shoes really does bring happiness, at least temporarily.
- Fall down, get up, move on. Rinse, lather, repeat.
StacyAugust 14, 2019 at 4:10 pm
These are great! I thought we had the same birthday (Aug 12) am I off by a day? This year I turned 47 and I’m committed to letting my gray hair grow. Inspired by #grombe and the idea that naturally gray hair is nonconformist and punk rock for us gen-xers. xx
CrosbyAugust 14, 2019 at 11:29 pm
So so so good. Happy birthday to you! Thanks for being an inspiration to me first as a teenager and now in my late twenties. Life’s a trip and it’s been such a treat watching your journey!
Sara FluméAugust 15, 2019 at 12:35 am
Awesome! Thank you and happy 40 from one to another ♥️
AlisonAugust 14, 2019 at 4:14 pm
Bloody brilliant! Happiest of birthdays to you.
RaeAugust 14, 2019 at 4:38 pm
Happy birthday!!!! And I hope your 40s are your best years yet!
Your solo trip sounds like perfect medicine for a 40th birthday, gonna stash that advice for when I hit mine in two years.
MeganAugust 14, 2019 at 5:14 pm
I have been following you for years and you have always been such an inspiration to me! Thank you for posting it, I needed it! happy birthday <3
Lizzie JaegerAugust 14, 2019 at 5:24 pm
I love you and I love this. Happy birthday James!
MiaAugust 14, 2019 at 5:34 pm
Yessssss!! I turned 40 last year and I can relate. I went on a trip too and it was definitely what I needed, away from my family. Happy Birthday James! Life gets sweeter with each year!
KelliAugust 14, 2019 at 6:34 pm
My mother always told me that every decade of her life has been better than the last — entering into a new one is definitely worth celebrating. Cheers!
Leah LamoreauxAugust 14, 2019 at 6:41 pm
You really should write a book one of these days. <3
Amy RosebrockAugust 14, 2019 at 8:12 pm
These are brilliant, as someone in her early 40s (spending #43 in NYC w a cousin, HBD to me) I wish I were braver, I just try to make it thru each day in the hope that tomorrow may be the one to head me in the right direction. Open heart, open mind.
JesseAugust 15, 2019 at 1:11 am
SilviaAugust 15, 2019 at 2:55 am
Hello James! I am 41 and I follow you since a decade ago! Thanks for the inspiration and welcome to the 40 sweetie! Regards from Spain 😘😘😘😘
AmeliaAugust 15, 2019 at 2:57 am
This is great, really great. I have two years, feel a bit like this advice will help make entry to my 40’s a bit smoother and maybe a bit more loose too. Love it.
bevAugust 15, 2019 at 6:15 am
Well you know I’m on board with 120,000% of this, James. And happy birthday, my fellow August girl!
DeAnnaAugust 15, 2019 at 6:29 am
I have absolutely loved reading this. I will read and read over again until and after my 40th. It’s on Oct 2 and I have been struggling with this birthday for over a year now. I think it has to do with the stigma around what have you accomplished by the time you’re 40. I feel as though I am in my early 20s with how life is these days; single mom, apartment living, barely making it between pays. Where did I go wrong?? I am in a long distance relationship (year and a half), but I’m not even sure where that is headed these days. James, you’ve made EXCELLENT points and I am for sure going to take a few of these to heart, well most of them.
ElizabethAugust 15, 2019 at 7:15 am
Simple and true words! I found your blog when I was in high school and am now almost thirty! Have loved following your journey James! ✌🏼 Happy Birthday
TarahAugust 15, 2019 at 8:53 am
Happy Birthday James!!! I have been following you for years and from cyber land I have to say you have always seemed genuine and lovely. Thanks for the tips. I will be turning 40 soon and I have to say I am not sure yet how to feel about it. It’s stirring something!!!
Lauren NelsonAugust 15, 2019 at 9:10 am
I want to print this out and read it every morning. Only partly joking. 🙂 Happy Birthday!
COAugust 15, 2019 at 11:48 am
Love this!! Happy Day to you! 🙂
FianaAugust 16, 2019 at 5:07 am
so gooood 🙂 thank you for this post! happy bday
ChloeAugust 16, 2019 at 9:59 am
What a list… I am about to turn 30 and I value the lessons your 40 years have taught you greatly.
ToriAugust 17, 2019 at 6:27 am
I turn 38 next month and I’m really looking forward to my 40s (we’ll see how I feel as I get closer, ha!) Totally bookmarking this. Also, number 10…I regret that more than the best friend tattoo I got with someone I no longer speak to. At least the tattoo itself is cute. Over-tweezed brows are not. (Thanks a lot, 1990s)
VanessaAugust 17, 2019 at 2:49 pm
Just reading this article make me feel good 🙂
Thank you and happy forties !
Arielle SaccardiAugust 21, 2019 at 6:48 pm
I am a mother and this helped me!
AnnaOctober 17, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Happy birthday bluebird!
ANA from Poland 😘 ( almost 39 )