Today, I turn 40.
In celebration, I took the week off work and we kept the kids in day camp. So, I think this picture basically sums up where I’m at:
Raising two girls and blogging has given me a lot of moments of reflection regarding being a woman, how to do that “successfully and be happy” and what I should be doing to equip my daughters for success and happiness.
It’s no small order. A few years ago I read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, which is a memoir, written by Moran who is both a columnist and a mother. The New York Times review noted that Moran, 37 at the time, had two young daughters, and so
…the book is, in part, a protective reflex against them growing up to idolize Kim Kardashian and spend half their disposable income on depilation. It also springs from her horror at the shuffling unwillingness of many women to claim a use for feminism.
Perhaps I am now feeling that same motherly “protective reflex” combined with a need to take stock of my own life to date.
So, with that, over the next few days, I thought I’d share forty thoughts and reflections on what I’ve figured out about life, or at least my life, by 40.
40. I Don’t Need or Want a Party
This MATTERED at 20. I remember my friends surprised me by bringing everyone out to the bar for me. It was wonderful. At 40? I love my friends. But I don’t need a party to know I’m loved and accepted. Instead, I want dinner out with my family, time alone and the day off work. I want that Panini from my favourite local bakery for lunch and to get my hair done. That’s my plan for the day.
39. It’s not “Good Enough.” It’s Good.
I’m a full-time working mom. My kids are seven and four. Making both work and home WORK took effort. I spent a number of years thinking the goal was to strive for good enough until a fellow working-mom finally said:
The work you do isn’t just good enough.
It’s really good.
So stop that.
Point taken. And a great example of needing to monitor your inner critic – that inner gremlin. To that point, I’ve always loved this board (I first saw it at the school where my eldest does Brownies):
38. You Really Can Walk – And You May Enjoy It
I had a flashback to my childhood two days ago as I walked my girls to the store at the end of our street. My youngest asked why we couldn’t take the car and I found myself saying:
You have two perfectly good legs.
I remember my mom’s friend telling me the same thing, at almost the same age, with almost the same – slightly dumbfounded – tone.
We were both right. I love walking. I dropped the car off for servicing this morning and walked home. Took about an hour and a half. It surprised my husband, but I jumped at the chance. Outdoors, quiet, a bit of exercise, and a purpose. Upon reflection, I’ve sought out chances to just walk like this since high school. It’s restorative.
37. It’s Not a Race
This was first spat at me when I was 12 at swim practice by a girl I was passing.
So, for clarity, that sort of was a race.
But, in life? It really is true. Because there are many ways to be successful and many paths to get to those many success points. Your success may not be what I want. Even if it is, your life is not my life. And vice versa. And who get’s what first? Really doesn’t matter. Figuring that out was pretty liberating.
36. But Sometimes it is a Contest
For clarity: life overall is not a contest. He who dies with the most toys still dies and all that. But to get what you want? That first part-time job? Getting in to university? The internship you want? The job you want? Those are usually contests. The first key to success is making sure you have the skills you need to compete in contests that interest you. The second key is figuring out which ones those are so you don’t waste a lot of time and energy on all the other ones out there.
35. So Keep Your Options Open
I persevered through all the maths and sciences in high school long after knowing I wasn’t likely going to be our generation’s engineer in the family (that’s my brother – third generation) because my parents felt it was important to “keep your options open” until you know what you want to do. I also did public speaking and made it through French Immersion. While not clear at the time when any of these would come in handy, I currently work with scientists, speak publicly at a number of events, and married a francophone. So clearly, you should listen to your parents.
34. If you can, Travel Lots and Live Lots Before Kids
My mother used to tell me all the time to wait to have kids. LIVE. TRAVEL. Because life is OVER once you have kids. As her eldest, I was never sure how to take this. But I took the advice. My twenties was my selfish decade. And while there are days I would like a bit more energy for the kids, I wouldn’t trade that decade for it.
33. Date a Variety of People
This was my mother’s other oft-repeated advice to me: Date a lot of people to figure out what you CAN’T live with in a husband. Solid – and pretty enjoyable – advice to act on.
32. Get Grit
When I was 15, a swim coach pulled me aside at training camp to tell me I did very well for someone with no natural ability. At the time I was crushed. But I’ve come to see it as an asset. I’ve got grit. In my experience, that usually trumps talent.
31. Build and Nurture Traditions
Growing up, it was our annual visit to Fern Resort. In University, it was volunteering annually to be a frosh guide, and Wednesday night’s at Oliver’s. Now? To name a few, it’s weekend swims at the gym with my daughters (complete with sauna and steam), season tickets to the ballet with my girlfriends, helping build a homecoming tradition at my university, and Sunday night dinners at my parents. Traditions bond you to the people you care about and invest you in community.
So that’s my first ten. Come back tomorrow for the next installment of brilliance or navel gazing (depending on your view).