10 Things I Learned By The Time I Turned 40

On the heels of her 40th birthday Executive Editor, Amanda Carter Gomes, is sharing some the lessons she has gleaned in her first four decades.
Image Credit: Brooke Fitts

Image Credit: Brooke Fitts

I was 18 years old when my mom turned 40. I distinctly recall the celebratory dinner, complete with "Over The Hill" black balloons and an Elvis impersonator. My dad had reserved the room at a favorite local restaurant where my mother's friends and many family members convened for an evening of fondly celebrating and lightly roasting the guest of honor. In my naive teenage mind she was getting old and her sharp intellect, youthful glow and vivacious nature were surely starting to expire.

Image Credit: Brooke Fitts

Image Credit: Brooke Fitts

One month ago I celebrated this same milestone. I turned 40 and welcomed the decade with friends who are like family. Instead of a dinner party, we started the evening with a fundraiser benefitting the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, and instead of an Elvis impersonator, I requested my friends come back to my home and bring their favorite record for our listening pleasure. It was nothing formal and it felt far from "adult", but it was exactly what I wanted and when I fell asleep at, ahem, 4 am, I did not feel old — I felt vivacious, youthful and loved. 

I know sharing one's age not a popular admission, especially for a woman. This is something of an issue for me and is not new to this decade: why do we become devalued as we age? (Or why, at least, do we think we do?) Why do our experience, wisdom and perspective not increase in value directly in proportion to the years we have been on this earth? I know the scientific reasoning, but personally this is the healthiest my body has been in my adult years. In the past year I ran my first road race, and in the past 8 years my body birthed two beautiful, healthy baby boys. I have immense respect and admiration for my body that I never possessed at 20, or even 30 years of age. I feel more complete, whole and determined than I ever have in my life. 

Image Credit: Brooke Fitts

Image Credit: Brooke Fitts

With that said, I thought I would celebrate entering this monumental age with a few lessons learned during my first four decades. 

These are all lessons I am still learning and will be working on for the remainder of my years, so maybe my experience is your gain. And this holds true for me now more than ever: if we believe we get better as we get older, we truly do.

1. Surround yourself with a force of strong, supportive women.  The size of my force has expanded and waned throughout the years and at times the cast of characters has changed or rotated. But one thing has remained consistent: the women  I hold close are those who I can be my honest self around — no pretense, no competition, no bullshit. They love me as I am, where I am, always. 

2. Forget fashion trends and wear what works for you. In my humble opinion the most provocative thing one can do from a sartorial perspective is to eschew trends and wear pieces you love and feel good in. I know what works for my body and I invest accordingly. I also invest in companies that invest in women — and when said company is run by a woman in the aforementioned friend "force" (such as Tribe Alive) all the better. I am loving (and wearing for this photo shoot!) two pieces from their newly launched apparel collection: the Caftan and the Jumper. Both are beautiful and both are now staples in my personal wardrobe. 

3. Speaking of bodies, work on accepting your own. A current favorite quote is an answer from Zadie Smith's Proust Questionnaire interview in Vanity Fair: "What do you dislike most about your appearance?" Smith refreshingly replied: "I like it all. Self-hatred is for younger, prettier women." I am not saying I don't have days of self-doubt or moments when I am unhappy with my physical appearance, but obsessed with perfection I am not and grateful for this body I most certainly am.  

4. Fail at something.  Because we all have and it hurts far less the second time around — really, truly trust me on this one. 

5. Release expectations and benchmarks surrounding age. I was never a "by the time I am 25 I will be x, y and z" type of person, or really even a 5-year plan girl. But, I did have certain stigmas surrounding age that surprised even myself, stigmas that added unnecessary pressure and unwanted expectations. The unexpected opportunities life offers are rarely strategized or even planned. Perhaps I should rephrase this one to simply say: stay open — don't have so narrow a focus that you rule out the potential for surprise.

6. Self care. Self care. Self care. Be it counseling, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, energy healing, hot baths, long talks, long runs, longer runs with longer talks...you get the idea. These practices have saved me more times than I care to count and whenever I doubt I need them,  reminders are always swift and mighty. 

7. Enjoy the silence. Sometimes it is ok to just sit quietly, be it with a stranger, a friend, a parent, a child. Not every conversation lull needs to be filled. 

8. If you have a friend living in a far-off locale, visit them! Take advantage of flexible schedules and free places to stay while you can. Life gets busy and the list of excuses long. I did not always heed this advice and in hindsight I really wish I had. 

9. Give more. Tit for tat living is depleting. Who wants to constantly keep score? Give more, even when it is hard or you are hurt or angry or scorned. Take time to heal, then give more. 

10. Let yourself fall hard. When I met my husband I had never called anyone I ever dated my boyfriend, much less introduced someone to my parents. Within 5 months of dating him I had done both — and moved half-way across the country to live with him on an island I had never visited (or seen). Lucky for us, it worked out! But even if it hadn't, I would still do it all again; it was scary, vulnerable and amazing for all the best reasons. The beginning should be easy and if it's not, perhaps it is not the beginning after all. 

This is not a sponsored post, I am wearing two pieces from Tribe Alive's new apparel collection (that I feel great in and love). You can check out the entire line here and read more about the inspiration and evolution of the company (+ the incredible woman behind it) here.