Life Begins at Forty
It’s not just a saying, it’s a reality
As we are coming to a close in 2021, I always take time to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned throughout the year. What I could have done better, what takeaway I received from my surroundings but most importantly where am I going.
This is a practice I’ve adopted in the last few years, especially as I near the big FOUR ZERO. I’ve learned many things about myself throughout the years. Physically, mentally and spiritually.
Physically I’ve learned that my body is not a ramming tractor and I need to take good care of it and fuel it with good nutrition to aid in optimizing its performance. In my twenties, I had no idea what a good diet was and mainly dieted to look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel (an endeavor I failed miserably at considering the Southeast Asian body does not have the bone structure to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel).
I consumed foods that were high in sugar and were quick to make since I convinced myself that cooking for one was a waste of time. What I never realized was the nutritional value of take-out or ready-made meals versus home-cooked meals from scratch was completely different.
In the last few years, I’ve taken to cooking more meals from scratch. Not only for my child’s sake but also for mine. With every candle added to our birthday cake, our dietary needs change dramatically. I learned this the hard way in my early thirties when I gained ten pounds without realizing it. I ate and drank the same things but the weight just kept creeping on. I started reading up on the body’s metabolism only to learn that as we age, our body’s metabolism slowed down dramatically, especially for women.
That explained why I looked like a Pufferfish with a Santa Claus belly. I woke up one day and everything was flabby and loose. I looked in the mirror and screamed like Macaulay Culkin trying on aftershave in Home Alone. The good news was that I learned this was not a death sentence and was reversible.
I had to do the unthinkable. I had to start working out. As you can tell from that sentence, I am not a “Workout” person. At that time, I had only attended one Yoga class in my entire life. I knew that only I could take care of me. I also purchased a pair of weights and started working out daily.
I always thought working out was overhyped, mostly by bodybuilders, the Gym, and sporting goods companies to get people to buy their merchandise and services. As an Asian woman, it was drilled into us that it was what we put in our bodies that would determine our weight (stay away from sugar, carbs, chug down ten cups of Green Tea a day and you’re good to go).
It was definitely a wake-up call when I read that with age, we would also lose muscle density and agility which is why working out is crucial especially as we move forward in our years. This was what led me to start working out in my early thirties. Thanks to the advancement of tech and the internet, I was able to do workouts from the comforts of my home without paying hefty gym membership fees or showering in the dreaded gym showers. After a few months, I lost the ten pounds I had gained.
Working out has now become part of my life and routine. It is something that I make a conscious effort to do, no matter where I am (Yes I also work out when I’m on vacation. Shocking).
These physical changes are just some of the things that we come to realize as we go through them. In our twenties and early thirties, time seemed to have stood still. Then our mid-thirties come along and we begin to realize we are not so invincible after all.
When you have passed at least three decades, you begin to know what you are good at and what you love. For me, I found my passion in writing. It is always something that I have done from an early age, and throughout my professional career, but it was never something that I was deeply passionate about. It was never my endgame. That is the beauty of time, give it long enough and you will be introduced to a new version of you in your 40s that you never met in your 20s and 30s.
The biggest realization about myself this year is in relationships and the people that are in my life. One in particular. I have been in a relationship with a man that I have waited nearly half my life for. We are not tied together formally but we have a deep bond that is unbreakable. Despite being thousands of miles apart, we always find ourselves back to each other like two ships passing in the night. For the last 18 years, I have always waited patiently for that one moment when he would come to realize that I am enough. Enough for him. After nearly two decades, that time still has not arrived. Time is funny, it flies by like a gentle spring wind carelessly caressing you until one day you find yourself standing all alone asking “Where did all those years go?”.
At first, I waited for him for a year thinking, “He will pop the question next year”. Then one year became five, and five years became a decade. Before I knew it, I have been waiting on a man for nearly two decades with no end in sight. He was my first love and honestly, probably the love of my life and soon to be “The one that got away”. We met when I was in my early 20s. He was as close to my Knight in shining armor as a man could be. But even fairy tales have to come to an end, and now I realize I have to put an end to mine.
I am not the same girl he met all those years ago. I’ve become a woman. He too is no longer the man that I fell in love with. Throughout the years I think we refused to see and acknowledge what we have become. We chose to see each other the way we were eighteen years ago. Some memories should have stayed memories. Fairy tales are legendary because they ended at the right moment. Sleeping Beauty woke up, Cinderella danced the night away and Rapunzel left her tower. That is where their story ended and that is why their stories survived the test of time.
Our fairy tale, I truly believe, should have ended long ago. Continuing our relationship now is similar to seeing Sleeping Beauty disheveled, running around chasing after her three children with the Prince nowhere in sight. Cinderella is constantly sweeping the palace floors and Rapunzel opened a tavern and waited on people all day long. Some stories are better left untold and unfinished.
This is where he and I are at. Our fairy tale has gotten to a point where it is no longer a dream, but a bitter reality that none of us want to face. The two ships passing in the night were meant to merely pass each other and not harbor onto one another. It took nearly twenty years but I finally understand this. You can love someone and let them be a memory. You can love someone and not be with them.
The beauty of age is that it comes with maturity. After nearly two decades of having blinders over my eyes like a horse being led to a new barn, I am now able to see clearly that this fairy tale has run its course. It is time for a new chapter. A new life. A new dream.
During our youth, we have this sense of need to please everybody that we love. Especially those we have romantic attachments to. Whether it be doing our hair the way that person likes or wearing clothes that they find appealing. The beauty of being in your forties or close to it, is we begin to realize how precious time is. Every day, every hour and every minute is one that we will never get back. And at the end of the day, we realize that no matter how hard we try, if a person does not love us for who we truly are, then we will never be the person we are truly meant to be.
And the person we are meant to be is really the key to happiness. We can not be happy living in an image someone else constructed for us.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and saw a person that you liked or disliked? Well if you have passed your thirties, you know what I am talking about. At first, you see the girl who wants to fit in and belong everywhere. Fresh-faced, plumped with Collagen and no lines in sight. Fast forward several years, after working many late nights, crying over heartbreak and finally, late nights nursing a child’s fever, that person in the mirror in your twenties has disappeared. She now wears lines on her face like a warrior with scratches on her shield. Scratches earned in battle and won with perseverance.
Throughout all the battles life throws our way, I have found that only one thing was able to get me through. Faith. Faith for a better tomorrow, faith that yesterday’s lessons were worth it, and faith that in the end, everything will be alright. Life is unpredictable. No matter how we calculate, swerve and redirect.
We will always end up where we are meant to be, doing what we are meant to do, with whom we are meant to be with. Up to recently, I’ve never accepted this philosophy. I always thought it was just a saying for people who were contented with what they have and were too lazy to fight for what they wanted. And being content was never in my blood. It was not how I was raised.
However, the last two years have definitely given me a new perspective on life. There comes a time where we can do everything in our might to move heaven and earth and the world still will not budge. That’s when we come to realize that there is a higher being in control of our lives. Be it Karma, Destiny, or God. There is a higher power that we cannot see. Accepting this has really changed my life. Before, as with many of my peers, anxiety ruled my mind. All my thoughts were filled with “What if”. But now, as the world is spiraling out of control with Omicron, climate crisis, and potentially more wars around the world, oddly enough I have come to terms with all of it.
I started taking up meditation and began learning from Buddhist Monks on how to calm the storm in my mind. And that has made all the difference. Be present. Be in the now. Be with your breath. Tomorrow is uncertain, yesterday is the past. But now, this moment is where we are at. This moment is what determines our tomorrow and this moment is where our energy needs to be. This has brought new meaning in taking it one day at a time. This has brought new peace and enlightenment that has made facing the world a little less scary and a little more worthwhile.
Living through three decades and now entering my fourth, I have learned so many lessons along the way. People often ask “Do you have any regrets in life?” I can with all certainty say that I do not have any regrets. Not because life wasn’t hard or because nothing turned out the way I wanted, but because going through everything that I have in the past three decades has taught me compassion, humility, and kindness.
Every time someone slammed a door in my face, it humbled me and made me work harder. Every heartbreak that I went through taught me to love myself even more. How can anybody regret such enriching experiences which have brought us to where we are today, and be who we are meant to be in this lifetime? If anything, looking back, I wish I could tell myself to stop fighting so hard for what destiny has written in our book of life.
Life is like a river, we must flow with the stream and not fight the current.
I’m excited for this new journey that I am on. I feel like I have become the person that I was always meant to be. Tim McGraw once said, “My next thirty years will be the best years of my life”. You know what, I believe they will be mine too. And I hope yours as well.