On Turning 40

Valentino rainbow birthday

When I was growing up, I had my whole life planned out (or so I thought).  But my plans stopped at age 37.  At that point, I figured, I would have been elected President of the United States (no, I’m not joking.  Ahh, youth!) and would be married with children.  And then I guess I thought I’d fade off into the sunset?

My point is, even a few years ago, I never imagined what it would be like to be 40.  I’m not sure the age scared me, per se, but something about it must have caused me to avoid even thinking about it (for a planner, this seems kind of strange, doesn’t it?).

But that all changed a year ago, when I turned 39.  Suddenly, it occurred to me that I’d turn 40 (and soon!), and I wanted to make the most of it.  I decided my main goal was to be in “sick shape,” but I really spent a year taking stock about what was working in my life and what wasn’t and trying to get my whole life into “sick shape.”

So I embarked on a year-long quest of eating healthier (which started with quitting Diet Coke), working out more, looking at what I’m grateful for in my life, and generally focusing on what I wanted my 40-year old life to look like.

A year later, I am super excited to be 40 and stoked for what’s to come.  No, I don’t have a mile-long list of plans (gone are the concerns for racking up the most impressive list of credentials– instead, I’m focused on what really makes my heart sing), but I’ve never been more excited for the future (and the present!).

In our culture, women are taught that age is scary; that there is a statute of limitations on awesomeness, beauty, etc.  I no longer buy it.  First of all, some of my most fabulous friends are well over 40 (which you’d never guess by looking at them, by the way).  One of the coolest people I know is my 95 year old grandmother who never stops trying new things and squeezing the most out of life.  (She got an iPad for her 90th birthday, learned how to use email and the Internet, and now loses her mind when the Internet goes down.  She also walks miles every day and is totally into fashion.  She reads multiple books a week.  And, well, can’t you tell she’s awesome?!)

And I genuinely believe I’m getting better with age.  It’s true that you stress less about b.s. as you get older.  With each passing year, it matters less and less what other people think of what you’re doing and more and more how YOU feel about it.  This is a priceless gift, and one that it’s worth getting older to learn.

I feel more alive now and more ready to embrace what life offers me now than ever before.  And for the first time in my life I’m letting go of plans and expectations for the future.  Sure, I have goals and things I’m working toward, but gone are the harsh prescriptions for what “must” happen by when.  In fact, this year, for the first time ever, I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions.  Normally, I have a mile-long list crammed with between 5 and 10 resolutions.  This year, nothing.  I still have plans and things I want to tackle (for instance, I just started taking piano lessons again, for the first time in over 20 years!), but I’m more flexible about all of it.  When something seems awesome and worth doing, I’m gonna do it.  I don’t need a list written on January 1st to make it happen.

I’m just going with where life takes me and making it my priority to enjoy it as much as I can.  When tough times come, I try to handle them with the same flexibility and general optimism I’ve adopted about the rest of it.  And I try to always focus on what’s going well; what I’m grateful for in my life (which happens to be a really, really long list, which YOU are high on).

I feel so grateful for the perspective that age has brought me.  And I’m ready for all the radness to come.

Thank you for being a wonderful part of my life!  How have your thoughts on aging changed over time?  (Or have they?)

Dress (similar here), purse, and shoes, all Valentino.

Photo by Kara Mercer

11 comments

  • lemead

    Welcome to 40! (you are a spring chicken – I hit the milestone last August). I have to say I feel ambivalent about it. I still feel 18 but I hate the signs of aging I recognize in myself. But I feel so grateful, in a way I never did before. Thanks for inspiring me that this can be the best time yet. xox

    • Thanks so much, Lindsey! I am surprisingly excited about the whole thing. I, too, feel 18, but I also genuinely believe this can be the best time yet (for a lot of the reasons you mentioned). Happy 40th year to you as well! We’re going to rock it!

      xx

  • Kirsten

    You’re an inspiration! I’m trying my best to get in good shape too!! I will think of you on days when I’m struggling to stay motivated…

    • Thank you so much, Kirsten. 🙂 That means a lot to me. I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed the process (I guess I like having a goal, after all). 😉 And the great thing about getting into really good shape is that the end is such a motivator, itself, for a million reasons. It makes the whole rest of your life feel even better.

      You’re gonna rock it!! Happy milestone year to you as well.

      xx,
      Ali

  • Megan Tsang

    I LOVE THIS POST! You look so great in this picture, Ali! Your post is so inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Thank YOU, Megan! I miss you and wish you the best on your adventures (and they better bring you back to SF before long!!) 😉

      xx,
      Ali

  • kimair

    i’m also welcoming you to 40! i remember at the time not wanting to make a big deal out of it; in fact, my husband and i went to see the red hot chili peppers at shoreline! i think you and this post are inspiring, and i love your outlook on getting older. as someone in a similar age group blogging in a world dominated by 20-somethings, i love seeing your style. you seem to be more self assured and confident in your choices which should be applauded. xo

    • Thank you so much, Kim! I love that there are bloggers like us who are shaking things up. I love seeing what you do and seeing how you put things together. Age is just a number, and you prove that.

      I thought a lot about what you said– about me seeming more self-assured and confident in my choices. I think you’re right, and I hadn’t really noticed it til you mentioned it.

      Keep up your great work and rocking it as you do!
      xx,
      Ali

  • This is so inspirational! Normally I abhor that word because it’s so overused, but in this case so appropriate. I adore what you shared about your Grandmother, she sound AMAZE! I’m so going to strive to live my life more like the way you laid out. I feel like I just read a self help book! <3

    • Thanks so much, Vanessa!! My grandmother is totally rad and a complete inspiration to me. She has taught me so much.

      I’m thrilled that you find inspiration here, and I know you will continue to rock it!

      xx,
      Ali

  • Eun

    You are beautiful in every way. And this post make me so happy. XO