Sunday, 16 August 2015

Life begins at 40...or does it?

Recently I turned 40. On 17 July in fact - telling you this so you can put in a reminder for next year when I'm 41, I'm expecting a card!  There's a popular saying about Life begins at 40, and this was uppermost in my mind for a few months beforehand. In this blog I'll discuss whether such a thing is true, and reflect on what it means to be 40 in this modern world. 

I recall when I was but a mere accounts assistant at ICI in the mid 1990s my immediate line manager turned 30. I was only 21 but 30 seemed old, very old. I distinctly remember teasing him all day that he was now closer to 40 than 20 and how annoyed he got about this.

And now I'm closer to 60 than 20, how's that for karma?

Somewhere Rob Stockton is quietly chuckling to himself. Rob - I owe you an apology. 

So I wasn't particularly keen on turning 40 lest someone tease me in a similar manner. You see, I can give it out, but I can't take it. 

So I wasn't too happy. I remember my Dad turning 40 when I was a teenager and him seeming very old, my mum likewise. And my grandparents were in their 40s when I was born and have never seemed anything but ancient, so is this how I must look to my children?

I decided to end my 30s in style. I celebrated for four consecutive days, at work with my old management team, with my family, and with my friends. It was good, even if someone did injure themselves at my party. 

But where does this feeling that life begins at 40 come from, and does it still hold true in the modern, digital age? American psychologist Walter Pitkin popularised the phrase in his 1932 book, but prior to that average life expectancy itself hadn't been much more than 40. It is supposed to represent the beginning of the time when a person feels more financially secure and, if they have children, they are approaching self sufficiency. 

Well that's not true for me. I don't feel financially secure, although admittedly more secure than when I was 20 or 30. And my children are nowhere near being self sufficient, financially or otherwise. In fact, just last night I had to borrow £1 off my Dad, so maybe I'm not even self sufficient yet either. 

This article suggests that 40 heralds the beginning of the end, bringing the time when forgetfulness, lack of concentration and poor focus become more apparent. 

So is this what awaits me? Well from a career perspective and looking above and ahead of me in my organisation, sector and profession, there are plenty of people 15-20 years older than me, and more, doing great things in their working lives and I see no evidence of them failing anything. 

And yet...

...my paternal grandfather had to finish work through ill health at age 48...my father had to finish work through ill health at age 42...and my paternal uncle only made it into his early 50s before he too finished work. Perhaps there's something genetic about it?

Even this article suggests that men usually don't feel settled and secure until age 54. So does life begin at 54 nowadays?

I guess it could. If people are taking longer to get onto the housing ladder then a mortgage could easily last until someone is 60. Careers are longer, so on average most people will be made redundant once and have one complete career change, and someone in their early 50s could be starting out on a brand new and more successful career. And with children often arriving later in life, a parent could be in their mid 50s before those children are self sufficient. 

So maybe I will be ok. I've always been the youngest on any management team I have been part of, and whilst I've lost that title recently I'm still one of the youngest, so life could yet begin for me at 40. 

And I feel quite good at 40. Family wise, I'm in a much better place than at any other time I can remember. Physically and mentally, I'm in great shape, again far better than at any other comparable time. Career wise, I've had a great last decade and a half and am in a good position to shape my own future over the next decade and a half. And THEN I might feel financially secure. 

Plus I lost my hair in my early 20s and have looked 40 for a long time. But now I actually AM 40, I think I'm looking pretty good for it. 

I was going to say I look pretty hot, but that might be stretching it. 

Basically that's the Bobby Charlton rule though. He looked 60 when he was 20, but by the time he was 60 he had grown into his looks and age. And there's more. Look at Gary Barlow and Jamie Redknapp, and David Beckham, all men who seem to be better at age 40ish than 20 years earlier. 

So maybe 40 is the new 20.

Certainly it could be for me. I feel more energised at 40 than I did at 18, 21, 30 or any other milestone I can remember. 

This blog is called the Power of Three and on the About Me page you can see why. But for me I think I've got things balanced nicely at the moment, having given the necessary attention to each area. I hope I can give others some ideas on how to balance theirs too.

But then I could give my younger self some advice, but I know I wouldn't have listened to it. 

Someone once said that at 40 you develop judgement. Let's see if I have. I've got a big decade ahead. 

Till next time...

Gary

PS in other news, hopefully you'll forgive the indulgence of a very personal blog. Back to a more professional one next time round...