I am far from having all of life’s answers — in fact, as I get older, I think my list of questions keeps growing — but I do think there’s value in acknowledging what life experience has taught me.
Shortly after I turned 40, I kicked off a blog series here called “Things I Have Learned.” I started with 40 things I have learned at 40, listing one life lesson I’d acquired for every year I’d been alive, and followed it with guest posts:
- 40 things I have learned at 40, by Margaret Yang
- 44 Things I Have Learned at 44, by Scott Daris
- 35 Things I Have Learned at 35, by Amanda Hirsch
- 23 Things I Have Learned at 23, by Brian Frankel
- 70 Things I Have Learned at (nearly) 70, by Stephen Cain
- 50 Things I Have Learned at 50, by Ann Belote Weir
- 40 Things I Have Learned at 40, by Lisa G.
- 38 Things I Have Learned at 38, by Amy Spooner
- 36 Things I Have Learned at 36, by Catherine Mulligan
I love many things about this series, including the different ways different writers approached the concept and the range of a 23-year-old and a nearly 70-year-old each sharing some of what life had taught them. It was also fascinating to see how life sometimes taught people different and even opposite lessons, yet how universal some lessons are.
So a New York Times article earlier this year almost felt like it should have been numbered to 44 and included in the series, as Pamela Druckerman wrote about some of what she’d learned heading into her 44th birthday.
Her column, What You Learn in Your 40s, said in part:
If you worry less about what people think of you, you can pick up an astonishing amount of information about them. You no longer leave conversations wondering what just happened. Other people’s minds and motives are finally revealed.
Eight hours of continuous, unmedicated sleep is one of life’s great pleasures. Actually, scratch “unmedicated.”
There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.
Emotional scenes are tiring and pointless. At a wedding many years ago, an older British gentleman who found me sulking in a corner helpfully explained that I was having a G.E.S. — a Ghastly Emotional Scene. In your 40s, these no longer seem necessary. For starters, you’re not invited to weddings anymore. And you and your partner know your ritual arguments so well, you can have them in a tenth of the time.
Forgive your exes, even the awful ones. They were just winging it, too.
When you meet someone extremely charming, be cautious instead of dazzled. By your 40s, you’ve gotten better at spotting narcissists before they ruin your life. You know that “nice” isn’t a sufficient quality for friendship, but it’s a necessary one.
By your 40s, you don’t want to be with the cool people; you want to be with your people.
But with apologies to Pamela, I have to disagree with her on this one:
It’s O.K. if you don’t like jazz.
Of course we all have our own taste in music, but if you don’t like jazz, maybe you just haven’t found jazz that’s right for you. For me, traditional jazz makes my heart feel so good that I’d like to suggest maybe you at least try it?
Life teaches us all different lessons.