By our 40s, we’re supposed to have the secret recipe to life. We survived the fun, outrageous, live-on-the-edge exploration of our 20s and pushed ourselves into new discoveries in our 30s. We spent our previous decades traveling, soul-searching, and figuring out who we are. We consumed copious amounts of alcohol and partied until sunrise. We convinced ourselves that by the time we settled down with our partner, had the fairy-tale wedding, and bumped out some bambinos, the party lifestyle would not be missed. After all, we now have the ideal life—the husband and kids, the mortgage we’ll be paying off for life. But that’s OK, because we have it all, right?
Or, is your reality as a 40-something a little more like this?
You had a solid vision of how the future would look, but your 40s sort of crept up on you. The career that was once the driving force behind your life—70 hours, the norm—is no longer a source of satisfaction. The partner you adored and solemnly swore to love ’til death do you part is not as shiny or fun thanks to the harsh reality of child-induced sleepless nights. The wine bottles that were traded for baby bottles leave you with aching visions of your past escapades. You seek solace in friendships, yet at times even they can’t seem to lessen the emptiness and uncertainty you sometimes feel.
For some of us, this feeling of dissatisfaction comes gradually. Others wake up one day and think, Is this seriously my life? Considering the amount of soul-searching, self-development, and investment we put into ourselves, it only adds to the guilt that we should feel this way.
Shouldn’t we be grateful and content with our allotment in life and what we already have? As Jack Nicholson’s character Melvin Udall once said, “What if this is as good as it gets?’ Should we embrace where we are, what we have achieved—even if we’re not completely satisfied with it—or should we forever strive for more/bigger/better/happier?
We are bombarded with countless articles, feeds, shows and posts telling us to write down our goals, find our purpose, pray, ask the universe for answers, read books A, B and C, get a life coach, and seek counseling. Yet I, as a 40-something, am still surrounded by people who are questioning their choice of partner, their career path, their parenting ability, their very purpose in life. Some are working through divorce, some are still singletons searching for The One while questioning if there even is such a thing. Let’s be honest: How many of us are just going through the motions?
At this point in the story, I’m supposed to provide some mind-blowing insights, some inspiring quotes that will inspire you to take stock in your life and continue to seek your purpose, to find what makes you happy.
Yet I don’t have any of that. What I do have, however, is the reassurance that it’s OK to feel some dissatisfaction, some confusion, some “crap, this isn’t what I expected.” And I have some assurance that you’re not alone. So many women are working through the very same thought process.
There seems to be an urgency to sort it all out and find the reason for the lack of satisfaction in our lives. Maybe we are just ungrateful assholes who can’t appreciate what we have, or maybe we are so selfish and self-consumed that we are just incapable of gratitude.
Or maybe we are just a little shell-shocked. Our eyes have just been opened to the fact we’re at the halfway mark—if we’re lucky—and it’s time to get real about what matters in life, time to conduct a sort of check-in to see if this is the way we want the rest of our lives to pan out.
I am certain that we still carry within us that untapped potential, those undiscovered dreams, and that if we remove the layers of others’ opinions and our own self-limiting beliefs, there is still an abundance of experiences waiting to be explored.
I’m also certain we don’t need to have all the answers. Who really does, anyway? The future doesn’t have to be all mapped out. Perhaps we just need to embrace the uncertainty, revel in the opportunities it has the potential to create, dream some new dreams, or see if the unrealized ones still fit. Maybe that bit of uncertainty is just the thing we need to peel away our layers and uncover our untapped potential, just the thing that will shift us into the next stage of this glorious, unpredictable life.