Ahhh, your 40s… Your kids are becoming more independent or have left for college, life seems to have finally settled into a comfortable rhythm, and doing something for yourself doesn’t seem completely irrational anymore. It may be time—or you may have just realized you finally have the time—to start a new hobby or seek out a new passion.
Doing something for yourself has moved to the top of your priority list, at last edging out that coveted top spot your small children held for so many years. So now it’s time to try one one of these hobbies on for size. You may be surprised to discover that you’re capable of—and even really good at—something other than raising children.
You no longer have to worry about little ones sitting still for Christmas card photos or trying to capture that perfect action shot at your kid’s sporting event. A beginner photography class is a great chance to learn picture-taking skills, introducing you to the art of photography beyond birthday parties and graduation ceremonies. Finally you have the freedom to focus on things like contrast and aperture.
The internet offers an endless amount of ancestor-seeking assistance, and what these services are able to access about your heritage may astound you. There’s a good chance your local library or college library staffs a genealogist, so make an appointment and go find out who you really are.
3. Playing a Musical Instrument
Piano lessons aren’t just for your kids, and if you’ve ever dreamed of strumming a guitar under a tree, why not go for it? Too nervous to go to a class? I’ve got one word for you: YouTube.
4. Writing/Travel Writing/Blogging
Don’t just Instagram your next cruise; blog about it. With the highest demographic of people joining social media being Baby Boomers, there is a huge untapped audience hankering for mature writing. And since that same audience travels frequently, they are eager to read about others’ adventures, recommendations, tips, and travels. You never know, you may even find yourself earning money from it.
5. Home Preserving/Pickling/Canning
I canned my first jar of jelly about 15 years ago, and friends made fun of me. Now big retailers like Williams-Sonoma have entire agrarian lines of merchandise, and suddenly it’s super hip to make your own pickles and marmalade. Guess what—it’s always been cool. Your great grandma even knew this. Why not jump on the jam wagon too? Plus, once you taste the heaven that is homemade preserves, you will never go back to Smucker’s.
6. Home Brewing/Wine Making
Two words: It’s cheaper. I discovered this when my teenager brewed beer for a chemistry project, and $5 later we had five gallons of IPA in my closet. When he made hard cider for Christmas presents, I was totally sold. Chances are pretty good there is a local home brewing club near you offering classes and info for beginners. Did I mention you can order chocolate flavored hops?
Somewhere in your newsfeed is that annoying friend who is always posing at finish lines with race medals. It’s no coincidence that in every photo she has a huge smile on her face—endorphins have a way of doing that to you. Middle-aged women are taking to running in droves, and with good reason. If you want to change your body, start exercising. But if you want to change your life, start running.
If you haven’t been to a yarn store lately, you may be in for quite a shock. Gorgeous hand-dyed fibers await you, and we’re not just talking about making granny’s scarfs anymore. And, bonus: Science tells us knitters are just plain happier people.
The creation of art and the stimulation of the mind that accompanies painting, drawing, or sculpting greatly lowers stress levels and generates relaxation and is often used as therapy for people with nervousness and aggression. It also keeps the brain sharp and can lower the incidence of Alzheimer’s. Besides, don’t you need some new stuff to hang on your walls now that the kid’s artwork is gone?
The psychological benefits and calming side effects of being outside with nature and taking care of flowers and plants is well-documented, but the best part about being outside and digging in the dirt? Gloved hands can’t swipe a phone screen.
11. Pole Dancing
No, I’m not joking. Pole dancing fitness classes are popping up (and down!) everywhere, and offer an unparalleled upper body workout. They’ve been proven to be excellent self-confidence builders while burning some major calories. Taught by former gymnasts, acrobats, and yes, the occasional exotic dancer, these classes can be found at traditional gyms and dance studios. And who knows, maybe your sex life (and not just your biceps) will end up thanking you.
It’s never too late. If you regret never getting your degree, or the first one you got had nothing to do with your real passion, then go back. Most community colleges and universities offer reduced tuition and grants for nontraditional students and those over the age of 50. Excuses stop now. There are so many things in life that can be taken away from you, but an education is not one of them.
When Julia Child was in her 40s, she was working in advertising and had yet to take her first culinary class. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t pen her first Little House on the Prairie book until she was in her 60s. You still have plenty of life left in you, and there is no better time than now to start really living it. Make your 40s the first decade of the rest of your life!