When 2016 rolled over, the first thing that came to my mind was – this is the year I will be 40. The thought of being four decades ‘old’ didn’t actually bother me. But then the annual birthday blues hit me again. Around this time of the year, I just want to curl up in a ball and toss obscenities at the world.
I know why it happens and yet I fall for it year after year after year. There’s one big, nasty word that has everything to do with why birthdays end up being exactly the opposite of what we think they should be: expectations. When another year rolls in and our expectations aren’t met, we end up with feelings of disappointment, depression, and sadness.
I woke up at 1 am this morning, no scratch that, I was half asleep, half awake at that time of the night envious to the snores of my children sleeping at my sides. I checked the news (I know I should kick the habit of sleeping with my phone!) and found out another massive quake hit Japan with imminent tsunami at the same Tohoku region devastated by earthquake and tsunami combo in 2011.
Suddenly, I felt small and mostly selfish with my birthday blues. Here I was, alive, safe and have everything I need but choosing to sulk.
I got up and grabbed my Moleskine note to write a few things I am glad I did/grateful that I did before I turned 40. Here they are:
1. Started and maintained a diary in my teens
I’ve always been the one who can better express in writing than talking so I started to write/document the goings on of my life since I was probably 12 or 13. It’s old school blogging and I am glad I did that because it’s always a joy to read my old diaries now that I’m 40.
And writing was therapy for me at that time, always been.
Diary writing is actually one of the habits I am very keen for my daughter to take on because it don’t only develop writing skills but a great thing to look back on.
2. Studied, lived and worked abroad in my twenties
I am grateful to be given the chance to study abroad (on a scholarship program) to Japan when I was 19. The diploma isn’t the only thing I got out of my four and a half years in the university – I gained resilience, self confidence and courage (to battle homesickness and the challenging academics at the same time). I also had the opportunity to discover a lot about myself while gaining an understanding of a different culture.
Back home, it could be easy to get stuck in the bubble of my own experience, but studying abroad taught me that there’s so much more out there.
3. Got married and had kids
I put an end to bad dates before I turned
Research suggests you’re more likely to marry a true peer and someone whom you have lots in common with if you marry in your 20’s as opposed to later. It makes sense. Couples who get married in their 20’s often meet in college, a time in your life when you’re surrounded by people who are of similar age and background and have similar interests. It’s easier to find someone who’s the yin to your yang in the classes, clubs, and extra curriculars you’re interested in, than it is to sort, or swipe through a random assortment of prospects online.
The husband and I met at the university in Japan and got married 3 years after graduation.
I had my first baby at 27 so now at 40, I have a teenager as my able travel travel buddy and whom I can talk and confide to like a friend and laugh with my silly jokes! On the other hand, my second child was born when I was 35 so feel I am still a ‘young mom’ and when he is 10 and big enough he could be my new travel buddy when the older one is off to college far away.
4. Travelled as much as I can (even if alone)
I went to places within Japan (only because I faced visa related challenges with my previous passport) – took railway short trips, climbed mountains, explored onsens (hot baths on natural springs) sometimes with a group of friends or if they are not available, alone.
Yep, alone, even when I was in a relationship.
In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “The man who goes alone can start today but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”
I was never uncomfortable with going solo (introvert alert!).
Except for trips home to see my parents to show the baby, travel for me took a back seat for a while. However, I picked up what I left off by travelling alone again when Pristine was 8 to Thailand for a blogging gig (!), when Benjamin was 2 to Turkey (another blogging gig!) and last year when I went off to Austria, just because.
5. Took care of my health
Although still a little frumpy than I would like, I am still glad I didn’t take my health for granted when I was younger.
I’ve always been active, conscious about food and adapt a healthier lifestyle because I have my parents as fitspirations. My father late into his 60’s still plays tennis 6x a week and do not have prescription meds to sustain him. My mom is super strict with her diet and can say no effortlessly to carbs and sugar, something I am still working on! They look and feel so much younger than their real ages.
While I had health setbacks earlier this year with a mild herniated disc from doing too much weights and plantar fasciitis (so much better now, thank God!), right now, I am happy to report that all my blood work are excellent and everything is normal – blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, etc.
And today I woke up, I am not in pain and that is ENOUGH. Health is wealth. As long as I wake up painless and can carry myself, I feel I can do anything.
BONUS tip: Take care of your skin too even if you’re still tight and plump and perky in your twenties. Never sleep with makeup on, exfoliate, hydrate and moisturise regularly so you could thank yourself when you look at the mirror the morning you turn 40 🙂