As the gap between me and 40 starts to close, I can’t help reflecting on all the things I’ve learned on the slippery slope to middle age.
I am a gloriously flawed, mildly neurotic individual with a lot more to discover about life, love and lightening up. At the same time, life has chucked a few curveballs my way and I’ve coped with varying degrees of success (and sometimes not at all). Here are some of the things I wish I’d known about getting older.
1. You will lose friends.
As we navigate our way through this glorious, messy life, we are continually redefining ourselves. Our ideas and priorities change as our wrinkles become more defined and our pert bosoms migrate south.
Why then is it so hard to accept that some friendships aren’t in our lives for the long haul? Sometimes life takes you in opposite directions and you no longer connect in a way that adds value to either of your lives.
I’ve lost many friends along the way, especially since I became a mum. I often wonder if I should have put in more effort, tried a bit harder to keep the friendships afloat but just as some friendships have disappeared from my life, the ones that have remained are stronger and mean more. I also have new friends who have quickly become indispensable. People change, people move on, I’ve learned to appreciate the ones that are around.
"I’ve learned to appreciate the ones that are around." Image: Supplied.
2. Option B might be the best thing you ever do.
All I ever wanted to be was to be a musical theatre performer.
After completing my theatre studies in South Africa I moved to Australia ready to knock Rhonda Burchmore off her perch.
After years of unsuccessful auditions, I had to face the devastating reality that I wasn’t good enough. A few wrong turns and I ended up working as an assistant accountant (don’t ask). Spreadsheets are pretty much the enemy of the creatively-inclined and I felt stuck in an unfulfilling career rut. That’s when I returned to uni and started to pursue my other great love: writing. I scored a job writing a column for a newspaper and worked my way into a communications job in the health sector.
Eight years later, I’m running my own communications business and I absolutely love what I do. While aspirational memes will encourage you to dream big and reach for the sky, sometimes that sky will come crashing down and you’ll have to go with option B. It might be the best thing you ever do.
3. There are worse things in life than a double chin.
Growing up in the dance world, not a day went by that I didn’t despise my body.
I went on my first diet at the age of 11 which was soon followed by filling my body with laxatives, slimming pills and not ‘too much’ food. After being gifted with two children and a lazy thyroid, I am now a cuddlier version of my former self. It seems ironic that I am the fattest I have ever been but the most at peace with my body.
Hating your body is a waste of time. It’s also exhausting, cruel and ungrateful. My body has birthed and fed two beautiful sons who make me happier than I ever thought possible. Do I want to get healthier? Yes. I will get there. In the meantime, learning to love and accept my body with all its lumps, stretchmarks and dimples is a daily yet essential challenge. And if I’m having a bad day, a kaftan hides the bloat.
"My body has birthed and fed two beautiful sons." Image: Supplied.
4. Cancer will touch too many people you love.
If you told me that cancer would become a big part of my life when I was 20, I would’ve scoffed and downed another UDL.
But over the years many people I love have fallen victim to it. My beloved aunt lost her battle with ovarian cancer at 55. I was staying at her home when the doctor knocked on the door and gave her the news. Eighteen months later I was singing “Smile” at her funeral. Since then my mother has had major surgery to remove cancer cells, my husband’s aunt has battled breast cancer and my in-laws have had more than one cancer scare. At least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable so I’ve recently taken a more proactive approach to my health by understanding my risk factors, performing monthly breast checks and encouraging my friends and family members to do the same. If you’re high risk, you can’t afford to wait until you’re over 50 for a diagnostic mammogram, a preventive approach is the key to a long and healthy life.
5. Haters gonna hate.
As a writer I’ve copped a fair share of abuse from keyboard warriors. I’ve been called a “moron”, “loser” and a lot worse for writing tongue in cheek pieces that aim to make people laugh rather than riot. The online world can be a cruel and callous place full of poorly targeted vitriol but it can also be a lifeline when you feel isolated. There will always be haters. Don’t let them break you. Use your energy on the lovers and love-bomb them back.
Getting older doesn’t always mean getting wiser but it can help you decipher what’s really important. For me it’s all about investing in the people I love, creating meaningful connections and striving for a long, fulfilling and healthy life.
This post was written thanks to our brand partner Pink Hope.
Here are some things we have learnt as we have got older:
Pink Hope is a preventative health organisation working to ensure every individual can assess, manage and reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Pink Hope also provides personalised support for at-risk women.
The generous support of partners takes us a step closer to the day where breast cancer is a thing of the past and until then helps us ensure every Australian woman knows her risk and has the power to change her future based on that knowledge.