Getting older and the feeling of wasted years

I don’t mention it often, but in 6 weeks time i will be turning the big 4-0. 40 years of life on this planet. A part of me still feels like the young 20-something eager to learn everything about the world and herself, and in many ways that’s still true. i am still learning about myself and my body, but now that I’m approaching 40 i’m expected to have figured everything out.

I feel a level of sadness about missing out on my youth while i allowed time to get the better of me as a young adult. about why i didn’t try harder to get the most out of my life when I was younger. I was in (i suppose you could call it a rut) for much of my life while yearning for more up until a couple of years ago when finally I felt like i had woken up out of my sleepwalk for the first time. Everything in my life became more vivid. Strawberries tasted sweeter, the grass between my toes felt soft and warm, colours were suddenly more vibrant. I was awake, finally, after all this time. Even my relationships became stronger.

That was a wonderful time, but it lasted seven months. Suddenly after seven months we were thrown into this pandemic and once again i was feeling lost and isolated. My relationships started to crumble around me and my world became more muted. I’ve tried so hard to stay positive through this pandemic… but after having what feels like my first 37 years stolen from me, to have 7 months of pure euphoria and oneness with my life and my body, only to have it taken away again because of the pandemic hurts. And now in 6 weeks i’m turning 40.

I know 40 isn’t the end of the line by any means, and there’s still so much ahead. Hell, there better be because I still feel like i’m just getting started. But it’s also hard to be able to call it my youth. My youth was taken from me, and i feel like i’m grieving the thought of what could have been.

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Welcome to our community and thank you for sharing such a personal experience. It’s so natural to have these questions and feelings as one turns 40. After all, it’s been marked as a “key milestone” in culture. Especially when you feel like you haven’t spent your previous years living the way you’ve wanted to. The good news is, as someone who is already 41 and turning 42 soon, turning 40 is just another day and age IS another number. The important thing to look after as we age is our mainframe, physical health and what makes our souls feel alive. I can promise you 40s and beyond can only get better if you intend it to. I know the pandemic has in so many ways robbed us all of so many experiences, of time, and of friendships, relationships and opportunities.

Grieving your past days under 40 is perfectly normal and allow yourself that time and space to experience those feelings but remember too, there is so much more that lies ahead. Think of what a 50 year old, a 60 year old, a 70 year old you in the future would say to your 40 year old now?

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Thank you fir sharing. I can definitely relate!! I actually had a tough time with turning 40, 41, 42… 43 was better and I am feeling more at peace with getting older and where I am in life. I feel like I’m 32. I think it’s all about how you feel in spirit.

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Happy early birthday! I totally feel you about getting older. This is also a big time for the usual mid-life crisis. It’s a time when people tend to take a look and see how they want to live the second half of their life. It’s a journey I’ve been on the last few years. I think I’m coming to more peace around it.

Thank you for sharing in such personal detail, what you are feeling. I can almost feel your angst and uncertainty and what seems like, and maybe I’m projecting, regret?

I have had my fair share of “what the fXck was I doing for all these years?” that can send me into a tailspin of shame, regret, and coulda woulda shouldas. One my emotionally sound moments, I recall that shame is self torture and no experience was a waste, on my less shiny moments, I am mired in comparisons to others of a similar vintage who seem totally together, and for whom 40 was a defiant celebration.

All this is to say, I understand the brief of what could have been. I find myself inadvertently walking down memory lane, missing a certain joyous time, and fleetingly, thinking “oh that’s fine, I’ll have that again.” Just to realize, no, that time has passed, and you can’t go backwards.

The bright spots I glean from your note - you know what euphoria is and that you’re capable of it. It or something better will come again, no matter what the year says on your driver’s license. Your youth wasn’t precisely taken from you, it just happened, and without knowing the severity of what happened to you in those years, all I do know is that these next 40 years are for you to define.

I hope some bright spots and memories appear, unconsciously, and you remember what the situations were to create those 7 months of euphoria. I’d ask that you look inward, not outward.

You are brave, you are enough, and if you can believe that shame, regret and remorse are traps that you can identify and try and address and put to bed, my hope is your mental process will start giving you more windows that are open to joy, big or small.

I apologize for the ramble. I have had a great deal of cognitive behavioural therapy, and these are some of the learnings I lean on when I’m feeling despair, regret or shame. You are a wonderful, capable, intelligent person whose awareness is a gift and a curse. I hope you can slowly shift it towards a gift. Big hugs from a stranger who is creeping towards 40.

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