Andy Richardson: More positives than negatives for being in your 40s – honestly
I was hoping for the Harley and the full-sleeve tattoo. I was hoping to run off to Bali with a 6ft 2ins blonde and develop an unhealthy gambling habit. But no. Nada. Pip. Zero.
The Mid-Life Crisis that is supposed to hit when you reach your 40s is still some way off in the distance. I’ll be honest; it’s mildly disappointing. I’d thought I’d be given carte blanche to behave badly, to move through middle age disgracefully, to secure tuts of disapproval making bad fashion choices and offending the neighbours. But I’m still waiting. Damn, damn and damn.
The Weekend gaffer is hitting 40 too, though I didn’t realise that until we started this week’s cover feature. And, to be honest, I’m reasonably sure she’s made a mistake. She’s probably miscounted the digits on her pink abacus, for I’d got her down as 34, 35 tops.
I’m not sure how happy she is about using up half of her life expectancy and I guess she thinks it’ll all be downhill from her. Ha. She couldn’t be more wrong.
As one who flew through the 40 mark almost a decade ago, I’m happy to report that although the body slows a little and the effects of too much food are less easily mitigated, not much else changes. Let me correct that. I’m not sure there are many more negatives about reaching middle age. The positives, conversely, stack up.
You care less about what other people think and become less inhibited You’re also less anxious and more content in your own skin.
Man, forget 40 being the new 30. 40 is the new 20. Forty is fan-bloody-tastic. Still fit. Still healthy. Still happy and with more life choices than in any preceding decade, I’ve no idea where there’s all the fuss. But I still hanker for the Harley. And if She Who Must Be Obeyed would turn a blind eye, I still wouldn’t mind the Bali trip and the unhealthy gambling habit. I have suggested it. And the tumbleweed is still blowing all the way down the road.
Recently, I spent a peculiar year on the road with an entertainer who is a household name. He was talking and singing each evening and my job was to host, smiling politely and asking all the right questions in all the right places. I’ve made a career of that over the past 30 years and long may it last.
So each evening I’d incline and ask what the Amazing Mid Life Crisis was all about, then I’d nod empathetically about the anxiety that had engulfed him when he’d reached a certain age; though in his case, I think, it was 50 rather than 40. And in the back of my mind, I’d think: ‘Why haven’t I once felt a pang of anxiety about getting older? Why haven’t I wanted to do something wild to rebel against Old Father Time’?”
In my case, the web of anxiety and self-doubt, the paroxysm of worry and dread have yet to strike. The physical degradation hasn’t really happened; save for putting on a little timber – though I’ve been doing that since my teens. And the desire to go and do something really crazy hasn’t been any more profound than it normally is. Though, in fairness, I’ve always lived in the margins, considering extremes to be normal, opting for an all-or-nothing life.
At the end of one holiday, I decided I needed a new challenge. I’d run a few marathons so thought I ought to get back on the road and run across, erm, Ireland. As you do. From North to South then East to West. So in the space of seven days, I ran-walked from Belfast to Dublin, then across to Galway, averaging 35 miles a day. The last day was gruelling. Walking for 40 miles on torn ligaments with an ankle swollen to the size of a small melon is no fun. Don’t try this at home, kids.
Perhaps my own mid life crisis will strike when I’m 50, or, more probably, won’t come at all. And I really don’t mind if it doesn’t. I’m not sure I need to beat my chest or reaffirm how glorious a life well lived can be. When you do a job you love, every day’s a holiday; nothing gets you down for too long.
Like the nutjob from this week’s cover who has spent a year doing all manner of crazy things to mark her coming of age, the key to happiness is spending time with those you love. And, thankfully, I get plenty of that. So I’m sticking notions of a midlife crisis back on the shelf and being grateful for my lot.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Not even for the blonde in Bali.