No, I’m afraid 40 is 40.
It is not the new anything. It also has been and always will be just 40.
Just like grey will never be the new black and stand-up comedy was unlikely to become the new rock ‘n roll, 40 is not the new 30, 50 is not the new 40 etc etc etc.
Don’t believe the marketing types who are trying to sell lifestyle products or services, or those in denial about reaching middle-age. 40 is 40, end of.
I turn 40 in about a month and I’m a curious mixture of underwhelmed and galvanised.
The last time I got anywhere near excitable about a landmark birthday was when I turned 13, but then I found out like all teenagers that things don’t really change that much.
So, 16, 18 and 21 were all celebrated but hardly felt like life-changing moments. For my 30th I whisked myself away for a few days and enjoyed being anonymous and alone in a large European city, but there was no blinding realisation.
But now I’ve done the inevitable and reflected a bit. Actually it isn’t taking a long hard look back at the last 40 years, more a case of looking forward to the next who knows how many I’ve got left.
I’ve been compiling a list in my head over the last few weeks.
It isn’t exactly a “40 Things To Do Before I Die” list (mainly because I can’t think of 40 things). But it features stuff I would like to do – either again, or try for the first time – now that mid-life is upon me.
I’m not a great forward planner, so I don’t know if any of this is practical or realistic. But, what the hell, you only live once and life is short and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah…
Here goes. This is the list – in no particular order of importance or timescale:
1). Get back on the bike – push-bike, obviously, as I’d look frankly ridiculous on a motorbike on account of my exceedingly short legs and general countenance. I started going out and about on my bike a couple of years ago then stopped in the run up to our wedding as I was afraid I’d fall off and look (even more) horribly disfigured in my wedding photos.
2). Take my wife on the honeymoon – we had a great few days in Paris after our wedding, but my wife’s health problems meant the grand plan – touring around New Zealand for a while, or a bit longer – was put on hold and still is. But one day…
3). Write for me – yes, I am a journalist and I blog and I write all sorts of interesting things for interesting clients, but there’s stuff in my head that doesn’t get to come out as much as it should.
4). Beard – I need to make a final decision about whether I should bother or not, all this fannying about isn’t helping. I love the idea of not shaving, just trimming, but I’m still concerned that with a beard and a bald head my face will look upside down.
5). Learn a language or two.
6). Fly – take some plane/helicopter lessons, at the very least do a proper bungy jump again.
7). Get creative with my hands – I think I’m a frustrated carpenter. But I might not be, I might be an incompetent one.
8). Become a kept man – as close to being a lifelong ambition as I’ve got (apart from the writing thing), I’m hoping my wife’s amazing creativity and talent will help me to ease myself out of the world of work and into a life of leisure.
9). Kick a rugby ball about – a boy, a ball and a big open space. Life doesn’t get any simpler or better.
10). Try to get interested in gadgets – I like looking at pictures of them and reading about them, but I turn into a cack-handed imbecile when I get my hands on them. Why?
11). A dog – a tricky one this, I love the theory of having a big silly dog but I’m not sure the reality will live up to my daydreaming. Plus, we still have a narky cat eating, sleeping and well, eating and sleeping some more, at home and he’s likely to get the hump big time if we introduce a dog.
12). Write a song – every list needs a random wild card, welcome to mine.
13). Lose the chip, or at least learn to control it.
14). Explore more – (a bit like the honeymoon one) travelling with my wife is great, but we’ve had to seriously curtail our expeditions over the last couple of years and I want her and us to reach a point where we can start heading off into the bright blue yonder again.
15). Ignore lists and people who make them.
16). Go to the Olympics – as long as it isn’t taking place in China.
17). Go to the Rugby World Cup – not counting any matches held in Wales, too close to “home”.
18). Buy a camper van – for driving about in, obviously not for camping in. One reliable enough to take around the world, maybe.
19). Kids – hhhhmmmmm…
20). Paint – I used to love doing it in my teens and maybe should have kept at it (instead of doing Economics for A-level – silly, silly boy).
21). Don’t have regrets – what’s the point, its too late. That’s why it doesn’t matter if some of the things on this list do not happen, even if none of them come off then there’s bound to be a good reason.
22). Busk – I have no musical talent and I’m a Welshman who can’t sing, but I reckon I could earn a few pennies.
23). Build a house – I don’t care if it is a kit house, but it would be good to find the right design and the right location (and the money) – using my new-found carpentry skills, obviously.
24). Canoe the River Usk – from the muddy banks of Newport, floating by the Legendary TJs and the old Art College, through Caerleon and the numerous pubs of my mis-spent teens, 20s, occasional 30s, onwards down the Usk Valley to who knows what.
25). Learn to play electric guitar like a cool person – the fact I’ve put “cool person” shows how unrealistic this one is. It is probably a fairly stock dream too, but quite a feat for someone as musically challenged as me.
26). Continue to have fun writing – tricky one this. I’ve never been one to analyse what I do or how I do it, I just do it and I enjoy doing it. I want that to continue forever and not feel pressured, precious or any other negative p-word about it.
27). Be a mascot for the Welsh rugby team – those bloody kids shouldn’t get all the excitement, especially when they can’t truly appreciate it. Right?
28). Perfect my impressions of Bogart, Brucie and Dave from the Winchester Club.
29). Love and be loved.
30). Learn how to chop veg and other food stuffs like a professional chef – not that my continued enjoyment of cooking hinges on it.
31). Do a stand-up routine – I’ve already taken to the stage in an acting role because it represented a personal challenge for someone who prefers to shrink into the background, so why not try comedy too?
32). Have my own van – I love driving vans. My dream job would be to write features for a newspaper or magazine for a large sum of money, then deliver the copies myself in my own van – or just drive around aimlessly if I’m a kept man.
33). Never wear blue denim jeans again – I don’t know why, but I haven’t worn a pair of proper denim jeans for about 10 years and so it seems unnecessary to start again now.
I think that’s enough to be going on with. I don’t want to add stuff just for the sake of getting to number 40.
But I will reserve the right to make additions to this list if new ideas come knocking. Equally, I will alter and subtract as I see fit – after all, this is my life and my list.
I’m planning to update on any progress I happen to make.
Life begins at 40, so some continue to say.
But if you think that, surely you’ve already wasted too much of your life already?