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10 thoughts on being over 40

just celebrated another birthday and felt the need to reflect and say something profound about the occasion.

Birthdays usually trigger us to pause, if only momentarily, and assess our lives. They prompt us to think about the events that brought us to the present moment and envision the future.

This year, I have a lot to say.

Since sometime last year, I have written more than 400 thoughts in the Notes app of my iPhone. It was always a goal of mine to make note of my thoughts as inspiration for writing, but until last year, I had not followed through with the idea.

Part of the reason I began doing it is because I didn’t want to share these thoughts on Facebook as status updates. I wanted to keep them private. Unlike many in the world of social media, I am able to refrain from saying everything I think.

In the process of doing this more than a year, I am now much more disciplined about the thoughts and words I send out into the universe, and I now potentially have ideas for 400 columns, or 400 book chapters, or at the very least and most annoying, 400 personalized memes.

Here are a few thoughts that I will share with you as birthday reflection:

1. I’m 42 years old. A lot of women conceal their age or remain perpetually under 30 after they reach a certain number, but so far, I have not felt embarrassed or ashamed of my age. I’ve lived on Earth, a unique experience in the grand scheme of things, for 42 years. Some people never have the opportunity to live that long. I’m grateful to be alive and able to experience the mystery and magic of life on this blue dot.

2. Gratitude is one of those little philosophical mind tricks that will entirely change your life. I’m grateful to wake up most days feeling healthy. The other days make me even more grateful for the “boring” days. I’m grateful I have kind people in my life. I’m grateful I have fun jobs. I’m grateful I have a body that can run and move. I’m grateful I am lucky enough to live in a country with abundance when so many struggle with poverty.

3. In some ways, I feel like I’ve lived at least two lifetimes in 42 years, maybe more. This is perhaps more evident if you have students 18-20 years old in your classroom.

4. To deny any of those 42 years would be to deny years of life experience, love, loss, messages, memories, change, pain. I read something recently that said “pain is information.” That idea really resonated with me. To deny any of my 42 years would be like denying the scars on my right leg from a childhood bike accident or the night I propped my telescope on a car to look at the stars on a summer night, my foot slipped, and my leg scraped the tow hook on the back of the vehicle leaving a deep gash. It’s still there to remind me that I’ve always been a deep thinker, curious about the mysterious universe.

5. My life experience has served me well this past year in many ways. One thing I’ve been reminded of is that one of the most consistent characteristics I have had as a person throughout my entire life is a strong sense of self. I have always known who I am and who I am not. I’ve always had my own thoughts and ideas about the world, and I’m not easily wavered. My superpower of intuition also grows stronger each year.

6. In case you haven’t reached 40 yet, here’s another warning: Time flies. You may think it’s moving quickly now, but the clock spins faster after 40. Yesterday was last year. A decade ago was last month. This knowledge has made me bolder, more direct, more intentional about my life.

7. I see a lot of articles written that say in order to be happy, you have to love yourself. I think that’s a very vague statement that’s confusing to some people. They don’t mean you should stare into a river at yourself until you fall in.

You have to reach a point in your relationship with yourself when you decide that __(your first name)__ and all his/her flaws make him/her who he/she is — a really cool person. You have to be willing to protect ________, fight for ________, care about _________ and respect __________ as much as you would a sibling or another person you love dearly. You don’t let external individuals or circumstances falsely convince _________ that value and worth is not his/her birthright.

One day, just for a minute, think about yourself as an entirely separate person, a person you have been charged with protecting like your very on child. Are you doing a good job taking care of _________? Are you making sure he/she is happy, healthy, safe, well adjusted, has positive influences and is in a positive environment?

8. Forgive every day. If someone hasn’t cursed your mama, played with your heart like a Rubik’s Cube or kicked your dog, forgive them for trivial things that arise on a daily basis.

Many of us work or have worked in high stress jobs. Stress can not only make people crazy, it can kill them. Most people are walking around with a lot of “stuff” on their minds, and many of their actions are based on that stuff. It’s their stuff, not yours.

Forgive every day. Apologize every day. Press the reset button every day. Unless someone is deliberately and consistently mean. That’s a different story. The key to resilience is learning to forgive and forgive often.

9. About a year ago, I told someone that I didn’t really care about myself anymore. I think the comment was misinterpreted, and they actually thought I meant that I had given up on life. That’s not what I meant.

What I intended to say is that there is something nice about reaching a point in your life where you aren’t really interested in yourself anymore. Instead, you find it more rewarding to encourage and bring joy to others. You feel like you’ve done just about everything you wanted to do, short of winning an Oscar for a screenplay based on your best-selling novel, so you’re content and want to encourage others to pursue their goals.

A lot of people seem to be misguided in thinking that everyone should want to be someone “big.” Maybe there’s a time for that. But sometimes a small dream is just as fulfilling as a big dream.

10. This is currently my favorite quote. I hope it brings some of you comfort as well. “Praise and blame, recognition and disregard, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. Rest like giant tree in the midst of them all.” — Buddha

Lareeca Rucker is a contributing writer. Contact her at lareeca.rucker@oxfordeagle.com.

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

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