Lessons at 40

Since my birthday is in January, I get to mull over the past year of my life and the past calendar year all at the same time. Here, in random order, are some of the things I learned from a bumpy 40/2019:

  • Having a sunny view of life is a gift. If you consistently overestimate people, you will get hurt sometimes – but it’s probably worth it.
  • You must, however, find people you trust who tend to think the worst of people, and tend to be right. You then need to listen to them. Even if you plunge ahead despite their warnings or have no choice in the matter, they’ll help you fall a little more gracefully.
  • An obsession with unicorns is contagious. (Sighs, sips from unicorn coffee mug.)
  • It really is true that everyone should go to therapy at some point. I am totally going to be that mom who offers to buy her teenage daughter some therapy sessions and is met by an eye roll so intense she will need medical care afterwards. You think that running is your therapy, or your best friend is your therapy – but only therapy is therapy. There is nothing like talking for an hour a week to a person whose only job is to look out for your mental health and well being.
  • Women are incredibly resilient. Also: many people, including many women, love to talk about women being catty, or stabbing each other in the back, but that’s the biggest scam in history. It’s absolutely astonishing the things women will set aside when their principles are on the line.
  • Media organizations should be owned by journalists.
  • Confidence and talking about your own accomplishments are not the same thing. In fact, they often have an inverse relation.
  • Eighty percent of insects have not even been named yet. Isn’t that insane?
  • Vulnerability is the source of all power, because power comes from not caring what else happens to you next. Only when you are at the bottom looking up, or laying everything bare because there is no other option – only then are you truly powerful.
  • Finally: Adulthood is not conferred by any particular milestone, but rather revealed by sudden stress. You expect it when you get your diploma or your first paycheck, or when you walk down the aisle, or when you get wheeled into the delivery room, but it never arrives at those moments. You realize that it has happened when something unpleasant and totally unexpected takes you to the edge of a chasm, and you have no choice but to take a step out into the ether like Indiana Jones and hope that a bridge appears. It sucks, and it’s awesome, because when that bridge materializes under your foot, it’s made of everything: every shitty life lesson you would rather have skipped, every meaningful mistake, parents present and gone, friends and foes, hidden treasures you didn’t know you had. I look at my daughter and imagine that moment in her future. I am not eager for it to arrive, but it gives me additional understanding of why helicopter parenting is so silly. It all goes in the concrete mixer, good and bad: both valuable, both sturdy enough when the time comes.

That’s what I’ve got. What did you learn last year?

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter). 

Martin Mecnarowski via Shutterstock


3 thoughts on “Lessons at 40

  1. I can’t believe you learned all that in one year. I’m going to copy your post and save it for reflection, a sort of collection of “sayings of Chairman Mao.”


  2. KBS–what insights–I hope your 2020 has a higher ratio of unicorn moments to life lessons. Turning from personal to planetary, that 80% of insects statistic is incredible. I’m willing to join a committee to come up with names.


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