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Get Off My Lawn: Forty Thoughts On Turning Forty

Thursday May 31st 2012

by Paul Armstrong

Lots of nothing, and then there's something


I knew this day would come. It had to. I suppose it didn't have to; but for all my miserly, curmudgeonly tones of anger, I do actually love my life; my family, my friends. And now here I am, finally aged into my already elderly tendencies. I am turning 40 years old tomorrow. 


So, here are random, unnecessary and useless things I've learned, observed and felt in the four decades I've been alive (but really minus the first four or so because I doubt I learned any good life lessons; other than I shouldn't dress like the devil and chase my sister through the hallways unless I want her to shut her door literally in my face) and what it means to me.

  1. Life is a lot of nothing with moments of action.
  2. A sneeze becomes a spasm, becomes a soreness, becomes a day in pain.
  3. Every time you get sick you legitimately wonder if this might be when you get cancer.
  4. I don't feel forty because I don't know what I'm supposed to feel like — I feel twenty and thirteen and thirty five, I'm every one I've ever been, painted over time and time again, until finally I'm this age and the layers begin to weigh down.
  5. Try to learn something new every day — it doesn't have to be a new skill or a trade, just a fact. For instance, I learned yesterday about misophonia.
  6. I don't care for your music. I heard it before, 25 years ago. I don't care for your clothes. I wore them before, 25 years ago.
  7. Hemorrhoids. They will happen.
  8. I haven't had a full night of sleep in 13 years. And falling asleep at 10pm feels amazing; like you just egged your least favorite teachers house and didn't get caught and get into bed excited that you got away with something.
  9. Moderation dammit, MODERATION! I've seen 16,000 diet crazes, health scares, danger foods and but one thing seems to be a constant: stop stressing about everything (it's far more unhealthy than eating a hamburger); and stop eating so much.
  10. Enjoy who, what and where you are — now. Maybe the plans you had for your life decades ago didn't go according to plan, but you are where you and there's no reason to do anything but enjoy it, make the most of it, and take every opportunity to experience things you might not get the chance to do again. A plant can't walk to the other side of the garden, so it might as well grow where it is (I just made that up, and I feel horrible for having typed it).
  11. There is no such thing as being prepared. I'm 40 and I still feel as if it all can be taken away at a moments notice.
  12. Listen first, speak last.
  13. It gets easier to do what you know is right because there is no reason or time to care what someone else will think of you. 
  14. No short cuts. If you're going to say something, don't shorten it like you're in the military sending secret code — use your brain write "That's funny" (not LOL; which honestly, who would ever say that? I'm going to do that "in real life" now, when I'm with friends and they say something funny, I'm going to say "I"m laughing out loud!") or "I'll be right back" or "that's crazy". You're making us all dumb!
  15. Despite how horrible people as a whole can be, they can also be amazing and a blessing if you allow them the grace to be human.
  16. Honesty is the only way to be free.
  17. There is a difference between wants and needs. Most of the time, what you really want isn't something you really need.
  18. Learn to say no.
  19. Some friendships have an expiriation date.
  20. The sun becomes your enemy.
  21. I can't ride rollercoasters without feeling sick. 
  22. I'm realizing that there are places in this world I will never see with my own eyes. People that I have known that I will never talk with again. 
  23. 80% of everything is unimportant. Unless there is impending danger (physically, financially, emotionally), let it go.
  24. Though you realize your parents will age, watching it from afar is much more difficult than you could ever expect. 
  25. Every now and then I get the feeling that I've completely made up the world; that I'm actually in a hospital, an old man in a wheelchair, lined up along the wall halluciating the world, escaping the truth. In reality it's just my fear of aging, of losing my mind, of what I can't stop and can't know.
  26. Don't use excuses. If you are asked to do something, be there, show up, do it without complaint, do it the best you can — you will never go hungry.
  27. I don't know what success is. If success is based on how much money you make — I'll never be a success. If success is based on your fame — I'll never be a success. If success is based on your title or your rank or your power — I'll never be a success.
  28. Family comes first — your spouse, your kids. Everything you do ought to flow from the idea that whatever you do, you do what is best for them: where you work, why you work, where you live and how you live, where you go, what you buy.
  29. Just say you're sorry.
  30. Drive with the top down and the windows open.
  31. Never settle for automatic, try things manually — drive a manual car, build something with your own hands, cook your own dinners, use a lawnmower that isn't self-propelled, walk to the grocery store — it makes what you're doing more rewarding and interesting.
  32. I'd be lying if I said that all-you-can eat steak buffet's didn't sound amazing.
  33. Let go. Think about the things you will reminiscence about in your final moments of life. You'll never look back and think about how much more work you wish you did, how you wish you spent more time away from your kids (well, I don't know your kids, maybe you will; I mean, they could be terrible human beings, like Kim Kardasian) or how much you loved worrying about your bills. You will think about your spouse, your kids, your friends, the moments you where with them. Those things are where you need to spend your emotional time, everything else is dross.
  34. The worst thing in life is the stomach virus, especially when you and your spouse have it at the same time.
  35. Don't let people should on you.
  36. Nothing in life is guaranteed, so don't act like it is.
  37. Your tastes will change (or maybe they just dull). I find yourself liking foods I used to hate — cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus (but not Lima beans, they're still horrible).
  38. Have "do nothing" days where spend one day a month watching cartoons in your pajamas while eating cereal, or playing boardgames or video games. Just "be".
  39. Laugh as often as you can. Go out of your way to find things that make you smile.
  40. I've made bad decisions. I've wasted money. I've been cruel and aloof. I've said things, done things, written things that have hurt others. But more than anything else I've been blessed. With a wonderful wife. Amazing children. Incredible friends. A career I love. Sure i drive a mini-van, live in the dull and lifeless suburbs, but half way through my life I can only pray that the last half will be as wonderful as at the first.

  41. I will never wear shorts unless I'm swimming or cutting the grass. 
  42. There are no more men left in the world — we don't chop wood, carrying a ton of bricks in a wheelbarrow up a mountain to build our own house, we don't fish with our hands, eat raw meat, punch bears or fix a severed finger with rope and superglue. We create things that don't exist and play games and whine about waiting in lines for food that contain things that aren't natural to go home and watch shows that tell us that every thing is going to kill us but to relax and dream about living in mansions and where someone else will raise our kids. I'm not a man. But I want to be.
  43. I will always have a facial hair conundrum. 
  44. A good pair of shoes makes the journey more comforting.
  45. I've roasted my own coffee, shot photos for a professional football team, made and wrote and acted in movies, but I will never ever ever ever ever never skydive.



Comments for "Get Off My Lawn: Forty Thoughts On Turning Forty"

I'm not sure I get #35 :)
Or am I shoulding on you now?

by Mathieu Gosbee
Thursday, May 31st, 2012

You would be "shoulding" on me if you told me I should rewrite #35 because you didn't like it. Anyone telling you what you "should" do is getting should on.

I hope I have this much perspective in 10 years.

And happy birthday to ya, a day early.

Regarding #2 ...

From one recently-forty to another, I cannot recommend too much the benefits of taking that series of unfortunate events to your local ENT and saying, "So, any ideas?" It's entirely likely that he or she will tell you that you are not doomed to dread your next sneeze like a scrawny kid in a dodgeball tourney.

Yes, the next recommendation might be sinus surgery, but man ... once it is done, once you recover (quickly) ... the difference is just life-changing.

(And you might just find that other things in your list aren't so much of a problem either. Like #3, #8, maybe even #21.)

If it makes you feel better this is the first time I've commented on someones blog post in like 4 years.

Also I just had a #3 the other day and thought of you :)

This is really good Paul, thx for sharing.

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

I see what you did there with "should". Ha!

Thanks bro. I'm about 4.5 years from that mark. I try not to think about it.

I'm with you on #32... Except that a man could only partake of it if: a) he killed the cow with his own hands, b) he butchered it himself with a swiss army knife, c) he barbecued it over a fire he built from scratch, etc. (a la #42)

...pretty sure I'd go hungry though, so maybe I should recant.

Great post.

Excellent thoughts.

Also, I've taken skydiving off the plate too.

Fantastic, Paul. And happy birthday. I did something similar when I turned 30, I wish I had saved it. I posted it on a forum that isn't there any more.

Great post, Paul! I will bookmark it and re-read it in 5 years.

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