I know it’s a bit early to write this post since my birthday is not until December but I couldn’t help myself. Forty is such an important number when the reality dawn upon us that we are at the midlife. It’s a great opportunity to look back and relish the four decades on this earth, learn from many experiences, and look forward to even more incredible years (hopefully!). “At the age of twenty, we don’t care what the world thinks of us; at thirty, we worry about what it is thinking of us; at forty, we discover that it wasn’t thinking of us at all.”- Anonymous Be yourself! If there is one lesson that is the most important, I’d say it is to be yourself. If you reach to a point where you need to choose between a relationship/job and your self-respect, chose the latter. Stand firm and value yourself. It could be something as simple as what you choose to wear. As a young girl I was told that people who are successful and want to have a good career (read medicine), don’t spend time on fashion. I think I can try fashion and be academically good at the same time- why choose one? Follow your heart! There will be times when people will tell you what you should or should not do. Listen, think about the advice but if your heart is set on something, go for it. In my personal and professional lives, whenever I felt torn between the advice and what I felt I should be doing, it was always my heart that won and I have not regretted making the decisions I made. For instance, my friends and family were hesitant of my decision of marrying someone from a different culture but I felt that my spouse and I shared similar values. Despite the advice of think again, make sure- I followed my heart and have just completed ten incredible years of togetherness. In my professional life too, most of my successes came when I acted upon what I believed in. Life is a roller-coaster ride, enjoy the ride! Life is not a bed of roses. It has ups and downs. It depends on our will to take the lemons and make lemonade. In my 40 years, every down in my life has provided me the opportunity to improve myself, to have a keen look at what I want most in my life and then go after that. End of a relationship is not the end of your life! We put a great value on the relationships especially the love-relationships. We feel like we failed if our relationship failed. Follow the point #1, if the relationship start feeling like you can’t be yourself or you are letting go of a person you are in order to keep the relationship going, it probably is the time to re-evaluate. Live in the moment! There is nothing you can do about your past and future is unknown, all you have is present. Do whatever makes you happy- a stroll, a cup of coffee, exercise, playing with the kids, whatever helps you lift your mood and bring a smile on your face. The power of positivity! I’d heard about making your password something that bring positivity in your day. I never thought that a phrase could have such strong effect until I put this in practice. My work email has a password that really jumpstarts my day. Every time I type it, it makes me smile and helps me feel positive even when it is a hard day. Also, keeping email/letters from my students and colleagues and my kids in a place that I can easily read when I am dealing with a rough day helps me remind that not all is bad and I am very fortunate to have people who believe in me. Midlife is not a crisis! We have all heard about midlife crisis, the feeling of getting old- gray hair, wrinkles, and increasing midriff. All that is true but midlife also brings a lot of good things. Most people are settled in life, career, and have made peace with who they are. Personally, I feel more confident, more in control of my life than ever. I am living my dream and really it is the best phase so far! Expectations are the recipe for disaster! Most often our expectations from others are what make us unhappy. I have learned that when I do things for others without expecting anything in return, I feel much happier. Since I have no expectations, any little (or a lot) act of kindness or thoughtfulness from the person brings a lot of joy. Be independent! For me, #8 and 9 go hand in hand. Don’t keep expectations that someone (spouse/parents/children/friends) will do everything. Instead I like to do my stuff myself. Moving to different city in India and later to a different country and learning to do things made a great impact on who I became. I can’t sit and wait for someone to do something for me- fix my car, file taxes, travel plans and parties, if I want something done, I am responsible for that not someone else. It also taught me that my happiness is in my control. No one can make me happy if I am not happy inside. Friends are forever! Often times we don’t put as much emphasis on friendship as we put on other relationships but it’s usually our friends who are with us during rough and happy times. Best friendships are those that do not require constant attention but pick up from where we’d left. I am fortunate to have my best friends from my college years who would listen to me even if I call them at midnight. Some people you just don’t click with, no need to waste your time. Move on and cherish the people who are by your side. Parenting is THE hardest job! Thank God I have an amazing partner. I was naïve enough to think that since I love kids it will automatically make me a great mom. After having kids I realized how much I have to learn and improve. My children, although they are utterly exhausting and frustrating at times, are the best gifts ever. The moments spent with them have been the best in my life. Perfect is an illusion! I am not perfect, I do not know anyone who is perfect. We have our own imperfections and as long as we are happy with these imperfections or we work to get better, we are fine. Jealousy and envy are some of the most damaging obstacles to happiness! Okay, I get it, I am not a saint! But what is lovely about being 40 is that we now know who we are, what we want in life, and what is important. I have learned that bigger house, better car or whatever materialistic things do not make me happier. My simple life on a farm was as much fun as now when I have everything I’d wished for. Be content is my motto. Have dreams! As a little girl growing up on a farm in rural India, I had dreams to fly and explore new places. People will mock you for having big dreams but don’t give up. I wish I could tell this to every girl in every community- you can achieve your dreams whatever those are, just believe in yourself! Travel opens your mind! We rely too much on TV/social media for our knowledge about the world. Going out of the comfort zone and travelling to places, trying new things helps a lot in looking at things with a different perspective. I find myself defending both India and the USA to people who have made their opinions based on the movies. I have been fortunate enough to travel across India and USA and many other countries. I go with an open mind without any perceived notions (mostly!) and let the place grow on me. It is much easier to accept a place (or a person) when you don’t see it through your own biases. Embrace the differences and live it up. And don’t just stay in luxurious hotels, they are same everywhere. If you want to really experience the place, walk the streets. See the natural landscape. Don’t get caught up in the little annoyances of the day-to-day. Cherish everything. Be wise with money! I learned this lesson hard way (may be like most others). Don’t spend what you don’t have. It is easy to fell in trap of credit cards since the money is just a swipe away but learn to discipline. When I moved to the USA (after going through hard time in my personal life), I fell in the trap of “retail therapy” and spend more than I could afford. Thankfully, I learned the lesson soon enough before getting in serious debt. I still use “retail therapy” as an incentive but much more mindful with money. I have also found that experiences make me happier than getting more stuff. And do cherish everything! We have one life and at 40, we have only half a life (I guess that’s what it means by midlife) so instead of wasting time in negativity, be positive, enjoy whatever life brings. These are some of my big lessons. I look forward to hearing from you lovely people- what would you like to add to this?