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Nicola Mostyn turns 40 with a cheese toastie

I turned 40 last week. “How does it feel?” people kept asking me. “It feels heavy,” I replied. “A bit like having the flu. I’m nauseous, with a headache, and a terrible craving for bread and melted cheese.” 

Then I realised, that was just my hangover.

Actually, 40 is interesting. Around 40, things start to become clear.

In your twenties, life is complicated and confusing. It can feel like you missed a memo, or like a colleague has gone AWOL with the keys to the office filing cabinet. As time goes on, the list of things you don’t know how to do just gets bigger, while the can-do list grows ever more irrelevant since, when you’re 28, no one is particularly interested in your one-handed cartwheel.

But it doesn’t matter. Because any day now, you’ll arrive at ADULTHOOD, and be blessed with social confidence, financial acumen and the ability to complain in restaurants.

Aaanyday now. So you wait. And you wait. You get really good at pretending you know what the hell is going on. You have a drink, or 17. You wait some more. Life gets ever more complex, but somehow you don’t feel any more equipped to deal with it.

Here, many people embark on the oldest job share in the world – a relationship. Look around you. Opposites have attracted all over the place and with good reason. Your friend may assure you she was drawn to her husband’s twinkly eyes and amusing shirts but it was his ability to give PPI callers short shrift that finally swung it. Similarly, he fell desperately in love with her the moment she navigated them round Spaghetti Junction. Lo! They joined forces and became a complete person. (This is very similar to Plato’s theory of soulmates as expounded in The Symposium, except with more emphasis on DIY).

Still, as you get into your thirties, you may suspect this is no lasting solution. Your job share partner might be lazy, or suddenly seek new employment with a funky young start-up. They might die. They might never have turned up to the interview to begin with.

Eventually, as we approach 40, the horrible truth dawns. We actually have to do life just as we are, essentially a child dressed in adult’s clothing, a reverse Wee Jimmy Krankie if you will, except that instead of doing our times tables and collecting novelty rubbers we’re required to negotiate a mortgage rate and file for divorce. (This explains why your dad stole your train set and your piano teacher was always drunk.)

If you had missed a memo, it would only have read: “Nobody has any idea what’s going on and your parents didn’t either! They were just winging it! Bonkers, eh?”

We’re all in the same predicament. Even the Dalai Lama probably has days where he thinks, “Hmm, I hope these people don’t think I’m, like, an expert or anything”, but luckily for him this is a basic tenet of spirituality so he just styles it out.

The upside is, at 40, there’s nothing else to hang on for – no better, more capable version of yourself waiting to emerge. This is it. You are it. And there’s a sense of relief in knowing that.

So, how does 40 feel? Like comfort. Like peace. Like a delicious warm hug from a gorgeous friend.

Oh no, wait, that’s a cheese toastie.


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