January 21st 2018
What it's like to... turn 40
January 10th 2016 / 1 comment
Susannah Taylor is 40 next week. Is she happy about it or sad or downright having a midlife crisis?
This week I turn 40. How does it feel? Lordy where do I begin? Generally I’m good with it (I think), although I feel I shouldn’t be here yet, that it’s not fair this has come round so soon. The last ten years have disappeared in a heartbeat - it seems a second ago that I was 30, two seconds ago that I was 20. I blinked and now I am 40. How on earth did that happen?
The answer, I know is kids and this website. I had my daughter Bella at 31 and my son Oscar at 33. The first 4 years went by in a whirr of sleeplessness, exhaustion, rivers of white wine, vats of Earl Grey tea and splats of sweet potato puree. I scrambled through trying to juggle work with the aftermath of the children explosion. Work-wise I used it as an opportunity to try new things - I went freelance from my job at Vogue but I also started a children’s art company (I paint and I sold prints of my paintings). Sounds idyllic - working from home, painting, creating a website - but believe me it was tough and I was juggling two careers with two ankle biters. We then moved out to the countryside and I decided to go back into the beauty industry full time, so I started a blog called Get The Gloss….the rest is history and so was the second half of my 30s.
If you’ve ever worked on a start-up you’ll know the thrilling ride it is, but it consumes every waking hour of your day and night - my third baby if you like (and one that involves commuting into London). Whilst I feel my 20s were all about parties, late nights, and beginning an amazing career (I worked on the launch of Glamour in the UK when I was 24 and then became beauty editor at Vogue at 28, doing photoshoots and travelling around the world for stories), my 30s have been about trying to stay awake at parties, being up all night (work and kids), and desperately trying to see friends (and often failing, I’m so sorry to those I haven't seen). For the last ten years, I don’t feel I have come up for air, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
What have been the highlights? My children - I am blessed beyond belief to have two serene (I know, rare, I’m not sure how the hell I’ve done this) little people who amaze me with their brilliance daily. And then there’s my husband - the most amazing father I know. Who knew, when we got together at 19 after doing an art foundation course together (and living in a grizzly Tower Block in Tooting) how unbelievably awesome, patient and caring he would be? It turns out I seriously got a good’un. We share everything: childcare, cooking, who makes tea in the morning, the school runs, the general load of life and all the stress that comes with it and what's more I’ve never had to ask him to do any of it. We are equals in every way and I cannot thank him enough for just being born like that.
All those cliches about turning 40 are true. I 100% don’t feel it. My 88 year old grandmother always says she feels 21 which I now understand. We think that one day we will feel grown-up and that we will feel like ‘a mother,’ ‘a business owner’ or a ‘house owner’. You don’t, you just feel like you, but with a child, a job, a house in tow. I’ve also realised that everyone is just winging it - no one really knows what they’re doing as parents or entrepreneurs or in the workplace, there’s no Life Manual, we're all just learning on the hoof, so trust your instinct it and do it anyway. What else? Hangovers really last two days now and I definitely need more sleep at night. Whereas I used to be able to survive on 5 hours if I absolutely had to (I remember starting a new job once as an intern with a prestigious fashion editor having had 2 hours sleep!), today that would reduce me to tears. None of this is bad - it’s a great excuse to be able to sleep more (I love bed) and I freaking hate hangovers anyway.
Am I having a mid-life crisis yet? I don’t think so. From the outside some might say I am as I have gotten into exercise big time and have done a few nutty things like triathlons but that wasn’t because I felt time was running out or I needed to ‘get fit before 40’. I started it to feel less tired post children and it turns out I absolutely love it and it enhances my life no end. Exercise makes me feel alive and strong and properly in tune with myself and my body and I do it up to 5 times a week. It’s also an incredible way to calm my ever-sprouting creative brain. Nothing de-stresses me or orders my mind like exercise, not meditation, nothing. My one regret is that I wish I’d got into it earlier. In my twenties I suffered a few horrible years of terrifying panic attacks and anxiety which left me so frightened - I literally thought I was dying - that I didn’t tell anyone apart from my close family about it (I learnt the best thing to do was actually to tell people about it in the end). I’m sure that exercise would have kept it this at bay.
What else? Looks-wise, I'm actually feeling pretty fine, probably helped by a good few years of horrible squats and high intensity training sessions as well as a truck load of beauty products (more of this on GTG!), plus a lot of advice from nutritionists, which, BTW I think it the key. Clothes-wise I can safely say I will never to be frumpy in my 40s, nor in my 50s or 60s for that matter as fashion is such a big part of my life - it has been since the day I was old enough to dress myself, and it always will be.
The bit I don’t like about entering this new decade is that your own mortality looms into view. In my 20s and even until I was about 38 I never thought about how long I might live or that there might be a finishing line somewhere in life. But there’s something about being roughly half way through your life (fingers crossed) that makes you realise rather terrifyingly you won’t live forever. It probably sounds ridiculous but this frustrates me - I feel so annoyed that you have this colourful world at your feet and you’re not going to be able to experience it always! I desperately want to see my children as they grow old, to know their children, to see as much of this amazing planet as I can. I am unafraid to experience things in life - I would go into space if I could!
What will I do differently in my 40s? I need to make more time - for myself and my family and friends. There’s this mad rush in your 30s to set yourself up for the rest of your life… I definitely felt this pressure big time and I definitely would say I have given it my all, every last bloody drop. I work really really hard, I play hard, I exercise hard, I go out of my way to treat people well and I love hard, and I think you really get out of life what you put in. I cram so much into my life though that I honestly can’t remember the last time I sat down and just watched TV. I’ve never seen a box set, never sat through an episode of Downton Abbey and that’s the honest truth. I don't actually want to watch it, but if there’s anything I need it’s just time to do nothing.
And so as I journey on into the next chapter of this amazing experience we call life, I would say the overwhelming vibe I have is of feeling grateful. I'm grateful for the amazing friends I have, both old and new (some of my best friends are my school mates, but I have made lifelong friends in my 20s and 30s too), and I feel grateful for my family, the diversity, love and colour in my life, for the fact I am healthy, alive and kicking and feel pretty fine. Bring on the next decade... or see you in space.
Reaching a different milestone? Read how Online Editor Judy Johnson feels about turning 30