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14 December 2017Last updated
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Bring on the birthdays?

Dr Saliha Afridi, psychologist and clinical director of Lighthouse Arabia says that as 40 looms ever closer, she fees more alive than ever

Dr Saliha Afridi
10 Apr 2016 | 03:23 pm
  • Source:Getty Images

WHEN I WAS A CHILD, 40 SEEMED LIKE THE END OF THE LINE. I imagined it would be a time when I could hit the ‘cruise control button’ and live out the remainder of my years.

I was still at the point where birthdays were the best day of the year. From the themed birthday cake, to the party and the array of presents – I thought birthdays couldn’t get better. Why? Because I was young and every day was an adventure.

Fast forward to my teenage years and birthdays started feeling a bit different. It’s wasn’t so much about that special day anymore, it’s was about the number and what it allowed me to do. Each year added time to my curfew, driving privileges, voting rights, and a lot more freedom.

Then came my 20’s. I felt an urgency to get everything done. I worked through the checklist, handed down to me by my culture and society, of all the things a person should do. I ticked off finishing college, getting the ‘right’ career, earning good money and getting engaged.

By the time I was in my 30’s, the goals were slightly different: to be in good health, to get the right job, to find the right man, to have the right number children, to live in the right house and to establish the right relationships. I imagined that, by the time I was 40, I would have checked everything off and would be able to relax and live out my years in the castles I had built in my earlier decades.

I am now 38 and I can say that my life doesn’t look and feel how I thought it would at 40. It is not at all ‘down hill from here’ – how could it be? I feel like I just got the hang of life. Yes, a part of me is dreading the appearing wrinkles and the greying hair, but the bigger part of me is actually looking forward to the mystical and magical 40’s with excitement and anticipation.

A major realization as I approach my 40’s is that my soul doesn’t sit silent and dormant anymore. It appears as a voice that has always been there, but was quietened by the checklist goals. Now the voice is loud and clear and I have started to hear it in the most random of places. I might be at a coffee morning with friends when suddenly it starts to speak and tells me to get up and go live out my life’s purpose.

I hear it during a long work day, when it reminds me that what really matters to me is my family and that I haven’t given any time or effort to those relationships that day. Questions such as ‘Whose life have I been living? Whose values have directed my decisions?’ come to me while I’m buying groceries, or waiting for for one my my appointments to arrive.

This voice is forcing me to take a good, hard look at my life and my decisions. Every decision is being stress-tested to see if it is consistent with who I am and with the life I want to live.

It’s a scary process to have to assess all the decisions I have made up to this point, but it is also a beautiful process. I know this voice will guide me, and engaging with it is the only way home to my true self.

So I as I approach my 40s, I am making a commitment to set aside time to quieten my mind and really listen to myself. I am prepared to ask myself tough questions. And I am also prepared to summon the courage to make difficult decsions and to start life all over again.

If I could go back and speak to my younger self, I would tell her that 40 isn’t the end of any line and it is definitely no time to be hitting the cruise control. 40 is actually where the line begins and creation beckons. I think Carl Jung was right when he said life begins at 35 and that the most magical years of our lives are between 35 and 70. I look forward to ageing. Actually, I can't wait.

Dr Saliha Afridi

Dr Saliha Afridi