(Almost) Midlife Musings on How I’ve Changed As I Approach 40
I’ve transformed into a sunnier version of myself this year despite the on-going horrors of the Covid crisis, and I think it’s down to the fact I’m booty shaking my way to turning 40 in November aka midlife (whoop, whoop). Its less of a crisis here, more of a realisation I like my damn self and I want to shout about it.
Accumulating age and experience is making me feel happier than ever and I’m here for it.
On reflection, so much has fallen into place this year: my work flow/ life balance, feeling like a pretty good mum to my boys (FYI everything takes time to nail including parenting), deepening relationships with my husband, family and friends, and an inner peace in knowing and fully respecting myself, which is the bedrock to all relationships by the way, and leading a content life. Those Pinterest affirmations were right. You have to love yourself first ladies!
Workwise, it only dawned on me the other day whilst chatting to my wonderful mum that I’d reached a massive goal this year and a dream I’d chased for a while: a 2-3 day working week with consistent blocks of down-time. It’s not come easy however but after almost a decade of hard graft here (and not forgetting all the years before I started a blog, as a screenwriter and director) I’m running the ship the way I like it.
I now have the freedom to design my week whilst still growing my business (thanks to the support of a small freelance team spanning a video editor, PA and VA I can delegate aspects of my job too) and it feels flipping freeing let me tell you.
I do all the stuff I love: writing, filmmaking, the legal shizz and leave the video editing, scheduling and admin to others.
I’ve come full circle, back to why I pivoted to working online in the first place when the inflexible film industry failed me as a new mother.
In pursuit of balace and wanting to actually see my baby and not live on set, I felt, and still feel lucky that a digital career which played to my strengths and worked around my child, fell into my lap just as the online world exploded. A flexible and remote career from day dot, the last ten years have been character building and a bloody good ride to say the least.
Admittedly, blogging was an accidental career that came knocking a few weeks after I hit publish on November the 10th 2010.
The blog quickly grew into a part-time career then by the time Alexander, my second son, was born two years later, I was working flexibly but full time.
After a few years of balance, I did find myself overworked and overwhelmed for a while, if I’m honest.
I often felt like I’d created a monster I was unable to free myself from (particularly when I was commuting to London several times a week when we lived in Leeds as I juggled parenting, a book deal, blogging by day and two unwell relatives).
I distinctly felt but never said out loud, that I’d become a victim of my own success somehow. Too busy. Too in demand. Too tired.
I’m grateful of course for the (continued) interest in my work from my followers and brands alike but there have been periods where I was drowning, desperate to regain control of my life free from the pressures that had arisen from sharing my life online.
Almost tens years on though, I’m back to working part time, blogging, vlogging and TV broadcasting, with the freedom to be fully present for those I love whilst nurturing creative pursuits (without expectation) I’d previously sidelined such as screenwriting and painting. I’ve also picked up my French and Greek again thanks to the app Duolingo I bought during lockdown.
Like I tell my kids, we all need to feel bored and to time to experiment and try news things or return to old loves in order to feel happy. Taking a breath has meant honing in on what I want and placing value on my own needs.
More downtime has not only given me peace of mind but it’s strengthened my relationships and improved my work as as storyteller too as I’m no longer rushing (this post you’re reading here is draft 4 for example).
I’m less stressed (bye urticaria and silent reflux) and far more content (and my friends are noticing).
I’m driven by passion rather than a perceived set of goals I’d pressured myself to tick off.
My work no longer defines me, I leave that to my set of values.
I’m working smarter too, taking on fewer projects that are more lucractive and longer term meaning I can enjoy dedicated, undisturbed periods with my family and friends (or simply binge-watching Five Guys a Week!) rather than mopping up crumbs here and there for myself, the last in the pecking order, fatuigued and resentful for it.
A former social media addict, I broke that spell a few years back and today, pop on and off my handles to upload and share my work whilst Jenni my fastidious PA, picks up my DMS.
This is real success I suppose, on my terms.
Success has never been about a silly monetary value my business might reach one day (vast amounts of money has never been a driver for me) nor has my sense of worth been defined by awards nods (however flattering) or perceived popularity (FYI my eldest is far from impressed with my whopping 47 followers on TikTok- bahaha).
Success has always been about building a meaningful life for my family and I.
I genuinely love being a mum (it’s my favourite job of all) and my kids need me as much as I need them. They’ve seen a lot of me over the years (I’ve barely missed a milestone) and this career has brought us great happiness be it new friendships, theatre trips, artistic workshops with Oscar winners/ working with our hereos, complimentary holidays and long term car loans and we’re grateful for it all…But now is the time to sit back more and enjoy what I’ve built through blood, sweat and tears. Ten years is when the magic happens.
As Jeff Bezos says, ‘All overnight success takes about 10 years’, and I reach a decade blogging on November the 10th.
The turning point from a manic to moderate workload came after I’d discovered a (thankfully benign) lump on my thyriod followed by an acute op to remove it and a tumultous two year recovery which affected me both physically and emotionally.
The subsquent therapy I embarked on, impacted every area of my life. It turned my perception of myself on its head. I learnt to finally like myself, to unlearn the negativity of the past and consistently exercise boundaries to protect and support myself.
As I hurtle towards the big 40 (which doesn’t feel that big after all), I’m confident this is the start of the greatest chapter of my life. ‘Life begins at 40’ as they say!
I’m a changed woman already, happy in my skin and certain of who I am.
Experience, overcoming adversity and loss have collectively left their indellible marks on me (with the scars to prove it) building resilience, strength, growth and compassion. I’m proud of how far I’ve come in that respect and what I stand for.
My priorities have changed along with my boundaries. I’ve become comfortable in saying ‘no’ (I’m a fully recovered former people pleaser) and equally I find it easier to say ‘yes’, taking greater risks more boldly and feeling far less afraid of the outcomes or what anyone might think.
I still love losing myself in my work (that will never change), in writing, reading, painting and learning as before, but my ambition has quietened down somewhat, or perhaps it’s the pressure I used to apply myself, that has. It’s funny, the more relaxed you are, the greater the doors that open! I am genuinely chilled though and if no more doors do indeed open I’m happy as I am :)!
I no longer feel defined by my work nor limited by it. I feel free to dance between projects and interests, growing from failure without fear, fully aware that is where the lessons lie.
I have nothing to prove. Like me or not, it’s OK either way as I love me!
‘Many of us at midlife experience a process of shedding and reawakening. We let go of a lot of dreams and goals but also false beliefs and expectations. It’s pretty liberating and I always refer to it as the ‘give no f@cks 40s’. It’s also a strange time when you’re rediscovering who you really are and what kind of legacy you want to leave behind. I love what Maya Angelou said to Oprah about legacy. That it’s not just about big goals and achievements. To paraphrase she said ‘your legacy is every life you touch. Everyone who ever watched (your show) and was moved to do something. It’s not one thing, it’s everything.’
Yes to that.
…I feel priviledged my blog is my business and I’m fully aware that being an early adapter, put me in good stead but if you’re considering an online career move, please know that now is the perfect time to pivot as Covid has accelerated digitisation and automation is next.
Like me, you can work flexibly around your kids taking full ownership over your job and life (and my new courses business The Working Mother’s Academy with digital strategist Lucy Griffiths, can help you if you want to make the leap.
Whether we’re watching The Goldbergs together here, baking/ burning flapjacks or trying to beat one another at Dobble, our bonds are deepening with every day of this new chapter for me.
Ditto when it comes to my own parents whom I’m able to support more whether it’s ordering items online for them or spending more quality time together now they need me more.
The workplace, as we know, as as a whole, fails to value parents and mothers in particular, so the pressures and strains you’ll inevitably experience juggling parenting and parenting is not your fault, you are not failing, it’s the structures in place which make life unworkable. As journalist, Amy Westervelt pointed out with her famous quote, ‘We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work’.
Well no more for me.
A digital business handed me a lifeline back in 2010 and now, a truly fulfilling work/life with it.
I refuse to compromise anymore, and this blog, right now, today, means I no longer have to.