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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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On The Eve Of My 40th Birthday


I remember when my mother turned forty. Back then, in the 80s, they called it “over the hill” and had black-themed party decorations and cards about how close to dead you already were.

When my mom turned 40 I was a teenager. I can’t even imagine what that would be like, to have a teenage daughter right now. She had also owned 3 houses by the time she turned 40. First she had a career as a teacher, and then she became a full-time mom. My dad had had the same job for close to 20 years. They were settled.

I live in an apartment – one in a series of rentals throughout the US over the last 20 years. I’ve been married for just 5 years, my husband is in school. I’ve got 3 degrees (nearly 4), I’ve worked in several industries and am making my way in a new one.

A client asked me the other day how long I’ve had my own company. I had to stop and think. “I’ve never done anything else,” I said. And he replied, “Wow, I’ve never met a serial entrepreneur before!”

I’ve never thought of myself as that. It’s just what I do. The epitome of what I do is unsettled. And impermanent.

This year my grandfather turned 100, and he too has been doing quite a bit of reflecting. I think there are points in our lives that society tells us are milestones. For me it was 14, 25 and 40. So far.

“I’m gonna be forty!” Meg Ryan. “When?” Billy Crystal. “Someday!” Meg Ryan. When I was young I watched that scene in “When Harry Met Sally” and thought 40 was such a distant future.

Why 40? I think it’s because when you’re younger you see 40 year olds as true adults. Old adults. People middle-aged, heading for retirement. People who have figured out where they’re headed in life and they’re on their way there.

So it’s only natural when you get to that age finally, to ask yourself “am I headed there?” If you then ask yourself “where?” it seems like maybe you have a problem. I don’t know where I’m headed. Am I headed in the right direction? I think so. I never dreamed it would be such a circuitous route though!

I’ve done a lot. I have worked with children in multiple capacities and ages (art camps, soccer refereeing, drug and alcohol recovery, day camps, housing projects). I’ve worked myself up in the film industry – first as a set decorator and art director and then as a documentary filmmaker. I’ve created multiple behavior change campaigns – for asthma, microfinance, sustainability, civic engagement and exercise. I’ve been founding member of a startup. And failed. And have done it again. I’ve helped multiple corporations and governments to plan and innovate over the next 10 years. And I’ve helped several successful startups get off the ground.

Oh, and I’ve written a blog. For 3 years. And as I hear from readers, it sounds like I’ve made a true impact here. (Thank you, for all of you, who have told me this – it means a great deal and keeps me writing!)

So here’s the whammy: I feel I’ve only just begun. I have a lot of life left to live, a lot to do with all the knowledge and skills I’ve picked up over the years.

And I haven’t accomplished what I wanted to yet. Not by a long shot. I want to create substantial positive change in the world. It’s what I set out to do back around the time my mom turned 40.

I don’t know how to get there. I don’t feel like I’m middle-aged, certainly not close to heading for retirement. I wonder how a teenager would view me now.

Is it all in the perception, or is the world different now?

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12 comments to On The Eve Of My 40th Birthday

  • Melinda: I am one of those people who thinks it has truly gotten better after 40. There is something really freeing about it, legitimizing. Of course, learning to ride a unicycle for my 40th birthday certainly helped me feel like anything was possible! The best lesson I learned during that experience? It is better to fall forward than backward (trust me on this). And keep looking ahead to the path in front you. Much awaits you.

  • I love your story. At work last week, we just had the conversation about age, I’ll be hitting 40 in August, and I feel great, better then I did when I was in my 20′s. I’m healthier and smarter or at least I think I am, and best of all I am more confident in myself. I think age is just a number, it’s how you feel and act that counts. The only thing that makes me feel old, is when I see those “Where are they Now”. You’ll see someone that you watched on tv as a kid, and then you find out there in there 60′s or 70′s and there old looking. That makes me feel old, especially when I thought they were my age! lol

    Happy Birthday!!!!!

  • Liz

    Happy Birthday!

    I turned 40 this year, and what I’ve learnt since I was 20 is that wherever you’re headed, it’s fine to take the scenic route and enjoy it. You don’t have to travel at full speed on the motorway the whole way. And it’s okay to say ‘actually, I don’t want to go there after all’ and change direction.

  • Wow that is food for thought….and i”m already over 40….all I can say, looking from my corner of the world…is that you have achieved so much….you keep moving in the direction you’re going….you will get there…you have done so much more than I could ever dream of

  • Happy Birthday!

    Wrt your question I think it’s a bit of both.

    The world has changed. It’s not all that long ago that people had a realistic chance of retiring at 60 and statistically, most, died within 10-15 years of that. Many had debilitating health problems well before retirement so it was a time of life wind down not the time of lifestyle freedom the “grey nomads” of today generally experience.

    That said personal perception is a large part of any life. There is young 40 and old 40 and we get to choose the journey we wish to take. We choose through our mindset, life choices and pure willingness to enjoy ourselves for who we are.

    Kind Regards
    Belinda

  • Though you may feel one way, that certainly doesn’t make it the truth :) I’ve followed your blog for about two years. I very much admire you for all that you’ve accomplished in just the short time I’ve been visiting here. For me, at least, you seem to be on the right path and doing all the right things. I can only hope that when I reach 40, I’m where you are now :) Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s to another 40 birthdays and even more dreams coming true for you!

  • Hope your birthday was fantastic Melinda! I agree with Belinda…a bit of both. I do have to admit that sometimes when I think about how old I am it seems a bit surreal to be in my 40′s. Especially as I know people my age who are now grandparents. It was a bit wild when I realized that I am the same age as my grandmother was when I was born! Comparison can be a dangerous thing. :)

  • I hope you enjoyed your birthday enjoyably. There are lot of things is inspiring in your post. Good work!! Will see you on your next update… Thanks :)

  • Really good post! Very important to review our goals and achievements. Very good to maintain strength and hope. You sound so healthy and so young. Thanks for the breath of fresh air!

  • Really good post! Very important to review our goals and achievements. Very good to maintain strength and hope. You sound so healthy and so young. Thanks for the breath of fresh air!

  • Princess diamond

    Great stories, back when people actually worked hard because society required it of them. Today this is not true unfortunately. 40 is not old, especially when you have achieved a lot. Thanks for posting

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