The Road Gets Wider: Reflections at 41

I don’t often write really personal posts (unless I do), but I turn 41 on Sunday, and I’m feeling more than a little reflective this week. I have also been inspired by my friend C.C. Chapman who wrote this beautiful post this morning about being thankful.

Now, this isn’t going to be a woe-be-gotten post about the perils of middle age, or anything like that. In fact, it’s probably going to be quite the opposite. You see, being 40 has been pretty great for me. I’ve learned a lot this year, and all the things my (only slightly older) and wiser friends like Jon Swanson and Scarborough Dude say are, well, becoming truer and truer by the day.

We always hear analogies of long roads, long journeys, especially when talking about life. But I’ve learned at 40 that the road isn’t long – in fact it’s pretty short. But as we age, if we choose, our road doesn’t have to seem shorter, if we figure out how to make it wider.

I used to worry about biting off more than I could chew. I would hesitate to get involved in new things, for fear that I’d fail. Then I recall my parents at my age. They were always on the go – full time jobs, and numerous community activities. They weren’t just going to PTA meetings. They were starting community TV stations, and raising money for disabled kids, and making their world a better place, all while raising two great kids (if I do say so myself). Their road was very wide, and it encompassed many things. But most importantly, they were finding ways to be helpful, and to contribute to their work and their community.

I have learned for myself this year, that the road is indeed wider than it is long. For the past several years, I have been solely focused on my business and making money. But at 40, I have learned that there’s more to it than that. I realized that the first thing you need to do is find ways to help people. I have more than 20 years of experience in the field of media and communications. I have been involved in music performance for more than 30 years. There’s something in that. I have realized that at 40, I have the ability, experience and confidence now to use what I’ve learned over the years to help others. So I looked around and I discovered places where I could be helpful. Then I simply offered my help.

At almost 41, I’m no longer just going day by day, working away endlessly for clients, students and my community, hoping to reap the rewards of a big paycheque and a pat on the back. I am now entirely focused on helping my clients tell their stories better. I am helping my students be more successful. And I’m being helpful to causes in my community that are important to me. This one simple shift in my attitude, from getting to giving, has changed everything.

My road isn’t long. None of our roads are. But boy oh boy is my road wide. I am having so many rich experiences now because I’m able to be helpful in so many places. And the curious thing is, the minute I took my focus off making buckets of cold hard cash and put my focus on widening my road so I could be more helpful to more people, the money part started to sort itself out.

At 41, I am finally starting to feel like I’m hitting my stride. When I turned 40 last year, a switch went off in my head and suddenly, I cared a lot less about what other people think, and I’ve just set out to find my own path on my road. Others have told me they’ve had the same experience at this age.

What it comes down to is, none of us knows how long our road is. But we can control how wide we make it. Widen your road, be as helpful as you can, and the rest will fall into place.

[photo by Pensiero]

About

Susan Murphy is a writer, professional speaker, television producer, web site maker, teacher, digital media specialist, singer, and pet mom. She shows people how to tell better stories. You can also find her @suzemuse on Twitter.

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Joe Holubowich
Joe Holubowich

Sue... Great post! It took me a few years longer than you to figure it out but I get it! I have seen examples of what you are doing from the classroom, community cause and friend perspectives and it's nice to witness. The energy is contageous. The results will no doubt be generous on all levels.

Suze
Suze

Thank you Joe - I appreciate the opportunity you and the team have given me to be helpful! I'm thankful to be part of such an important event and a great cause.

Becky McCray
Becky McCray

I notice it's not about doing everything, or even trying to do everything. It's about making the shift from getting to giving, from yourself to the larger community. How is what you are doing benefiting the whole? In fact, it's a rather focused idea. Instead of frittering away on starting a million new ideas, it's about making a difference on the things you do. And realizing that it's not all about work. Work is only the beginning.

Suze
Suze

Yes! What she said, everybody - exactly what Becky said! :)

mare
mare

hey suze - beautiful post. i don't know that there's any magic age when we have realizations, and it doesn't have to be a round number, but it's good that 40-41 has been a revelation for you. for me, too. on my end, though, it wasn't a year, it was experiences. a nightmare real estate purchase was what led me to realize that life is for living, and trying to save all you can so you can have "equity" or "a large nest egg" or the dreaded, BS "american dream" -- that was all a crock. Life is for living. Yes, I'm in a much better place than I was 20 years ago, and more financially able to travel to all the places I want -- and happily so. But I'm also really grateful for all I have, and will be giving back through outreach with my next conference. My 2c. Happy Thanksgiving!

Suze
Suze

Happy Thanksgiving to you too, my friend. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

C.C. Chapman
C.C. Chapman

First off the fact that I inspired you to write and share this touches my heart in a special way. Thank you for that. The other thing is the concept of the wide road instead of the long one. Damn is that true. I've never really thought about it that way. Maybe I have to turn 40 first to discover it? *laugh* But, you are right that there is never enough time to do everything we want, but that should never hold us back from trying. People are always asking me how I juggle all that I do and while I don't have a solid answer, I do know I somehow make it work because I want it to work. Happy early birthday!!

Suze
Suze

I don't have an answer to "how do I juggle it all" either - I'm glad I'm not alone in that. I agree - you do what you can and make it work the way it works. No more, no less. Thank you again for the inspiration.