Let me start off by saying that I am in no shape or form an expert in being 40. Most of the time I have no clue what I’m doing. So, by all means, please feel free to share your experience as a 40+ year old in the comment section below.

I am currently 41 going on 42 and I can safely say that I’m having the time of my life so far. There seems to be a bit of truth to that expression: “You’re twenty with twenty years of experience”. You feel like you are finally ready to take on the world, newly acquired reading glasses and multi-vitamins in hand.

Let me tell you about my journey to my “Fabulous” 40’s and all of the hurdles and bumps I met along the way. Your experience may be completely different but I’m hoping you find some resonation in my story.

Island Girl's Guide to your Fabulous 40's

Midlife Crisis

I went into what I like to call my first midlife crisis just a few months before I turned the big Four O. It could have also been a slight panic attack for all I know. I felt unprepared for that big number.

I was suddenly a “ma’am” and no longer a “miss”. It made me realize that the world now sees me as an adult, an older adult and yet inside I still feel young and vibrant.

While in full on crisis mode I did everything I could to make myself look younger, feel younger and even act younger. Looking back, my behavior was much like a rebelling teenager throwing a tantrum. I cut off my hair, got three more tattoos and closed my business for good. Here I was, about to turn 40 and I had nothing to show for. My very own house: unchecked. A super career: unchecked. Wild travel adventures: unchecked. I felt unaccomplished and empty.

Yet another realization hit me when it dawned on me that I was living my life according to everyone else’s expectations. Society, my parents, my husband, my friends. I was doing exactly what was expected of me instead of what I really wanted to do.

So there I was, 39 and a half, feeling scared of getting older, feeling like my life was closer to the end, mortality staring me in the face and feeling like I haven’t accomplished much. Yet, I was happy with my newly found inner freedom. Confused much?

The struggle is real

My husband once asked me where the carefree girl is that he met all those years ago when we started dating. The one who laughed at everything and had no worries in the world. My answer may shock you but I told him with a straight face: “You helped kill her”. Yes, I know, that was a tad harsh and I admit I may have been a bit dramatic but it was more like murder in the third degree anyway. He did have a hand in changing me, but he wasn’t alone and  It is definitely not fair to blame him or anyone else. I was there too and I allowed him to mold me into someone I’m not, however pure his intentions at the time may have been. I was too afraid to disappoint him and others, and to speak up for what I wanted and needed. I now know that he was not trying to change me but help me. What he didn’t know is that I was too afraid of disappointing him whenever he made suggestions that I slowly  but surely lost myself for a while.

Reintroducing Riselle 2.0 was not easy and it took several major arguments, hissy fits, slamming doors and one major car crash for my husband (and I) to finally accept and embrace this truer version of me. I thank him for the patience he showed me during all those months of self discovery.

The carefree girl of yonder years is finally making a comeback, at least she is starting to, and that is great news.

island girl's guide to you 40's

Valuable lessons 

With all big changes in life come sacrifices. It is impossible to change without hurting someone or leaving someone behind. There were friendships that have outlived their purpose, a marriage that needed a major overhaul and a career life that needed a new direction.

The word “NO” is such a powerful word and I came to learn that it’s ok to use it now and then. I started sharing my own opinions more often, I was suddenly more outspoken, more honest. My focus was redirected to me; my emotional growth, my wishes, my dreams.

The main character in the story that is your life is no other than YOU.

Some thought I became selfish, others called me uncaring. It’s amazing how those closest to you react when you suddenly start focusing on you and putting your needs before theirs. For the record, I am not selfish. At least I don’t think I am. What I am is braver, more mature, more accepting, more in tune and definitely more confident.

Does life begin at 40?

I think it does. I have uncovered that your 40’s is when you truly become you. Not the new you but the you that you always were supposed to be. The you before people, experiences, heartbreaks and disillusions molded into an unrecognizable version of you. To be honest, realizing that and overcoming it is just exhilarating.

Being in your 40’s is fabulous and I don’t mean in a Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City kind of Fabulous. I refocused my life, my dreams and my hopes. Instead of staying in a business that was no longer fulfilling, I closed it down. I stopped listening to everyone’s criticisms or at least taking them to heart. I stopped letting negative people into my life. I stopped comparing my life to that of others.

When my 40th birthday came around I decided to I celebrate it alone, with an early morning walk on the beach. Friends were furious that I didn’t have a big party, and I didn’t really care what they thought. I stopped caring about material stuff, while things like inner peace, family, minimalism, respect for others and living in harmony became more important.

So what if I haven’t purchased a house yet or don’t have a big fat bank account, a dazzling career or a slim figure for that matter? At least I’m doing what I love. Yes, my life right now resembles that of a hungry artist, and a big pot of cash will certainly come in very handy for all the traveling and self discovery journeys I want to take, but I feel that I have already accomplished quite a lot. Life will continue to throw curve balls and I will continue to adjust and evolve into a truer version of me. I will feel lost, powerless and unloved at times but I know that those are the moments in which we as women soar like a beautiful phoenix out of her ashes. We are resilient beings.

And finally a poem for the beautiful women in their 40’s

Oh the blessed joy
That comes with this age
Still a fine looking book
Mild creases on each page

This is the age
When silver strands appear
You won’t always notice them
As your eyes aren’t as clear

It’s rather strange
When your belly starts to jiggle
This is one of those nuances
Which doesn’t make you giggle

Being this age
Can sort of make you sad
When you think of all the things
You could have done or had

And yet forty definitely has
Its good points too
So many opportunities
A million things left to do

You’re not quite over
That fateful hill yet
So keep living life to the fullest
Leaving no room for regrets

Written by,  Michelle Cook

Final words

So, you there, about to turn 40 and you, already in your 40’s, embrace it and hold on tight. We’re about to embark on a crazy journey. Before you know you’ll be 50 and that age comes with its own set of lessons. So, enjoy your 40’s now. Rebel, be wild, be free, speak up, be honest, travel, do yoga, party within reasons (or not), take care of your family without losing touch with your inner self, be a great wife without sacrificing who you are and above all else love YOU, embrace YOU, be proud of YOU.

I would love to hear your experience with your 40’s and those of you about to reach this milestone, what are your fears?

Remember to always stay true to yourself.

Blog footer The Traveling Island Girl


  1. This resonates with me very well. At 36, I ended my 12-year relationship and was left with no savings and a handful of debts. Because of this negativity as I focused more on what I don’t have instead of what I have, everything else fell apart. Now that I’m 39, I lost not only my husband, but also several friends, and ultimately, myself. Until few weeks ago, I realized that it was really I who put myself in that rut, and if I don’t change, I will no longer live the life that I always wanted. Two months before my 40th, I have a renewed sense of myself and I am visualizing my self living an island life with the love of my life and our own family. Your blog entry only guarantees that that is possible 😊

    • Riselle Reply

      Oh Len, I am so happy for you. Don’t focus in the things you lost. Focus on the things you have. They may not be the grand possessions you though you would have at this age but they are so more valuable (your health, your life, your family). Your 40’s is all about you. Time to focus on what YOU want, what YOU need. It’s an up and down battle but a beautiful one. I’m 4 years onto it and I can guarantee you that. Welcome to your 40’s.

  2. Mouttamassytanya Reply

    I’m just a few years from being 40 but these are still valuable lessons for any age. I especially liked when you said “So what if I haven’t purchased a house yet or have a big fat bank account, a dazzling career or a slim figure for that matter? ”

    People put so much pressure on these things (I have friends who are insisting in either purchasing a house at home or when I am now – I moved away almost 2 years now) but a friend of mine shared a quote that asked are you or living or surviving and from moment I decided to just do what I want without care of what people feel/felt and experience some of what you went through with people thinking you have changed.

    As for learning to say no, LOL I come from that place and work my way to yes yes because I have learnt that people out their own stress on you expecting that you will support them.


  3. I love it Riselle. Your words brought tears to my ears and fire in my heart. I am ready for 40😚

  4. Great blog post! I threw caution to the wind and moved to an island when I was 40. It was so carefree until I got wrapped up with not the best boyfriend and things spiraled a little out of control. I eventually left the island after 4 years and having been gone 2.5 years now, I am really missing it and starting to reevaluate my current situation. I feel restless again ( the grass is always greener syndrome) and like I still haven’t checked some of those boxes you mentioned, even after being back in the states. Still single, not a huge amount of savings, etc… I just turned 48 and am struggling on “what to do” with the rest of my life. I love where I live now (Charleston, SC ) and have many great friends, but I always think… what if I did it all again. Thanks for the inspiration and I hope I figure it out one day!

    • Thank you for sharing, Amy. My guess is that we will never really know it all. Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Rather focus on what you do. Have you considered returning to the islands? That is always an option

      • Oh yes, I am very lucky in many ways and try to focus on the positive. What I meant when I said “figuring it out one day” is how to get back to the islands! Always dreaming!

  5. I enjoyed reading about your experience turning 40, many aspects of it resonated with me.

    40 has been hyped as a major milestone, and it is. There was so much I wanted to accomplish by 40, that I hadn’t accomplished that it almost dampened my 40th year celebration. But I learnt to count and value what I had already accomplished and who I had in my life. So, I get this:
    “So what if I haven’t purchased a house yet or have a big fat bank account, a dazzling career or a slim figure for that matter? ”

    And I get this too:

    You’re not quite over
    That fateful hill yet
    So keep living life to the fullest
    Leaving no room for regrets

    Thanks for sharing.

    • It is a fabulous decade in our lives and we must learn to enjoy it. Thank you for reading and sharing your experience.

  6. Love your posts as always – especially this thought: “With all big changes in life come sacrifices. It is impossible to change without hurting someone or leaving someone behind.” I think all women think it at some point consciously or unconsciously. But we can’t let it stop us from doing what’s best for us. We’ve got but one life and it’s ours to live as we please – no attachment to outcome. The ones who are supposed to stay with us on our journeys keep up or slow down as required 😉

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