Notes to 40 Year Old Me

Sometimes milestones make us think. Life is seldom what we expect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t influence the outcome. In fact, life is an amazing journey that takes us to incredible places we never expected. When I was 40, genetic genealogy hadn’t yet been born – yet here we are today!

One of my beloved family members is having a 40th today, and I’d like to share some “accumulated wisdom” for her and also for my genealogy friends.

Looking back, here are the things I would tell my 40 year old self.

1. It’s not too late. You’re just now ripe.

2. Someday isn’t a day on the calendar.

3. Risk is not a 4 letter word. Fear is.

4. Love undeniably.

5. Remove toxic people, and jobs, from your life. You’re worth it!

6. Listen to your gut. It’s seldom wrong.

7. Life’s too short to drink bad wine or eat bad food.

8. Dark chocolate is not bad for you. Excesses of anything are.

9. Unpursued dreams will kill you, slowly and painfully.

10. Life is about the long game. In 10 years, if you’re lucky, you’ll be 50 – so investment in your own life so that you’re 50th will be perfect, because you’ll be 50 whether it’s perfect or not and you have 10 years to make it happen.

11. You are your greatest barrier.

12. You are your greatest asset.

13. A positive attitude makes most of the difference between being happy and miserable.

14. If you’re unhappy, fix the problem whether it’s external or internal.

15. If you can’t bloom where you are planted, uproot yourself and move on.

16. Always entertain the possibility of new opportunities.

17. When looking at employment, think about opportunities to make a difference.

18. Most regrets are born of what we didn’t do. Just do it!!

 Relative to genealogy:

19. Write it down. Yes, you will forget it otherwise.

20. Back up your computer, religiously, and store a backup outside your home.

21. Share. Post your tree. Be kind. It’s good for everyone.

22. Pay it forward. Someday you will be the beneficiary – in spades.

23. DNA test every relative you can find, because you’ll lose the opportunity if you don’t.

24. Be prepared. Carry a DNA kit with you at all times. Learn how to beg effectively:)

In Summary

Give some thought about how you’d like to be remembered. Write your own “dream obituary.” Then, do what’s needed to grow into that legacy.

Those of you past this birthday, what would you add?



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29 thoughts on “Notes to 40 Year Old Me

  1. Humorous post! I wish I could beg my husband to take the Family Finder test but he has concerns about privacy. I do have his Y-DNa results and his father’s and nephew’s ethnicity results, so I can sort of predict my husband’s results. I don’t have my sisters’ DNA results either.

  2. The 80’s can bring you many health problems. Do what you have to do to make yourself well again. Be positive no matter what life problems happen to you. Life is precious so rejoice in each day you have with family and friends.

  3. How I wish I was 40 myself! I’m now 64 and half. There’s so much that “seniors” can do these days.

  4. “24. Be prepared. Carry a DNA kit with you at all times. Learn how to beg effectively:)”

    How do you actually do this? I may be wrong, but it seems all the past kits I ordered had to have someone’s name attached to it.
    Does one of the testing companies make it easier to carry a “no name” kit in the trunk of you car?
    Do the kits have a spoil date? Especially if kept in the trunk

    • I use the Family Tree DNA kits all the time. You can order them with your name and change the name to the person who took the test when they take the test. You can also order “no name” kits through projects. I order through FTDNA because the person can take the Y, mt and autosomal, or whatever combination is relevant to their interests, and mine. I make the presumption here that’s I’m paying for the test.

  5. I remember 50 as being very special. Imam now 88 and all your todos apply. Start them the whole time. They will always apply. Take good care

  6. I like “write your own obituary” which brings me to the next comment. Have you discovered the “Lifestory” element on It’s great for posting milestones in life. Most of my stories are “custom” events like vacations, group photos of friends, pets, photos of old home(s) etc. I can explain in more detail if anyone wants more info. Or maybe you can write article about it. Ancestry’s software needs a little tweaking but I’ve gotten around that using the custom feature.

      • I put mine together without a subscription. I then sent a link to my cousin, who couldn’t open it because I’m still living. So then I sent her the link again while updating her in my “shared tree” as being able to see living people. She hasn’t gotten back to me yet. So I’d like to suggest that Ancestry provide an option where the person can opt to let anyone see their life story, otherwise after they die no one will be able to see their story, unless they have put in their death date (highly unlikely). If you have any suggestions of who I could contact to suggest this please let me know. Thanks. I would be happy to send you a link to mine, so you can see how I put it together (and I would do the obvious of letting you see living people as well. It really is a neat feature.

        • The problem is that Ancestry is bound by things like GDPR which is very specific about exposing information about living people. You can also be exposing information about siblings or parents or children of other living people inadvertently. Do let me know how it works with your cousin though. Can see just see your life story or your entire tree without a subscription?

          • Both are free to see without a subscription. You just have to email the link to whomever you want to see it which is under your “Tree” drop-down menu. Then you can go to the “tree settings” and opt to allow a person to see living people.

        • You might want to use the Legacy genealogy software as it lets you put together family stories.

  7. Love your post — and the comments! Agree so totally that we could have listened to such advice when WE were younger! I’ve just forwarded to my husband, two adult offspring, and son-in-law (who is the closest to turning 4-0!).

  8. Roberta, thank you for this message. So good! I especially like your number 19. The “write it down” part is so important! I might expand it to other areas of life….and the “write it down” part is important because it makes your brain remember. Also, if I incorporate the important stuff I’ve learned into actions, I’ll remember, because I am doing it. “Write it down” can be a metaphor for the fact that our brain is still capable of learning and forming new neural pathways, no matter what our age.

  9. Hi Roberta. Fine advice. I would add some given to me by my German-born mother–essence “Haste makes Waste” two different times, when I fell running down the steps outside our
    hillside house. Also, she would comment that an item of clothing was
    sewn with a “hot needle”.
    I think because the stiches were so large. I recall also a line I had to say in a play in Grammar
    School. Believe it was code for bringing news “The British are coming”. “A stitch in time saves nine.”. Lots of early American quotes abound, about how one bad apple spoils the barrel, etc. Recall a neighbor of mine commenting when I was hanging diapers out to dry on a clothesline in California, in the afternoon, in 1950
    before the days of packaged disposable diapers, that an elderly neighbor of hers in Wisconsin
    commented—“A lazy woman works best when the sun is in the west”.
    I never was an “Early Bird” and I’m 96 years old, now!!! Love from Bev

  10. I turned 39 a few weeks ago, I guess I still have a year of carefree leisure before I get to ut my stuff together…

  11. I’m on the wrong side of 60. I compiled some of my succinct thoughts that I call “Pop’s adages” for others to find after I’m gone. Here are a few of my favorite musings. most of which are of my own invention:

    You need to know who you are and know your past, to understand where you are going, into your future.

    Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom.

    Keep your mind full and your bowels empty. (Attributed to a wise old bum).

    “Character is fate.” (Heraclitus)

    “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.” (Attributed to Mark Twain) If someone is not receptive to learning, they cannot be taught, no matter how much time and effort is spent upon trying to educate them.

    Freedom is having the ability to do what you want to do, when you want
    to do it. It’s one of the things that money cannot buy.

    Never forget who you are, and where you came from. Once you allow any entity to alter your mental programming, then you no longer will fully know yourself, nor understand yourself. Then your identity will be lost, erased, altered or forgotten. Then some other entity will control you – but only if you allow that to happen. Adapt to survive, if necessary. But never forget.

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