When Sue-Ching Lascelles turned 40, she started to reflect on her life.

"There was a renewed sense of purpose and self, a recognition of who I am, the people and things I love, and what truly lights up my heart," the 44-year-old artist from Meanjin/Brisbane says.

She says that led her to prioritise what mattered most.

We're told life begins at 40, but in a society that arguably values youth above all else, we're also made to fear it.

Women especially must fight the signs of ageing, or risk experiencing 'invisible women syndrome'.

But reaching this milestone is something many feel worth celebrating.

We spoke to Sue-Ching and others to ask: What did you love about turning 40?

'Quiet confidence and self-assuredness'

Sue-Ching Lascelles, 44, artist in Meanjin/Brisbane

Turning 40 felt like a big deal.

Naturally, I started to question my life choices and what the future might look like.

While I was cognisant that I was probably having a mid-life crisis (hello, new hair-do, holiday, *insert other cliche!*), at the end of all that pondering there was clarity.

I quit my office job to spend time with my son and pick up on my love for art and making.

But the greatest gift of moving into my 40s has been the quiet confidence and self-assuredness.

Being able to stand up and say something in times when I would have otherwise felt uncomfortable to do so.

Knowing that my opinion and feelings are valid.

That I don't need to accept the status quo if it's not working for me.

I think this is something that really only comes with the experience of ageing.

'I want to do things, I want to live'

Erin Parker, 42, teacher and travel blogger in Hamilton, VIC

The best thing for me was that I got to turn 40.

My best friend passed away when she was 34 to breast cancer, and five years before that my mum passed away at 52.

When those two things happened, it just put life into perspective.

Of course I have bad days; everybody has bad days. But for the most part I just try to be really grateful for what I do have, and try to live each day like it might be my last.

I think about my best friend and the things she didn't get to do. I am lucky to be here and watch my kids grow up. She died when her daughter was four.

I want to do things, I want to live; I'm excited about my future because I plan for my future.

There has to be more than the nine-to-five — not that I don't love my job!

My husband and I love to travel, so we've done heaps with the kids.

We just got back from an Asian adventure, and we are off to Tassie in April, then America over Christmas.

'Shrugging off the pressure to keep up'

Mary Boiling, 41, communications specialist in Naarm/Melbourne

Since I've turned 40, I've started making sourdough. You know, just a few millennia after the Ancient Egyptians were onto it, and years behind the pandemic baking craze.

But that's been my favourite thing about my 40s: shrugging off the pressure to 'keep up'.

Trends, expectations, occasionally deadlines, and the whirlwind of doing-all-the-things can frenzy on by.

I'm old enough to set my own pace.

That's a big change for this life-long to-do-list ticker.

Until recently, the endorphin hit of squeezing in just one more commitment had meant plenty of projects, hobbies, jobs, probably even (definitely) relationships were under-done.

But over two days and many stages, you can't rush the gentle feeding and growing and stretching and shaping and ultimate satisfaction of a sourdough loaf (or you can try, and get a sticky mess).

And somehow, a big milestone helped nudge my perspective — things worth doing take time, and time is an (increasingly) finite resource.

That's not to say 40 candles magically unlocks calm.

Chaos still reigns, between young kids and career choices and lost lunch boxes and community and cost of living — along with hosting a podcast and dodging a never-ending trail of Pokémon cards.

But where a missed opportunity used to induce anxious catastrophising, this slowed-down 41-year-old can recommend the calming sensation of taking a deep breath and saying, "Phew, one less thing."

'Finding pride in myself'

Son Vivienne, 53, CEO in Naarm/Melbourne

When I turned 40, I had a lot going on. I jumped out of a plane to celebrate.

It turns out that 40 also signalled the onset of motion sickness. About 10 minutes after touching ground, following all the celebratory whoops and photographs of my first skydive, I vomited.

I'm 53 now and my life has been a roller coaster ride.

That's a metaphor, because I can't do rides anymore.

At 40, I was a single parent of two kids, two-thirds of the way through a PhD, and part-time carer for my mum who was dying of bowel cancer.

I've been a waitress, filmmaker, lecturer, author, and now a CEO.

I grew from white working-class regional stock, with both biological and chosen family who are Aboriginal.

I've had boyfriends and girlfriends, lived with various addictions, and chronic depression, and now know myself as neurodivergent, non-binary and transgender.

It's taken me a while to find pride in myself, though I've marched many times to proclaim the right to feel it.

In my first 40 years I learned ways to relax and flow with the ups and downs of the roller coaster — albeit more slowly and mindfully.

I've learned that motion sickness, while revolting at the time, does pass.

And it's that equanimity that I'm bringing to this older, wiser phase of my life-ride.

2024-02-21T20:49:18Z dg43tfdfdgfd