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Well, today is my birthday. I am usually quite content to let it come and go without much fanfare, but this year my friends and family seem to have other ideas. What’s different – I’m turning the big 4-0! Having a July 3rd birthday, I always have fireworks, but I’m quite afraid of what this year may bring. Headstones, a hearse, lots of black perhaps? What is it about milestone birthdays that we think is so awful? I’m probably weird, but I’m always excited to reach a new decade in my life.

I think it started in my twenties. I graduated from dental school when I was 23 years old. (The youngest to graduate from my dental school up to that point!). That sounds great, but my patients weren’t always so excited to have their dentist look like she’s playing hookie from high school! I got real tired of people asking “Just how old are you??” When I turned 30 I was thrilled!! I couldn’t wait for the next person to ask how I old I was. Thirty just sounded smarter, more experienced, more of everything good I thought. Now I look at thirty and realize I was just a baby…

So 40 sounds even better – like I’ve been around the block a time or two and I know what I’m doing. That got me thinking. What have I learned in the last 40 years? I was going to write the top 40 and realized I would be here all night trying to come up with that list. So here’s the top 5- things I know at 40 that I wish I’d known earlier:

  1. Just ASK! This is a biggie. I’ve learned that the worst answer you could ever get is no, and if you don’t ask, you are getting a no already. Take charge of your life and what you want, and ask for things. You’ll be surprised at the result!
  2. The early bird really does get the worm. We go to a business meeting every year, and one of their mantras is “If you are early, you are on time, if you are on time, you are late, and if you are late, you’re lost.” When my kids started telling me they had to arrive places 10 minutes before they were really supposed to be there, I realized I was running on late, and they were tired of it. This is a work in progress, but I can see the impact it is having on my stress level. We arrive on time or early, and I get a chance to take a breather. We are not cramming things at the last minute. Life feels under control. Yummy worm!!
  3. Don’t wish your life away. Have you ever said things like, “It’s going to be so great when…”, or “Boy, if we could just get the kids all in school”, or “I can’t wait for retirement so we can play…”. All of these comments are focusing on the future. You never get today again. Make the most of it. Enjoy the simmer of heat in the air (and remember January), hug your kids or grandkids two times instead of your usual one, turn off the distractions and listen when someone really needs to talk. LIVE your life, don’t wish it all away.
  4. Our bodies are amazing and we need to take good care of them. You all know I’m a health nut, but this is something I really believe. Our bodies are incredible machines, and we can feed these machines great fuel or lousy fuel. We can’t get mad at the machine when it doesn’t work well. You’re the one eating the fuel. So think about what would help your engine the very most, and eat that. Your body will thank you!
  5. Being shy is really being selfish. Okay, I didn’t get this one at first. I’ve always been a little shy. Then I read more about it and I get it. If you’re shy, you are worried about yourself, how you look, what you’ll say, if they will think you are stupid, etc. So you are thinking about yourself. The good thing is that the other person is probably so involved in worrying about themselves, they haven’t given what you’re wearing a single thought. Don’t be selfish. Put yourself out there and make the world a better place.

Thank you for enduring my top 5 with me. Embrace your birthdays, embrace your life and the things you learn as you go. I can’t wait to say I’m 50 (Okay, maybe I can wait a little!). See you soon!

Dr. Michelle Jorgensen

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