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Over 40

Every so often I see a thread from an engineer worried about their career prospects now that they’re over 40. It’s always confronting to me: it forces me to remember that I’m over 40, for one thing. But I also don’t feel old; objectively speaking, I don’t think it is particularly old. It’s all a matter of perspective.

In January, I’ll be 43. It’s been a particularly strange decade: ten years ago I moved to California, not to work on a fancy startup or engage in the tech industry, but to be with my mother because I thought she was going to die. In the end, she had a double lung transplant, and we had many bonus years with her. As tumultuous as they were, I’m very grateful for that time.

We also figured out a lot more about her disease during that time, and I was able to take a DNA test to determine that I didn’t have the same genetic variant. The science isn’t completely settled, and I plan to take regular telomere length tests to make sure I’m as healthy as I hope I am. (I haven’t because, honestly, I’m a bit scared to, but I’ve decided that’s not a good enough reason.)

At the same time, I was the cofounder of an open source startup, worked at a heavily-funded VC-backed company, was a mission-driven investor, and worked in crypto. I went to the pub with Chelsea Manning and got to teach journalists from all over the world. I’ve met so many people who I feel lucky are part of my life.

But the decade was always about the health of my immediate family more than it was about any of those things, as grateful as I am for them. Perhaps that’s why I feel so confronted by these over-40 threads: the last time I really felt in control of my time and my destiny, I was 30. And I still feel like I have a huge amount of my life ahead of me. Hopefully, I do. Hopefully, so does everyone who posts those kinds of thoughts.

The biggest thing to have changed for me is that I’m much more comfortable with my position in my working life. I don’t feel the need to make millions of dollars; I don’t feel the need to prove my worth to anyone. I created a bunch of value and discovered it didn’t really matter. I built platforms used by formidable organizations and discovered it didn’t really matter. I’m lucky to be comfortable.

These days, I just want to do meaningful, ethical work and enjoy the journey as I building a good life. That’s it. That’s all there needs to be. And that’s great.

May everyone worrying about their age with so much ahead of them find the same peace.

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