Hitting the big 4-0

With the new year upon us, our columnist bids adieu — reluctantly — to his 30s.

THIS being December 4, we’re less than a month away from the new year; seriously, where did the time go? And 2014 is when I’ll be hitting the big 4-0. (Shudder, silent scream.)

Like most people in their late 30s, this past year has been a gigantic wake-up call, where health – and mortality – is concerned.

A recent article in British newspaper The Daily Mail indicated that being struck by a pre-40 health wake-up call is not uncommon.

A survey of 2,000 Britons aged 25 and over found that three quarters of them make serious lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthier diet and exercising more when they start to feel old at age 39.

“Researchers found the approach to the big 4-0 is the point when people really start to worry about the long-term health implications of the bad habits and poor diets they enjoyed earlier in life,” said the paper.

“Three quarters are so concerned they have gone on to make serious lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking or alcohol, exercising more, eating a healthier diet and even quitting their job.”

The “Top 10 Wake Up Calls” listed were:

1) Starting to feel old


A minor health scare

3) Reaching a milestone birthday


A serious health scare


A friend falling ill due to their lifestyle


The death of a friend or relative

7) Being told off by a doctor

8) Watching something on TV


Reading an article in a newspaper


Research on the Internet

Going down that list, I subconsciously ticked ALL of the items. (Shudder, loud scream.)

In regard to No 6, three people that I know passed away within the span of one week recently. It was a very sad week, needless to say.

A fortnight ago, I covered the demise of Datuk Zang Toi’s dad for our news pages. In talking to the designer, I could relate to his grief as I lost my father a year ago.

Zang was in Singapore attending a conference when he got the bad news. He said the 45-minute flight to Kuala Lumpur felt like the longest hour of his life. I completely understood what he meant as I had to rush back to Penang after getting the phone call from my sobbing sister that dad had died.

In fact, I would say that his sudden death last November roused my awareness that time is so precious. My mum is of utmost priority to me now; I constantly worry about how she’d cope after losing her spouse of four decades.

To ensure that I am around to take care of her, I need to be in tip-top shape.

I have cut down on alcohol (boo-hoo) and am trying (“trying” being the operative word) to watch what I eat. But being from Penang, I love my hawker food; sometimes the greasier, the better.

Of late, I have been going back to the gym, and engaged the services of a personal trainer. Once, while working out, I complained to him that my left kneecap was making a funny, squeaky noise.

“Is it something to be worried about?” I inquired timidly. He looked at me straight in the eyes, and replied: “No lah, William, that’s just one of the signs of ageing.” Grrr.

Just last week, a group of teenagers came into our office to solicit donations for a charitable cause.

My colleague Indra – who’s still youthful-looking – expressed her horror when not one, but two, of the teens called her “aunty”.

“I already donated money,” I quickly said to one of the girls in the group. “Don’t call me uncle!” Her cheeky retort was: “Yes, uncle.” Grrr.

When I first joined The Star in 1994, I was a wee 20-year-old lad and was considered the “baby” amongst my colleagues. Now when I go for work events, I notice increasingly younger reporters, most of whom I do not know. Where have all my peers gone?

Friends have been kind and say I look younger than my age (which I attribute to good genes). A couple of them are already planning a birthday bash in July to usher in my fabulous forties.

But, as much as I’m looking forward to an excuse to party with my buddies, I do not look forward to bidding adieu to my thirties.

And until I find that elusive fountain of youth, don’t call me uncle, OK?

*Though William finds comfort in the oft-repeated mantra that 40 is the new 20, he does wonder who said it. Send your feedback to star2@thestar.com.my.

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Hitting the big 4-0


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