Leo Varadkar is 40 today: here’s 40 pearls of wisdom he really should know
Lessons for Leo: never dye your hair, don’t become a Mamil but do invest in slip-on shoes
Leo Varadkar: some of the 40 things he should know on his 40th – do yoga, avoid cycling, cut out meat, avoid supplements, get reading glasses
Happy Birthday Leo. The Big FOUR O eh? You might have woken up this morning feeling a little glum and middle aged and found yourself staring into an existential crisis but don’t be worrying, no matter what you think, time is on your side – and we’ve a few pearls of wisdom to help you cope.
1. No matter what stellar heights you reach and no matter how old you get, it’s always worth looking to the wisdom of others. “The first 40 years of life furnish the text, while the remaining 30 supply the commentary; and that without the commentary we are unable to understand aright the true sense and coherence of the text.” So said German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and he was right – the commentary really is where it’s at and it’s only starting for you. Although you might not feel that way given that you’ve had to deal with a running commentary on your life and work for the best part of 20 years.
2. You may be a little concerned that, by Schopenhauer’s reckoning, you’ll be dead by 70. Don’t be. He said what he said almost 200 years ago and despite the many inadequacies of our health system – and there are many as you well know – life expectancy in Ireland now is considerably better that it was in Germany then. All things being equal, you’re not even half way through your allotted time on earth.
3. The years fly by faster as you age: remember how time crawled for the six years you were in secondary school? And now think of the last six years that you’ve walked the corridors of power like a king. They’ve passed a lot faster haven’t they?
4. Reaching 40 – or 50 or 60 or 100 – is way better than the alternative, so instead of being glum as you start a new decade, be delighted with yourself for making it this far.
6. Congratulate yourself for scaling the heights you’ve scaled. While it’s true that not everyone loves you – and lots of people are quick to tell you just how much they don’t love you – you’ve still achieved more than virtually any other person on the planet by serving as a government minister through your 30s and then leader of your country before you hit 40. Pat yourself on the back. And we’ll not be saying that too often in the years ahead.
7. Age is relative. A 40-year-old pop star is ancient. A 40-year-old (male) actor is in their prime and a 40-year-old prime minister is a virtual Peter Pan. You have more than 30 years on Donald Trump. And you have much better hair.
8. Mind you, this is the decade you will notice some changes on the hair front. From this remove, it looks like you’ll hang on to what you have for a while yet. But you will start noticing more shades of grey at 40 and when you do, resist the urge to take out the bottle of Just For Men. It’s just not worth it.
9. Take care of your knees. And your back. And your joints. With that in mind you might want to ease up on the hard-surface running. Pavements are not kind to a body of advanced years.
10. Think long and hard before you take up cycling. It is popular among men of your age and easier on the joints but it’s time consuming and photographers with long lenses will delight in taking pictures of you in lycra. It will be for the best for everyone – you included – if we were spared those images.
11. Give up on being cool. It’s not going to happen.
12. But don’t worry about being cool. Hitting 40 is as good a time to stop apologising for liking crap music or rubbish films. If you like Tiffany’s I Think We’re Alone Now – and we do – or films staring Adam Sandler, then don’t hide that fact.
13. Don’t give up on discovering new things and doing things that your peers may view as excessively youthful. Listen to 8Radio, go to music festivals, wear shorts and flip flops – only around water, mind you – and comedy socks if you want. You don’t have to give in to middle age.
14. Dance more. But don’t agree to dance on the telly. No matter how good you think you’ll be at it and no matter how much cash they offer you.
15. Buy yourself a good funeral coat. That sounds a bit grim, we know, but the inescapable reality is you will find yourself attending a lot more funerals of the parents of friends in the years ahead, so you might as well be warm.
16. Face creams – even the really, really expensive ones made with muck from far away seas – are a pointless waste of money. Wrinkles are going to happen. Embrace them.
17. Hangovers in your 40s last way longer than the ones of your 30s. The fear is worse too.
18. Eat less junk food. While we are not privy to your dietary habits, the body is less forgiving at 40 of tucking into chipper chips or greasy kebabs bought on the way home from a long boozy night in the pub than it was at 30.
19. When you are younger it normal to focus on the things that are missing from your life. The good news is it becomes easier to celebrate all the good things that actually are in your life as you get that little bit older.
20. You’re going to stop recognising people you see in magazines and on the telly and the songs you hear on the radio. And you might find yourself humming along to tunes you hear on Ronan Collins’s RTÉ radio show. It is sad but inevitable. Golden oldies are now songs that were released in the 1990s.
21. You will find your ability to sleep diminishing as you race towards your 50s. Be delighted with yourself if you manage to get six hours in a row. But that’s okay, beacuse you’re one of the early risers.
22. It won’t be long before your joints start creaking inexplicably. For most of us, these creaks are a complete mystery. You might know what is behind them. We’re not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.
23. Look out for that moment when you grunt heavily as you bend down to tie your shoelaces or pick something off the floor. It happens to all of us at some point – it’s the sound of the passage of time.
24. Invest in slip-on shoes (the kind the hipsters wear rather than the kind found on a pope) or a Chelsea boot-type affair. Something you can kick off and slide on without bending too much. You’ll be glad you did, trust us.
25. Do more yoga. Your joints and your head will thank you for it. Think long and hard before you sign up for hot yoga, though. It is very sweaty and because of who you are, absolutely everyone in your class will delight in your discomfort.
26. Be more flexible outside the yoga studio too. Too many people in their 40s settle on very fixed views of the world . Don’t be one of those people.
27. Go to the gym more. It too is good for the head, the body and will go along way towards slowing your decline into middle age.
28. You will find yourself paying more attention to the health supplements shelf in Boots. There are all manner of pills and potions there that promise to keep you going forever. They are mostly nonsense. You will probably end up buying some anyways.
29. Make an exception for the omegas 3, 6 and 9. We have never heard a bad word said about them.
30. If you don’t already need reading glasses, accept that you soon will. Your ability to read small print is declining rapidly and your arms can only stretch so far.
31. Young people – people under the age of 25 – now think of you as an old person. Get over it.
32. Don’t ask Google if 40 is old. We did and, to be honest, the news wasn’t great. For every life affirming cliché we found, there were a dozen more warning about the all the ailments and infirmities coming down the tracks and a ceaseless stream of reminders that it is all downhill from here.
33. Rejoice in the fact that your relative youthfulness makes many of us who are older than you feel ancient. To be honest, many of us would much rather have leaders who were significantly older than us, just for the optics of the thing.
34. Look forward to the time when you’re not Taoiseach. It will come soon enough – no matter what happens – and the good news is that when it does you will be still be young enough to have all sorts of adventures, including some that you may have denied yourself as you set out on your path to political glory.
35. Eat less red meat. You know this already. We’re not saying to reduce your intake to half a meatball a day or anything, but the less red meat you eat, the better you will feel. And the planet will thank you for it.
36. Eat more fish – but only if it is sustainably sourced.
37. Be a bit more craic on social media. Don’t get us wrong, you’re better at it than most of your peers, but while there is a lot done, there’s more to be done. We might slag you off for your pancake montages but sure where’s the harm in that?.
38. Work on your empathy. As you pass through your 40s you will see a fork in the road – one path will lead you to becoming more obdurate and less tolerant of the perceived failings of others (think of Jacob Rees Mogg). The other will see you become more relaxed and understanding and empathetic (think Barack Obama). Political considerations aside, the second path is always the better one to travel.
39. Go on more holidays. Lord knows the Dáil is shut for long enough each year and no-one ever regrets the time they have spent on holidays.
40. All going well, you’ll be 50 before you know it. And, to the best of our knowledge, that’s grand too.
Happy Birthday, Leo.