Did I Become Who I Was Meant to Be by 40?

After four tumultuous decades, I finally settled into my own skin

Jeremy Helligar
Published in
9 min readOct 19, 2020


Photos: courtesy of the author

I don’t know if life begins at 40, but I consider it the start of my sane period.

I’m now 51, but despite the occasional crazy interlude, I don’t shudder when I recall who I used to be at 40.

The 25-year-old me is practically unrecognizable both physically and mentally. No surprise there. More unexpected, though, is how little I’ve changed over the past decade — my not-so-roaring forties. Despite the myriad life experiences I’ve accumulated (living on six different continents, loving, losing, and getting married), who I am has changed a lot less than my digestive system and my feelings about sunsets.

I recently stumbled upon an old Facebook “note” from February 4, 2009, titled “25 Random Things About Me,” and I couldn’t believe how many of the things I wrote at 40 still apply. Let’s revisit:

1. I have never tasted coffee in my life. It used to be because I hated the smell. Now it’s just a thing I refuse to do for no real reason at all.

I still don’t know what it feels like to be wide awake after just one cup, and I doubt I ever will. I’ve gone this long without tasting coffee, so why try it now?

2. I hate the beach. If I never again see another grain of sand, my life will go on. Give me the mountains any day.

The spectacular beaches and coasts I’ve since experienced living in and traveling around Thailand, Africa, Australia, and the Balkan peninsula have helped me better understand beach bums. But I’m still partial to being closer to the clouds.

3. Every so often I get terrible panic attacks that make me feel like I’m in death’s grip. In fact, several days before I moved to Argentina, I went to the ER twice in less than 12 hours (once at 3am!) with scary-ass panic attacks!

When I wrote this, I was flirting with a dangerous Klonopin dependency. I kicked it…



Jeremy Helligar
Writer for

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj

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