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David Johnston and Alia Hogben at an Order of Canada investiture ceremony at Rideau Hall on November 23, 2012. (Sgt Ronald Duchesne/Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall)
David Johnston and Alia Hogben at an Order of Canada investiture ceremony at Rideau Hall on November 23, 2012. (Sgt Ronald Duchesne/Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall)

Halftime

40/40 Hindsight: Alia Hogben reflects on the decade Add to ...

Your 40s are a crucial decade, but they hardly get the study and attention as other periods of life. To right that wrong, The Globe and Mail's Dave McGinn is launching Halftime, a new project that aims to fully understand a person's fifth decade. He'll be talking to a wide range of experts, looking at everything from questions of existential dread to what your finances should look like. He'll also be interviewing people from across Canada who will reflect in their own lives to glean from them their guidance and wisdom. The series kicks off Friday with one such interview. Alia Hogben, a tireless champion of women's rights, a member of the Order of Canada and the executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women offers the perfect note of grace with which to begin the project. If you have any suggestions for what you'd like to see covered, or want to share stories of your own 40s, please get in touch. Dave McGinn can be reached at dmcginn@globeandmail.com, or share your thoughts online using the hashtag #globehalftime.

Alia Hogben’s work fighting for the rights of women has earned her the Order of Canada and an Honorary Doctorate from Queens University.

Now in her 70s, the executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women tells The Globe about life in her 40s and what she’s learned since.

In my 40s I was just hectically busy. I was a social worker, I was teaching at a community college, I had three children, we had bought a rundown farm near Gananoque and were trying to fix it. It really did go by rather quickly.

We were very idealistic and very hopeful. My husband had just finished his doctorate and got a job at RMC [the Royal Military College of Canada, in Kingston, Ont.]. That was very exciting.

We moved here from Toronto. We were going to grow our own vegetables and have our own sheep. It didn’t quite work out that way.

We were very involved with the world and what was going on and things like that in our 30s. But in our 40s, as a family, it became more introverted within the family and what was going on in our lives.

I have to be honest. I don’t think I thought of success then. I thought about success more in my 50s.

In my 40s, success was more personal. Success was having a nice home, having well-behaved children, children doing well at school, having friendships.

Looking back, in your 40s, you’re not as thoughtful as you should be. One just lives day to day. One should really live the moment, live the year, live the week, because you really have no idea what’s going to be around the corner.

When I was young I was going to be a lawyer like my father. But I didn’t. I did social work instead. I was drawn by the sense of helping others. If you’re born into a reasonable family and you’ve got enough food and clothes to wear and good health and so on – I believe in a God, I believe in a creator – I think it’s a test for you, because if you have all these things it’s not because you deserve it, but a test to see how you use all that to help others.

The wisdom comes with realizing a huge amount of humility. Not feeling like I know all the answers.

I didn’t think that I would get so passionate and involved in so many social causes.

When the laws were going to be allowed to have religious laws applied to family matters, I think that’s what really shook me.

I don’t have a lot of regrets. That’s part of the wisdom – you let go. Whatever regrets one does have, you have to let them go.

I’ve never liked the word happiness. I’ve always liked the word contentment. Have things worked out? Have the problems been decreased? I’d like to end my life feeling content, that I had done some good, that people thought well of me, and when it’s time to go, to go with only a few regrets and some sadness.

If I could go back and give myself advice on my 40th birthday, I would have said, “Stop and appreciate what you’ve got.”

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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