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Jenna Bush Hager: On my 40th birthday, here’s the advice I’d give my younger self

The TODAY with Hoda & Jenna co-host shares some of the life lessons she's learned ahead of her milestone birthday.
Today - Season 70
Jenna turns 40 on Thanksgiving this year.Nathan Congleton / NBC
/ Source: TODAY

I can’t believe I’m turning 40 because I feel forever ... 26.

My birthday is on Thanksgiving this year, which feels appropriate. My mom was in the hospital delivering my sister and me over Thanksgiving. She had hospital turkey and soggy stuffing, but she was fulfilling her greatest dream, her wildest wish: having two healthy babies. She said holding one of us in each of her arms filled her with awe and gratitude. And that's how I feel at 40 — unbelievably grateful. 

I want to spend the next decade with my own babes in each of my arms, silently counting (or loudly shouting!) my blessings.

But first, here are a few things I would tell a young Jenna.

Don’t stick your tongue out

They have a camera on your face, always. 

Everything is going to work out 

My mom always says there’s nothing worth worrying about until there really is something worth the worry. Try to just enjoy all the beautiful moments. 

Low-rise jeans are not a good look on anybody

Pull up your jeans, please. 

You’re going to have friends who will be in your life for 30-plus years 

You’re still going to love them dearly even when you haven’t lived in the same place for decades. Enjoy that. Enjoy the people who love you and don’t worry about the people who don’t. 

Fun is underrated

Have as much of it as you can. 

Your dreams are going to come true 

You’re going to be surrounded by people who love you. You’re going to have the babies you’ve always dreamed of. That cute boy you have a crush on ... well, you're going to marry him. By your 40th birthday, you will have known him almost half your life. To feel loved by someone who really knows you — someone who has known you since you wore the low-rise jeans and stuck your tongue out — will be the start of a dream.  

Your life won't be exactly what you dreamed of — you will lose people you love. You will hold grief in the place where you once held unaltered love.

And although you never dreamed you would have this job, it's a perfect fit. As a chubby kid auditioning for Broadway, all you wanted was to make people laugh and entertain.

The fact that you get to sit next to a woman with the biggest heart and do that — be a part of people's mornings — is a dream. You are living your dream. So, turning 40 just feels like another beautiful year, and it's not one that you'll take for granted.

I read this beautiful quote once: “Remember when everything you have was just a dream.” For my next decade, I want to surround myself with love and delight in the beautiful things I already have. I don't need anything more. I want to live every day in gratitude for all I have.  

As told to Rheana Murray