On January 13th, 2019, I turned 40.
It’s a big number. Birthdays feel like a big deal and no big deal at the same time. It is just another day, and age is just a number, but 40 is also a milestone birthday, and I felt like I shouldn’t let it pass without somehow honouring it publicly.
Although I don’t consider myself anywhere near old age, I love the quote that says, Old age is a privilege denied to many. I consider myself very fortunate to be here and to be the person I am. I am embracing my grey hair, my eyes that need reading glasses, and the veins in my hands that are a little more pronounced than last year.
I will not be fighting the aging process by complaining and trying to hide it.
I’m here, I’ve lived, and I’m proud of that. I’m not 20 anymore and THANK GOD I’m not. I’m a better version of that 20 year old today, and I’m proud of everything I’ve been through that has brought me here.
SAYING GOODBYE TO MY THIRTIES
I LOVED my thirties. I was a little sad to see them go because they were so good to me. In the past ten years, among many other things: I recovered from an eating disorder, I was half of a happy healthy couple (that started in my late 20s and is still going strong), I took control of my health and found relief from a handful of painful issues, I learned about grief and loss and grace, I started my online business, I said goodbye to unhealthy relationships, I learned to say “yeah sure” a lot less, and “I love you” a lot more.
40 feels different than 30, and I was told it would. I’m more confident in myself and my value, and because of that, I take less shit from people. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I know what I like and what I don’t like and I don’t apologize for it.
I have to admit, I grew up with a pretty good sense of self. One of my favourite examples of this would be from 7th grade. The principal of my grade school came into our classroom, and she was mad. She was holding a clipboard and made a speech about how the school had so generously organized intramural sports for us to play during lunch break and hardly anyone was showing-up for them.
A STRONG SENSE OF SELF
It probably won’t surprise you that I wasn’t an athletic kid. Being forced to play sports during gym class was bad enough, I didn’t want to spend my lunch breaks running around chasing a ball too. Throughout my grade school years, I would walk home during my lunch break, reading a baby-sitters-club book while I was walking, and spent the rest of that hour eating lunch with my mom, who worked from home. I didn’t enjoy school much, so I looked forward to the break.
The principal held up her clipboard and announced sternly,
“I’m going to go down this class list, and you’re going to tell me if you’re going to show-up for intra-murals.”
You could feel the fear in the room. We were all afraid of that woman, and I listened as she went through every name in my class, and every kid responded with a timid “Yes.”
I was the very last name called, because my last name starts with WY, and when she called my name I took a deep breath and responded.
You could hear the silence. The needle scratched across the record player. Every kid stared at me. My friends shot me looks that said, “ARE YOU CRAZY!?”
The principal looked up from her clipboard and scanned the room.
“Who said no!?” she blurted.
I raised my hand.
“Why won’t you be attending, young lady?” She asked.
“Because I like to go home for lunch and see my mom.”
“Okay.” She said, and she was gone.
When my heartbeat regulated and was no longer beating in my ears all I could hear was the kids around me whining about having to spend their lunch hour playing sports.
When I think about that day I’m a little amazed at myself. I was, what, 11? 12? I opted out of the thing everyone else felt pressured to say yes to. I’m proud of that badass kid who stood up for what she wanted! I spent the rest of that year walking happily away with my book while my friends stood around outside in their gym shorts, complaining.
Unfortunately, I don’t have 25 other stories like that to share. I had my fair share of saying yes to things I didn’t want over the years, and it’s certainly been a journey to get to this point.
EMBRACING MY FORTIES
My girlfriend, who turned 40 last January, recently said, “I love this age because I feel better in my own skin. Why couldn’t I have felt this way in my twenties?” My response was, “Because you weren’t 40 in your twenties.” (Yes, friends, I’m great at sports AND math.)
We will never just KNOW these things until we’ve lived it. We can’t go back and teach our younger selves these lessons, unfortunately.
Who am I at this age?
I’m kinder and gentler with other people because I understand that we’re all struggling with something. I know that although I can get in my own little bubble sometimes, it’s not all about me.
I can stay calm in traffic because I am not the most important person on the road.
I can forgive the woman who jumped in front of me in line at the grocery store because staying angry at someone for something so small is not worth my time and energy.
I can spend a weekend crocheting a hat and watching Netflix without feeling guilty because I know when I need to take time-off to recharge.
I accept that I am painfully introverted and my need to be alone doesn’t make me antisocial or weird, it’s just the way I am.
NEW AGE, NEW GOALS
A few things I’m focusing on in the coming year:
- Buying less, and storing less things. I have a capsule wardrobe and feel good owning less clutter. I want to fine-tune that even more.
- Paying off my debt. Buying less and sticking to a budget will help with that.
- Carving out time for evening and morning self-care + reflection.
In high school, I would give myself age-related goals. By 21 I’ll be engaged, married by 22, two kids by 25, successfully in a career by 26. I stopped doing that when I realized early on that I don’t do things the way other people around me do. I do them in my own time, when it works for me. I guess that would explain why I’m 40 and not officially married. It was too big a deal for me to do just because everyone else around me was doing it. I don’t base my decisions on the opinions and lives of others.
I don’t see age and goals as mutually exclusive. Tying yourself to age-related goals will only set you up for disappointment - either because you rushed into something big that you weren’t ready for, or because you waited until it made sense for you and didn’t reach in time.
Your timeline will not look like anyone else’s, and it shouldn’t. This is YOUR LIFE.
I like being me, and I’ve never felt this way as powerfully as I do today. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, or that I’ve stopped growing as a human being, it just means I am at peace with myself in a way I’ve never experienced at any other age. It’s been an interesting journey to get to this point, and although I don’t love every experience that brought me here, I can appreciate what it’s taught me, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.
I was told this would happen. It’s considered a milestone birthday for a reason.