This week I will become a quadragenarian. That’s right. The big 4-0! Over the hill. Set the cake on fire. The vultures are starting to circle. Halfway to the casket (if I’m lucky). You get the drift. Just plain old.
How did this happen? I swear I was just watching Smurfs, playing with my Cabbage Patch Kids and dreaming of my favorite New Kid on the Block like two seconds ago! (It was Donnie!)
I have tried not to become too despondent about this number, but when you read how turning 40 is described by some it is a little disheartening to say the least.
For instance, Urban Dictionary defines “over the hill” as “reaching the average midpoint in life, which is age 40. Therefore, 40th birthdays are generally thought of as making it ‘over the hill.’ You’ve gone up the hill for 40 years (healthy, youthful appearance, etc.), now 40 more years down the hill (decreasing health, loss of physical beauty, etc.).”
Ouch. That’s just rude. Especially that last part.
As I have been enjoying the last few days of my 30s, though, I have already noticed some, um, “changes.”
For instance, when I was younger I was always so curious why “middle-aged women” were seemingly obsessed with hand lotion. Alas, I get it now. I guess I need to just go ahead and stash tubes of it all around the house, office and car.
Not to mention the neck skin. I’ve never felt so at one with a turkey. Gobble gobble.
Knowing my midlife crisis birthday was approaching, I started working out harder than I have in years at the beginning of this year. And I hate the gym! My poor old lady body sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies every time I spastically try to do a jumping jack. Snap! Crackle! Pop! (Trust me. It’s a sad sight to see AND hear!)
While time is moving right along, my metabolism has slowed to a glacial pace. Without question, my 20-something-year-old self would have dropped two sizes by now doing what I am doing. But my new (almost) 40-year-old self apparently just likes the body it has. Sigh.
But somehow none of this really depresses me all that much.
Over the last couple of weeks, my friends have been reminding me “40 is the new 30.” But my response to that has been, “God, I hope not.”
I turned 30 on Joe Cain Day 10 years ago. My friends threw a wonderful party for me downtown and it was a great time, but it was also one of saddest periods of my life. My mother was terminally ill. Though I was happy in my career, all of the other pieces I wanted were still missing. I hadn’t met my husband yet (that would come almost a year later). I was scared I would never have any children (I would have two within the next five years). And I knew my mother would not live long enough to see me experience either of those joys if they were to come my way (and sadly she didn’t). It was a very dark and lonely time.
I guess I have just come to realize age and the presence or absence of skin elasticity really doesn’t affect your level of happiness. And even if things aren’t going your way, it can all change on a dime no matter how many candles are on your cake.
Sure, I would love not to be experiencing the early stages of turkey neck, but as I have been reflecting during this supposed midpoint of my life, I have never been happier.
While you may start to fall apart physically, there are some mental advantages to entering the second half of your life. (Well, at least at the beginning of the second half.)
I used to worry myself to death over every little thing. I would wake up in the middle of the night to stress over something I had said to someone (“Gosh, I hope they know I didn’t mean it like that.”) or play out all the worst-case scenarios that might happen about a certain situation but usually never did. I still battle with this at times, but I have gotten much better about it.
You just start to realize life is way too short to fret over every little thing and you get way more comfortable in your own skin. You start to value the friends who you know truly have your back no matter what and phase out the ones who don’t. You start to hyper-focus on the people and things that really matter. And all of this is so very liberating.
And while 40 has made me stop to count my many blessings, it has also given me a new sense of urgency to accomplish some goals I have yet or only half-heartedly attempted to achieve. Thinking things like “I better get to work on X, Y or Z because I could die anytime now” is strangely energizing.
I certainly hope I have as many days left on this planet as I have already spent. Hopefully more. And if these wrinkles that were earned honestly have taught me anything, it is that life is definitely going to deal you some great hands and some terrible ones too. But as long as you have great folks sitting at the table with you — to share the joys and be by your side during the disappointments and the sorrows — ultimately everything will be OK.
And I also hear incontinence undergarments have come a long way. So there’s that too.
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