I am on the edge of hitting the biggest milestone of my life, chronologically speaking. As I write this, I’m still in my 30s, and I wonder if I’ll ever get used to being, let alone saying, that I’m not a 30-something anymore. Yet, whether I like it or not, on Jan. 25 at exactly 10:26 am, I will turn 40.
There, I said it.
Forty holds so many connotations. I mean, the over-the-hill cards at Hallmark start at 40, don’t they? It’s strange, to say the least, especially because I feel like I’m about 28 on most days and probably about 18 on really good days.
Is that what happens when you get old? You find a stray gray hair or two while realizing that the songs you loved back in high school are suddenly appearing on the classic rock channel, yet, in your mind’s eye, nothing else has changed? I know there are a lot of us out there who are contemplating life while riding out the last bits of our 30s. Hello to all of you 1973ers. Great year, wasn’t it?
I always hated it when women lied about their ages, because it seemed that they were denying who they were and what they went through. If we all live long enough, we’ll each gather enough stories, teaching moments, and straight-up fantastic memories that have each in their own way helped usher us along to where we now are. If I said I was 35, I’d not only start twitching under the sheer fabrication of it all, but I’d be denying what these past five years have brought to my life, which is a whole lot. (Also, my friends would say, “Hey, weren’t you 35 five years ago?”)
I used to have a colleague who turned 37 each year on her birthday. We’d gather in the kitchen area, sing her “Happy Birthday,” ask how old she was, and she’d say 37 with a straight face. She turned 37 four times since I knew her. It wasn’t just weird, but flat-out crazy — and you know what? No one in the office called her out on it, either. We’d simply grab a slice of cake and trot away down the hall, whispering, “Wasn’t she 37 last year … and the year before that?”
When I was in my 20s, one of my relatives was turning 40 and she confided in me that she had never felt better in her life. In fact, she felt the most confident and joyful approaching her fourth decade. It was inspiring, but seemed so far away for me, personally, that it didn’t mean much to me at the time. Now, it seems like that was yesterday.
When I think of how I’ve changed in the last 20 years, I know that every challenge and setback fully prepared me to move on to the next step, both personally and professionally. I “wouldn’t trade nothing for my journey now,” as my hero, author Maya Angelou, says.
I am so much more willing to take chances, embark on new endeavors, and not hesitate to say “goodbye” to things (and even people) who bring stress to my life. That is something I have only recently learned. It’s a terrible affliction — the need to please — not to mention an overwhelmingly female condition. As a mother, I wish I had learned much of what I know now when my kids were babies, but it seems that as they have grown, I have developed along with them. And I hope to continue to flourish in new ways each decade.
Forty is gonna be great, I can feel it. Bring it on.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @DanniSullWriter, or on her blog, Just Write Mom.
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