Recently, thanks to a certain social networking site, I've reconnected with dozens of long lost relatives, friends, and classmates. And an interesting thing started happening. One by one, my old classmates are reaching that big milestone. The Big Four-Oh. I just don’t see how that’s possible. I mean, we just graduated high school a few (21!) years ago, right? Right?!
On one hand, I keep reading (in magazines for women over 40) that forty is the new 30. That works for me. When I look in the mirror – not too closely and certainly not a magnified one! – I see…me. Just me. Not a 30 year old, not a 40 year old. Just the same person I see everyday. They say that when you see someone every single day, you don’t notice any changes. So I’m kind of wondering how I may look to people who haven’t seen me in say – 20 years. And how much do I care? Is turning 40 really that big of a deal?
Yes. Yes, it is. Here’s the thing: 20 years ago, I was 18 years old. It seems simple, no? You would think. My brain tells me that if 20 years ago I was 18, then I am no longer 18. If I do the math, I understand that on paper, I am a few months shy of 39. I may even be considered MIDDLE-AGED. But I can’t wrap my mind around this information. It’s not that I don’t WANT to be 38. I just don’t see how it’s possible.
I clearly remember being 9 years old and giddy with the thought of turning double digits. After that – I couldn't wait to turn 13. Then 16, 18, 21. 25 was the last birthday I was rushing to reach. As I see 40 looming ahead in the not-too-distant future I’m more like “you know what? I’ll just get out here and walk the rest of the way, thanks.”
So yes – turning 40 is a big deal because really – if 20 years flew by that fast, doesn’t that mean 60 is just around the corner?
I think with this realization comes a tweaked attitude toward life in general. I think when women are turning 40, they try to experience the events of their life in greater detail (you’ve heard of scrapbooking, yes?) They strengthen close bonds and understand who they want in their innermost circles. They are more direct about what they want and need from their relationships. There is more confidence to be who you want to be, even if a magazine didn’t feature that person in the last 3 months. For me, there is the urge to come full circle and tell the twenty-somethings to "enjoy each day because time goes by in the blink of an eye." and actually enjoy the eyerolls this elicits.
When I was entering Kindergarten, my parents had the choice between sending me when I was 4, or waiting a year. (I have one of those fall birthdays.) They chose to send me. What this means is that I am one of the younger ones in my graduating class. In other words – I’ll be one of the last to turn 40 in that particular group.
I liken this to waiting in line to walk over hot coals. I am filled with nervous excitement as I watch others go before me, but I don’t know exactly how I’ll feel when my turn comes. I’m pretty sure I’ll be one of the ones to suck it up and run across without making a peep, but we’ll see. Considering all other options though – I am Oh so grateful for the opportunity.