I have never given 40 much thought. Not in the way I thought about 27, though my fascination with that age was pretty much about the fact that I knew it was how old I would be when the calendar flipped from 1999 to 2000. One month later I was 28, an age I had no particular attachment to. Two years later I turned 30 without a whole lot of fanfare (I chose to spend the day alone eating cheese on the couch and yes, it was truly awesome). Ten years have followed since and I now find myself on the edge of 40.
While I may not have given the age of 40 much thought it seems a lot of other folks have. I’ve been asked multiple times how I feel about turning 40 and my answer has been that I feel the same about turning 40 as I did about turning 39: It’s my birthday, which means someone should be buying me dinner and a drink! It’s my BIRTHDAY! Woooooo!
Yes. Yes, Jane. We know you love your birthday. It’s that day that’s all yours, you get to do whatever you like and people let you get away with it, blah, blah, blah. But seriously, 40 IS kind of a big deal, you had to think about it at least a little bit...
Alright, party planning and good times aside the truth is that I have thought about it some. It is, after all, one of those milestone birthdays. At 40 one is statistically beyond the half way point of the average American life expectancy and for most of us it means we have now been living on our own away from the shelter of our parents for longer than we lived with them. Basically 40 means that for better or worse you are, undeniably, an adult.
Ok, legally I’ve been adult for 22 years, ever since the day I turned 18, and I’ve lived on my own since the day I graduated high school but the me that I was at 18 and the me I am now are worlds apart. I think most us of enter adulthood thinking we pretty much have things figured out, and perhaps if our worlds never got any bigger, if we never had a single other new experience, and if we never found ourselves in a place where our deepest core beliefs were challenged, we would have everything figured out, but life happens and twenty plus years later…well, one might find oneself writing a blog post about just how mistaken we really were.
Actually there is quite a bit about me that hasn’t changed. I’m still a creative person who is constantly swept off her feet by ideas for new creations. I can still lose myself for hours in writing or painting, or dance. My favorite way to spend an evening will likely always be to surround myself with friends to share food and conversation. I still want to taste, see, hear, smell and touch as much of the world as I can in however many years I may have left. And yes, many of those aforementioned beliefs are still around too, the ones that have been tested and found to be worth keeping.
What has changed? If I had to put it into bullet points it would look something like this:
Things Spinster Jane has Learned in Her 22 Years of Adulthood
- There is no one who will see the world in exactly the same way that I do, and as much as it might frustrate, annoy, and sometimes piss me off, in the end it is okay.
- Sometimes it’s best to just be quiet and listen.
- The only person I have any control over whatsoever is me.
- Life is a very temporary thing and there is nothing, no pain, no love, no grief, no joy, no loss, nor any gain that lasts forever. I take great comfort in this.
- I am not perfect, I don’t know everything and I am quite capable of being totally, completely and utterly wrong…even about this.
(Yep, I’m saying that there was a time when I thought I knew it all, that it was possible to change just about anybody if you tried hard enough and what the rest of the world really needed was a heavy dose of my advice…)
What does all of this have to do with turning 40? Well other than the mathematics of the look back not much. I could have likely written a very similar post at 30 and possibly could do so again 10 or 20 years from now; I hope that I do. I hope that at 50 or 60 I can look back and say that I’ve learned even more about the world and about myself, even if it turns out I’m wrong or mistaken about certain things, because if I can then it will mean that I’ve not stopped or stagnated, but instead continued to learn, experience, discover and grow. And while there may or may not be a point to this experience between birth and death that we call our lives, I really don’t think it’s about the numbers.
Now…who’s taking me out to dinner?