I never thought I’d turn 40—not because I have a terminal illness. I never thought I’d turn 40 because that’s what happens to old people.
I don’t feel old, and I don’t plan on ever being old… and yet 40 is days away for me, throwing a monkey wrench in my plans to not age.
“Age is just a number,” they keep telling me. “You’re only as old as you feel,” they say. “Forty is the new 30,” I’ve heard at least a dozen times in the last week. It doesn’t matter what anybody says to make me feel better because honestly, turning 40 is downright frightening.
The unfortunate mathematical truth is—40 is halfway to 80, the halfway point for those lucky enough to live a full-length life.
The heartfelt, keep-me-up-at-night, sober reality is that there is a proverbial hill and I’m nearly to the other side of the peak with my shoes tripping towards the downhill side in a few short days.
At the pinnacle of being aware that 40 is on my horizon and watching it move in closer with each passing day—David Bowie died. The world grieved—we mourned together, comforting ourselves with his words and music, sharing his wisdom on social media for days, weeks, months. In fact, it was a friend’s Facebook Bowie tribute that turned my distaste at turning 40 into complete joy.
“Ageing is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” ~ David Bowie
Since reading this, I’ve never been as excited for a birthday than I am for this one. These words rattled around in me for days, calling to me, challenging me to dig deep and put names to all the ways in which I’ve grown in 40 years.
I’m not yet the person I want to be but in many ways I am so very close.
I’ve come to a place now where ageing doesn’t scare me. Birthdays mark the passage of time, but they are also an endearing way to give ourselves some extra recognition for the ways in which we’ve grown. Whether it’s 21, 30, 40, or 70—the change in our age is a treasured reminder that we are changing, too. Our changes are as unique to us as the path that we choose.
As I look forward to celebrating 40 I recognize that I’ve crossed these five bridges:
1. I know how to say No: I know what my time and energy are worth and I no longer say Yes to every invitation, possible friendship, opportunity, or even every conversation. I’ve gained discernment and I have no problem putting up boundaries that I struggled to enforce in my 20’s and 30’s.
2. I know myself: From foods that disagree with me to feeling confident about my body as it is—the insecurities of past decades have fallen away. And with that evolution, everything in life is better. My confidence level, my marriage and the way I present myself to strangers, friends and new challenges.
3. Fear is at bay: I’m well acquainted with my fears and they know their place. Though I have not succeeded in ridding myself of all of them, I have had decades now to practice not giving them a voice in my life. While they always come along for the ride, my dreams take the front seat and fear takes the backseat. Fear gets no say in the direction we go and how fast we drive.
4. I make better choices: I’ve learned what and who the positive influences are in my life and what (and sometimes who) is a negative contributor so I’ve also learned to be discerning about what I allow in. I know who my positive, happy friends are and I know the people, things and situations that consistently drain me. I like the 40-year-old version of myself that knows how to protect against positive energy-zappers.
5. “Someday” doesn’t exist: When I was in my 20’s, “someday” was a word I used often. “I’d like to try that someday…” or “Someday I’d like to…” When you reach the peak of the hill and see the second half of your life yawning before you, you stop saying it. If I want to try something now is the time. If I want to be something, now is the time. If I have a goal, now is the time to reach it. Of course we all know none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, but ridding my vocabulary of this word has led to a cease-fire on postponing my dreams, goals, hopes and wishes.
I don’t know your age, I don’t know which birthday on your horizon scares you or makes you feel “old,” but I do know that I’m no longer scared of time. I’ve come to see ageing as a beautiful thing—so much more than the passage of time marking how far we’ve come—it’s a celebration of how bright our future is. For with each measure of growth, from learning to make better choices and gaining strength by slaying fear, we position ourselves for a future far brighter than yesterday ever was.
I’m grateful for 40, the big ugly birthday that showed me this truth. When it comes in a few days, I’ll be ready to greet it with open arms and a heart full of gratitude.
Author: Monica LaSarre
Editor: Sarah Kolkka
Image: Ryan McGuire/Gratisography