This is 40.
This is a tough one. This is the age you remember your parents being, when you were a kid.
When I was a kid, my best friend Lindsay’s mom had a fortieth birthday. She had balloons and banners and hats that said, “Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty!” I found that kind of corny, even at age 10.
So it’s hard to believe that I’m here. I’m that age. I also have kids, although neither of them is ten.
I’ve realized a great many things recently. Maybe I’m becoming wise? Probably not. But one day, I do hope to be a printed-silk-scarf wearing plump lady on a bus, giving gentle wisdom to young people who sit near me. Maybe patting a hand, offering a listening ear. Occasionally giving a Kleenex from my well-stocked purse.
I hate taking the bus, though, so perhaps that version of me will never really exist.
One thing I have found is that people have a lot to say about forty. Like, a lot. There are a bazillion articles about how your forties are ‘supposed to be.’ I decided to play investigative journalist and compile a list of the most common things that are ‘supposed to’ happen in your forties. Let’s see what the next decade supposedly holds, shall we?
“You care less about what people think of you when you hit forty.” I suppose that’s true. I do care less about what most people say or think about me. But I care far more about those I love and their opinions. They are the ones that matter most and it would truly gut me if I disappointed them.
“You have freedom at forty to be whoever you want to be.” Okaaaaay. But I think it’s easier to be whoever you want to be if you spent the previous 39 years figuring that out. Thankfully, I’ve basically been myself since I was five, so I don’t see a great deal of change in my future. I’ve always been who I am, for better or for worse.
“You can calm the inner critic in your head.” I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, even if I lived to be 140. Or 440. Or 40,440. She’s always there, and I fear she will be for life. Perhaps one day we’ll make some sort of peace.
“You’re happier when you’re in your forties.” I’m not sure if that’s true, as I’m not there yet, but my thirties have been pretty great, overall. And busy! I can’t imagine a more tumultuous ten years of life (buying a house, getting married, having kids, getting published) than the past ten. (Fate: “Hold my beer.”)
“You get rid of the toxic people in your life.” Well, to be honest, I don’t think I have any toxic people in my life to be rid of…and I don’t think I have had for a REALLY long time. I think I’ve done a pretty good job keeping the best people IN my life. I am surrounded by loving, caring, fantastic humans. These people are my ride-or-die. This is my crew. This is it. I am extremely, exceptionally lucky to have the people I have in my life. I do not take anyone for granted. I know how fast life can change.
“Public speaking becomes easier.” Er, this was clearly not written by an introvert. I know some really talented public speakers and I am 100% not one of them. Speaking publicly makes my stomach hurt and turning forty isn’t going to fix that. What HAS become easier is speaking up. I know what I stand for, I know what I won’t tolerate and I know what I believe in.
“You rock your own style.” Sadly, that’s been true for my entire life. Being born with a total lack of fashion sense means that you cobble together whatever clothes look decent together (or at least don’t clash?) and run with it. I WILL say that I no longer dress in theme (see: Jess is a blueberry. Jess is music. Jess is a neon-yellow-pants- one-clip-on-earring-side-ponytail-poofy-blouse-wearing-pirate). But I won’t say I have a ‘style,’ per say.
“You don’t have to finish a book you don’t like.” Yup, I know. Pretty much if you don’t have me by page three, you’ve lost me forever. Life is too short for books that don’t interest you. Also, life needs more interesting non-fiction books that are at least 500 pages long. But maybe that’s just me.
There were suggestions that being forty lets you become silly again (having kids already made me goofy), allows you to say ‘no’ to going out (dude, I wish I could say YES to going anywhere right now), allows you to eat that second dessert (was there ever a time when I shouldn’t have been doing that?) and basically is the decade in which you become the best version of yourself.
I hope that is true. I hope I can keep my perpetual new year’s resolution: to be the best darn Jess I can be. I hope I never let down those I love, I hope I am the best mama, wife, daughter, sister, BFF, friend, auntie, neighbour, and person I can be. I hope to help those I know and those I don’t. I hope to be an all-around good human being. I promise to try, for at least the next forty years.
So here’s to forty. It’s been a helluva ride so far. I can’t wait to see what comes next.