I remember when my mother turned 40. I was 13, and she went out for the evening with two of her friends. I remember them getting ready — they were all excited. There was talk of drinking and celebration. My dad stayed home with me and my sister. I think frozen pizza was on the menu for our dinner.
The memory stuck with me because my mother never went out without my dad. They went out together, and we stayed home with a babysitter. But my mom going out for the evening with friends? That was the first time. (Which is kind of sad, but that’s another story.)
Anyway, I remember feeling like 40 must be really old. Because mothers, in general, seem old to their 13-year-old daughters.
You can see where this is going — if my mother was old at 40, and I’m turning 40… I must be old too. Except here’s the thing — I don’t really feel that old. Which means my mother was probably a lot like me at 40. And she probably didn’t feel that old either.
Now I’m here to tell you that the anticipation of turning 40 is far more difficult than the actual event. Because when you wake up on your 40th birthday, you feel a lot like you did when you were 39 years and 364 days old. Not much changes overnight.
Truth is, I feel pretty good. Things are calm in my life now. Work and family are, well, not exactly in balance, but I’m in a good place overall.
And, really, would I want to go back to being 24? To be honest, my 20s kind of sucked. I spent too much time working and going to school. I spent too much time at crappy jobs making crappy wages. I was still trying to find my own way after my mother’s death. Overall, my 20s were not a great decade.
Even my 30s, which is when I started to pull it together, isn’t an era I want to repeat. It was a time of great growth for me. But since I spent a lot of that decade either pregnant or taking care of small children, I don’t remember much of it. I was really tired all the time. I’m not that sorry to leave those years behind.
So maybe 40 isn’t such a bad thing after all. Maybe, just maybe, life really does begin at 40.