It’s the start of a new year which of course makes me stop and take stock of things. When December 31st rolls around, I’m too exhausted from the whole Thanksgiving to Christmas sprint to have the energy to think deeply about my life. For me, that thinking usually happens at a different time of year – during an entirely different season. For me, it happens as July approaches. Yep, I’m talking about my birthday, which comes a mere day after we celebrate our country’s independence.
But this year I find myself doing my thinking now, in January. Yep, I’ve been thinking. (This scares my husband.) This year I’ll be 43. Gulp. That sounds terribly grown up – there’s no denying anymore that I am fully an adult. And I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a woman in her forties. See, when I turned 40, I had a 3 year-old, a 2 year-old and a 4 month-old. I didn’t have the time or energy to think about – or even care much about – what it meant to be turning 40. And for the past two years, I was just excited not to be pregnant or caring for an infant!
But this year, there’s time to think. And reflect. And here’s what I’ve come up with. My sense of what each decade of adulthood means, or at least those I’ve experienced so far.
The twenties. Oh, the beautiful twenties when you have all the rights and benefits of being an adult but are still young enough not to take yourself too seriously. There’s typically some dating of the wrong type of guy as well as hopefully some dating of the right type of guy. You find a career you love, or at least like; or you make the discovery that what you thought you wanted to do isn’t what you want to do at all. And in your twenties, such a discovery feels like an opportunity rather than a mistake. The twenties are a time to have a lot of fun and do a few stupid things. Or maybe that was just me.
Then come the thirties. I really, really loved my thirties. Sure they started out a little rough. End of a long-term dating relationship, job changes (more than one) and jumping back into the dating pool at the age of 32. Ugh. There were some growing pains to be sure. But there was a lot of wonder there as well. Discovering a new career that became a passion. Meeting my wonderful, perfect-for-me husband and becoming a mother three times over. The thirties are a time for figuring out exactly who you are – and making the decision to like that person. I found out a lot about myself during my thirties, not all of it pretty. And I made the conscious decision to be happy about who and what I am.
Ah, the forties. If I hadn’t been so exhausted when I turned 40, I might have been apprehensive, nervous, or just plain scared. So much is made of that particular milestone birthday. And it’s true, turning 40 does feel major. But what I’ve discovered so far is that my forties truly are fabulous. Coming into them with the full knowledge of who and what I am freed me to take chances. I dreamt for years of writing for children. Shortly after I turned 40, I decided to give it a try. And this year I will celebrate the publication of my first novel. It still seems like a dream. Almost as surprising as becoming an author, this was also the year I discovered my inner athlete!
I’m thinking of my forties as the decade to tweak. Taking the knowledge and acceptance that I earned in my thirties and using it to make tweaks and adjustments here and there. Not changing who I am, just making myself a better me. At least that’s my hope. So I face this 43rd year with excitement. Okay, I’m not excited about the multiplying gray hairs or these weird lines from my nose to my mouth that keep getting deeper. But excitement about both the challenges and the opportunities that the rest of this decade of my life will bring.