Last month, I bid my thirties farewell. There wasn’t much fanfare. No dark clouds in the sky heralding the end of life as I know it. I just woke up one day and was 40.
40 is a tricky number. To some it is a dirty word. To some it is a chance to throw a big fun party that rivals your wedding. To some – judging by all the articles titled “40 things I’ve learned at 40” – it is apparently the age of total enlightenment.
But no matter how you slice it, 40 can be weighty.
Not because of the number. But because there are 40 years of life you have lived, loves you have lost, and responsibilities you have undertaken.
It is heavy with promises we made to our younger selves about who we would be and what we would do. With the promises we whisper to our children as we hold them close at night.
It is heavy with worry. With the knowledge that we can’t control every outcome or protect every person we love.
It is heavy with good intentions and bad decisions.
It is heavy with the memory of loves we have loved and the loves we have lost.
It is heavy with the hurt we have seen people inflict, whether by intent or apathy.
It is heavy with the weight of people we have carried and the responsibilities we have undertaken. The sag in our shoulders from years of carrying books and babies and laundry. The sag in our hearts from years of caring for others more than ourselves.
It is heavy with the disappointments of choices we have made and the choices others have made.
It is heavy with the knowledge that perhaps you have lived more days on earth than you have left.
And that, my friends, is weighty indeed.
Or maybe it’s not.
By 40, we have spent most of our currency in service of other things, other people. Our schools, our careers, our spouses, our children, our parents. And that’s not a bad thing. But somewhere around 40, we start to think about ourselves again.
Much like our children who are testing the independence of thought, questioning the boundaries of authority, and venturing into the world unjaded, hopeful and determined, those of us at 40 are trying for the first time in a long time to find our place, our purpose, ourselves.
All that heaviness which makes our shoulders sag and our bodies weary also opens our eyes. We are starting to think – really think – about who we are, who we want to be, and the legacy we want to leave.
We are old enough to know things, but young enough to understand we don’t know everything.
We are old enough to have seen what greed and hate and power can do, but young enough to still believe we can change them.
We are old enough to finally be comfortable in our own skin, but young enough to know we can still be better.
We are old enough to have seen endings but young enough to know we still have time for a transition.
We are old enough to know what really matters and young enough to fill the rest of our lives with those things.
It’s not a mid-life crisis. It’s a mid-life awakening.
This is how I chose to spend my 40th birthday. Flying through the air. Shedding the heaviness of 40 years of life. Reclaiming the girl I used to be. Reclaiming that same spirit that I see in my children. With my children right beside me.
This is what my 40 looks like.
Love hard friends. And fly free…