I woke up, rushed to the mirror, and stared at my reflection. At first glance everything was the same. My lips were the same. My nose was the same. My ears were the same. However, the corners of my eyes were etched with thin lines, gray hair graced my hairline, and moles dotted the landscape of my once smooth skin. All are telltale signs of aging. These changes didn’t happen overnight but it seems like only yesterday my skin was smooth and unmarred and all of my hair was the same color. What happened? Perhaps the Steve Miller band said it best, while I was busy taking my youth for granted, time kept on slipping into the future.
I vividly recall turning twenty-one and going to a nightclub for the first time. I wore a small scarf around my neck and my sweater was unbuttoned at the bottom to show my belly button; I was going for the sexy, yet sophisticated look. I was excited about getting older. I couldn’t wait to be grown, out of my parents’ house, and making my own rules. In my twenties, I finished school, started a career, and bought my first home. I achieved a lot and yet I was incredibly insecure and constantly in search of validation. I weighed 110 pounds my first year in law school. A friend nicknamed me Tuna because I ate one tuna sandwich a day. I thought if only I could lose 5 more pounds, then I would be happy. My romantic and platonic relationships were often unhealthy. Many times I remained in them past their expiration dates because I was “in love.” I thought even painful love was better than no love at all. Fortunately, I made it out of my twenties bruised but not defeated.
I also remember turning thirty. I celebrated by going to dinner, dancing, and traveling to Europe. I wanted to do it big because to me thirty signaled old age and the end of fun. Now I realize I was a fool. I had no idea that in my thirties I would really start to live. I had a little more confidence. Although I was still obsessed with dieting and being the “perfect” weight, I no longer aimed to be 105 pounds. Instead, I wanted to be 106. My body changed due to a slower metabolism and multiple pregnancies. My once unmarred, tight, abdomen now has c-section scars and a belly button that pops out at inconvenient times! While I am not happy about these changes, I realize before them, I was just as insecure about my body. Fortunately, with the physical changes came my most precious gifts, Max and Myles. Looking back I wish I’d spent more time in my thirties appreciating who I was. It was a great decade. I got married, had two babies, established my career, and began investigating and investing in my passions (international travel, sewing, blogging, and running). I like to think I got closer to discovering who I am in my thirties.
Yesterday, I said goodbye to my thirties and begrudgingly said hello to forty. My dad reminded me that I am now middle-aged; I instantly felt sad. Thanks dad. He said someone recently asked him if he had any children in their forties and he quickly responded, “no way!” before realizing his eldest, me, was almost forty. Clearly he is getting older too. I felt sad because in some ways turning forty means my best years are behind me. My childbearing years are coming to a close (I tied my tubes so that isn’t a real concern), my metabolism is slower so I am not as fit as I used to be, and I prefer napping to partying. My dad said at least I am not in my sixties- he has started getting calls from telemarketers offering him depends samples.
To celebrate this milestone I purchased tickets to Australia, went to dinner with friends and family, and attempted to dance the night away. I’m definitely older, instead of shutting down the dance floor, Kwabs and I rushed home and promptly fell asleep. It was a great but exhausting birthday.
I want to leave my forties with fewer regrets than previous decades. I vow to love myself more and cut myself some slack. I want to be more accepting of my imperfections. Someone recommended that we live each day as though it were our last. I want to do that! I want to step outside of my comfort zone more. Hell, I want to eat more chocolate cake even though the number on the scale might increase.
Forty is not the new twenty or the new thirty to me, it is still forty but it is new and improved. I am trying not to buy into societies message that aging is a bad thing and we need to do all we can to stay young. That mindset makes me feel bad; after all aging is a part of life and the alternative is death. I think about my relatives and friends who are no longer here and realize I am blessed to see forty. Changing my mindset will be hard, because I have been conditioned to embrace youth and shun evidence of aging. However, in my moments of clarity, I must acknowledge along with completing four decades of life, I am wiser, kinder, and more beautiful than ever…at least that is what I will continue to tell myself. And better yet, now I know it for myself, I don’t need validation…okay, maybe sometimes.