I don’t know what it is about turning 40 that has me, well, quietly freaking out.
I think it has less to do with actually aging — I feel 28 and eat like a teenager — and more to do with one simple fact: I like being in my 30s.
I was 25 when I got my first “real” job, one that utilized my college degree and gave me health benefits. I walked — OK, stormed — into the newsroom full of ideas and enthusiasm, exactly what you’d expect from a recent college grad in her 20s.
And while my effervescent personality was mostly embraced by my coworkers, I was still considered a kid in the field. My age — and perhaps my eating habits — kept me in the “Oh, she’s just a baby” category, and I felt like I always had to prove myself to the office veterans.
Fast forward to 30, though, and things suddenly changed.
While my metabolism slowed down — honestly, it felt like my body completely shut down on my birthday — my self-confidence grew. I felt competent and appropriately cynical, still idealistic and hopeful but more honest and grounded. I found a depth in life I didn’t realize was there when I was younger. The way I viewed people, their actions, the world — that all changed. It was a paradigm shift in many ways — and I liked it.
Turning 30 wasn’t a big deal at all. In fact, I actually looked forward to it. I wouldn’t be dismissed as some young kid with no experience and no idea what life was really about anymore. I would be 30 — and I would have arrived.
(Except, to be honest, I had the stomach flu on my birthday and all I remember was throwing up the cheesecake my mom made for me in my parent’s bathroom. It wasn’t one of my finer moments.)
But in a month I’ll be 40 — and it’s not sitting well with me.
I don’t want to be 25 again. (Thanks, it was fun, but I’m over it.) And screw going back to high school. But 30 — that was a great decade.
I worked in a lively newsroom with talented writers, many of whom are still my close friends. I fought for sustainable fishing practices as part of a marine conservation campaign with The Nature Conservancy. I taught journalism, developed products for Rainbow Drive-In, traveled around the world, grew plants, killed plants, wrote more stories about native birds than I ever thought possible, got married, got divorced, got married again, acquired three dogs and five chickens and a baby goat. It’s been quite a whirlwind.
People who are beyond 30 have told me the 40s are the best. But I’m skeptical.
The 30s were great. Did you read that list? How can you beat that?
It’s just a number, you are what ever age you feel that you are. It’s what’s inside that counts.
LOL – Happy Early Birthday, Cat! I freaked out when I turned 40, too. (Except I mistakenly thought I was 39 for about 6 months when I was actually 38, so by the time I WAS 39 and about to turn 40 I was already over it!) So far, though, my 40’s have been even more awesome than my 30’s. I married your cousin, went on a 3 week European honey moon, bought the urban loft of my dreams and I’m getting my first book published in a few months. And I have six more years to go! (Crap, now you have me worried about turning 50.)
for me 30’swere cool went from devil may care single, married with family. Turned 40 and began a new career, self employed. 30 years later still doing that. 50’sbegan to see that there were things I should have done and wished I had. (like set aside funds or “retirement”) became a grand parent 3 times. Wouldn’t trade it or change it. 60’s began to do some travels I wasn’t able to do earlier. Became a great grand parent twice still enjoying life. as the Jamaicans say “no Worries, Mon”. So life changes/stay the same, continues on for the endless wave Ride it hard and fast.
The 30s were the best in so many ways. The best time to make a career change and pick up a 30-year mortgage so you have the option of retiring soon after turning 60. Not to say that the 40s and 50s were bad or being in the mid-60 range is not good … but the 30s …. ah, yes!
Great writing! Cheers to a new decade.
CAT: Wait! It gets better!
You’re one my favorite bloggers. Love your writing style, what you write about and where you live (I dream of vacations in Hawaii often.) I trail you by 4 years so I look forward to getting a preview of my 40s through you!
Happy birth day!!!
In your 40s, you’ll slay dragons (or perhaps add them to your other farm animals), climb new mountains (or at least new parts of mountains still steaming and being pushed upward toward the sky), and likely find new patience and comfort with aching knees and hair that demands expensive treatments to stay the color it is now.
You will make it the best decade yet in your life.
I’m 53, and thoroughly enjoyed my 40s. I enjoyed work without realizing yet that my career had plateaued. My children were no longer toddlers, and not yet teenagers who thought they already knew everything that is worth knowing – it was a magical time with them. I did more international travel in my 40s than ever before. My hair did turn to salt and pepper, but I still have most of it, and my knees didn’t hold me back from anything but running more than four days in a row on hard pavement. I changed jobs a few times, some employment moves better than others, but each with a hopeful spirit and fresh start.
I paid off my mortgage and became totally debt-free in my 40s, a significant goal that I set around age 35 managed to achieve by 45.
I didn’t play as much basketball in my 40s, but I finished reading all of the “great books” from the list I made in my 30s, and I began writing fiction for pleasure.
By 50, I realized that my career had plateaued in my late 40s, and rather than mope about it or try to claw my way up, I began mentoring and developing others in a seriously purposeful way. I also began thinking about new and different careers, thoughts I still explore.
One thing is certain. You’re as unlikely to be abducted by extraterrestrials for experimentation purposes in your 40s as in your 30s.
Blow out those candles when 40 arrives with a secret smile and thoughts of the as-yet unknown adventure that lies ahead.