Sometimes the only way to accept the aging process and move forward is to make peace with “what is” and send out as many condolences as you can. This is especially true when hitting certain “milestone” numbers (16, 21, 30, and on and on). Although, approaching situations with grace and tact is easier said than done.
Oddly enough, 21 never bothered me, nor did 25, 30 or 33. What caused an existential crisis was turning 39. That number scared the hell out of me. The debilitating fear I experienced caused me to curl up like a ball in the corner of my couch for a month as my mind raced with various #firstworldproblems and legitimate anxieties. The self-depreciating banter drove me crazy. What the hell are you doing? Who do you think you are?
Thirty-nine means almost 40. What the fuck have you accomplished?
The age bothered me because, according to mainstream society, I had one year to secure whatever one is supposed to achieve in their thirties. Back-to-back promotions, holiday snaps from the Maldives, well-adjusted kids, hot sex every day, eternal love, gravity-defying breasts, an unwavering MILF-like confidence, and the perfect Instagram filter.
I don’t care what anyone says—being a woman is hard, even in the progressive and tech-savvy 21st Century. We have more rights and freedoms than our mothers but are still fenced off by invisible, normative boundaries. Even with all the choices and opportunities at our disposal we are still made to feel weaker, less-than, and disposable. If a woman doesn’t fit into the mainstream ideal that is trending she is ostracized. She is called out for being too much of this or too little of that.
And if a woman is over 36 (the new “scary age“) she’s way past her due date.
“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” ~From The Shawshank Redemption
It took me a while to make peace with the invisible, numerical handcuffs I used to cut off my circulation. I spent too much effort zeroing in on my failures or the grass on the other side of the fence, and wasted time eyeballing the highly curated social media posts I couldn’t keep up with.
So many things to do! Not enough time! Why haven’t you accomplished J through N or X, Y, and Z? I let myths take root and invalidate the back-to-back, life-altering experiences I had in my twenties and thirties. Thankfully, meditation, friends, and
glasses bottles of wine helped me out of that brain-dead spiral. I overrode the irritating voices and charted a path even if it wasn’t according to someone else’s standards.
To avoid a repeat of last year’s antics I adopted a different approach as I prepared to enter “advanced fighting age” territory. I wanted to come in for a smooth landing because I have enough stress in my life. Making much ado about absolutely nothing causes wrinkles. It is bloody exhausting. And turning 40 is enough of a transition to juggle.
Fourteen weeks out, I put on my big-girl pants and began to stare down my fears. I shifted goals and priorities, and cooked up a new set of adventures. When uncomfortable situations arose I sat with each hardship and cradled it until it fell asleep. I sent a string of condolences to all the things that no longer worked.
I let go of all the things I was too tired to carry.
What a relief to shrug off that dead weight! We cover more distance when not under the duress of caring about what others expect. I tiptoed towards 40 armed with a fresh perspective, wild curiosity, and multiple reserves of energy. It feels better to measure success by a set of metrics that don’t include age, net worth, hip-to-waist ratio, number of Twitter followers, or someone else’s progress.
The bottom line is this life is a a riot, a motherfucking circus, and perpetual set of endings and beginnings. And since there is only one direction of travel it turns every single (birth)day into a gift. If you want to recalibrate or reset stop waiting for someone to give you the signal. Run all the red lights you can. Stumble, fall and get up in time to catch the sun breach the horizon. There are roads to travel. You are right on schedule.
And you are more resilient than you ever imagined.