Well, today is the day. I have finally hit the big 4-0. I had big plans of throwing a party, gathering friends and family to celebrate the cresting of the hill. Forty sure looks different than it did 30 years ago. I remember watching a cousin turn 40 with an “over the hill cake” and black balloons. I remember party stores with canes that read “old fart” to match the theme of being past your prime. We celebrated another cousin’s 40th with a girl cruise. I imagined what this day would look like for me, the crossing of a milestone, the end of an era.
Somehow, even when parties are canceled for the foreseeable future, time still marches on. Despite the lack of hoopla and streamers, I am excited about my birthday. For some reason, my sweet husband thinks I am bothered by turning 40. He tells the boys I am 29 when they ask how old I am and gets uncomfortable at the mention of my actual age. Perhaps he is bothered by his own age or perhaps he is thinking of all the women who don’t want to admit they are getting older and are somehow still stuck on 29.
For me, I wouldn’t relive my 20s if you paid me to do it. Now the 30s I would take again a heartbeat, but not at the expense of giving up the life I have lived since then. Sure, getting older comes with its challenges, but if getting older means I get to have all of the experiences I have accumulated along the way, I can’t think of anything better!
Although I do love celebrating my birthday and take joy in it each year, there are some challenges that come with being an older model. I am beginning to realize that things really do change when you approach 40, and sometimes you just have to laugh. Although it looks different than I expected, I’m glad it doesn’t fit the image I grew up with. I certainly don’t feel over the hill or on my last leg, but I am definitely beginning to see where that idea came from.
It’s easy to lose track of time as you age. It’s not that I’m trying to hide my age, it’s just that time seems to speed up somewhere in there, and everything feels like it was just five years ago. Landmark events just seem to float around in space and time. Graduating high school, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina. They could have happened the same year or 20 years apart. It’s sometimes hard to tell. Last year someone was talking about the collapse of the Berlin Wall and said it happened 30 years ago. I was adamant that it was more recent than that because there was no way I would have remembered it being that thirty years ago I would have been only four. Nope. Thirty years ago I was nine because I actually have been aging every year and not just sitting at 34. It was very humbling to be teaching on the very campus where the Texas A&M Bonfire collapsed 20 years earlier. I was in college myself, and here I was teaching students, many of whom weren’t even born yet. That same semester was the 18th anniversary of 9/11 where many of the freshmen on campus weren’t even born when that happened. I knew it had been 20 years since I had been in college, but it was so hard to comprehend that these events that happened while I was in college occurred that long ago.
Recently I was attending an event at a local church. I didn’t realize that primarily college students would be attending. They broke us into table groups, and I was with four college boys (men?). The ice breaker was to tell a story from our past that involved dinosaurs. I led with, “You probably don’t remember Pee Wee’s Big Adventure…” I expected that they may not remember the movie but had no doubt that they would know Pee Wee himself. He was such an icon when I was growing up. They all shook their heads “no”, but I proceeded to tell them about how we visited the place in the movie where they climbed into the big dinosaurs and sat in their heads, looking out the faces. They all listened politely, but before moving on, one of the young men asked, “Who’s Pee Wee?” In my shock, I tried explaining it, but it just seemed to get worse and worse. It was supposed to be an 8-week class. I didn’t go back.
The place where I feel my age the most is when I’m putting my boys to bed at night or for a nap. Often my arm is under their head, and I’m trapped like Ross in Friends. As I work my way out, I think, “I’m pretty sure there’s an entire generation of parents chanting, ‘hug and roll’ as they maneuver out from under a toddler at bedtime.” Definitely not what Ross had in mind. I’m further reminded when I realize that it isn’t the creaking of the bed, the door, or the floorboards that will wake up my kid but rather the creaking of my knees and snapping of my ankles as I get moving again!
So, this is 40. Whether you’re laughing or crying, we can’t slow it down. Even if I could, I don’t know that I would want to. Sure, sometimes I wish I had started my family sooner or had another chance to correct some mistakes, but what would I give up to have that opportunity again? Would I give up the traveling I did or the adventures I had? Would I give up the lessons I learned or what I learned about myself? Would I give up the boys I have now for two completely different kids 10 years earlier? There isn’t an experience or gift I would trade now to have it 10 years earlier. I am so grateful for the gift of making it to 40 and am excited to make the next 40 even better!