April 12, 2016

Life in My 40s

I survived my 20s, plowed through my 30s, and now I’m surviving mid-life. I’m in the phase of life where it seems as though I no longer matter; no one is trying to get my attention. Advertisers are targeting 20-somethings—the Millennials—to buy their products, watch their programs, change the world and do something amazing with their lives. I’m not eligible for any particular benefits or special treatment. The AARP has to wait a little longer. I don’t get discounts if I buy a movie ticket and I’m not ready for the early bird special. I’m in limbo. Not quite young, but not old, either.

In my 20s, I was blissfully ignorant. I was young, carefree. I didn’t worry about much until I started to have children. But even still, I was much calmer when I had my son than when I had my daughters. I was moody and grumbled about inconsequential things like most people at that age, but did I mention I was young and carefree? I write that sentence and smile. Only because I know that my 20s were not nearly as carefree as I make them sound. I went through a lot during that decade of my life—leaving college and starting college again, getting married, buying and selling a house, having a baby, getting divorced, battling cervical cancer, getting re-married, buying another house, suffering a miscarriage. But I handled it. I got through it and I moved on.

During my 30s, after all of my babies were born and life seemed to settle down, the worrying began in earnest. Little by little, there was simply more to worry about. I started a business that I threw myself into like an episode of Survivor, tribal counsel and all. I worked hard at being a good mom and getting a someday successful business off the ground. One minute, I was at a business conference across the country, the next minute I was attending a school recital. I was juggling like a circus clown and thriving, albeit not always as successfully as I’d like to think. Whoever said a woman can have it all should have been stoned on the spot.

Enter life in my 40s. The worry was in full tilt by this time. I woke and went to bed watching the news. I listened to talk radio in the car pool line and raged. I had one child in college and two children in middle school. My husband’s career was demanding more of his time, while I continued to juggle motherhood and my own career. I stressed about money, grades (that weren’t even mine), my health, everyone’s health, girl drama (thankfully, not my girls), college tuition, relationships, sex, drugs, new immunizations, diseases, terrorists, the safety of my family, perimenopause, and an empty nest. By the time I had hit my mid-40s, I was a mess.

However, if 40 is the new 20, I must be reliving that decade all over again, but this time with my eyes wide open. No more ignorance and no more bliss.

But… And this is a big but, I am no longer afraid. I no longer care what people think, say, or do. I don’t give a whip about consumerism, and a good book is far better than any television program. I no longer watch the news or listen to talk radio. If it’s important enough, I’ll find out what I need to know. I don’t have to feel insecure about making it in the world. I’ve already arrived. Battered, beaten, and wiser. I took control of my body and my mind. I’ve changed careers and chose personal fulfillment over money. My children are all adults, thriving and beginning their own quests, but we’re still thick as thieves. I appreciate everything I have with such enormous gratitude, I will sometimes weep at my good fortune. I have everything I have ever wanted and more.

Am I rich? Not even close. Do I worry about money? Yes, but I have resolved that things will work out as they should, as they’ve always done. The stresses have not gone away, but the way I deal with them has changed. Life is not perfect. No one’s life is perfect. But mine is sublimely imperfect in all the right places.

Life in my 40s has been challenging, but I’ve decided I like challenges after all.

P.S. You may also like I Survived the First Year of College,  It's Been Quite a Week, and Are You a Late Bloomer?.

Photo: Moyan Brenn


Charlotte said...

I'm leaving my 30s very soon and I've noticed a shift. I started reading your blog after the first of the year, and although I do love all of the tips you post, I look forward to the more intimate ramblings you write. I look forward to more.


Anonymous said...

Now that I'm in my 50s, I'm far more relaxed than I ever was. I think we change from decade to decade. I know that I felt a shift every single time I turned a new number - 20, 30, 40, 50 - I just feel more free.


Kimberly Merritt said...

Hi Charlotte. I'm turning Life in My 40s into a new series. It's part of the new/old direction I'm taking the blog (I'll post about in next week). Thank you for the kind words.

Karen, I think you may be right. What's old is new again. What's new is never really new...