I was greeted today by a smiling, freckle-faced, red-head whose cheeks are blushed with the kiss of a bit too much Hawaiian sun, courtesy of a certain now 40-year-old who was a bit too lax with the sunscreen. “Good morning, 40-year-old! Happy birthday!” he cheered. “Dad’s only 39 still. But you’re 40.” Um, thanks? Hahaha.
And, so, here it is.
My 40th birthday.
Or, perhaps, the year I forever become “39+”?
The bridge to my twilight. (I mean, let’s be honest – 40 is pretty much a solid mid-point to life, right?)
Or, rather, as we should think about turning 40 – beginning again: The start of the second half of my life.
I have to say, I wasn’t dreading this particular milestone.
There’s a lot that comes with 40.
There’s a lot I’ve learned and experienced.
There’s a lot I’ve yet to learn and experience.
There’s a lot I love.
There’s a lot I get out of bed every day for.
And there’s still so much I want to do.
It’s a nice mid-point, really. A nice pause to stop and appreciate how good life is and the goodness that’s yet to come.
There’s a certain self-confidence that comes with 40. You know who you are. You know who you’re not. You know what you can do. You know what you want to do. And you know what you don’t want to try. And you’re (hopefully!) mostly good with who you actually are….after all, you’ve spent 40 years becoming who you are today, right now, at this very point in time.
You know you are loved. You know people who love you for everything you are, and everything you’re not. They love you for your 40-year-old self.
You know that love grows. Exponentially throughout your life, from the moment your parents watch you take in your first breath.
You know the importance of a few good friends.
You know the importance of family.
You know that love can survive across thousands and thousands of miles.
You feel quite young in spirit. Even if you’re a little rusty getting out of bed in the morning.
You still know all the words to your favorite songs from high school and college. And your favorite dance moves to accompany your singing. (Much to the embarrassment of your significant other and / or kids.)
You look wistfully at your old basketball (or insert younger-year passion here) shoes and know that it’s not a terribly smart idea to lace them up again. If only to safeguard your pride. And to spare your kids’ embarrassment.
You know what you like.
You know what you don’t.
You know you should exercise more. You know you should work less. Yet, neither really happens. (Maybe 40 will be my year!)
You choose fruit or salad over French fries as a side with lunch. Then still sneak some fries from your kids’ plate.
You eat kale instead of romaine lettuce. And actually like it.
You prefer strangers to call you “miss”, but at 40, you face the reality that you are actually a “ma’am” to a 16 year old behind the counter at the Gap. And because you’re fabulously 40, hopefully, you’re gracious even if “ma’am” doesn’t quite sit well with you.
You know how to dress yourself for you, not for the trends. You know your body and how it wears clothes. You know how to make yourself look your best – finally. (Be honest – overalls and high-waist jeans never look good on anyone!)
You acknowledge your flaws. And have the wisdom to figure out what’s worth working on and, frankly, what’s not.
You appreciate criticism because it can make you a better version of yourself. And you’ve got enough experience to know when it matters and when to take it to heart. And when you can mentally tell people to shove it.
You know you aren’t everyone’s “cup of tea”. And that’s ok. You’re good with leaving high-schooling and mean-girling to the high schoolers. And pray every night that your own kids skip the drama altogether.
You know there are shitty people out there. And you know it’s OK that they are not your “cup of tea”.
You know wrinkles will come. Treat them kindly. Sunscreen and some good moisturizer will let your life’s roadmap shine through in its best light. You earned these wrinkles – age gracefully. Please, for the love of God – age gracefully!
You know that the wrapper or wrapping paper is never as good (or bad!) as what’s inside. In all things. People included.
You know enough to let people be who they are. You don’t try to change them.
You know your inner voice and your gut have got things to say. And you know enough to listen.
You know the value of good manners.
You know the value of having strong morals and, well, values.
You know that a good attitude, dedication and hard work can get you farther than you ever thought possible. Even if you aren’t Ivy League. And even if math takes you longer than most people.
You appreciate your parents (or whomever raised you) for everything they did to help make you who you are today. And you know you can’t thank them enough.
You know life is good, even when it’s hard. And you know you should appreciate this more.
You know when to be selfish.
You know when to give more of yourself.
You know how to read people, and try your hardest to always assume positive intent.
You know that sometimes you have to force yourself to smile. And that that’s ok.
You know what’s worth fighting for (and when). And you know when it’s better to walk away.
You know your voice. And you use it well.
You realize your kids are getting older. So you slip your hand in theirs and breathe in their youth every chance you get.
You know that being yourself – and being true to yourself – is perhaps the greatest legacy you can leave behind.
You have experienced your life’s greatest love, and hopefully, live that love every. single. day.
You know life’s greatest joys.
You know life’s greatest sorrows.
And at 40, you know both are still ahead.
Happy 40th to my fellow 1975 babies. Happiest of birthdays to you all.