40 snuck up on me

Well, that went fast.

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Life moves pretty fast: on the Q train last Tuesday evening looking out at New York Harbow

When I recant the story of my thirties, the sheer amount of memories made, of events that took place, makes it feel like I had more than a decade’s worth of experiences.  I started my fourth decade with a new baby and new husband, in Los Angeles.  I ended the decade with a tween in Brooklyn.  In between, I made new friends, built a new community, said goodbye to my homeland, changed jobs a couple times, and tried to figure out who I am, how my brain works, and what really matters to me.

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Obviously, the answer to the last question is THIS GUY.

In all the fast movement of my thirties though, I didn’t adjust what 40 would mean to me.  In my mind, it meant that I would have to look like a Respectable Adult.  I think, in my subconscious, I expected some switch would click over yesterday, and I would no longer want to wear such things as my gold metallic 80s sneakers or my morning rave style gold fanny pack

Never gonna give you up, gold sneakers!

Beyond the occasional fashion item however, 40 seemed to be a cultural line in the sand, the difference between a decade that, in coastal cities, is treated as an extension of one’s early adulthood, and the entrance to a decade that means actual classic adulthood.  40 seems to be the age at which one wears classics and moves to the suburbs; it is an age at which one should be well on track with a career.  It always struck me as an age at which one should be established.  40 smacks of a sedate livelihood, of no longer being so much on a path as being at one’s destination in life.

The idea of being sedate, of being sedentary in my experiences and development, of being held within lines and within societal expectations, is horrifying to me.  Of course to do so would be a choice, but I don’t want to have to make such choices.  40 always seemed so far-off that it seemed respectable.  I appreciate being respected, but respectable sounds like the sort of thing that happens to other people.

It has taken a few months to re-frame the expectation of 40.  It was another Rover who said something to me back in April in Seattle that kicked it off.  She told me she had done so much in her 40s, and that it had been a meaningful decade to her.  That was when I realized that I had a false impression of my 40s as a static or even stagnant time of  one’s life.  One’s 40s can be a time of development, of change, of growth.  It is just another section of the journey.  Life has no destination point, so the idea that I had to be at that point by 40 is not logical.

So here I am at 40.  And I had a lovely birthday yesterday to celebrate it, with many of my dear friends and family spending their afternoons schlepping out to Governors Island with us for a BBQ.  My husband worked tirelessly all weekend to make it a special day with an organized party.  My best friend spent the first hour of the party making sure it looked festive with balloons and streamers and a sparkly crown for me.  I spent the first day of my fifth decade in a beautiful setting, in the heart of my adopted and ancestral hometown, with a mix of the people that I am lucky to have built a village with in Brooklyn, the friends I’ve been blessed to have had since L.A., and the family I am fortunate to have in the area.

It’s time to re-focus, as I always do at my birthday, on the journey I’m on, and the paths that matter, and where they lead.  40 does not mean slowing down because I’m reaching a mythical life goal.  It is just another number, and one I can choose to use as an impetus to re-evaluate, or one I can discard as meaningless.  That’s my choice, and that choice is still what matters at every age.

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