I turned 40 last week. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that many woman (and quite a few men) dread this day. And by that token I feel the American stereotype means I should have spent the day shriveled up in a corner under an over the hill sign with all my new gray hair and bemoaning the loss of my hearing, eyesight and memory. Or is that now 50? Is 40 considered the new 30? Is 50 the new 25? I don’t know anymore. Am I supposed to be embarrassed about even putting the number out there so you know how old I am? Here’s the thing – I have come to the realization that I just don’t care.
Sure I spent my birthday having an amazing bucket list experience (seriously, if it’s not on your list go add it right now) that kept me distracted. But several days have passed, several people have offered birthday wishes and asked me how I feel now, and the answer and feeling still has not changed. I spent some time thinking about why I wasn’t upset or depressed or having any other feeling that I’ve been conditioned to expect upon turning 40. I didn’t come up with anything. Then I decided to make a list of just a few of things I have or haven’t done over the years to see if that would give me some perspective. Here’s what I came up with.
In the last 40 years I learned to walk, talk and read. I learned to share. I got a perm. I played kick the can. I learned to play the bassoon and the piano and then promptly forgot how. I graduated from several schools. I learned the world does not revolve around me. I traveled to Paris and Athens and London and Hawaii and St. Maarten and New York and so many, many more places. I cried a lot over mistakes I made. I learned I cannot carry a tune but I can parallel park and change a tire. I learned to forgive. I camped in a tent, pop-up camper and RV. I jumped out of an airplane. I became an aunt and along the way a better sister and daughter. I learned to snow ski, water ski and scuba dive. I got married to the love of my life. I found a job I loved. I went to celebrity-filled parties. I accepted my introversion. I volunteered my time and money to various charitable organizations. I drank a lot of champagne. I made many friends and lost a few along the way. I moved to Mexico.
The list made me realize that the outside influences about turning 40 that I had been listening to forever were more about the physical changes that happen as you get a bit older and has absolutely nothing to do what I can do, want to do or will do with the rest of my life. I can’t control the aging process but I can control how I react to it and the decisions I make about how to live.
I guess maybe if I hadn’t spent the past year making deliberate choices and changes that resulted in living here in Playa del Carmen I might feel a bit differently. Maybe it would have pained me to type the first sentence of this post. But I did make changes and so I’m thinking that is why I just don’t care. I don’t care that the lines around my eyes are a bit deeper and the knees feel a bit creakier. I don’t care that vanity and humidity don’t mix well so I’ve had to give up blow dryers and hair straighteners. I don’t care that the only highlights my hair gets come from the sun and that my primary makeup is moisturizer and sunscreen. I really don’t care that I no longer have women’s magazines available to tell me how I should be looking or what I should be wearing at 40 and I don’t care that I don’t have any other influences telling me how I should be feeling. (Apparently there is one benefit to not speaking the language).
What I do know is that the whale sharks and the bats in the underground caves and the guides at the Mayan ruins don’t care how old I am or how I look (I’m pretty sure Jason feels the same way). And I know there are a lot more places here in Mexico and out there in the world where the same holds true. So almost every day I add something to the already long list of things I still want to do. Just for starters I want to learn another language, travel to Cuba and Croatia, go zip-lining, beat my husband at tennis, fully accept my hips, try surfing, become less stubborn and drink lots more champagne.
Turning older isn’t a choice, it’s a gift. A gift to spend more time exploring new places, experiencing different cultures and ways of life and living the way that I want to live. And as Jason so often says to me, turning older is better than the alternative