I have been helping various friends celebrate their 40th birthday for more than a decade. And for just as long, I wondered how I was going to feel when that day came for me. It's easy to feel put off by the number or dismiss it as "over the hill" when you're in your 20s and even throughout your 30s. So I would always ask, "How do you FEEL??", hoping for some deep philosophical answer on the psychological adjustment of aging, I think. But the answers I always got were consistently tucked under one of two simple umbrellas: "I feel old." or "I feel the same."
And now it's my turn. I'm here. I've rounded the corner into a new decade. It's my turn to ask myself that same annoying question I've been asking my friends for years. "How do I FEEL??" And while I understand both categorical answers, I just can't let myself off the hook as easily and accept those answers at face value now that 40 is personal. Time to get a little introspective...
First, I feel an element of nostalgia riddled in sentimental memories. Turning 40 makes me aware of how quickly time passes. Some of my most cherished memories are now upwards of 20-25 years old and I haven't seen some of my most cherished friends for almost just as long (although it all seems like yesterday...). That's the "old" feeling. I get it.
But memories and nostalgia are not bad, just reflective. It's nice to hit a milestone which makes you take pause. I've enjoyed taking moments over the past few months to look back on decisions made and paths chosen, take note of relationships formed and relationships lost, relive past successes and revisit past mistakes. All of these things make me the person I am right now. I feel grateful for these experiences, both good and bad, and for this feeling of awareness as I greet the next chapter.
Reflecting on the past makes me feel focused in the present. It helps me recognize what makes me happy and realize that happiness does not look the same for everyone. It's all ok. The mantra 'to each their own' speaks clearly to me in a way that it did not just a few years ago.
There was a stint of time in my mid-30s that I was not particularly happy. I was surrounded by people with whom I did not share similar interests or ideals and I started to lose sight of my own priorities. I was spending too much time worrying about what other people thought and was making too many decisions based on what other people were doing. From social engagements to child rearing, I was going in a direction that I did not want to go and with people who did not bring out the best in me personally.
So in January of 2013 I made a New Year's resolution to make "concrete, consistent, and consciousness changes in my life", (announced it on Facebook, the whole bit). I refocused my efforts and energy. I developed my BODYpow program further and opened my first set of classes. We moved to a different home with friendly neighbors. We enrolled our children in a school environment that worked well for our family. I paid attention to my own interests, my family's needs, and invested my time in genuine friendships. If something didn't feel right, I said no. I took risks and didn't worry about other people's reactions. I let go of the people and places that were making me feel angry, tense, and taken for granted. The social pressures I felt to act (or not act) a certain way had finally been lifted -- simply because I decided to lift them.
I am not immune to life's stressors or pressures. I feel them everyday. But as I begin the journey into my 40s, I know the kind of person I want to be for my family, for my friends, and for myself. I know that my physical strength is a direct reflection of my mental strength. I know that I am no longer as affected by criticism or judgement as I was in the past and I know that I want to be a positive and supportive influence to others. I know that I will continue to make mistakes and change my mind. I know that I am still learning and I hope that I continue to grow as a person through however many decades I have left.
40 for me is reflective, empowered, and strong. 40 for me is about forgiving and moving forward. 40 for me is feeling fit, free, and unafraid to try. 40 for me is full steam ahead.
I just turned 40. This is how I feel.