I tell you what…I was having trouble with the idea of turning 40. In a few months I will officially hit middle age. I looked at my life and, while I don’t regret any of it because it got me where I am now, I did feel like I hadn’t done nearly enough with my youth. I was feeling a little down on myself for not having had a career yet, for being fat still, that sort of thing. It sucked.
I used to – half jokingly – say that my mother must be so proud when she compares children with her friends. Her youngest has accomplished precisely nothing but getting married, finishing college 10 years after she should have, and having a couple of kids. Yeah, that’s kind of how I thought of myself. But, here’s the thing, That’s not bad. I stayed at home with my kids until they were old enough for school by agreement with my husband. I did finish a BA, and now I’m in nursing school, about to start a career – a mid-life change of directions, not uncommon. My kids are well adjusted, like each other, and are well-behaved. And yes, I’m still fat. But I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in terms of eating and blood work.
The upshot of all of this is that I decided to say “F it” to what other people think of me. I have finally learned to accept myself, flaws and all. I am who I am (as Popeye would say), and I’m good with it. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to get better, it just means that I will forgive myself when I take a couple of steps backwards and understand that it’s not the end of the journey. Life is not an all or nothing proposition. You can make mistakes and recover from them. You can keep trying to be your best self up until the day you die – and you might even achieve it for a second or two, until you set yourself new goals. 40 is turning into a really good thing.
I had so many goals for my life. I still do – I still want to write a novel someday, I want a career that I can love, I want to raise kind, productive kids, I want to grow old with my husband and be happy. The goals have changed from when I was a teenager though. Then I wanted to make a huge splash in the world. I wanted to be a lawyer before the Supreme Court or a college professor who wrote acclaimed and authoritative books. I’ve gotten over that need to be a big deal. Now I just want to quietly help as many people as I can. That’s enough, to make a difference in people’s lives on a much smaller scale. My goals have gotten more modest and my mind has gotten more accepting of everyone’s flaws, including my own. I’m good with that.
30 was easy. 40 less so. But, 40 is turning out to be a pretty good age for me. Once I got over the idea that I’m too old to do much anymore, I realized that I am an adult. No more denying it and acting or pretending to myself that I’m still young. But being older has huge benefits. I have money, for one thing. I’m not a broke kid anymore. I have better coping skills than I used to, I can handle what life throws at me. I have a stable support system in place rather than friends who come and go, or boyfriends who do the same. I know what my priorities are, know that they are good and serve me well, and I can be true to them. I am finally, finally, comfortable with myself. There is no nagging sense of inferiority. There is no secret longing to be someone or something else. A sea change occurred and I am happy with who I am. That’s a huge relief. Now I can get on with the things that I want to do instead of always getting sidetracked by who else I want to be. Maybe I’ll even get that book written (once I’m out of nursing school).