It’s been awhile since I wrote, and figured there was no better time to resurface than the dawning of my 40th birthday. To tell the truth, the idea of this particular birthday and what it meant has had me anxious for a while. When I say anxious, I mean panic-attacks-in-bed-with-tears-streaming-down-my-face kind of anxious. All of the thoughts started rushing in – thoughts of everything I haven’t done yet and where I’m not. The comparison game, which I generally avoid, was strong. I called my Mom trying to get some support or words of wisdom and instead got a cross between “be thankful you’re still alive” and her common go-to phrase these days of “I don’t know what to tell you.” I get it. Our lives are completely different. At my age my Mom was married with four kids and living in the suburbs. I always thought that I’d be doing something similar – at least with the family piece. But clearly that’s not the case right now – which I’m actually okay with. These are, after all, different times.
As the weeks went by I went through a mix of emotions. First was the fear of being officially “old” and being looked at as an Auntie – and not in the cool way, but in the grown and not quite sexy wearing sequin tops in the middle of the week and taking selfies with corny captions way. Then also there was the whole responsibility of being officially “grown” – which by definition should mean I’d have my shit together. But mainly it was the being old thing. In a society where youth is valued so highly, my apprehension is rather normal. To cope, I found myself looking up women that were over 40 and killing it – both in terms of looks, health, and also just in terms of living their best lives. But still, even that was still leading me back down the comparison game aisle.
To be clear, I’ve never had an issue with my generation and all it represents. I was a kid during the 1980’s and came of age throughout the 1990’s. What’s called ‘old-school hip hop’, was what I grew up with. I wore Cross Colours and those parachute pants that MC Hammer made popular. I had Guess and Calvin Klein jeans – regular and stone washed (when they were cool). Hell, I even had flannel shirts, Doc Martens and Converse (that’s when my love for Chucks started) – because yes, I listened to some “grunge” and had love for alternative music too. I still have cassette tapes of all the songs I taped off the radio (for the record, I make a mean mixtape). I had crushes on boys with high-top fades, some with s-curls in said fades, and later boys with fros and braids. And the music….man listen: the 80’s and 90’s spawned some of the best R&B and Hip Hop music to have ever been made. This is not up for debate.
So I take pride in my generation.
It’s the connotation of 40 that had me stuck (notice that I said “had.” I’m making progress.)
I can’t say there was a definitive moment when I snapped out of it. Instead it has been a gradual move to the feeling of, for lack of a better phrase, “fuck it.” I’ve thought about all the lessons I’ve learned -some the hard way- and all I’ve lived through. I think about how funny it is to me that I’m 40 but still feel like I’m in my 20s physically – and I stay getting carded (sidenote: when people squint and give my ID a doubletake I always laugh. Like, who would get a fake ID that makes them my age. ) I’ve thought about how my Mom was right, and that it’s a blessing to see another year of life when so many people never made it to this age. And ultimately, I’ve realized that like Aaliyah said, this age thing is nothing but a number. Besides, it’s not something I can run from. Even if I could, it’s only if I subscribe to what other people think and expect that it becomes a problem. I’m not going to stop being me and doing what feels right to me so I can fit somebody else’s definition of what “age appropriate” is.
If anything, this birthday has made me reflect on how fast time flies and how precious life is. There are no do-overs. Grappling with that and thinking about how to not waste time on things (and people) that don’t make me happy and experiences that aren’t true reflections of what I want my life to be about are what I’ve been focusing on the most lately. I have enough regrets. I’m not trying to make more with whatever time I have left – which God willing is a lot.
But in the meantime I’m grateful for another year and the blessing of being here.
I guess this is 40.