Today is the last day of my 40s. The impending cricket-score of a birthday has led to a fair bit of reflection and introspection. I’m not bothered by the (large) number, more struck by what a lot of time 50 years amounts to. So here’s a self-indulgent birthday eve review of the half century.
“Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional” – Chili Davis
My yardstick for age (like most people’s) is based on what I recall from my parents. I remember their 40th birthdays onwards and all through my life have regarded them as proper grownups. However, I’m still waiting for that proper grownup feeling to arrive. Yes, I’ve somehow kept another human being alive for almost 15 years, despite childhood cancer throwing us a curveball, been married (twice), divorced (once), and had several jobs, homes and mortgages. But it stills feels a bit like I’m pretending. (Must acknowledge that the husband has had a hand in many of these events.) Although when I asked Harry if he thinks I’m a grown up, he was adamant I definitely am. In fact, he agreed a bit too quickly.
I don’t mind thinking I’m still somewhere around 27. But when I think back over the past five decades, it does add up to a lot more. Each passing decade seems to be a pathway to a new sense of being. Reaching double figures seemed ever so important. Then the 20s were the first foray in adulthood, but looking back, I didn’t have a clue! A lot happened in those 10 years, and some of those memories are a bit hazy for various reasons. But the 20s were like waiting in the wings.
The next decade saw the biggest and best shift of all, into motherhood, something I’d been longing for for as long as I could remember. It wasn’t an easy path, and there was much heartache along the way, but here we are now, with a man child in tow. Plus, what a stark wake up call to have to look after another human being and put him first.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are” – e.e. cummings
Next stop, flying into the 40s with different values and priorities. I think I remember feeling ‘old’ when I hit 40, even more so than now. But this has been the decade I really settled into being me. I set up my own business, which I am loving. And I finally stopped wishing I had gone to university and trained as a teacher. It felt good to let that go. I’d been carrying it around for about 20 years. Who knows what would have happened had I pursued that path? Or any other path? I certainly wouldn’t be sitting at this desk now, reflecting on how lucky I am, how content I feel. I’ve got the best family, lucky enough to have both wonderful parents, and am probably healthier and fitter than I have been for many years.
So on reflection, 50 isn’t looking so bad. It’s taken a while to settle into this skin – maybe the few extra saggy bits make it easier. And I don’t mind not knowing what’s at the top of the charts, not knowing what’s in fashion or recognising ‘celebrities’. I feel safe in middle age. And while none of us know what’s around the corner, I say bring on the next decade.
See you on the other side!