I just turned 40. I have spent the last few weeks fielding questions and comments related to this milestone that are mostly more enthusiastic or pointed forms of what I heard when I turned 30. “Thirty-nine and holding”, “you mean you are 21 again, right?” and “So, how are you doing with it”, the last one in a hushed tone as though the very words “turning 40” cannot be spoken, perhaps invoking wrinkles like some age-inducing parallel to Harry Potter’s Voldemort.
All of these well wishes and statements of comfort about my impending doom, although likely well-intentioned, are wasted on me. I believe getting older is beautiful. I like getting older – as I tell people who lament my birthday, or attempt to comfort me, continuing to get older seems a lot better than NOT continuing to get older; and in your thirties and your forties, you have enough experience behind you to know what you want to do and be, and have the energy, resources and knowledge to do and be any or all of them. People typically respond in disbelief to this response, but I like the gray that is starting to streak my hair. I like that I have gathered the experiences I have behind me, because they brought me to the point I am at in my life today, where I want for nothing I consider important. I have my best friend in my husband, a small group of friends that mean the world to me, two contented cats to come home to, a job I love, and am more politically active with each passing year. I enjoy the luxuries of looking forward to the people and activities in my life continuing to play a part in the next 10 years; looking forward to 50 with the same anticipation with which I looked forward to 40, and feeling confident I will look back at my life at 50 the same way I do now at 40 – with much joy, happiness, pleasure and contentment.
I do not lament 40. I celebrated with my husband and one of my closest friends all weekend. We laughed, dined, went to movies, cooked, acted silly and juvenile with full force and even met Bill Plympton. I can’t wait to see how the laughlines from the revelry show up on my face. Most importantly, they reminded me that one of the reasons I believe that growing older is beautiful is because you can share what you have learned with those who would like to know. So, with this in mind, I share this essay, because I believe that growing older is beautiful, and that in a culture where people’s initial reaction is to attempt to comfort me about turning 40, and to respond in disbelief when I tell them I am happy and do not need comforting, I want to shout this belief from the rooftops – and I believe this is the perfect way to start.
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