Turning 39 scared the hell out of me. The debilitating fear I experienced caused me to curl up like a ball in the corner of my couch for a month as my mind raced with various #firstworldproblems and legitimate anxieties. The self-depreciating banter drove me up the wall. What the hell are you doing? Who do you think you are?
Thirty-nine means almost 40. What have you accomplished?
The age issue bothered me because, according to mainstream society, I had one year remaining to secure whatever one is supposed to achieve in their thirties. Back-to-back promotions, 1.8 children, holiday snaps from the Maldives, everlasting love, gravity-defying breasts, an unwavering MILF-like confidence, or the perfect Instagram filter.
I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”*
I don’t care what anyone says—being a woman is hard, even in the progressive and tech-savvy 21st Century. We have more rights and freedoms than our mothers, sure, but we are still fenced off by invisible, normative boundaries. How is it with all the choices and opportunities at our disposal we can still be made to feel weaker, less-than, and disposable? If a woman doesn’t fit into the mainstream ideal that is trending she is ostracized. She is called out for being too much of this or too little of that.
And if a woman is over 36 (the new “scary age“) she’s way past her due date.
It took me a while to make peace with ‘three’ and ‘nine’—those invisible handcuffs I used to cut off my circulation. Admittedly, I spent too much time zeroing in on my failures or the grass on the other side of the fence. I wasted energy bemoaning everything I had not done and eyeballing the highly curated social media posts I couldn’t keep up with.
I berated myself for not accomplishing J through N, as well as X, Y, and Z. So many things to do! Not enough time! I let myths take root and invalidate the back-to-back, life-altering experiences I had in my twenties and thirties. Thankfully, meditation, friends, and
glasses bottles of Pouilly-Fuissé helped me out of that brain-dead mess. I overrode the irritating voices and gave myself a gold star for carving out a path…even if it wasn’t according to someone else’s standards.
To avoid a repeat of last year’s antics I adopted a different approach as I prepared to enter “advanced fighting age” territory. I wanted to come in for a smooth landing because I have enough stress in my life. Making much ado about absolutely nothing causes wrinkles. It is bloody exhausting.
Fourteen weeks out, I put on my big-girl pants and began to stare down my fears. I shifted goals and priorities, and cooked up a new set of adventures. When uncomfortable situations arose I sat with each hardship and cradled it until it fell asleep. I sent a string of condolences to all the things that no longer worked.
Better yet, I let go of all the things I had gotten too tired to carry.
What a relief to shrug off that dead weight! More distance can be covered when not under the duress of others’ expectations. I tiptoed towards 40 armed with a fresh perspective, wild curiosity, and multiple reserves of energy. It feels much better to measure success by a set of metrics that don’t include age, net worth, hip-to-waist ratio, number of Twitter or Instagram followers, or someone else’s achievements.
A riot and motherfucking circus, this life is a perpetual set of endings and beginnings. And since there is only one direction of travel it means every single (birth)day is a gift. There’s no “right” answer or ideal path. If you want to recalibrate or reset stop waiting for someone to give you the signal. Run all the red lights you can. Stumble, fall and get up in time to catch the sun breach the horizon. There are roads to travel. You are right on schedule.
And more resilient than you ever imagined.