This Sunday is my 39th birthday. 40 has been looming large this year: A Hindenburg blocking the sun, inflated by the hot air of my 20th high school reunion, Facebook, an offer of anti-aging products from my dermatologist and the realization there is little chance I’ll publish a book by the Big 4-0.
If 40 is when the weight of the past is equally balanced with the weight of the future on a life-sized scale, all the taking stock and anxiety that comes with it might be utterly requisite. (I am a Libra; naturally I will provide a scale metaphor with overdramatized consequences). This mid-life crisis stuff is not to be snickered at. I see the two halves of life pulling at each other in a matched tug-of-war, the past desperately trying to justify itself and the future taunting with undivulged secrets.
I spent the last year feeling 40 coming like a freight train, me the shrieking girl in red heels and fluttering skirt tied to the tracks. Count on me to get ahead of myself, fear the future when it’s still ten miles away. But now that here-comes-39, I am secretly a little bit excited about 40, and not just because I have another year until it hits or because I’ve been promised a massively awesome 80s dance party.
As my wise friend Rainie said on her 40th birthday last month, “My 30s were weird.”
Remember back in your 20s when you thought your 30s would be when you’d get it all together, blossom into your whole, fabulous, confident self? And then instead your 30s turned out to be about forgetting yourself altogether in the midst of new and utterly dominating identities as wife and mother? Then there was all of that grief—holy crap, who could have seen that coming? And how when you had two minutes alone with your own head all you realized—with an existential thunderclap loud enough to summon the dead—was how totally screwed up you were?
Wait, who am I talking to? Sometimes I slip into second person when I really should be in first person because I want everyone to feel the same way I feel so I won’t be so alone in the world and so I can pretend it’s really not about me, it’s about someone else and therefore maybe I can get my head around it, seize control and fix it. This is because I have boundary issues. I just figured it out the other day. I plan to address it in my 40s.
(See Happy New You! and Happy New You! Part II for past birthday-inspired existential babble)