As a teenager, I always thought 30 was really ‘old’, something that was going to happen to me in the millennium, which itself felt several light years away. As for 40, I did not even think that far ahead. It was something that would happen if I lived that long.
Well, as it turns out, ‘40’ the magical number came into my life a few years ago. I woke up that fateful day, with one feeling ….a fear. A fear of the known. A fear that had been ingrained in me from reading, watching television and people talking about the dreaded ‘chalishi’ [hitting 40, in Marathi]. It was a fear of an awful malady that would affect me one day in the distant future. But here I was, living out my future, sooner than I thought I would!
I know it sounds really melodramatic, but there is so much hype about this two digit number, 40. I had to find out if all the things I’d had heard about reaching this age were truths or myths. How else was I going to find out? By turning 40 years old, of course!
Anyway, that feels like yesterday. Here I am today, 40 and a bit, telling you my story.
Here are 14 things I discovered about crossing 40.
Honestly, at 40 and beyond, I don’t feel any different from when I was 39 or 38 or even 35 years old. On my 40th birthday, I expected to feel ‘middle aged’ and half way to being geriatric. Instead, I realised that 40 was just another candle on my cake and the cake just had to get bigger to fit the extra candle.
Okay, I’m not this optimistic every day. Yes, It takes a tiny bit longer to get ready. No longer can I look presentable by just having a shower, combing my hair and running out the door. I need to spend a few extra minutes getting myself together, sometimes with more effort than at other times.
Alright, much as I hate to admit it, I do find myself slowing down just a little. No longer can I stay up at night beyond 11 pm and if I do, I am sure to look and feel miserable the next day. No longer can I eat junk food and still look good. There is a realization that I need to eat right and sleep at the right time everyday to look and feel good.
There is something about realizing that I have reached the half way mark in life. It’s like reaching the last lap in a long distance race. I suddenly heard an imaginary bell go off to signal that I have to pull up my socks and put my best foot forward. But unlike a race, I need to slow down and enjoy the view.
On crossing 40, I look back at what I have achieved in life. But more than that, I look at what I haven’t enjoyed all these years and it’s now time to make up for those lost chances. Little things I did not do in my teens, my twenties and thirties have started to haunt me. For instance, never going to a disco or never entering a gym – these things never happened in my younger days. I’ve suddenly started looking at bungee jumping and running a marathon with renewed interest, though I doubt I’ll ever do it. Maybe it’s about proving to myself and the world at large that physically I still have what it takes and that I can defy age. Suddenly, I compare myself to women 10 years younger and see if I have more stamina than them or not.
Yes, I do think of the dreaded menopause especially when people tell me that you can’t have healthy children after 40 and when I recollect women in the family having hysterectomies at my age, a generation ago. But then, I look around to find that several women are now getting married close to 40 and having children after 40 too. So, there is a realisation that not everything can be compared to what the older generation experienced and with advances in medicine, the world is changing. There may be some truth to ‘40 is the new 30’!
Yes, I’ve start blaming the labels on bottles for having such small print that I have to hold it several centimetres away to read it. The truth is, I am in denial about visiting the optician and keep postponing my visit for as long as I can.
I’ve realised that however hard I try, I can never dress like a teenager again. So out go the hairbands, frills, bows, and Barbie pink clothes. It’s best if I keep them for my daughter and stop raiding her accessories.
If I think about it, all my childhood friends and my college mates are also growing up with me. It is comforting to know that I am not the only one in my forties. I have with me, a whole generation of wonderful people who have been with me since kindergarten, who will mature along with me and with whom I can share my feelings and expect to be understood. I am not the only one discovering a couple of greys everyday or a few wrinkles every other day.
At 40 comes resigned acceptance, however reluctantly, that one cannot remain physically ‘young’ forever. Age changes will happen. However much I may try to put off the seven [or is it eight?] signs of ageing with magic lotions, potions, creams and anti-ageing concoctions, ageing is inevitable. The sooner I accept it the easier it gets. I know that one day menopause will arrive and if I am prepared for it I can deal with it better. I know that physically I won’t always be how I am now, so in a way that makes me determined to enjoy every day even more. So I pull out the dresses that I can still carry off with aplomb, wear the heels while my knees are still strong and try to race my 30-something friend in swimming, knowing that I won’t be like this forever. I realise that I must make the most of what I have – NOW.
My whole attitude to ‘age’ has changed. To me, a 30 years old is just starting out in life with their entire life ahead of them. No longer do I consider 30 as ‘old’. I can’t explain why but there is an urge to do things I have never done before or do things I’d always been putting off for another day. Again, it’s because I’ve hit the halfway mark and if I don’t do it now, when am I doing it? Family, career, responsibilities always came first and will always do. But perhaps, I took myself too seriously and procrastinated; postponing so many things to the future. So, finally in my forties, I learnt how to swim. In my forties, I took up writing. There is an entire list of things I want to do, without calling it a ‘bucket list’. I even got myself a skirt with gold sequins which I would never ever have touched in my younger days, let alone wear! My friends tease me, calling it a ‘mid- life crisis’. I like to think of it as a ‘mid-life wake up call’. An urge to live life to the fullest.
I don’t know if getting older makes one wiser, but certainly in my case I feel like I can dole out advice to people younger than me based on my life’s experiences. When my 30-something friends friends lament that they are getting ‘old’ and talk of their age as a limitation, I cannot help but give them a lecture on how they should be making the most of what they have and not let their ‘age’ come in their way. I certainly wish someone had given me that advice. I take my own advice too and try not to let my age become a hindrance, because when I reach the 50 years milestone, I do not want any regrets. By then then I am sure I will think of 40 as ‘young’.
I’m beginning to comprehend that it’s not my chronological age that determines how old or how young I am. It’s not just the number of winters I have faced but how many summers I have enjoyed that determine my real age. I could choose to be a 40-something with no zest for life or I can choose to be a 40-something with enthusiasm for every day of life… it is how I choose to see myself. I have a cousin who is in her 50s and she always calls herself young. She dresses in an upbeat fashion, giggles like a teenager and has the enthusiasm of a child. When I see a role model like that especially one who is a decade older than I am, I have to admonish myself on those days when I feel weighed down by my ‘age’.
More than anything else, I’ve grasped that at the end of the day, under the greying head, behind those deepened smiles lines lies me, the person. It up to me how I want to see myself in my forties and beyond. I can let a number define me or I can define the number. It’s my attitude to life that defines how I feel and how I appear as well. Clichéd as it sounds, life does indeed begin at 40….it did for me!
This was first published on Womens web [ written by me :)]