Szyperski: Oh, yes, the big 4-0!Written by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
One of my best friends just turned 40. As a matter of fact, a lot of people I know are either turning 40 or have done so in the last few years. I suppose that’s a pretty good hint that my own “Big 4-0” is somewhere along the horizon.
I also suppose that it’s kind of odd for me to think about being a person in my 40s. A new acquaintance recently asked me my age and I hesitated more than briefly. She quickly offered up her own age and assured me that I needn’t be timid about mine. However, I wasn’t being timid; I literally couldn’t remember how old I was at first. I’m 36, but if I answered without thinking I would likely say 27. I definitely feel about 27.
Yes, somehow this feels-like-27-year-old is going to be turning 40 in less than four years. Interesting.
I may have a tad of “Whoa, what? 40?!” in me, but for the most part I’m not too concerned at this point. The best thing I have going for me are parents who haven’t seemed to age a whole lot themselves in the past 35 years or so. Their hair turned white around 30 and they’ve looked basically the same ever since (give or take a few pounds).
It’s a neat trick, really. You go gray about 10-20 years before most people, which is much more intriguing to the general public than a standard mid-life hair graying. Then, when everyone else is simultaneously aging in the face and going gray, you kind of look the same as you did 20 years prior. It’s an investment, but it works.
More importantly, I don’t recall my parents mentioning (at least within earshot) that aging was a bad thing that should be feared. We have always celebrated birthdays, adult and kid alike, without any talk of an extra candle on the cake leading to anything unpleasant. I know from living in American culture that I’m supposed to fear my 40s, but I was also supposed to feel that way about my 30s and so far so good.
I know it’s not always customary to say so, but I think aging is truly something to celebrate. Instead of equating the dawn of a new decade with a step closer to a foot in the grave, it just makes more sense (not to mention it’s easier on the psyche) to use it to reflect upon the past and to establish an appreciation for how far one has come. We celebrate 16, when we are awkward and unsure and still mostly in the dark about how things really work, yet we shun 36, 46, 56 and beyond, when we have finally discovered a confidence and an understanding about ourselves and our place in the world, when those are without a doubt something to celebrate.
It may be tempting to instead look back at what we haven’t seen and haven’t done or who we haven’t been. It may feel as if we’re running out of time or that everything is slipping by too quickly. It no doubt seems this way for us all from time to time.
However, milestone birthdays can also be an opportunity to take inventory of what we have seen and have done, who we have been in the past and continue to be today. It is a chance to surround ourselves with what we love and whom we love. It is a chance to just soak up the joys of a life that has been and continues to be.
At 16 we are so, so eager to grow up, branch out and stake our claim in the world at large. Why, then, are we so much less eager at 30, 40, 50 and beyond to celebrate the fact that we’ve actually done so?
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.