Earlier this week, I had another birthday that now has officially put me into the “Over 40” category. So now I can reliably inform those in their late 30s who are deeply concerned about hitting the big 4-0 that it is a fully-survivable year.
A lot of people like to ask those who celebrate any milestone birthday if they feel any different. And I think the answer is almost always no. Because our bodies and our minds don’t care which day our birthday falls on; they just go on doing what they do, day after day, hopefully well.
Our metabolism doesn’t slow down on our 40th birthday. Gray hairs don’t start appearing one by one when we suddenly find ourselves hitting the 30 mark.
And our livers don’t know on the day that our 21st anniversary of life that this is the day that we’ll officially be able to consume alcohol.
I’m reminded of a line from Marsha Norman’s gripping one-act play, ‘Night, Mother, in which a middle-aged woman explains to her mother why she has decided to end her life, via a metaphor of a ride on a downtown bus:
“Riding the bus, it’s hot and bumpy and crowded and too noisy and more than anything in the world you want to get off, and the only reason in the world you don’t get off is it’s still fifty blocks from where you’re going. Well, I can get off right now if I want to, because even if I ride fifty more years and get off then, it’s still the same place when I step down to it.”
If I may twist the metaphor into something with a little more positive meaning, the 40th stop along the line isn’t really any different from the 39th. Or the 41st.
It’s still your life, filled with things you love and things you don’t. Things you wish you had and wish you didn’t. And dreams you hope will come true and fears you wish you could shake.
So if you haven’t yet reached your 40th birthday, why stress out about it. Just take it when it comes and run with it.