It Took 40 Years To Be This Person

One recent Sunday morning I set my juice on the table next to a piece of rolled up paper tied with ribbon. “Is this for me?” My family took me by complete surprise. In 40 days I would be 40. They planned to celebrate me in some way every one of those days.

When you’re a kid, every birthday is special, filled with anticipation. Adults mostly try to push them back like the sand that keeps sliding and filling a carefully dug hole.

Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about turning 40. Not worry, not dread. Reflection. I’m more excited about this birthday than I’ve been since I turned 21.

To me, 40 is not old. I’m lucky enough to have a father who never looked at age as something to dread. “I’m just glad I made it this long,” he says every year. I feel like this is my chance to take everything I’ve learned and go forth.

But 40 does feel like a crossroads. This big year of tumbling into a new decade. Do I keep trudging through my days the same way as always? Do I shake things up a bit? When is the right time to get out there and do the things I’ve always wanted to do? If ever there was a time to try something, this is it. Though I feel like I finally have wisdom backing me, I no longer have the luxury of an expanse of time.

I’m what you call a late bloomer. It took me a long time to come out of my shell. I remember a time, decades ago, when boys wore their best flannel shirts and stone-washed jeans to the high school dance. I gathered all the courage I had and blew it on walking in the door, forget dancing. I watched as everyone else without a date gathered in groups and bobbed together like boats on the horizon. Their bodies pulsed to the beat, they laughed, they goofed off. It didn’t matter what I faked. Smile or laugh or whatever, the only thing hearing me was the wall and deep down, I fought the tapping in my toes and the bouncing in my knees. I couldn’t and wouldn’t have as good a time as the kids on the dance floor.

In time, I learned. I learned not to care what I looked like. I learned that confidence and beauty really can go hand-in-hand with making a fool of yourself. People see your smile, hear your laughter. They move and smile and laugh with you. No one is moved to hold the wall up with you all night.

And I want to be an example. I don’t want my kids to be that person. I don’t want them to sit on the sidelines and watch. I want them to participate in life and jump in and not be afraid. I don’t want them to hold their happiness in.

When my kids are mortified to see me dance, when they hear me scream on a ride, when they see my step falter on a high climb, when they hear me speak up, when they see me try something new, I want my kids to know that it has taken me nearly 40 years to be this person. That you don’t ever have to stop growing. Every year I learn something new because I learned to let go of the part of me that was holding me back.

This was tough but quick. Almost at the end!

Something new and terrifying.

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36 Comments

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36 responses to “It Took 40 Years To Be This Person

  1. Atta girl! 😉 From one former wall flower to another

  2. whyistherebreadinmykoolaid

    Oh! This really hit home! Do you know I was intentionally loud and silly with my girls during the learning to talk times because in my heart of hearts I wanted them not to be a quiet, neurotic poodle of a kid like I was! I know they are who they are, and I will cherish and grow that with them as much as I can, but I wish for them laughter, confidence and to grab the world by the tail. I absolutely loved this post and can’t wait to read more.

    • Thank you! I think I have definitely been very conscious of how I mothered my kids. There have been many times when I’ve wanted to sit back and not participate, but instead I’ve had to walk up, shake hands, and say “here I am.” They are definitely more outgoing than I am and I hope that only improves with age. Shyness can really hold you back.

  3. I was a late starter too. My 18th and 40th were milestones with sadness attached, my 21st and 30th disappointing. Having never celebrated a ‘special’ birthday, at 50 I was afraid of what would go wrong. Hubby saw to it that nothing did.
    My best birthday was 33, the first one we shared. He has enriched my life.

  4. I’m approaching the Big 4-0 this year, and I haven’t yet decided on my feelings attached to this event. 40 days of celebration from those you love sounds like a wonderful way to push perspective into place, though.

    • I would highly recommend it. Each day it’s a small token, a favorite magazine, a song written and performed by my 8-year-old, a bag of my favorite color of M&M’s in my cereal bowl, a list of 40 things to look forward to about turning 40 (blaming constant gas on the kids), new measuring cups, an special outing, and the family guessing my favorite things. Just being thought of every day makes a person feel beyond measure.

      40 is double the fun of 20, right? I think you’re going to like it.

  5. Excellent perspective! You make me want to try something new, and leave the anxiety behind for once.

  6. Holy cripes! I’m an adventurer, but I think I would have had difficulty doing a high-in-the-sky tightrope walk (line or no line) like you; no difficulty, however, vomiting on all below. I’m glad to see you are learning from your kids how to step out of the comfort zone. Yes, life is too good to watch it from the sidelines. Great post, and Happy 40th!

    PS – Just wait until you’re almost 50. Super fun with kids and you REALLY stop caring about how others perceive you — a bonus to living to your fullest potential. 🙂

    • I look forward to the day when I don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks about me. Then I’ll really let it fly! I will not be a sophisticated lady, to say the least.

  7. Happy birthday!! I think you’ve got the right attitude for this milestone. Turning forty didn’t bother me too much, though I think turning fifty will. Then again, it’s better than the alternative, so we’ll see. Very nice of your family to celebrate you this way!

    • Well, I have some time before I hit 50, but I’m hoping to feel the same way. I think the trick is to surround yourself with friends who are older than you. They’ve all hit the big milestone already, so I’m the young one. 😉

  8. Life is interesting isn’t it? I turned 50 last year and it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I am on a journey to be a better me. I am kind of working from the inside out. I don’t care so much what others think about me anymore, but I do try to be kind and I want people to remember me in a positive light. So in THAT way I suppose I do care…but it is all about how you feel about yourself and being happy with that person! Others will see that….Rock on~ 🙂

    • When I was a kid, I remember thinking 50 was OLD. But women in their 50s do not look or act like they used to. I think that’s awesome. When you feel good about yourself, others notice. It took me a long time to learn that.

  9. Great way of looking at things.

  10. happy almost birthday. i love that they aim to celebrate you each of the 40 days before you turn 40. it’s a whole new decade. 🙂

    • Some days it’s a little bit of poking fun, but in a good way. There is currently a high school picture of me (part of the celebration) on the fridge. I heard the kids in the kitchen with their friends today laughing at it. A lot.

  11. Happy birthday. Great attitude, looking forwards with hope rather than backwards with regret. I’m not far behind you and I look at it as a new start. Thirties were about bringing up kids, forties is my time.

    • I kind of feel that way too. My kids are much more independent and now I feel like, “OK, what do I want to do?” Maybe that’s where much of this comes from.

  12. I have generally felt the same way that your father has felt, but this year I am turning “50”, and for the first time I am depressed. I cannot say that would want to be any other age but at this age you have to admit that you are getting older. Forty is a wonderful age you go and enjoy it.

    • Well, I do think there comes a time when you simply must start forgetting your age. I used to honestly not remember but my kids keep reminding me! 50 isn’t old, just older! It’ll be great. Do something fun! 😉

  13. Happy birthday and congratulations on becoming someone your kids can be proud of. Once they are done being mortified, that is :).

  14. Lisa

    Aw, you need to give that sweet husband of yours a big smooch. Its funny what we remember about growing up. I never would’ve considered you to be a late bloomer. But I am waiting patiently for you to catch up with me. How many more days? 🙂

    • Hmm, I think today was 15? I got a big poster on my door with 40s all over it. I tell you, next year is going to be a big letdown.

      Yes, I think I was a late bloomer. I was so oblivious to a lot of things. Plus shy and stupid. Ugh.

  15. Have a Happy Birthday (when it comes)! … I have just turned 40 two months ago… started thinking about it, but decided to let it be. I am what I am. I don’t care about the “round numbers” anyway, prime numbers are much cooler… So maybe I am going to throw a big party next year. 😉

  16. LOVE this. Immensely. Your story just unintentionally represented millions of women.

  17. I turned 40 a couple years back. It felt like a big deal to me as well. One affect 40 had on me was to get me back into writing. It wasn’t the only thing that did this but it was part of it. I wrote an essay on turning 40 and sent it to a bunch of people and got a good reaction. It pushed me in a good way.
    I hope that you can continue to grow – even past 40 – and bloom even further.
    P.S. Very cool about the 40 day celebration.

    • Yes, I have friends who had big goals for 40. One friend began hiking the Appalachian Trail. I wish I could come up with something. Maybe at 45? Or maybe just one day out of the blue? Who says it has to be at a birthday, right?

      And thanks!

  18. What an incredible read! Thank you for sharing!

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