40: The year of my renaissance

There are certain landmark events in life that transform us completely. Going to college, starting your first job, meeting your soul-mate, getting married, becoming a parent — all of these experiences give you a different lens to view the world through. They push you into a space that you didn’t know existed before, changing how you relate to others and yourself, mostly for the better. Milestone birthdays, I am told, have a similar effect. Strangely enough, the number tag on my birthday celebration has never made me introspective before this year. I have faced 16, 21 & 30 — looking my age straight in the eye and even winking at it, good-naturedly. I have felt vibrant & hopeful blowing out my birthday candles every year.

The upcoming 40th though has been a different story. 40 has decided to show me who the boss is. We have an ongoing battle of wills, a staring match, a throw down to determine who will come out on top. It tries to intimidate me, to remind me that I, perhaps, haven’t achieved the greatness I was destined for. It has insinuated that I have let so much of my potential stay untapped and now time is running out.

40 stares at me and questions if I have resigned myself to mediocrity. It mocks my satisfaction with my little world as a sign of complacency.

It reminds me that gravity is real, that my body is eventually going to start moving slower than my mind. It tries to fill me with regret for lost opportunities along the way.

The reminders of time passing slowly through my fingers, like grains of sand, are everywhere — in Christmas that seems to arrive earlier every year; in my sweet son’s perpetually short jeans; in my feisty daughter’s ever-growing vocabulary; in the gradually increasing prescription of my father’s eyeglasses.

I have unwittingly joined the mid-life crisis league whose main order of business is to ponder over the purpose of life (or lack thereof) close to their milestone birthdays.

Well played, 40! But remember, you are just a number — flat & one-dimensional, incapable of capturing my rich and complex life. I am a human being — filled with flaws, but also hope & potential.

And as I look back at the years gone by — filled with greatness or not — I feel hopeful and thankful.

Thankful for having made it to this milestone — there are many who never had a chance. Thankful for a life partner who has a front row seat to my flaws and imperfections but manages to love me unconditionally. Thankful for my family that does not expect me to sacrifice my enrichment for their benefit. Thankful for friends who have embraced all my brands of quirk and occasionally partner with me in foolish escapades. Thankful for my slower pace because it lets me appreciate all the beauty and the blessings I am surrounded with. Life has been kind and luck has been my friend.

And the decades to follow fill me with hope. 40 is the age of power of opportunity after all, when you are young enough to dream up crazy adventures and old enough to finance them. It’s the age when you are ripe for great successes because you have honed your skills and mastered your craft (hopefully!). And if you, like me, have discovered something you love doing that you are not so good at yet, it’s also the age that makes you bold enough to accept that new challenge and embrace opportunities. It’s the age when you conclude that the only people worth impressing are people who love & support you no matter what you wear or drive. It’s the age when you give yourself permission to fully be your fabulous self.

It’s the age when you discover the difference between whizzing through life and living it with intention. When mortality stares you in the face and makes you value all your future days, encouraging you to fill them with grace & purpose.

As I stare 40 in the eye, I marvel at the privilege of life and love that surrounds me, which gets richer and deeper with each passing day. Maybe I am overcompensating with my optimism, but I decide that I will not let a number define or contain me. I will make this the age of my inner renaissance, renewing my vigor and interest in everything I made excuses not to pursue. I will DO all I can and I will STOP as often as I like. And to loosely paraphrase Sol Dewitte “I will not worry about being cool. I will make my own un-cool.”

Thank you 40, for shaking me up and making me dig deep, for helping me discover the treasure of my own strength. Hopefully, my cake won’t be the only thing I will set afire.