On my fortieth birthday I ordered gazpacho for breakfast. This small act of menu defiance marked my embrace of two things: one, I had never much liked traditional breakfast foods, and two, I didn’t give two figs if this seemed like a weird request for 9:00 in the morning.
“I am 40 years old,” I toasted with my spoon, “ I don’t have time to eat things I don’t like.”
I started living like real-life Tinder (or as close to Tinder as this too-late-for-the-hook-up-party married woman will probably get). Those old designer pants that stopped fitting five pounds ago? Swipe left for the donation pile. Worried I just said something stupid in a casual conversation? Swipe left to let it go. Discover a group of artists tackling the student loan crisis? Swipe right to join my first non-profit board. Swipe, swipe, swipe.
Such decisive life swiping comes from a combination of perspective and time pressure. On the one hand I’ve been an adult for nearly twenty years. I am no longer cookie dough. And the career, relationships, and family that I built up over those two decades are now chugging full steam ahead. Time, of both the hourly and yearly varieties, is a precious commodity.
Which brings about a certain efficiency at being oneself.
Hence I Lean In to my love of chunky gray sweaters, and don’t feel embarrassed to wear my favorite a couple days in a row.
I remind myself to be an Asker, not a Guesser.
I don’t get hung up on being initially terrible when I try a new thing. See that herky-jerky woman in the front row of Zumba class? That’s me. I’m not going to hide in the back row, because then I can’t see the instructor.
I don’t worry about aging as some sort of abstract issue. It’s real. It’s on. I see it in my face and I see it in my body. But I appreciate that I am in the infancy of old age. When I’m 80 I’ll probably look at pictures of myself at this age and think, “What a hot young babe.”
I appreciate that I am in the infancy of old age.
I put my voice, money, and time behind the causes I believe in. But I don’t assume that people with a different point of view are ignorant, callous, or don’t understand “the facts.”
I let other people be responsible for how they choose to respond to things.
I don’t feel guilty for saying no. Volunteer for every single school fundraiser? Take on too many projects or agree to unrealistic deadlines? No! Nope. None of that is happening.
I don’t waste any effort trying to be a member of the Cool Moms group at my kids’ school. I also try temper my excitement when they do include me.
I don’t need to wait for someone to call on me. Last year in a meeting I had a moment when I realized, “Holy shit, I’m the expert in this room. And I totally know what we need to do here.”
I’m careful what stories I tell myself about things that are happening. I hope the “It’s all on my shoulders” and “I’m not allowed to ask for help” narratives have been retired through lots of therapy.
I don’t wallow when I lose. I know I won’t get tapped for every opportunity I pursue, and if I did it would mean I’m playing it too safe.
I’m not going to play it safe.
I know enough to appreciate this beautiful time in my life. I do work I’m passionate about. I am healthy. The people I love are all healthy and alive. In the future, some or all of those things will inevitably shift. But I’ve also battled enough dragons to know how to find my way out of darkness when they do.
Until then, swipe right for gratitude and swipe left for fear. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Amanda Clayman is a financial therapist, writer, and Brooklyn mama. Her work as a financial wellness expert has been featured widely in television and print. She occasionally has opinions on subjects other than money.