Last week, while looking at some recent holiday photos, I had an awful moment. I looked at myself and thought, ‘Oh my God, I look middle-aged’.
Yes, I know I was in the tropics and no one looks great when they’re permanently dehydrated, in a foreign country and travelling in heat measured in the high thirties with 100 percent humidity. I get that. But still, when I looked at myself I thought, F**K, how the hell did that happen?
And today I’ve looked at the date and realised that in exactly three months I will turn 40. Yes, 40. It’s happened.
The approach of major birthdays often makes us stop and think about our lives. We ask ourselves, ‘What have I achieved,’ and ‘Am I on the right path?’
As for the actual birthday, many of us drink ourselves into a stupor, spend the day in bed with the blankets over our heads or just pretend it isn’t happening. We just want it over so we can get on with things.
I still can’t remember my 30th birthday. I’m told I had a party with friends but, even though I didn’t drink a lot, I cannot remember a single thing from that day or night. My brain has quite simply wiped it from my memory.
My life was very different at 30. I was married to a man everyone loved, working in a full-time job (with great security and benefits) and we owned a nice house in various stages of renovation.
I had the life many of my friends desperately wanted. But I was unhappy.
Now, almost a decade later, my life is completely different.
It’s been a decade of firsts for me. My first (and hopefully last) divorce, my first solo overseas trip (followed by several more), my first solo property purchase (and accompanying mortgage), my first one-night stand, my first time staying out all night (yes, I’m definitely a late bloomer), my first redundancy, and the list goes on.
It’s been eventful.
And now I am three months away from 40 and wondering if I should have done more by now. Shouldn’t I be clawing my way up the career ladder instead of taking an indulgent year off to scribble my thoughts in the hope that others may eventually pay to read my words?
Shouldn’t I be on every dating site in Australia desperately trying to partner up for life (or at least for the next six months to get me over the 40 hump)?
And then there’s the question of children. I haven’t had any of them yet. Will I ever? And more importantly, do I want to? I still don’t know the answer to the children questions…but shouldn’t I have figured that out by my age?
And while these questions scurry around in my head, like mice looking for an exit, forty still approaches. I am inexorably drawn forward to that date by time…it cannot be avoided.
I’ve decided I won’t attempt to answer the questions for a while. I’m putting them back into a box called, Questions for another day. You might call this approach denial; I’m calling it mental survival.
I’m just going to trust, for now, that time and circumstance will answer all questions.
I will continue to enjoy my gap year and the space it gives me to think my own thoughts and write them down.
I will trust that the perfect man for me will appear in my life when the time is right.
And the questions about children will just have to resolve themselves.
As for being middle-aged, I’m going to pretend that I’m not, just for a little while longer.
The 13 year-old daughter of a close friend says she wants to hang out with me because, ‘You look 29 and you are awesome’. Holding onto that comment should help me stave off middle-age for another week or month or year.
The future, and forty, can take care of itself.