I have a good friend who turns 40 today. That's a big milestone, and not so far in my rearview mirror that I can't remember my own jolt of surprise when suddenly I was 40 and wondering what on earth I had been doing all of my life and how on earth I was going to spend the rest of it. It can be hard to realize that you've suddenly reached the dreaded 4-0.
Mid life crises are very real. I spent about eighteen months making terrible decisions, living life in a state of constant regret and feeling a great uncertainty about the future. These days I can smell a mid-life crisis in other people from a mile away and they're tough because they're so real.
But here's the thing. The 40s can be great, too. They are great, and I should know because I'm just over half way through them. My 40s have been the time of my life when I've become a bit more self aware, a bit more world-aware, and a bit more conscious even in hard times that things will ultimately be ok because life's experiences before 40 prepared me to know this.
I'm also, oddly, despite growth and changes, the very same person I was on the inside before I hit that magical number. I still find pleasure in children and in the ways their minds work; I still see an attractive man half my age and notice how lovely he looks and maybe toss my (graying) hair over my shoulders; I still enjoy a great conversation with a good friend; I still love to read literature; I still love to drive my car a little too fast just because; I still love to go to movies and eat out at a nice restaurant; I still like (or would like!) to go on dates with my husband; I still believe in the same God of my 20s (though with more conviction and more questions now); I still find comfort in solitude as much as in the presence of other people; I still love learning (and am, in fact, taking a 6-month course right now); I still love to people watch; I still love a good debate, even if the subject matter is different than it used to be; I still struggle with chaos in my home and understand now that this is just the way it is going to be; I still seek the bottom line of life in the midst of knowing there are so many unanswered and unanswerable questions; and so on and so on.
In other words, I'm still me...just a somewhat more confident me who kinda likes myself at long last.
In fact, in some ways, these years and perhaps the next decade or two or three, will be the best yet. Because this is the point at which we know ourselves well and aren't as scared to reveal it, and we can just enjoy living life the way we were created to live it with fewer (self-imposed) limitations to slow us down.
As I think about my newly-40 friend celebrating her big day in a big way, my hope is that she will not take as long as I did to figure these things out but instead will relish and appreciate the journey that every day takes her on.
After all, we only get to live life once...let's make the living of it today! That's true for all of us...regardless of the decade of life we find ourselves in.