I'm turning 40 tomorrow. On the one hand, I guess it's a big deal. On the other, I honestly feel like it's the natural thing to happen a year after one turns 39. And I'm very grateful for it!
But it got me thinking: why do people, especially women, look at 40 as an age when now we begin to decline? In looks, in opportunities, and overall? Is it because it's a reminder of what we haven't accomplished in life thus far? Is it because American society puts so much emphasis on youth and wrinkle-free faces? In most other cultures, women gain respect as they age, they are honored for their contribution to society, and revered for their advice based on wisdom gained by years of experience. I think it's sad that in our culture, 40 has an air of "dead end" about it, instead of the springboard attitude that it could and should have.
It seems like the whole "decline after 40" stems from someone deciding long ago that at 40 a woman could no longer bear children and therefore she had no purpose. Well, not only is the first part of that untrue, the second part is even more ridiculous. How about a few iconic women who didn't come on the scene until well after 40? Julia Child didn't set foot on a cooking stage until she was 51. Betty While didn't have her big break as Sue Ann Niven on the Mary Tyler Moore show until she was 51. And Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't set pen to paper until she was 63! What do these incredible women have in common? All three were/are beloved icons who made a significant impact on the world around them. And they each made their indelible mark after age 50.
In looking at these powerhouses I wondered, would any of them have been as successful or as beloved had they done what they did at a younger age? Then I realized, it would have been impossible! They each needed the years before their successes to learn, experience, and hone their respective skills. It wasn't until they were older that they had the opportunities to pursue their passions, and the very fact that they were older gave them the freedom to go for it. Their kids were raised, they were ready to "retire," and they looked at this time in their lives as the time to jump off and do what they wanted for themselves. Look where they landed.
These women also remind me of the magnificent women who were already making a difference in the world, and tragically never made it to 40. Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Monica Weinstein. These three were on paths to greatness, and left behind amazing legacies. But imagine what they could have accomplished after 40 and beyond. These lives cut short before 40 remind me that every day is a gift, and that once a year those gifts come with cake!
One can look at 40 many different ways: 4 decades. 2 score. 480 months. 14,600 days. One can also look at it as a new day, beginning a new year, beginning a new decade and a new chapter. A chapter filled with more opportunities for joy, freedom, purusing passions, and making a difference.
So how do I feel about turning 40? Bring it on! And world....you'd better get ready!