Insight: Turning 40!

I recently attended my friends 40th birthday party and it got me thinking, again (I've already turned 40!) about life at this age.

It was a very good night, my friend has more groups of friends than anyone I know, so there were about 100 guests, the majority of whom were around the 40 mark. It was highly amusing being surrounding by a party of people who were all at this very reflective age in life and have handled it very differently. My friend, the person at the centre of this event and the reason why all these people have come to be together in the same room, was the life and soul of the party. She is the 40 year old who will never be a typical 40 year old. Although married with 3 children, she will always be the person I met at university, not because that is how I remember her, but because she has never changed. She refuses to be defined by motherhood, being a wife or the fact that she is 40! I believe every woman should be like this. And incidentally, because she is like that, it makes her a better wife and mother.

So, at this party, we had the university crowd (to which I belong), who now have 20 years of history together, very special indeed. We've shared drunken nights out, drunken nights in, somehow managed to all graduate together, met our spouses, went to each others weddings, saw the kids coming along. We are the ones who got giddy, reminiscing over our university days (cos let's face it, get-togethers following university become less and less - life starts to get in the way!) and then we are freaking out because our memories are now 20 years old. I remember freaking out when graduation was 10 years old, now it's just not funny. We secretly check each other out every time we met up to see who has gained the most wrinkles while at the same time making comments like “You haven't changed a bit”.

Then there was the book club (to which I don't belong to). How very grown up and suburban! Although apparently not, less talk about books, more drinking of wine, sometimes to 3 in the morning. These guys are just not going to let go of their youth. They are thinking of renaming it the wine club! If my mother had been part of a book club when I was a child, I would have thought it was the most boring thing in the world. Little did I know they could involve so much fun. Note to self: check out the local book clubs, or better still start up my own and vet potentials members, prerequisites to include wine drinking and staying up late (no tea drinkers allowed). 

I turned 40 last year and yes I did freak out. When I turned 30, lots of my friends and other people around me turning this age, were not looking forward to it, they became very reflective about where they were in life etc. I must say 30 didn't phase me, but 40 did. Someone asked me my age the week before I turned 40 and I replied 39, I didn't say “I'm 40 next week”, not like when I was 17 and if I had been asked 3 months before my birthday I would've said “I'm 18 in 3 months”. Not quite the same! I soon got over being 40 the following year when I turned 41! I freaked out that much about being 40 that when I turned 41 I forgot that I had to start going through the 40's....

Hitting this age is very reflective. I hate all the cliches around becoming 40 years of age, particularly for women. I do think reaching this age is a very personal experience for most people. 40 is the first age you get to that you realise the years are moving on. Not that you're old but you're not young. But I guess it depends on who is saying it. My 41 year old friend was horrified the other day when she helped a couple of teenagers at the airport (coincidentally she was on route to the above 40th birthday party) and when passing them again a while later, she overheard them saying 'There's that lady....' Ironically, she was the one who whispered to me on the dance floor of the party “Don't a lot of these girls look like women, I mean we're still girls but some of them look like proper women...” She later made us make a pact that we would be girls forever and never women! I once heard my great aunt, who was 70 at the time, talk about a girl she knew, “…..she's a lovely girl........she's about 62”. I smiled to myself, thinking that's pushing it.

Whilst being 40 is all about those few extra wrinkles, the few extra pounds around the middle that you must work harder to shift, being a responsible individual to the increasing number of younger family members, I feel like my life is at it's peak. I'm am the happiest I have ever been, I am the healthiest I have ever been and I have the best job ever. I don't mean to sound smug because this is coming from someone who has had very difficult times in her life and longed for things that just hasn't happened. Being 40 is all about life choices, informed decisions from our life experiences. This is an age where you feel most confident and are willing to please yourself and not others. This is an age where you can finally be who you want to be. And you're still young enough to enjoy many years like this.

Don't fear it, embrace it!!

Happy Birthday to all the upcoming and recently turned 40 year olds!