At the end of 2021, I turned 40.
I’m not quite sure how to feel about that. Depending on who you ask, I should either be glad “to be over the hill and not under it” or embracing “40 as the new 30.”
Really, though, I mostly feel tired.
I certainly didn’t dread beginning a new decade. I love birthdays and my biggest concern leading up to the big day was how best to mark the milestone occasion. (Fortunately, I have the best husband and children who surprised me with the sweetest backyard party.)
But now that I’m here and the celebrating is over, it’s time to reflect.
So far, being 40 is strange, yet comfortable. I vividly remember when my parents turned 40–and embarrassed each other by plastering baby pictures all over the house and putting giant signs in the front yard–so it’s weird to be here.
Yet, at the same time, I don’t think I’ve ever been more comfortable with who I am than I am right now.
Physically, I don’t feel old. I like to think I’m in pretty good shape…although I recognize that my body won’t let me stay up as late or eat/drink whatever I want without consequences. But I do feel a greater connection to my body and the ways I fuel and rest it.
Physically, I don’t think I look old. I mean, sure, I’ve plenty of gray hairs and creases and lines, but I’ve got three kids to thank for those. Plus, I like to think that many of those “wrinkles” are the result of smiling and laughing too much. What I have noticed lately, however, is that when I look in the mirror long enough, I see my mother looking back at me…which is odd considering she lives 300 miles away.
I do, nevertheless, embrace my middle age when I realize I don’t care (as much) what other people think. Maybe I’m too tired or too stubborn, but I don’t feel a strong need to keep up with the proverbial Joneses.
One of the contributors to this blog astutely opined that perhaps the reason older people aren’t up-to-date with current trends is because they know what they like and stick to that. I feel that to my core. When moms my age and younger were outraged that skinny jeans were deemed no longer in fashion, I merely shrugged because I never even caught up to skinny jeans in the first place. Bootcut for me, thank you very much.
This sentiment goes beyond fashion. I find that I also don’t get spun up as much by the latest fad/outrage/social media sensation either. I’ve been around long enough to realize that if I’m patient, whatever it is will pass and something new will come along. I don’t have time for that mess.
As a (non-controversial) example, I remember getting all worked up about a proposed curricular change when I was a young new teacher. However, my mentor and other veteran teachers calmly accepted the changes because they’d seen it before and knew that the pendulum would eventually swing back the other way. I finally understand their reaction, because I’m there now.
These feelings of settling into what matters to me and ignoring the rest fit in with what I have been reading/listening to lately. I am a big fan of The Lazy Genius, and I encourage you to check her out if you haven’t yet. But I also recently learned of a new more philosophical term (if you’re into that kind of thing): anti-mimetic. This idea resonated with me so much that I’ve unofficially adopted it as my theme for 2022.
My husband sent me an article to check out–in hopes that I’d read it and summarize it for him, I think–that introduced this concept to me. According to author Luke Burgis,
as nice as it is to ‘fit in’, there are other times when it’s necessary to exercise self-possession, freedom, and intentionality to choose a course of action that isn’t quite so mimetic — that is not primarily the product of social imitation but the product of our innermost sanctum: our conscience, our understanding of our vocation, our deliberate and fully ‘owned’ choice of what we believe to be true, good, and beautiful. It is through these kind of intentional acts that we become who we are.
How beautiful is that? That’s who I want to be as I enter this new decade. Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks?