I turned 40 last week.
Hold on—I need a minute to just stare at that sentence and let it sink in.
I know age is nothing but a number, you’re only as old as you feel, blah blah blah. But 40 strikes me as SOMETHING. If not old, then just somehow significant. The thing is, I clearly remember being 11/12 when my parents turned 40. Black balloons, over the hill signs, cards referencing your impending death, the whole thing. I remember making my mom a card with a tombstone on it (though, given the saturnine tween/teen I was, that card could have been drawn for anyone at any birthday).
I do wonder if my association with 40 has more to do with my youth than anything else. When I think of 40, I think of my parents. It was around then, when I was in middle school and on, that I started to be more aware of them as actual complex people rather than just nice people who kept me in cassette tapes and toys. I started to be more aware of their adulthood—their jobs, their relationship, money, etc. And their version of adulthood feels very different from mine. So it’s not that I can’t handle turning 40—I don’t actually care—but it signals to me to think about how 40 used to sound so old, to think about my parents at 40, to think about how despite having all of the traditional trappings of some version of adulthood (marriage, a kid, a mortgage, etc), I don’t feel very adult.
Despite those trappings and all other evidence that I have been a self-sufficient adult for a very long time now, most days I just feel like I’m cosplaying. And I don’t even do that very well—I still dress how I did when I was a teenager, despite a niggling feeling that I may be too old for novelty t-shirts, fun socks, and glitter everything (and, you know, literally shopping in the children’s section for myself, much to Callum’s mortification). I am constantly told I look far younger than I am (and I never know what to say to that. Thanks? I have good genes? You should see the way my oil portrait is aging?). I am a responsible and thorough person who takes care of most of the things around our house. I do a lot of life on autopilot, but sometimes I do find myself thinking, I am adulting the hell out of this day. Or I will do something, like go to pick Callum up from somewhere, and think, Holy crap, I’m the adult. I’m the adult going to get my kid from this movie theater, but I wasn’t I also JUST the kid who was being dropped off there by my own parents? This usually leads me down some horrible “the passage of time is the weirdest/worst/scariest/most fascinating thing ever” rabbit hole of thoughts.
All of this is to say: I’m 40. People older than this like to laugh at how young this still is, but it’s the oldest I’ve ever been. I don’t think it changes anything for me, but right now I am having a little bit of a hard time accepting that I am 40—40 sounds like a thing that I am not. That is not me. That is different from me. But does it change anything? Probably not. I’ll continue to wear weird t-shirts. I will still call everyone “dude.” I will listen to punk music and read YA and buy sweatshirts made for children and eat sour candy until my mouth hurts. I will pay the bills and go to work and parent my child and constantly sing made-up songs with my husband and clean the house and buy stickers for myself. I will age and stubbornly cling to all the bits of my self that I created and solidified when I was much younger. Nothing will change, not even my perpetual thought that this is not what I thought adulthood would look like or feel like. I will be me, only older.
Same as it ever was.