Forty is the new …

24 Jan

Regardless of what decade of life I faced, I was perpetually 19 in my mind … not the fun sort of 19, but the awkward not a kid and not an adult 19.  I donated most of my 20s to getting married and having babies.  My 30s were a blur of keeping my head above water as a now homeschooling mother of 4.  Then I turned 40, yet still had this awkward 19 year old living in my body …  It wasn’t a dramatic “loss of youth” sort of moment.  To be honest, in many ways it was a relief because I never thought I would turn forty.  I never have been able to perceive myself as a grown person, so I figured I would probably just die at 39.  While pleased as punch when my 41st birthday came along, I was at a complete loss of what to do or how to feel.  I have never been concerned about being “old”, so much as not knowing how to feel like an official, know-what-I’m-talking-about, “don’t talk back to your elders” grown-up.  I have been perpetually 19.  Old enough to be held responsible, but too young to be trusted with important decisions.  Yet, here I sit with a 19 year old son who is busy making important decisions … even if he doesn’t realize it.


For me, in many respects, 40 is the new 20 (but not the way you or People magazine thinks).  After having a few years to linger in this decade, I have finally had a spiritual birthday and am no longer 19.  It happened somewhere around my 41st birthday when I knew I would be on this planet for awhile longer and I began to think about my future.  There was the initial, “Oh my GOD I’m dying … I have already lived half my life.”  However between periodic irrational bouts of cancer fear, I began to realize that a page is turning and the plot is thickening.  While my financial means are limited and my time is still primarily allocated to familying, I am dreaming again.  I began to think about life in much the same way I had in high school.  “Where do I want to live?”   “What would I like to learn?”  “What job would I like to do?” “What is the purpose of life?”

For myself and I’m guessing for many parents, particularly stay at home mothers, forty is very much parallel with your high school years.  The door is opening up to a life that is your own and independent.  As a teen, you are considering stepping out on your own for the first time.  You finally have an opportunity to make  your own choices and mistakes.  You see frightening, yet exciting opportunities laying ahead.  As a fortysomething stay at home mother, I also see a light creeping through the slightly ajar door.  For the first time in decades I am envisioning a life independent of the responsibilities of child rearing.  You face the frightening realization that soon your days will be spent alone, yet there is a bubbling sense of excitement and adventure that brews up as well.  Every deferred dream, every back-burnered passion can actually be dusted off and pulled back to the front. Even more exciting are the new dreams and passions you have discovered on the journey to this moment.  As you reach for the doorknob you begin to envision yourself as someone … just you.

I cry, I do (please don’t tell anyone), when my big boy goes away to school.  I have small bouts of anxiety as I become suddenly aware that these bitty people I used to carry three at a time are now budding adults.  They talk about college, dress up in big people clothes and say really, really smart things.  I know that the sun is on the horizon, and very soon they will be leaving me to live an independent life.  When I examine that sun sitting on the horizon though, it is not setting … the beautiful awareness arrives that it is a rising sun, and the dawn is upon me.  The day is coming and spring is here.


6 Responses to “Forty is the new …”

  1. Cat January 24, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Your comment that feeling perpetually 19 totally strikes a chord with me. I feel this way at times, but then at other times I remind myself that I am old enough to be taken seriously and have responsibility. Wacky how life reminds us at different times of what it is we are and who it is we are supposed to be.

    • joycemzrodgers January 24, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      Wacky is probably one of the best words to describe life … Every time I think I have a grasp on things and know what’s what, I discover I have no idea. Perhaps that’s the fun in it … I hate boring.

  2. takingitpersonally January 24, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    I was just telling someone yesterday that I still call my friends “girls” and I still feel very young; just my body is telling me otherwise.

    • joycemzrodgers January 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

      Actually, bodywise, I’m feeling better than I did in my thirties … and have high hopes that it will get better now that I have more time to be nice to myself and take care of myself 🙂

  3. Terri Collins January 25, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    Beautiful! Well-said! Holy cow, I just read my life up there. Here to us, skipping into the sunrise together 🙂

    • joycemzrodgers February 1, 2014 at 2:17 am #

      Indeed … and in Italy … yes? Maybe with a short detour in Africa, just so you can say you are a beyond swell friend.

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