On turning 41

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I turned 41 yesterday and it was a good day. No, I didn’t turn 25 again. I’m not stuck at 30. If you ask me how old I am, I’ll generally tell you. I don’t think that’s a rude question. I’m 41 and pretty happy about it.

Forty-one is well past the age I could imagine being when I was a teenager. I have a vague memory that it was 35. Thirty-five seemed very old when I was 18. It was the frontier beyond which I could imagine nothing. Would I be married? Have kids? Would my body be slowly deteriorating? Would I be famous? It was very important to me to be famous, which is more than a little amusing in retrospect. Thirty-five was the void as far as I was concerned and now I’m six years past it.

Ashley Ford just wrote an essay about how in her 20s, she wants to live like she’s in her 40s. Yeah, I don’t blame her. It is good to be in your forties. Good to care a lot less about so many things. Good to be able to spend less time on what’s not important. Good to truly value the friends you have, because your patience for bad ones has run out. I spent a lot of time in my 20s and 30s being anxious about who I was. Trying to become someone else. In your 40s, you can settle in and get comfortable with the person you are. Kind of like your self has become a roomy pair of jeans. You can breathe easy and move around.

At 41, you can admit to yourself the things you like and the things you don’t. I really don’t like going to loud concerts where I have to stand up the whole time. I don’t like bars where I have to shout. I don’t like Woody Allen movies and I’m just never going to.  I really, really don’t like meetings.

I do like going to the same places over and over again–the same restaurant, same bar, same vacation spot. I like reading in bed with my husband. I like staying home. I like dyeing my hair and getting a pedicure. I like buying shoes.

In your 40s, you're no longer embarrassed by pictures like this

In your 40s, you’re no longer embarrassed by pictures like this

It helps to have a job where the ideal is older, not younger. Forty-one is still young for a college professor. I’ll fit the typical mold for my profession best probably when I hit 60. Then I’ll have achieved the proper level of cumudgeon-ishness.

I think the same is true for writing. Sure, there are a lot of awards out there for writers under the age of 35. And too often, I think, “emerging writer” becomes synonymous with age. Why can’t you “emerge” as a writer at 50? But there’s still plenty of time and wrinkles don’t matter in author photos.

Sometimes I think, “Oh, those wasted years of my 20s and 30s when I wasn’t writing! What I could have done!” Okay, honestly, I don’t really think that very often, because my next thought is, what would I have been writing about? I was such an idiot back then. I could barely get out of my own way.

I turned 41 yesterday. I taught some classes. Met with some students. Survived a snowstorm. Ate dinner with my family at my favorite restaurant. Watched an episode of Angel. Crawled into bed with a good book at nine. It was a good day.

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Comments

  1. “I was such an idiot back then!” Oh, yes. I count myself lucky that all I published in my callow youth were some book reviews and a few essays. I loved this essay, and everything you said in it.

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