Forty Found

Yesterday could have been a day… like any other day. The kids went to school, I went home to work, do laundry… you know. Home things. But. Then. Yesterday, I also turned 40.

(sorry about the shakiness. But, hey. How many women hit the elliptical on her 40th birthday?) 

I’ve always looked at birthdays as just another day. And, really, decades the same. I mean, sure, someone long long long ago decided that the world should work on a deca- system with 10 being the round number. It could just as easily have been 12 or 14–we would have learned to celebrate on our 14th year and our 28th year–perhaps after 42 years we’d host a big party. Woohoo! 3-fourteenigiacs! You did it! 

Alas, we do celebrate round tens and, so, yesterday I hit my 4th decade, my fourth floor (though, in America, isn’t it really the fifth?) and, yes, some may say I’m over the hill.

turning forty

Over the hill? What hill? There’s so much ahead of me, are we so certain that I’m truly over a hill? I feel like I have far too much climbing to do than start walking downhill today. Over the hill once referred to being halfway through life expectancy, eighty being the opposite of birth. And while, statistically, life expectancy is still around 79, there’s a general feeling, still, of youth at forty.

I look around at friends in their forties and then rack my brain to my impression of 40 when I was younger and, wow, those two things are very different. I’m still young. My friends are still young. We don’t look or act what a typical 40 year old should act, right? I mean, I go out with friends, I play. I even, oh my goodness, swing on the swings at the park. I’m fuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnn. That doesn’t sound so over the hill now, does it?

And my friends agree. In discussing forty with friends in their forties and younger fifties, we’re all in general agreement. We look and feel young and healthy. We act young and healthy. So where is this stigma of age?

Does old age get older as we get older? Maybe. At what point will one finally feel old?

Where does the “forty is old” thing set in? Youth? I don’t think so. I really don’t think my kids think I’m “old.” Sure, 40 is a lot of numbers, but they aren’t asking me not to do things because I’m so old. They expect me to run the bases at the ball field and jump in the pit at gymnastics. (And I’m just dying to get on trampoline and bounce and flip.)

But, somewhere, there’s a break. Somewhere, some how, those (maybe) two generations ahead of me still believe in the stigma that forty begins old age. They’re the only ones telling me “don’t worry, age is better than the alternative” and “congrats on climbing over the hill” and “it really isn’t so bad being forty.” Sure, they’re trying to reassure me but they’re the only ones reminding me of any of the stigma.

forty

If you share it and believe it, you make it real. Perhaps it’s not so much the problem that those who are forty believe forty to be old, but those who are now sixty started to feel old at forty. Is it because they were told to feel old, and believed it? Is it because our youthful generation is making them feel more old?

I don’t know what I’ll feel like at sixty or seventy, I don’t know what my friends and I will look like and whether we’ll be able to still do a perfect cartwheel across the school hallway. (Yes, I’ve done that recently. Though I was 39 so I may have to try again now that I’m 40.) I’m hopeful that 60 will still feel and look young to us. I’m holding onto hope that we’ll still have our youth on our side.

What’s more, I’m confident that this over the hill sentiment will die out by then. I don’t foresee us using it or discussing it any longer, because it simply no longer exists. We don’t associate forty with old.

So let this be a lesson to our elders. You’re only as old as you truly believe you are. We simply ask that you stop trying to make us believe we’re old.

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2014, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Kelly says

    Love this! It’s funny I’ve always felt a little like an ‘old lady’ so I think I’m only settling into myself.

    My dad (70) says ‘old’ is always 10-20 years older than you are.

  2. says

    Love this, Julie!! I’m turning forty this year too and I love it!! I have loved my late 30s and I feel like I’m finally to the point in my life where I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone except G-d and myself!

  3. says

    I totally hear ya! I’m 37 and don’t feel old at all. i remember when I was in middle school, a friend’s mom had a license plate that said 29 forever. I thought “WHO would want to be 29 forever? That’s old!” Oh boy.

    Happy birthday again!

  4. says

    Happiest of birthdays to you! It sounds like you have a great attitude about turning 40.

    The first time I remember hearing that people my own age were “old” was at my ten year high school reunion. I was 28. When a guy at the gathering was chatting with me and said he couldn’t believe we were all old now, I thought, I can’t believe it either. Cause we’re not old! Or at least… I’m not. I think some people enjoy calling themselves old or thinking of themselves as old and others don’t. (I”ve heard it said that old-talk is the new socially accepted fat-talk. “Oh, my gosh… I’m so old.”)

    I’m edging close to 40 now, and I have loads of friends who refer to themselves as old, and hey, that’s their prerogative but that’s not my experience at all. Do I look different and have different preferences now than I did at 19? Sure! But I don’t think that makes me old. There are some people in life who I meet who have loads of spirit and levity, and they’re in their 60’s or 70’s and young. Then there are others who are weighted down and talk to me about how old they are, and they are 32.

    If I chose to be “old” at 28, that would mean that I might be old for 50 or 60 or 70 more years. Who wants to live life that way? Maybe at 80 I’ll be ready to be old. Or maybe that’s when I’ll decide that 80 is the new 75 and go on a hike instead. I’m hoping for the latter.

    • says

      Reading your reply I’m thinking “wow, 28 and believing it to be old… how very sad.” And then. Wait. When I was 28 did I think I was old? I might have. The 20s are rough. You go from playing around at bars to working full time and realizing you’re NEVER going to have spring break again. Ever. And then the pressure to have kids. And then starting that whole section of your life. It’s not old, but what a decade with changes! Looking back, wow. That was kind of suddenly “old,” but in a different way. Still, the way we live, what old is and can be, that’s all definitely a matter of perspective.

  5. says

    My husband and I often say that we are old, but mostly because we feel so settled in our life. We married on the young end for our friends, we were the first to have kids, and we never really went through a wild phase. But we feel young and energetic and happy, I think that makes all the difference.

    • says

      I think saying you’re old and being the old that you say are two different things… if that makes sense (it’s late here, so in the morning I’ll probably look at the sentence and say “wha???”) It’s a lot about how you live it. I spent a while feeling “old” when Little was a baby and I’d BTDT twice and had thought I was done. Throwing me back into the baby stuff, with so many of my new “peers” having their first child, I was glaringly old. I’m not feeling that way anymore. Not sure I can grasp why, but i feel a lot younger than I did 3 years ago.

  6. says

    I love this!! Happy birthday my friend!! I turn 30 this year and can’t wait! Now I will admit that I am not as physically fit or as energetic as you are. While I still love the swings I would rather do anything else besides jump in a ball pit or go swimming LOL!! But I love your attitude and spunk! 😀

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