In every assessment, review and report card for my entire life, I’ve always been described as consistent, dependable, and reliable. I’m the one people can count on. I’m even-tempered and unfazed by stress and drama. I listen carefully and follow directions well. If I tell someone I’m going to do something, I follow through, no matter what. I guess you could say I’m a really boring people pleaser. Unless E is telling me to do something and then I ignore him, stick my tongue out behind his back and generally do just the opposite of what he’s asking. He brings out my inner toddler. Maybe this is what true love is all about. Tantrums.
In any event, I take commitments pretty seriously. Well, those things that I rate as important at least. I’m not talking about stupid things like, you know, grocery shopping or making sure to shift out of 2nd gear before I hit 60 on the highway – because that stuff is just plain dumb. Who wants to waste their life worrying about little things like nutrition or vehicle life expectancy when major life responsibilities such as teaching your children how to extend the 5 second rule to a minute and a half or setting a personal record for how many years in a row you can go without answering the phone at home take up so much time and dedication? It’s exhausting, sometimes I just don’t know how I do it all.
It should be easy to imagine, then, that hitting the big 4-0 would be a pretty low-key non-event for me. Because besides that one time I freaked out when I won The Lead Foot Award at my old job (not because I drive fast, because I walk like a bull in a china shop), I tend to remain pretty nonplussed about most everything in life. Another birthday? Please. Metaphorical piece of cake.
Well guess what dummies? I HATE CAKE. And I hate that I’m turning 40. Not hate it in the sense that 40 is always treated as some sort of over the hill, welcome to obscurity, let’s all act like this is so funny and decorate everything black and make life humiliating for someone all day long because YES, that will be fun for them type of hate.
No, no, I hate it more in the sense of OH MY GOD THIS IS IT, NOW I AM FOR SURE A GROWN UP AND I WILL NEED TO ACT MATURELY AND INTELLIGENTLY IN ALL THAT I DO kind of way. Can you understand how impossible this will be for me to accomplish? How bad of a disaster I will turn it into? Just last week I hid behind a giant display of Fruit Loops and Frosted Flakes at Target so I didn’t have to talk to someone I knew and have them see what I had in my cart for cripes sake. I can’t turn into a mature human being overnight! Also? THEY WERE ON SALE!
Because no matter how weird it is to look in the mirror and see yourself getting older, it’s even weirder to be a neurotic idiot inside your head wondering why it feels like your thoughts have barely matured past the age of 17. At what point will it feel like I’ve got my act together? When will I feel comfortable in my own skin and confident in the choices I make? Will I ever?
It’s like that Spice Girls song Wanna Be that irritated me so much whenever I heard it in the 90’s. “So tell me what you want, what you really really want. I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want. I wanna, I wanna, I wanna…..” The nonstop running dialog in my head asking me what I really want from life was suddenly on the radio 24/7 pressuring me to do something, be somebody, go faster, get smarter, attain an unreasonable standard of beauty and set women back another 100 years. The problem is that I’m worthless when there are too many options. I get a pretty bad case of analysis paralysis and freeze in indecision. Is it better to be smart or rich? Materialistic or environmentally conscious? Socially aware or immune to human suffering? A dumb blonde or a sexy redhead? Relativistic or pragmatic? Ford or Chevy? Skittles or Sour Patch Kids? AHHHHHRRRG!
I think that’s maybe why I’ve become so distrustful of society’s pressure to appear like we have it all. Between doctored selfies and posts on Facebook that make it look like everyone’s life is perfect and consists of one fabulous event after another, to magazines that claim that new moms should now lose all their baby weight within three weeks of giving birth, it’s all just too much to live up to. It’s unattainable in real life and yet we are projecting the image that this is what real life is all about. But is it?
Show me one person you admire on a social media site that appears to have everything and I will show you a depressed, broke, lonely and miserable person who is scared to admit their problems to themselves, let alone everyone else. Admitting that they aren’t perfect or happy would mean having to deal with some real shit. And it’s easier to dress up the outside facade than deal with the inside chaos because that might mean having real thoughts and dealing with real issues. And as a society, we don’t have time for that. It’s not your fault. Collectively, it’s all our fault.
No, thank you. If you know me, you know I like to make fun of myself. I’m not perfect. I’m a mess inside 99% of the time. Sometimes I’m funny. Sometimes I’m sad. I have trouble balancing those two in particular. I think being broken and imperfect is beautiful. It’s real.
So the next time you see someone who looks like they have it all, be wary. But also have empathy. Be unafraid to show them you aren’t even close to having it all yourself and that that is pretty damn okay with you. They might need your love and your acceptance of their imperfections more than you will ever know.
I don’t know why turning 40 is so hard for me. I’ve always been the kind of person that needs forward growth, never happy with the status quo. I can’t stand stagnation, I want always to reach, learn, improve. I try hard to look to the future and forget embarrassments from the past (except giant bangs, those will ALWAYS be cool). So why is it so hard for me to let go of my 30’s?
Maybe that is the mystery that will be solved the day I turn 40. Maybe I’ll wake up with an amazing recognition of just how far I’ve come. And a loving self-acceptance about the actions and behaviors I took to get here. And maybe, just maybe, a tad bit of excited childlike wonder for what is still on the horizon. I hope so.
This is forty. I’m almost okay with it.