“How does it feel? Do you feel old or young?” , or my favorite, “Just be thankful you’re granted another day on this earth.” These were the things that rattled in my head on my major milestone birthday. I turned 40 this year. I anxiously watched my high school classmates (one of the great things about Facebook) mount that hill that we are all destined to move over as long as we’re breathing. Part of me snickered as I enjoyed my 30’s a tad bit longer since I am one of the younger ones from the class of 1992. Funny, when I was waiting for my driver’s license it was definitely not cool to be among the youngest in my class. But honestly when being among the youngest should have paid off in this moment, I didn’t fully enjoy it. It just made the dread of reaching 40 more pronounced in my mind.
See, when my mom turned 40 she underwent a hysterectomy and that just seemed like an extremely old lady sort of thing to happen, which is exactly how a 16 year-old thinks (I’m looking forward to those days with my kids—I’ll receive paybacks in spades I’m sure). Naturally 40 held strongly defined feelings of oldness for me. I’m a take-charge kind of person, so I needed to manage this.
I was actually pretty impressed with how my classmates really owned this age and claimed it with pride. I decided I would own it too. When I was much younger, it was sort of a tradition to go ahead and take on my next age as soon as school let out for summer since my birthday was in August. My family would roll their eyes, but I justified it because I really wasn’t my current age if you hold to the 0.5 rounding up rule. I reinstated that tradition this summer and assigned myself the age of 40 three months early, only it didn’t really help. I told people I was embracing it, but deep inside, I couldn’t erase the feeling that my life was halfway over (if I’m lucky).
Then finally it came. I rose quietly on the early morning of August 5th. I put on my running shoes and took to mountain trail by my house, thinking all my thoughts.
When was the last time I just couldn’t wait for my next birthday? Probably 21. I’m not much of a drinker, so it wasn’t for that reason but more because I could if I wanted to. No one could tell me no. Freedom. Authority. Finally.
How was turning 21 different than turning 40? Who was I then and how am I different now? Well, at 21 I had my whole life in front of me. Nothing but dreams and hopes and aspirations. I could do anything if I really wanted. I was hopelessly insecure, trying to figure out who I was. I was desperate to try to prove to myself and to the world around me that I really was something. I was smart and capable, and so deeply unsure of myself. My 20’s had to be some of the most awkward years of my life, and that’s saying something after my very nerdy junior high and high school days. I had no idea who I was.
Today, I’m 40. I have my whole life in front of me. Nothing but dreams and hopes and aspirations. I can do anything if I really want. I am secure because I have a God who loves me and has proved himself to me. I am nothing without Christ and I am completely secure in Christ. I know who I am because He has defined me. I have dreams because He has given me a purpose and a vision. I can do anything because he has empowered me to do His will. And this is truth no matter your age.
40 will be different than 21. Oh yes, my 40’s will be the best yet.