I distinctly remember conversations with one of my “regulars” at the college bar I tended (I’ll call him Bill), and his words have remained with me throughout the years. I was twenty-one at the time and recall alumni coming into the bar for homecoming weekend, a weekend consisting of college friends partying from Friday through Sunday. Most of the alumni were in their late twenties and, egads, early thirties. They were drunk, they acted like jerks, and in my twenty-one-year-old mind, they were pathetically aged. I mean, who wants to relive their drunken college days?
Bill was a University administrator in his early 40s, and we often chatted about school and life during my bar shifts. On this occasion we were trading stories about the crazy alumni antics of the previous homecoming weekend, of which he was one (alumni, that is, not crazy). In a moment of seriousness, Bill turned to me and said, “You know, your 30s are better than your 40s, and your 40s are better than your 30s.”
I smiled and gave him an “Ummkay,” quite possibly accompanied by an eye roll. Bill went on the explain all of the ways life got better when we aged. Our thirties presented us with family, financial freedom and a greater sense of self, while our forties were filled with even greater career/family/financial satisfaction. I likely shook my head and carried on tending bar after that conversation, but Bill’s words resonated somewhere in my subconscious.
At the time of the conversation, I was putting myself through college by tending bar on weekends and doing clerical work in an insurance office during the week. When I wasn’t at work, I was at school (or doing schoolwork) and vice versa. I was in a state of continual motion, so the thought of reaching a state of stability, in both my career and finances, was a goal I had yet to achieve – I could only dream of working a 9-5!
When I turned thirty, I thought about what my twenties had held – ten years of transition, career-building and uncertainty. I had a Master’s degree under my belt, was in a stable job at the time (the best I’d had to date), so Bill’s words did make a great deal of sense. I was living in Baltimore, discovering more about myself, earning an income greater than I had expected, and enjoying a healthy social life with other single thirty-somethings in the city. I was beginning to plant geographical roots for the first time in my life (I’ve lost count of the number of times I moved in my twenties). Life was good and I couldn’t imagine it getting better, apart from rising up the corporate ladder.
I met my husband-to-be when I was 33 and he was almost ten years my senior. If I had any preconceived notions of how forty-somethings behaved, my then-boyfriend shattered every one of them. He was fun loving with a great sense of humor, in a solid career, and possessed a zeal for life. In essence, my husband shattered my idea of one’s 40s being boring, tired, stuffy and routine.
I turned 38 last summer, and the thought that I’m creeping closer to 40 crossed my mind without inducing any type of panic or triggering a mid-life crisis. I’m pretty happy where I’m at and am stoked to turn 40. The strangest thing is that I often feel like I’m still in my twenties, with my youthful attitude towards life and in my sense of humor — the only difference is the life experience I’ve amassed, which causes me to proceed through life with a bit more caution (parenthood will do it to you). At 38, I’ve reinvented myself and my career, successfully navigating through the identity crisis of motherhood. My husband and myself both love parenthood, and all of the ways it’s changed us, yet we still retain our youthfulness (some may call it immaturity).
While I’m not yet 40, I have a sneaky suspicion that Bill was onto something when he told me that my 40s would be better than my 30s. I won’t use the “fine wine” cliché, but I will say that I’m looking forward to entering the next decade in life. You know what I say? Bring. It. On.