I sat staring out at the waves crashing against the shore for many days waiting for the right words to come to me to accurately describe what it means to turn 40. You would think this comes easily to me; I write and speak for a living. I am rarely at a loss for words. And yet I struggled to write something pithy that would capture the right mix joy, pain and triumph with a feel good ending.
I have watched, read, listened and celebrated women I know and respect around me cross this milestone for the last few years. Some with a bang! Some with a whisper! Some with a mighty rushing wind. Some alone. Some with friends and family. Some with love and some with pain. Each one with a unique story worthy of its own space on a magazine page.
This may never make a magazine but I believe it’s a story worth telling.
I entered my 30’s married, a mama, a homeowner and a high performing professional. I was doing what I THOUGHT I should be doing. The man, the house, the baby, 2 cars, the right organizations — all the trappings of an upwardly mobile life. I also entered my 30’s depressed, overweight, underachieving and lonely despite being married.
Since turning 30:
One day I was married…the next day I was not. I started dating for the first time at 31; clueless as to what “single after divorce” (with a kiddo in tow) would mean for me. I realized I didn’t know crap about crap and was woefully unprepared for the new rules of dating. I’d barely experienced the old rules.
I started a business and stumbled over my own shoelaces trying to figure out what my purpose was. I have worked myself beyond the point of exhaustion and had nothing to show for it. I have missed deadlines, forgotten to respond to people, over promised and under delivered. I have also gotten my sh*t together and helped change the lives of many many dozens of happy clients, thousands of professionals, hundreds of student and just this week — one woman who told me that I helped her see herself so clearly that it frightened her but she is ready to do her work.
I have failed miserably at working for others but somehow managed to inspire, coach and develop so many amazing professionals on the teams I’ve led; professionals who are doing outstanding things in this world.
I have raised millions for worthy causes. I have not raised enough.
I have rocked the flyest red bottoms and I have also had to remix my clothes year after year because I couldn’t do more. I thank my mama for the hard lessons early on of how to achieve timeless style so I can make anything look good today.
I have had a years worth of savings and also declared bankruptcy. I have lent or given money to so many and also been the recipient of the generosity of others. I have moved across the country twice and within NY 3 times. I have faced eviction. I have rebuilt.
I have developed amazing friendships with women I know would move mountains for me. I have fallen out with women I never thought I could go a day without speaking to. I have been a faithful friend and a fair weather friend; sometimes in the same year. My beliefs about sisterhood have been tested, rocked and fortified.
I have spent many hours on a therapist’s couch and many hours in the church house. Ever the problem solver, I wanted to get to the bottom of my issues and have come to realize there is no bottom. Everywhere I go — there I am. I am a work in progress and giving myself grace; daily.
I am divorced. I am single. Some days happily. Some days longingly. All days knowingly. Having made the mistake of thinking I can’t do better than [fill in the blank man] more times that I can count, I am learning that there’s a thin line between settling and compromise.
I wanted a big family yet I am the solo mama of one teenager. My greatest gift. She stretches my heart so wide and vexes me to no end. I am so grateful to be her chosen guide in this world.
All of this during the last decade. All of this while trying to find my footing when the life I created for myself (seemingly) disappeared before my eyes. I don’t know what it means yet to be 40 but in saying goodbye to the work of my 30’s, I know that I am ready for what this new decade will reveal about my purpose, my joy, my work and my path.
I am #colorfully40. Living well and leading well. Most days. Taking each day in stride. Every day. Learning to be good to myself. Learning to be good to others. Learning to say no AND to say yes. Not perfect by a long shot but learning to be proud of each step forward I take. And that means making choices that make space for me to create a life I am finally proud of.
If you've already passed this milestone, what has 40 meant for you? If you're approaching it, what do you hope for?