What is 40, exactly?

Tomorrow, at approximately 3PM, I will be 40 years old. I feel like that should mean something specific. I keep telling people I’m almost 40, hoping someone will reply by telling me what I’m missing about this milestone. Because for me, 40 feels like 39 plus one day.

Will I be wiser tomorrow? Am I supposed to be taking stock of my accomplishments and failures and planning for my next 40 years? Do I need to take a deep dive into my psyche to check in on how I’m doing at the proverbial halfway point? Is it time for a midlife crisis?

My parents, both of them Baby Boomers, celebrated their 40th birthdays in 1987. I remember both of them having these big “over the hill” parties with black balloons and cemetery themes. Inexplicably, someone presented by dad with a cake featuring two naked breasts –I cannot unsee that boob cake.

Not long after their birthday’s my Mom decided to completely unwind her life. She demanded a do-over, suffered a “midlife crisis”, divorced our Dad and moved my sister and me from Colorado back to her hometown in Iowa.

In the 1980’s the midlife crisis was commonly accepted as a legitimate phase of life, like puberty, and everyone was doing it. Technically defined, a midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle aged individuals.

However, I have noticed that my generation isn’t really doing the midlife meltdown anymore, or at least not defining it as such. There is a large body of psychological and sociological research that indicates the midlife crisis isn’t an actual “thing” after all.

But even without the research, we somehow came to the conclusion that age is arbitrary and that as individuals, we won’t likely all be in exactly the same place at exactly the same time in our lives. And that it is completely okay for that to be the case.It’s just life.

The clock will continue to go around and around regardless of where we are in our careers, where we live, what we look like, or what kind of car we drive.

Unless you are an atheist, you probably believe something comes after this life–heaven, reincarnation, hell, wherever Scientologists go when they die (note to atheists: your life expectancy is 78.9 years.).

So from my perspective 40 isn’t halfway to the end. And, I’m right here, right now, appreciating the blessings in my life and working through the challenges just like everyone else. I just happen to be 40.

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