Technically, this is my 40th year, you know, because I’m 39. Many of us forget that our lives were counted in months prior to turning two and that first year was marked by accomplishments, more than time. First smile, first laugh, first fart.
As an adult, we count different accomplishments: First job, first mortgage payment, first divorce. And at some point, there’s this feeling that this is it. Not in a bad way, but in a way where we’re convinced we’re done experiencing the good stuff for the first time. Let’s face it, it’s unfashionable to be searching for a brand new career in your 30s and it’s unseemly to be looking for love at that age, as well.
I remember when both my parents turned 40, a year apart from each other. I don’t remember the details, I just remember the marking of time. There were black cards with death themes and I’m pretty sure some strippers courtesy of their friends. One buxom blonde visited our house in the middle of a birthday celebration that involved both sets of my grandparents. I was probably forcing my off-brand Barbies to make-out with each other in the next room. Sad to have missed it.
I’ve always had older friends. I learned how to drive at age 13 from a day camp counselor and I shared many friends with my brother who is three years older than me. Nothing has changed in adulthood–some of my closest friends are well into their 50s and we don’t find ourselves searching for commonalities. I’ve often felt I was born an old soul–like if George Burns and Phyllis Diller had a kid and named her Larry David.
Having friends who are older than me should desensitize me to the stigma of getting older and instead, give me great inspiration that the best is yet to come. Intellectually, I believe this. In my heart, I know this. In my soul, I am terrified.
At present it’s the struggles of the ‘nots:’ The turning points in life when you realize “I’m not running a marathon,” “I’m not having kids” and “I’m not getting rid of this belly fat.” Truth is, I have a friend over 50 who will likely run her first marathon this year. I am totally committed to having children, just not using my womb as the vehicle. And the belly fat, well, that’s a tougher one. But as much as I am sure of these things, I also know how quickly ‘nots’ can become ‘nevers.’
My dad had a stroke at the age of 40. He turned his head too quickly when turning off the alarm clock one morning. Shit got real. And I can’t say that’s never going to happen to me.
Two nights after turning 39, I realized that I wanted this to be a special year. I think that’s a pretty common approach to some of the ‘big ones.’ Instead of admitting I’m a control freak, I’ll just make some different health choices, take the requisite trip to Europe with girlfriends and blog goddammit. That’ll make 40 feel better. So as I sat thinking about the ‘year before forty’ and what I’d call this special time, it came to me. Beforty. The year before a big one.
Otherwise known as my 40th year.