When I was in my twenties, the one voice that rang out in my head with each birthday was my mother’s. For a fair portion of my life, she’d say, “My thirties were my best years,” a statement I soon discovered as 100% true. Then again, maybe it was her encouragement that kept me excited to finally hit 30 or the fact I finally had a career I enjoyed and a finished novel I could be proud of.
People already well-into their 30s said the biggest thing they felt was a blasé attitude toward caring about what others thought. This excited me. All my life, I’d been a people-pleaser. Shaped myself to make others happy, and prided myself in the fact. Alas, this wasn’t true for me in my 30’s. I still longed for outside approval to the point it affected my mannerisms, my writing and how I conducted myself in pretty much every single one of my relationships.
Time passed. I went along with my uber people-pleasing skills. Don’t like me? I’ll bend and mold myself to accommodate you. Sounds like an old timey circus sideshow.
And then 40 happened.
Let me be frank: I didn’t expect 40 to change me. Didn’t think, “Well, I’ll be forty next month. Things’ll be different then.” Why should they have been? Birthdays aren’t a big deal to me. I don’t celebrate the month, the week, and when the day itself comes, yeah, we may do a cake and dinner, but no big hoopla, fireworks, singing and blowing the bank account. My mom calls, my dad calls, Hubs fixes a steak and a potato, and I’m good.
Ever slipped into a fabulous pair of shoes, one you probably can’t afford but, damn, they feel so good, you start working out how you can skip food for the next couple of weeks, so you can get them? Or maybe sank into the most perfect bath ever and no one’s around but Silence, your old friend? When I turned 40, I quite literally stopped caring what people think, and it felt better than that great pair of shoes or the bath that makes you question whether or not you can give up your day job and identify as a mermaid.
Did the me I know, who I am, the foundation I’d laid for myself, stay intact? Yes and no. Core values, moral compass, beliefs, etc….sure. All accounted for. But like a child taking small bites of a food they’re unsure of, changes began to slowly happen. Weight didn’t matter so much anymore as did the health of my brain and, God bless, energy. Feeding my mind with knowledge–good knowledge turned from important to vital. As did remembering what it was like to write at fifteen, uncaring if I ever published a single story.
And, yes, the perception of other people where I’m concerned. I began to take a step back from toxic relationships, from acquaintances who made me feel bad about myself, from situations dangerous to my mental health. Worrying over what another human may think of me because of something I wrote, something I said, or how I handled a situation differently from how they may have done…Over. Stopped. A gradual, yet swift cease and desist. Am I averse to apologizing if I’ve wronged someone? No, no and no. Core belief: Apologies go a long way. However, once the apology is sincerely issued, I don’t hang around. I don’t coddle, like I used to. I don’t pet and fret and lose fingernails over whether or not they accepted the apology. That’s none of my business.
That’s worth repeating: What someone thinks about me is none of my business.
Those are words, ten, even five years ago, I wouldn’t imagine myself saying, much less believing.
So, is this what it’s like to be in my forties? Looks like it. And maybe, just maybe, Momma, my 40’s will top the precious 30’s by a skyscraper.
Peace, Love and Junior Mints — xoxo