Turning 40 is a big deal. It really is. It sparks an inevitable period of reflection because it dawns on you that you’ve learned an extra thing or two. But once you pass that mark and start sailing through the decade, you realize you’ve just nicked the iceberg, and you had so much more to learn.
Here’s a taste:
1. You’ll stop ordering that last drink of the night. You know, the drink that threw you over the edge and over the bowl in your 20s? There is no “whoops” to getting wasted anymore. Your innards have evolved enough to send your brain bright red flashing LED warning signals, so if you still lunge across the bar to order that one last drink, you know exactly what you’re doing. And if you can still do it without wanting to poke sticks in your eyes the next day, God bless.
2. You can’t care about what people think about you. Give-a-shit-o’clock came and went with our collective feigned concern about Y2K. After decades of navigating the potholes of cliques, herds and their corresponding, shape-shifting regulations of social decorum, you’ll realize there’s only peace in doing “you” the very best you can, and in the understanding that where you are is the place to be.
3. You’ll finally embrace what swam out of your gene pool. The day of reckoning arrives and you realize no juice cleanse or Groupon Botox discount will sufficiently alter the lump of clay you’ve been given enough to land you a spot on a Real Housewives franchise. You know exactly what you’ve got to work with and what you don’t, and your decisions in presenting yourself are guided accordingly. Hopefully, you’ve exhausted flagellating yourself in the name of vanity, because the rigors of your mere existence are too time consuming.
4. It’s time to take care of yourself. The least you can do is make a moderate effort to give your lifespan a solid shot at its predestined trajectory, and stop doing the stupid things that could muck it up. You may not always succeed—cancer is a merciless bitch—but you’ll feel better choosing not to subsist exclusively on Fritos. May as well shove your well-worn carcass around the block a few times a week and mindfully squeeze your butt cheeks together while watching TV in the name of good-enough health.
5. The warranty on your chassis is up and you’ll, literally and figuratively, have to pay for the wear and tear. You know when you walk through your doctor’s door for a checkup, a host of increasingly uncomfortable invasive referrals will await you. At the very least, you can expect to have your boobs squished to tears in a vice. Various diagnoses with complex names are bandied about, and the demand for a hose shoved down your throat or into your nether regions becomes de rigueur. Arthritis will set in to all your old broken bones. You’ll sweat profusely in places you never expected. Your hormones may team up with your neuroses to spawn ulcers, or insomnia, or migraines. And one after another, they need tending with prescriptions, which you’ll eventually line up, one after the other, just like your parents do.
6. Mortality is really real. I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my friend Lauren a few years ago, when I was 44. A few years older than I, she warned, “This is when it begins, you watch,” alluding to “the heart attacks, the aneurysms” that had recently taken a few of her friends. She wasn’t kidding. A month later, I attended the funerals of two dear friends. Three months after that, I lost my father. Midlife forces you to accept that there is a finite end to consciousness, and if you don’t make the most of each day you get, wake up and love your loved ones with all your might, you’re a wasteful moron.
7. You already have it all. Or, at least all you’ve got to work with at this time. Whether you choose to blame yourself or the fickle middle finger of fate, you now recognize every choice you’ve ever made has led you to where you are right now. Change is always an option, even though it may require Herculean effort. By the time you get to your mid-to-late 40s, you’re able to realistically assess your reserves of strength to tackle any given situation. And you only have yourself to blame if you can’t get it up.