I turned 40 this year with a deliberate and utter lack of fanfare. I’m not sure what prevented me from attempting at least a small celebration. I changed literally nothing about my routine. I barely even remember the day except I know it was a Monday because my son had a guitar lesson that day.
I’ve been reading for a decade now that once I hit 40 I would suddenly grow a magical “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. I suppose I care a lot less about trivial things I used to care about, like fashion, makeup, and what (most) people think of me, but I can’t strictly say I give no fucks whatsoever. I actually still give quite a few fucks. I don’t always love my changing body or how I seem to require eight hours of sleep every night in order to not feel like I’m losing my mind. I don’t love how I keep walking into a room and forgetting what I’m doing there, or that I have to hold out any reading material with fine print at a distance that is not too close but not too far from my weakening eyeballs. Do I need bifocals? I have several fucks I would like to give for these things.
I don’t love that I have acne and wrinkles at the same time. This is some nonsense nobody warned me about. When I was a teenager suffering through angry red acne outbreaks, I used to dream of the day I’d finally not have to deal with acne anymore. I would have happily traded in my acne for some crow’s feet and smile lines. Haha, joke’s on me because it’s totes common to have acne and wrinkles at the same time.
The worst part of middle age, though, is that too many people I know are sick. Cancer has already taken one close friend, several others have been diagnosed and come out on the other side cancer free, and still others are in a literal battle for their lives. Mortality feels more real and present than it ever has before.
Yet, despite all of this, I’m actually kind of loving middle age. To be fair, for me personally, middle age might symbolize an even bigger milestone than it does for most people. That’s because, last year, I finally came out as gay. The year I turned 40 was the same year I started living as my true self. There was no midlife crisis for me — there was a midlife rebirth.
Though I still give lots of fucks about lots of things, in order to come out, I had to stop caring so much what everyone else thinks of me. I had to trust my own gut, heart, and mind, and stop allowing my life to be dictated to me. It was a good, beautiful life, but it wasn’t mine to live. That beautiful life was turning me into more of a liar every day I remained in it.
I have to assume there has been at least a moderate amount of gossip about me since I’ve come out. I assume it exists, and yet, despite still caring about lots of things, I honestly don’t give even one single fuck about whether or not anyone is bothered by my sexuality and what I had to do to claim it. I know what I felt like before. I was living life in greyscale while everybody else was living in color. There was a whole spectrum of colors I was supposed to see but couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. And now I live life in color. Life isn’t easier than it was before — in fact, in a lot of ways it’s harder — but at least my outsides match my insides now.
I’m 40 years old and, though I regret nothing that has led me to this point, in a lot of ways, my life has just begun. It was no walk in a rose garden to get here — divorce is excruciating no matter the circumstances — but I made it. I can breathe with my entire lungs now, laugh with every bit of my guts, smile with my whole face. That part of middle age feels really good. Authenticity feels good.
My experience with middle age may be unique in the sense that I came out the same year I turned 40, but the commonality I share with others in middle age is the authenticity I finally embraced. The reason middle-aged people “don’t give a fuck” is that they are sinking more and more into their true selves every day, and with that comes a profound confidence. It’s not ego or pride, it’s just a comfortable settling in, a deep awareness of oneself that can’t be touched or fucked with by anyone who isn’t invited.
Some people seem to possess this self-knowing from very early on. Practically from birth, they are old souls who know exactly who they are and will fight anyone who tries to cram them into some mold that doesn’t fit. I have friends who knew themselves completely before they ever hit puberty. Their personalities were completely defined, their likes and dislikes, their life goals. They didn’t care what other people’s expectations of them were. They just went and did what they needed to do to feel whole in this world, whatever felt right to them. They trusted their guts. These people get to middle age and just keep on being more of who they already were.
I think most of us don’t have this piece. We have to grow into it. I was always the type of person who needed a list of pros and cons before I could make a decision. But that’s changing, and that’s the part of middle age I love the most. The more I accept the self I buried for so long, the more I am able to rely on my gut. I may not have always known who I was or what I wanted, but I did finally get to a point of knowing what I didn’t want and couldn’t live with. I finally got to a place where the happiness that mattered most was mine. This wasn’t a selfish thing the way I always thought it was, because tending to my own happiness means I can better tend to the happiness of the ones I love. I get it now.
And “getting it” is my favorite part of middle age.
This article was originally published on