My 40th birthday is just around the corner and I’m feeling all the things surrounding this milestone. It’s not just a new decade; 40 symbolizes officially becoming middle-aged, which feels hella confusing and a bit unsettling. At midnight, I will cement my position on the unfavorable side of a series of binaries: young vs. old and hip vs. uncool. And the word middle-aged just sounds so dismal.
It’s a weird time of life. So many big milestones (graduation, marriage) are in the rearview, and I’m beginning to see the effects of aging — fine lines and gray hair and weird aches and pains. I find technology endlessly perplexing, I don’t understand new lingo, and the Gen Z fashion trends baffle me. In public, I’m constantly muttering things like, “Why is the music so loud in here?” and “Where are the other half of the shirts?” and my personal favorite, “That party starts at 8; I’ll be in bed by then!” In other words, I’m getting older and it’s a major adjustment (or something).
Even though I’m (fairly) certain more biological kids are not in the cards for us, I’ve always felt immense comfort and reassurance that I could change my mind and decide to have another child. Now I’m a hop, skip and a jump away from perimenopause and a transition into the post-child-bearing years. And as a hypochondriac, I’m certain middle age is just waiting for me with God only knows what.
Guess I better enroll in AARP, ASAP.
But when I stop and think about my youth, as it were, I realize many of the good ole days weren’t so good after all; in fact a lot of it was tedious. Entry-level jobs and multiple cross-country moves for school and jobs were exhausting. Getting not just my bachelor’s, but my master’s degree as well. Finding that diamond of a spouse in the sea of endless duds was quite arduous. Bringing those three little boys into the world was a painstaking process that included years of excruciating infertility and surviving hyperemesis gravidarum that quite nearly broke me.
I am finally settled into the life I dreamed of creating. As I enter this new chapter, it feels like I can take a breath for the first time. I’ve gained perspective and a frame of reference, and I truly give zero f*cks anymore. There's a profound and palpable freedom and divine liberation in knowing that I've made it (finally!) to the other side of my toil. Now, I just get to kick back and enjoy the fruits that I’ve labored so hard to plant all these years. It turns out, not being pregnant and enjoying my older kids is actually quite fun. I’m not sad to be done with dating. And I have my dream job as a writer. Here I am, on the precipice of the big 4-0. Am I middle-aged? Maybe. If I’m lucky. The fact is, our mortal bodies are temporary and we’re all gonna meet the same end, eventually. But if we fixate on the negative effects of it, we will surely miss the magnificence of the here and now. I can parent my children while perpetually distracted by the perils of getting older, or I can truly savor my time with loved ones and be a fully present wife, mother, daughter, and friend whose acute awareness of the fragility of life makes her recognize and value the preciousness of our limited time on this Earth.
So yeah, entering the second phase of life is terrifying, exhilarating, and all the feelings in between. But bring it on! The past four decades have brought unimaginable pain and unfathomable joy and the one and only thing I want is more of the same. So, go ahead and load me up with seconds; I want extra helpings of what I already have. More time with my husband and kids. More trips with extended family. More youth sports games to cheer inappropriately loud at. More sh*tshows with these feral lovable little boys to write about. More dinners to continue cultivating deep relationships with my girlfriends. More scalding hot coffee. More, more, more.
Perhaps, the good ole’ days are not what’s behind me, but instead, what lay ahead. And I’d like another serving please.
Christina Crawford is a Dallas-based writer, guacamole enthusiast, and mom to three feral little boys. She spends her days putting out fires (actual and metaphorical) and trying to keep goldfish alive. Her words have appeared in Newsweek, HuffPost, Health Magazine, Parents, Scary Mommy, Today Show Parents, and more. You can follow along on Twitter where she writes (questionably) funny anecdotes about her life at @Xtina_Crawford