40 Is Not ‘The New 20’ And Here’s Why

stop saying 40 is the new 20
Richard Drury/GettyImages

When I was in my twenties, I secretly loved it when people said “Ya know, 40 is the new 20” because that meant my life wasn’t over when I started getting gray hair, wrinkles, and luscious body parts started to sag.

But if I’m being honest, I was getting it all wrong — I literally thought women were saying this because these things didn’t happen to some of them and maybe I’d be one of the lucky ones.

Fingers crossed. How could 40 be fabulous if you were sprouting squiggly white hairs?

What my 20-year-old self didn’t know (among so many other things) was that with each passing year, each passing decade, you become more refined. You become more you and shed the versions of you that never felt authentic or didn’t serve you in a way you deserved.

You see, 30 is the new 30 and it’s fucking amazing.

40 is the new 40.

And I can with 100% truth say, damn things are getting good now.

And I hear 50 is where it’s really at.

And 60? Fucking forget it. Because that is when all the shit that weighed you down for most of your life leaves because you ask it to.

Because you’ve left it the rear view mirror of your life and can happily say “fuck right off” to the things that don’t put a skip in your step because you’ve dabbled in them enough times to know you’re happier when you keep walking right by them.

And I hear you are able to do this in a way the 20-year-old version of you never could because you were still curious, still learning, still wanting to test things out and sometimes not quite ready to listen.

You see, it’s not about turning a certain age and all of a sudden getting sprinkled with fairy dust so that nothing bothers you and you don’t care about cellulite. You don’t flip the calendar page and instantly become all Zen-like.

Nope, not even close.

But what does happen is you learn how to be you better, even if  it’s not the version you’d cooked up in your mind.

I got a divorce a few years ago and I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d ever be a single mother to three kids and dating at 43. I thought I’d be a home maker, crafting my way through the teen years in between attending sports and spelling bees and helping my kids get ready for a school dance and run for class president.

But here I sit, a divorced working mom. I am not any of the things I thought I’d be, but I am ready to listen to my former self and I’ve been taking notes.

I hardly ever have time to craft, and my kids hate going to dances and have told me there’s no way in hell they are running for class president.

And the thing is I’m good with all of this. Like, really good because I now know no matter what happens I’m capable of editing my life to work with my current situation, no matter what it may be.

That comes with age and time and wading through hard shit. And I know I wouldn’t be handling my life this way if I was 23 or 33 — because back then, I simply didn’t know myself the way I do now.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have shitty days just because you are over four decades in. You still feel helpless, get your feelings hurt, and question your life choices on the daily. Fuck, my anxiety can spiral out of control in a few seconds with worries I never had in my twenties.

But you know what?

I’m still fucking better.

I know myself enough to realize I am going to be fine. I have things I’ve tried that haven’t work for me.

I still have chances I haven’t taken and I’m not afraid of failing like I was once.

I know staying in bed all day doesn’t make me feel better (because I’ve done it enough times).

I know what true friendship and love feels like so I marinate in those experiences and feelings and accept nothing less.

Your age is your age — fucking own it. After all, it’s the oldest you’ve ever been. You know the most you have ever known whether you are 24, 45, or 57.

As you age you realize a lot of the things you thought would make you flinch in your younger years don’t even phase you anymore because you’ve been paying attention. You’ve been listening to you. You’ve been growing into yourself and you now know yourself better than ever.

Each year gets better for that reason. It’s not magic; it’s experience.

So saying your age is the new “insert 20 years ago” is doing yourself a disservice because, damn, you are so much better now that you were then.