Don't Dread Turning 40: Age Is More Than Just A Number

by Kristen Hewitt
Turning 40

For the past few months, I’ve been dreading my birthday. Not because I don’t like to celebrate — actually the total opposite. I love any excuse to whip up a cake and feel special for the day! But this year it’s different.

This year it’s getting real.

I suppose that feeling in the pit of my stomach started around six months ago. A former executive producer I used to work with called to catch up one evening and asked how old I was. When I told him, he kind of freaked.

“Really? No way…really?” he exclaimed. I wasn’t sure if it was because he thought I was younger, or because it made him feel old knowing he had hired me right out of college 16 years ago. He went on in astonishment to add, “You better not put that on your blog, or you’ll never get another job in TV.”

I think he was partially joking, but the more I thought about it, I knew he was right. It’s a shame, but it’s true. In the media world, how a woman looks and is perceived can sometimes be just as important, if not more so, than the quality of work she does. It’s different with men, a double standard, so to speak. But to most in television, age is most definitely not just a number — it can be a death sentence for a career.

And so I worried and fretted and was an emotional basket case all summer. I tried to wrap my head around this next phase of my life and wondered if I’d done enough so far. Did I still have enough time left to live out all of my dreams? Was I a failure because I wasn’t able to have more babies? Was I still attractive, even though I found my first gray hair and my body was changing rapidly with perimenopause?

And as I drowned in my misery, so clouded by both the fear of change and total self-awareness, I declared I wouldn’t celebrate this year. I told my husband no parties — I didn’t want anyone I work with to know how old I am. I wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening. I wanted to bury my head in the sand and make time stand still.

All the while I was being an utter hypocrite.

While I preach to our daughters daily to “be who you want to be,” I was doing the opposite. I wasn’t embracing the body that was a vessel to carry and nourish our babies, I was hating it. I wasn’t celebrating the journey I’ve had in television and feeling pride. Instead, I was focusing on all I hadn’t done. But then a few weeks ago it hit me: So what?! I mean seriously, so effing what?

So what if people know that I’m staring 40 in the face, literally. So what if people see that I’m aging and putting my family first? So what if I’m not a size 4 anymore and my clothes are fitting snugly these days. I am where I am because this is exactly where I’m supposed to be, and it’s time to stop fighting it. It’s time to just be and accept that tomorrow I will turn 40.

I am where I am because this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

So as I sit here today, the last day of my 30s, I finally feel excited to celebrate the journey that I’ve had so far. I’m finally ready to ring in this new decade. And to those of you who tell me “age is just a number,” I’d like to say that it’s not just a number — it’s more.

Forty for me has been an evolution. At first it sucked, then it became somewhat bearable, but now it’s a badge of honor!

Forty signifies the strength of a marriage after nearly a decade of heartache from infertility struggles. Forty means I survived and persevered through the seven years of hell — of needles, surgeries, and IVF which led us to parenthood. Forty reflects the image of a woman that after 40 long years of walking, living, and breathing on this planet, still looks pretty damn good. Forty inspired me to stop trying to please others, and to start my own company. Forty taught me to finally be who I want to be.

So now it’s time to walk in love and savor what’s to come. Because while they might be just numbers, years are disappearing far too quickly. And I can’t afford to waste another second thinking about the math. Now is the time to simply just live, as authentically and happily as possible.