Why I Am Not Waiting Until I'm 40

by Dr. Jennelle
Originally Published: 
Dr. Jennelle

I’m a seeker – of knowledge, connection, growth, and peace. I think I’ve always been this way, but this truth about myself started showing up hard when I took my first psychology course in high school. For the first time, I really started listening. I wanted to understand more, about myself and the world around me, and most importantly about humanity. Today people might call this focus personal development or even self-help, something that seems reserved for those precious years after young adulthood. I’ll thank Ms. Hart for giving me a head start when I was just 16.

I read soulful memoirs, wholehearted stories of both personal experience and carefully crafted education. You can find me any day of the week hanging with my girls Glennon Doyle, Brené Brown, Jen Hatmaker, Liz Gilbert, and Oprah. These women are my soul sister mentors, and although I’ve only ever actually hugged one of them, their intimate influence in my life is undeniable.

And they are a big part of the reason I am not waiting until I’m 40.

These women have all written and spoken to the coveted “no longer caring” mentality they acquired at 40. That finally they were able to show up and just be who they are, flaws and all, with passionate purpose, loud enough for everyone to hear, even on their quietest days. That 40 was almost some magical milestone where societal pressures are washed away, mainly because you’re just so damn exhausted from the weight after 40 years – you literally just can not (as Jen would say).

Your dirty hair caked with dry shampoo, coupled with a Target dress you bought on clearance, becomes your Bible. Your unanticipated and wildly unprepared conversations about the hardest parts of life with your children become as routine as rushing around every Monday morning like a crazy person because – btw, it’s trash day, again. The people in your life all hold treasured, tenured space, and sistering becomes your survival tool. You care infinitely about the little things you’ll miss when they’re gone (bath time and hand-holding, mom’s laugh, grandpa’s smell) and stop caring entirely about the latest smash-named couple (buh-bye, Bennifer). Life is simpler in 1,000 moments and painfully complex in 1,000 others.

Or so, this is what I’m told.

Because as I’m writing this, I’ve just turned 34. I’ve already graduated college, earned my Masters and PhD, started my own business, become a mother, purchased a house, gotten engaged (twice), gotten married (once), and built a life I’m proud of – but that can also bring me to my knees. I’ve worked for someone else and worked for myself (the latter is disproportionately superior), I’ve loved a man and loved a woman (the latter is disproportionately superior), I’ve struggled financially and been financially secure (okay, you get it), and I’m just now 34. And I’m not waiting another 6 years for that coveted magic.

There are currently 4 cans of dry shampoo under my bathroom sink and I’m wearing a strapless dress with a “size small” tag circa 2015 that I know I could never purchase today. Recently while unpacking the day’s lunchbox remnants, I found myself with a dirty peanut-buttered napkin in hand when our 10-yr-old daughter asked me to explain what the letters in LGBTQ each stand for.

I took the trash out yesterday and gave myself a significant pat on the back for actually breaking down all the cardboard boxes and appropriately fitting them into the recycling bin (never mind the one random trash bag in a can we never use that I couldn’t even lift…there’s always next week). I made plans with a dear friend who is expecting her first child, mostly just to sit and smile at this amazing stage of life she’s in.

I look forward to the memories TimeHop plans to share with me tomorrow and admit that the only reason I know anyone remotely famous these days is if they have a song that’s played in my Zumba class. I am writing this as I sit on the beach, my office for the day…and I lost my sister to suicide in 2016 – simpler and so much more complex.

Maybe I’m ahead of the curve, but I think I might have a handle on this authentic, wholehearted living thing. It’s not that I think my beloved sisters got it wrong; I think they got it so right that they paved the path for us to pay more attention. Because here’s the thing with personal growth – it’s here when you pay attention to it, fleeting when you forget. And mothering, careering, adulting, and just basic living make us forget. We forget to set aside time to put our phones down and soak up the sun – alone – for healing and clarity. We forget to read that inspiring story or sit down with that friend in transition. We forget to slow down, we forget to show up, we forget to be present. And just like that, 6 years can pass. And just like that, you can find yourself at 40.

So I’m staying deliberate and intentional. And if nothing else, I’ll grab my case of the “f$@% its” right now while the getting’s good – just to prove I can, to push myself, to be different, to be nontraditional. I’m taking on the hot loneliness. I’m sitting still on my mat. I’m changing the story I’m telling myself. I’m believing in something bigger than me. I’m loving with everything I have.

This is 34.

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