What I Want–But Don't Yet Have–From My 40s

by Nicole Johnson
Originally Published: 

Forty is fabulous, they say. I don’t say this. I can’t. Instead, I struggle because I am not there yet. I watch others so confident in their own skin, while I struggle in mine. I want to wear this new age, this new me, but I’m still not ready, even though my 40th birthday has come and gone already.

I still need to figure out who I am aside from a mother and wife, aside from the person I spent my 30s becoming. That decade of building and organizing is behind me, but it still lingers, unresolved. My 40s will be the decade that defines the woman the previous three decades have set me up to be.

I fight my new reality and push against it as the days fly past. I have seen 40 in the mirror and return to it every day, still surprised. When did I change? I envy the other women who have not only embraced this new time, but have come to love it. I am behind them, running to catch up. Maybe they can help me, because honestly I’m tired and losing steam.

I need more than clichés like 40 is the new 30. Age is just a number. You are only as old as you feel. Yes, these are true, but I cast them aside, because I hate clichés. Ladies, we are more than the sum total of a bunch of tired sayings. I know I am more.

I want to love my grays, because gray is in—gray is it. Young twentysomethings are dying their own hair to reflect a color that once signified old age. Gray now means something more, something about thumbing your nose at stereotypes. Even those in their 20s know it. Why don’t I?

I need to embrace the changing shape of a body I once knew so well and wore with such confidence, a body that bore children and nursed them through infancy. My body is strong and life-giving even now. In fact, it feels stronger than it did in my youth—maybe this is because it has endured so much. It wears the battle scars that took my entire lifetime to create, the stretch marks of a well-worn life, the sagging breasts that have nourished, the no-longer-toned abdomen that housed growing babies. Why can’t I?

I want to remember who I once was with fondness and nostalgia, because it has brought me to this point, this new era I am trying to love and attempting to embrace. I want to look to the next 10 years, with an open heart and mind, because this is my time. And while I am not yet old, I am old enough to know how quickly time passes. I have finished having children, am settled into my forever home and now will work toward building upon the life I have with the family I always wanted. What’s wrong with me?

I need to be thankful and grateful that I’ve made it this far. I have strong legs that can carry me as I run through the tree-lined streets of a neighborhood I love. My heart continues to beat; my lungs are clear. My mind is filled with knowledge and experience. I have lived through triumph and failure, loss and success, and am still here. I am lucky every day, all the time. I have all I could need and more. Why isn’t it enough?

For me, 40 is hard. It is a world I haven’t figured out just yet, a world I want to find. This world, I am told by those who’ve come before me, is a promised land of acceptance and peace, but I still trudge through the wasteland of a past I’ve yet to let go. Maybe I shouldn’t? Maybe my past should be held and carried along with my present.

What I know now is that I am getting there, but I need a little time. So to all of you who have embraced their 40s, don’t fault me for taking a minute, or a month, to catch my groove and join you. After all, this isn’t a race but a journey. I’ll be along soon…

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