Recently I've noticed changes in the way I look. A grey hair here, another chin there, a thickening at the waist and a thinning of the lips.
It's like I didn't take the phone call from middle age but it's left me a voicemail saying "I've reserved a place for you in your early forties, can you hurry up and confirm your coming only the demand is high and you'll be shoved back in economy if you don't claim your ticket soon".
Well I'm not coming. I want my (eye) bags removed from the hold, my passport unstamped and the contraband they took from me at security returned. I'm not prepared to swap the twinkle in my eye for a wrinkle around my eye just yet and although I'm the wrong side of teenage spots I know for sure I'm nowhere near the age for liver spots.I feel like I'm just hitting my prime physically (except for a few pounds) and emotionally. The skimpy arms and underdeveloped coping mechanisms of my teens and early twenties have been replaced with the big guns that every other day at the gym and years of experience have given me. I can now pack a punch both physically and emotionally, rather than just packing my lunch.
Reaching the age of 40 was not a big deal for me. 39 was the killer year, the year I began to question everything about myself and where my life was heading. Career, looks, relationships and money all came along to my 39th birthday party and screamed at me, they didn't even bring cards or gifts, they just turned up, blew out the candles on my cake and threw it out in the rain to melt.
Luckily, I didn't like that cake anyway, it had been baked, shaped and moulded by others so as I watched it slowly wash away I thought "great, now I can bake a few small muffins, add my own ingredients and leave them in the deep freeze until I'm ready to share them. Let everybody else eat cake".
I've learned to relax and give myself time to breath and the absolute need to prove myself to everybody all the time has got up, given up and left me. I'm like the hare from the "Hare & the Tortoise", except I've already ran the race, come back, popped a Valium, taken a nap and let the tortoise think he's won. I've removed myself from the rat, hare & tortoise race and I've quit the commute. Life just started to feel far to short to be spending an hour and a half every morning and every evening underground, and in the company of people I'd probably cross the road to avoid. A tube journey to a job you hate is your very own road to hell, so I jumped off before I jumped under.
What I'm saying is this, life gets easier as you get older. The insecurities and patterns of thought that hold you back fade away, the endless need to prove who you are recedes because you find out who you are. It's not easy but if you learn to take a step back and observe rather than always being in the thick of it your priorities will change. It's not about getting old or giving up, it's mostly about growing up and realising whats important.
Financially I probably hit my peak about six years ago but as a friend pointed out to me, I'm nowhere near my peak creatively ( I don't know if he means my writing is truly awful?) and holding on to that is what motivates me and keeps me happy. I don't need to go and spend ridiculous amounts of money on possessions because I've finally become self possessed rather than self obsessed, and I don't need to numb any pain because I know how to handle it. I get my laptop out and I start to write rather than getting my cheque book out and starting to write.
Age, experience and life will not wither me, in fact they excite me. I look at them with the same enthusiasm I had in my youth, it's just I have to squint a bit now. There are still so many things I want to do, see and write about and I don't feel any older. I feel more confident and sure of what I'm doing and sure of where I want to be than I ever have. I'm learning to appreciate the grey hair and the few lines that I have rather than thinking they have to be denied, dyed, covered up and lied about. I like my older face, it's the only one I've got so what's the alternative? Looking healthy and happy at 41 is better than looking fifty and lifted at 40. They say at 40 you get the face you deserve, well that's fine, I'd rather have that than the face I can afford and I read an article recently that middle age doesn't actually start until we're 55, so I'm still fresh faced and in my infant years anyway.
Becoming 40 is no big deal. If you're approaching it, scared of it, worried about it or dreading it, RELAX. You've already got the hardest part over and done with and although it sounds like a cliche, it really is the truth that life truly begins at 40.
And I should know, I'm hurtling towards 42, on a pair of roller skates and with a smile.