40. For a really long time, I couldn’t quite grasp that I would someday be 40. After all, that was the age of parents, bosses, college professors, authority figures…you know, adults. And surely, I wasn’t an adult. I mean, yes, I had graduated college, gotten a full-time job and my own apartment, bought a car. Then I bought a condo and I had a mortgage. Then I met J and eventually we moved in together. We bought a house and I paid off my college loans. Then we bought another house and an SUV. I had 401(k) and an investment account, dental insurance and homeowners insurance and life insurance. Our friends started to get married…started having kids. We went on business trips and we sat in the good seats at baseball games instead of in the bleachers. We would order wine at dinner instead of beer. We bought season tickets to the Giants. We wrote wills. Basically, we did adult things.
But the whole time, I felt like a fraud. I felt like a kid playing dress up or playing house. Sometimes I would be at work and I would be in the middle of purchasing a $28 million dollar piece of art and supervising its delivery and I would think “Are these people for real right now? Don’t they know I’m just a stupid kid who has no idea what I’m doing???” Or I would walk through the house, on my way to bed and I would turn off lights and pick up dog toys and check that the doors were locked…and I would feel like a little girl who was trying to play house and be like her mother. None of it felt real…it all just felt like pretending.
Everything felt sort of temporary. I would buy things…like a new set of knives…and I would buy the cheap version, thinking that I didn’t need anything really good. I’d buy the good knives when I was finally an adult. I bought generic crap to hang on the walls instead of real art, because real art was for adults. I never really learned to cook well because there would be plenty of time for that when I was an adult. At least, that’s the way it worked in my head.
As my birthdays continued to pass and I got closer to 40 than I was to 30, it became apparent that yes, I was going to be 40 soon, and I began to dread it. When I turned 39, I entered full on denial. After Thanksgiving, J and my mom started asking me what I wanted to do for my birthday…go to dinner, have a party? Really, I wanted to stay home and pretend it wasn’t happening. I wanted the day to pass like any other and I didn’t want to mention it. I decided that I wasn’t going to turn 40 because 40 was old and I didn’t want to feel old.
Eventually I gave in, we made some plans, went out to dinner with friends, had a family celebration at home. While I was sitting there, eating and nursing my Diet Coke while wearing very comfy pants, I thought back to my 30th birthday. We got all dressed up, had a party in the city and I drank waaaaay too many shots. The night ended with me falling out of a taxi and the room spinning. As much as I didn’t want to turn 40, going back to 30 didn’t sound that appealing either.
It’s been two weeks of being 40 and I can tell you that I don’t hate it. Someone asked me today how old I was and I said “Forty” with no hesitation and no dread. But it definitely feels different. I no longer feel like that kid playing dress up. I feel like an adult…and I like it way more than I thought I would. I feel mature and wise…or at least a hell of a lot smarter than I used to be. I feel like 40 is going to be a great year…the first of a really great decade. I honestly believe my best years are ahead.
I also think it’s time to buy the really good knives.