Today Is My 43rd Birthday

Today is my 43rd birthday, and I’m feeling pretty good about things.

I love being in my forties. I feel better about myself than I did when I was younger, and I’m on the path I want to be on. The hardest part about being in my forties is listening to friends who are so stuck feeling bad about no longer being their twenties or thirties that they don’t realize how amazing their forties are.

Not that I don’t see where it comes from. Little reminders that I’m edging ever closer to middle age are all around. Arthur/Lucy/Noah’s shared BFF Dimitry joined us at the drive-in last weekend, and D’s grandma came with him. On the way to the drive-in, I told Justin I hadn’t met her yet, but I bet she was kind of young. Arthur, who had met her, said, “No, she’s not.”

When we got to the drive-in and met her, I realized she was only about four years older than us. Mathematically, it makes sense, but it’s still super weird to see my friends on Facebook posting about grandchildren that are not that much younger than my kids.

“Arthur, why did you tell us Dimitry’s grandma is not young?” I told him. “She’s literally almost me and Dad’s age!”

He snickered. “I didn’t say she wasn’t your age.”

Oh, snap.

I recently came upon an old analog blog post—back then we called them diaries—I wrote when I was a teen. In it, I mentioned my dad’s birthday. “He’s officially over the hill.” I had written in bubbly ink, circling the “i”s.

That was the year my dad turned forty.

When I consider my little teenage brain all warped from inhaling Aqua Net and Bonne Bell on the daily thinking forty was over-the-hill, I’m slightly mortified. But then I remember how much my mom hated turning forty and how she had quietly shut herself in her bedroom all week long and I realize that of course, I thought forty was old.

I definitely don’t feel old.

When I turned forty, I had a bunch of friends over. We built a campfire in the backyard and had a gummy candy buffet. Gummy sharks, gummy twin cherries, gummy colas—all the greats were there. I carefully curated my Eurotrash dance party music, which we played from a speaker hanging in the trees among hanging light strings while we danced on rugs underneath them.

My twenties were amazing. They were everything a person’s twenties should be. I moved in with Justin when we were barely 21. We went to more than three hundred concerts, sometimes driving to Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Dallas, St. Louis, or even Austin for a show. We had a dreamy wedding at Circle of Light in Eureka Springs, where we partied all weekend with about sixty of our friends and family. We took a honeymoon in Colorado, where we camped and stayed in hostels for more than a week.

But our thirties hit us hard. Several friends and family members died, and we suffered a devastating late miscarriage. We became parents months before the economic downturn hit, and we spent most of the next decade living in poverty.

Our marriage took some heavy hits during that time as well, and for a while, I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it.

But over the past three years, things have been on a gradual upswing, and then over the past year, they’ve gone from less hard to pretty good.

But it’s not just external factors that have made my forties better. Every day, I’m more comfortable in my own skin. And now that I’m not scrambling to change diapers and balance 1.5 full-time jobs with three small kids, I can actually see, experience, and enjoy the good things life brings our way.

I told my dad’s lovely wife Nancy, “I really enjoy being in my forties.” She and my dad have been having the time of their lives together enjoying retirement, going on vacation, playing with their little dog. She replied, “I did too. I love every decade more! Just wait until you’re in your sixties! It’s great.”

So in celebration of my birthday, here are a few of the reasons it’s great to be 43:

  1. I have had two decades to polish my craft, and I’m a better writer than I’ve ever been.

  2. I also have found my voice as a writer; I know what I want to say and how I want to say it.

  3. After years of wonky foundation lines and uneven lipstick, I have finally learned how to apply makeup.

  4. I’m not worried about what I’m going to do with my life. I know what I want and I am pretty much on the path I want to be on.

  5. I’m through bouncing around trying to find a back-up career plan.

  6. I spent my twenties and thirties trying to make myself dress like I thought other people wanted me to dress and failing miserably at it. Now I wear what I want.

  7. I know exactly how much wine I can drink before getting a headache or a hangover.

  8. I know how to manage my anxiety for the most part.

  9. I know what colors and clothing styles look right on me and what is absolutely not flattering so I can avoid it.

  10. I can finally speak up for myself if I need to.

  11. I can decorate my living room with unicorn plates and Battlestar Galactica toys and I don’t even care if it’s cool.

  12. I’ve learned how to forgive myself for being imperfect.

  13. I’m better at admitting I was wrong and learning from it.

  14. I’m not as intense. I don’t get very upset very often.

  15. I’m better at controlling my environment and taking care of myself. I don’t have to feel guilty about saying no to someone because I want to stay home and play with the cats.

  16. I have come to accept what my body is like. I have to work really hard to manage my weight partly because I’m really short and partly because of wacky genetics. My weight goes up and down, but I know how to manage it and not feel terrible about myself.

  17. I’m also not afraid to wear a swimsuit or a crop top in public because I realize I’m not here for anyone else’s benefit. If I feel good, I’m happy. I don’t need to worry about the effect my fat rolls are having on people I don’t know.

  18. I’ve perfected my handwriting, and I love it. It’s really amazing.

  19. I’m less afraid to try new things.

43 is going to be a good year. I’ve got big plans. Maybe I’ll write a book, take a vacation, get a tattoo. Maybe I’ll finally focus on getting better at speaking Spanish and French. Maybe I’ll make that Mirror Universe Sylvia Tilly cosplay I’ve been dreaming about.

Whatever I end up doing, I know things are only getting better from here.

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