The Other ‘F’ Word

Let’s talk about the other ‘F’ word we don’t like to say in public – forty! Us 80’s babies grew up believing this was the end of our ‘fun’ lives. Forty was an unfathomable milestone where we were thinking more about retirement then recreation – our fun loving youthful lives would be over!

Still a single digit age

The first hurdle to major adulthood is 30, but it feels like there’s still some hope to cling to there doesn’t it? Like the clock is ticking away the seconds of your youthful and carefree life on some imaginary timeline, but you still have time to ‘get your shit together’ – whatever that means. Like there’s a checklist of goals you have to meet before you turn 40. After that, well who knows.

Even at that time, forty felt so far away, but doesn’t it seem like decades are getting shorter? Now it’s my turn to advance to this previously dreaded decade, but first I want to take some time to talk about my experience turning forty in this post-pandemic – social media – ‘living your best life’ age of being. Strap in and pour yourself a drink as we look back at the decades that got me here.

My 20s

One of many nights on George Street in my early 20s

My 20s were like a lot of peoples’ – messy, fun, then.. messy again. Here’s the cliff notes version: I moved from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia for university at 18, which was my first time living away from home. I actually spent a lot of that first year depressed, and didn’t think I was going to make it through the school year. Spoiler alert – I did, but I definitely looked in to other options. I worked hard in school, made new friends, tested my boundaries with lack of sleep, alcohol and just how cheaply you could survive. I pulled all-nighters to finish projects. I pulled all-nighters that were drunken adventures. I dated. I went to Italy with my university which was my first trip to Europe. I graduated, and questioned what the hell you do when you’re not going to back to school in September.

After university, I moved back to Newfoundland and got married. Bought my first house, and changed careers. I got divorced, and tried to figure out what you do when the tried and true life plan fails. I dated again. I gave myself my first orgasm without a partner (look, i was a late bloomer). Is that a weird thing to write? Honestly – I feel like it’s a big deal that it took me that long. It’s something I laugh about a lot because most people do that in their teens. Like I said – I was a late bloomer, and honestly I had body and self confidence issues that really held me back.

By the end of my 20s, I was in my dream job as a tattooer, but I was STILL wondering what the hell I was doing with my life, just like I was at the start of this decade.

My 30s

I honestly don’t feel like I figured myself out at all until I was in my early 30s; that’s when I started to feel truly happy with who I was becoming as a person. Who the hell started the idea that you had to have life figured out before you were 30?! What does that even mean?

In my mid 30s in Paris

My 30s is when I became comfortable in my own skin, and in my clothes or even really caring about clothes at all. This is when I started to feel comfortable experimenting with makeup, and not hating what I saw in the mirror. I don’t think some people realize how many adults struggle with their own appearance or where they’re at in their lives versus where society has lead us to believe they should be.

In the beginning of this decade, I sold my first house and bought another. I had been tattooing for a few years, and loving what I was doing. I dated more. Hell, I got married again, and divorced…again. (insert face palm here – this could be an entire blog on its own).

For me this was the most important decade. This was where I hit rock bottom. Crying on the floor as my marriage died -again, facing being divorced for a second time, and believing I could not have both a successful professional life and personal life as well. I dated again. None of my friends or family were divorced or had any experience dating in their 30s. My professional life was soaring as I opened my own business and then another, but my personal life was a raging dumpster fire. I feel like I took the reins to my own life, but still wasn’t sure what to do with them.

“Enjoy yourself; that’s what your 20s are for. Your 30s are to learn the lessons. Your 40s are to pay for the drinks.”

Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

As I entered my late 30s, I was ending yet another relationship, in counselling trying to figure out why I was a magnet for said terrible relationships, and trying to accept that I couldn’t have a career and a happy home life. Then something profound happened to me at 37 – I let go of the expectations of where I was supposed to be for my age. Regardless of where popular culture said I should be at this point in my life, I would rather be alone then try and make myself smaller so a relationship would work, which is essentially what I had been doing since my 20s.

I realized it was time to love myself first, and the life I had, rather than be sad for what I didn’t, but this was something I couldn’t do until now, until this point. I needed all those experiences in those decades to get to this place of learning to let go of where society told me I should be.

This will be the best year.

I don’t mean that in a generic ‘this will be the best year ever!’, trying-to-accept-my-age kind of way. I literally mean, with where my life is going (and where I’ve been), this will actually be the best year of my life so far, I have no doubt. Some people figured it out early. They met their spouse in high school or shortly thereafter, stayed in the same career field they started in, and generally followed a fairly straightforward life path. I cannot say the same, but I’m not sad about it. Not now anyway.

Weeks before my 40th birthday in the Dominican Republic.

Does the younger generation still believe 40 is ‘old’? Has society shifted enough to realize that we have so much more life to live than is defined by an outdated ideal? How we ever got brainwashed in to believing that we had to figure our lives out in our 20s, I’m not sure, but I hope the teens of today can see our generation and be encouraged instead of stifled. Hell, I hope people at any age will read this and be brought some form of comfort if they feel like they still haven’t figured it out.

It’s hard to summarize three decades of life experience into an easily readable format, but I hope this suffices to say that every day of this life really is a gift, as cliché as that is. The bad days, as well as the good serve a purpose in our lives. It’s more than a glossy highlight reel of the best times, and it’s never too late to do anything: to start a new job, to make a move, to believe in yourself.

Forty ain’t so bad. I’m happy where I’m at in life, and it took me every day of these forty years to be able to say that. I hope in another decade I’m adding another paragraph of life adventures to this synopsis – one that is full of experiences, and looking forward to yet another decade, and another ‘f’ word.

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