I always planned to write about turning 40. I even scribbled down some notes at the beginning of the year, thinking I’d eventually turn them into some kind of long-read. I had visions of it going live on my birthday, capturing exactly how I was feeling as I reached this milestone age. I guess I thought I’d have something profound to say.
But every time I’ve tried to write this piece, I’ve felt stuck. How do I feel about turning 40? What does reaching this milestone mean to me? What are my hopes and dreams for this new decade?
In January, I believed the answers to these questions would reveal themselves before my birthday rolled around. But they didn’t. Almost a month on, I’m still settling in and figuring things out. Fuzzy observations and half formed, disjointed thoughts will have to do.
On Growth and Change
I’m reminded of an old video I have saved on my phone. It’s the morning of Izzy’s 9th birthday and we’re on our way to school. She’s bundled up against the January cold and the air around her appears frosty and crisp.
‘How does it feel to be nine years old,’ I ask.
‘Well, my legs feel longer,’ she replies.
I remember loving her response at the time. The way she imagined herself going to bed as an eight-year-old the night before and miraculously growing a few inches taller before morning. But I also recognised the feeling she seemed to describe. She knew something had shifted. She felt different. Taller. Older. More grown-up.
That’s how forty feels for me. The shift is difficult to describe, but I know I’m moving through it. I’m starting a new chapter, entering a new era, growing metaphorical inches overnight.
On Getting Older
I feel like I’m supposed to worry about getting older. Dread it, even. Avoid it at all costs and cling on to youth because it’s inherently better than what lies ahead. Sure, the visible signs of aging take some getting used to, but overall, getting older feels good. I’m excited about this season of my life.
Ahead of my birthday, I asked those in my Instagram audience aged 40+ to tell me what they love about getting older. Here are some of the answers I received:
‘Finally caring less about other people’s opinions about my life and how I live it!’
‘Gaining self-confidence… and not giving a shit what other’s think.’
‘Being able to be unapologetically me.’
‘Giving less shits.’
‘Wisdom and not really giving a shit about what people think of me anymore.’
‘Giving less fucks. Feeling more sure about who I am.’
‘Valuing my own voice and opinion and trusting it.’
‘Being comfortable with who I am and what I look like.’
Yes please to all of the above!
I have a theory that most families can be divided into two groups – Christmas families and birthday families. You either go all out in December or you make a big deal of birthdays. Carl comes from a Christmas family. Birthdays tend to be fairly low key, even the big ones.
I, on the other hand, come from a birthday family. The celebrations begin the minute you wake up and often last well beyond the day itself. We have a lot of birthday traditions. Gifts are not necessarily expensive, but they lean towards meaningful and elaborate. Parties are encouraged and there is always cake and music and decorations.
Over the years, Carl has admitted to feeling a little stressed at the prospect of having to make my birthday special. He knows it means a lot to me and that I really look forward to celebrating. He also knows I put a great deal of effort into celebrating everyone else’s birthdays. I do that because it brings me joy, not because I expect it in return, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a little birthday magic of my own.
From my perspective, Carl has nothing to worry about. He may come from a Christmas family, but he’s learned how to do birthdays like a pro. In the end, I celebrated turning 40 with lots of little treats and experiences. Cocktails with Izzy, a night away with Carl, afternoon tea with my parents and dinner out with friends. I also have a couple of belated birthday adventures to look forward to later in the year. Drag it out, I say. You only turn 40 once.
The day itself, Thursday 17th August 2023, was perfect. Sunny and warm in a summer otherwise defined by damp, grey skies. I wore my favourite red dress and sipped champagne. I thought about my dad a lot.
When he turned 40, he wouldn’t have known he was entering the final decade of his life. You can’t get mad about getting older when you’ve seen the alternative close up. I guess that’s why I feel so grateful for the chance to complete another trip around the sun.
Love Audrey xxx
P.S. From the archives, 20 Things I Have Learnt in my 20s *cringe*