The transition from my 30s into my 40s has been a bit of a rough ride. There now seems to be a literal divide between me and everyone else who isn’t my age, i.e those who are younger than me.
It’s kind of like what parenting does to you. There is you Before Kids and you After Kids. You can never return to the days of BEFORE and you hardly remember what that looked like.
Well, there is you Before 40 and you After 40 and never the twain shall meet.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed about my gradual freefall into this decade:
There are no best friends. Remember all those intense conversations you had as a 16-year-old? Remember how much your friends meant to you? Remember swearing eternal and undying loyalty to them? Those friendships are well and truly over. These days you are much more likely to exchange a few text messages, be sent a three-line email or get updates on social media. And, anyway, your soul mates from your childhood now live in different countries or at least in different states.
You try to guess people’s age. Yes, everyone looks young, including people of authority. But if the person doesn’t immediately look to be a mere child, you try to guess whether they are with you (40+) or just outside. To your horror, you discover that those you believed to be older than you are actually three years your junior. This happens a lot.
You swap hard alcohol for wine. You can no longer cope with the hangovers, and the children wake you up at the crack of dawn, which makes any meaningful recovery next to impossible. So you start laying off the hard stuff. Wine consumption with dinner (almost always at home, of course) goes up.
Parties get more predictable. You used to go to parties after the pub shut or following a few drinks at the bar. Now, venturing out after 10pm feels like you are stepping into an episode of the Twilight Zone; everything is slightly weird and off-kilter. No longer do you show up to house parties where the host is a ‘friend of a friend of someone you kind of know’.
Gigs. It was amazing when your favorite band played encore after encore at a concert. These days you get mildly anxious if they start on their third encore and it’s edging towards 11pm. And you do like to sit down if possible.
Joint pain talk. You discuss random things about your health, like your creaky knees, at parties. You hear people reminisce about when they used drugs for recreation, not to alleviate back pain, sleep through the night or to relieve anxiety. And talk always goes back to house prices, mortgages, and schools and kids (if you have them).
Your face stops resembling itself. Unfortunately you stop looking like the person you remember being, and start looking a bit like you but not like you. You might start to look like a parent (as in your parent). This generally perpetuates this thought: do I actually look old to others or am I completely blinkered about how much I have aged?
Compliments become increasingly qualified. You start talking about how good some people look ‘for their age’ or about being able to ‘pull things off’ because of their age.
You console yourself with the belief that you can still do something significant, although you’re not sure what that significant thing will be or whether you will have the energy to embark on it.
There is no epiphany. You don’t wake up on your 40th birthday and think, ‘That’s it, I’m all grown up and responsible. I know why I’m here.’ Generally, you are the same as you have always been, but with more wrinkles and grey hair.
And why it’s not all bad:
You become more comfortable with the person you are, but you are not necessarily totally happy with it.
You tend not to fret as much about stuff which used to bother you. Anyhow, you don’t have that much time to think about it.
Small things can make you happy – like the sight of an empty dishwasher, folded, clean clothes, or a really good night’s sleep.
People become less intimidating. You tend not to be impressed with titles and accumulated wealth. No one has figured it all out.
You gain confidence, even if you also lose hair.
You don’t care that much what people think about you. Other people’s opinions are just not that important, so you can admit to liking stuff no one else does and even be proud of it.