Thoughts on Turning Forty

Forty feels different.

It’s just another day. Yesterday I was thirty-nine and doing the same things I am going to do today. There’s not something actually different about being forty. Still, it feels different.

The first thing I’m noticing is I don’t care. I mean, I care about a lot: my family, my writing, the state of affairs in the world, coffee, and so on. But I can feel myself not caring about what others think about me.

It’s difficult to explain, but there is a definite feeling to this, not caring. It’s not like a weight has been lifted; instead, it’s as if something in my chest switched on. There’s a little glowing light on my internal dashboard, signifying something new is running in my system. I think not caring has slowly been growing for a little while, but suddenly, I am aware of it.

I simply don’t care what people think about me. I feel confident in who I am. I know my strengths and weaknesses, I know where I screw up and where I excel, and, to be honest, I’m pretty happy with who I am at my best. I’m not scrambling to be cool, or always in need of constant external validation. I’m ok with being me, as I am, knowing I will get better with age and effort.

I also notice that I have become more careful, particularly with my words. I find that I don’t need to broadcast every little thing on social media. I don’t have to comment on everyone’s posts and thoughts. I don’t need to share what I think constantly. Much of this is related to the not caring switch that has been flipped. However, there is another component to it.

I used to write by vomiting on the page. Now, I find it is much more like picking flowers. I am more careful with what I say — not guarded, careful. I am still (I hope) honest and authentic, vulnerable and open, but I am more cautious about how I express that vulnerability and authenticity. I don’t vomit the first words that pop into my head. I choose them with care. I mean what I say because I have chosen the words to say what I mean.

I don’t want to score points; I want to speak the truth I see. I don’t want to be provocative; I want to comfort. This is why my writing has shifted to writing about religion so much. I’m trying to offer my perspective on a spirituality of being human. I happen to write from a Christian point of view.

These qualities were probably there yesterday when I was thirty-nine. But today, I’m noticing them in profound and new ways. Maybe it’s the self-reflection that comes with the passing of another year. Maybe it’s the fact that I was up at four-thirty this morning. Maybe something truly has shifted. Whatever it is, I am noticing the careful not caring anew today.

I don’t know if this is necessarily indicative of what this decade holds, but I enjoy it for now. We’ll see what the forty’s hold for me.

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