This woman asked my age last week, and I blanked. I completely could not recall how old I was. I knew it was more than 35 though not quite 40; how could I answer “Uuuuhhhm, I think I’m around 36 or 37, no wait, maybe 38. Yeah, I am 38. Actually, I might be 39.” That would sound crazy right. I ended up just giving her the year I was born because I couldn’t handle it mentally. “You do the math lady!” I said, while averting the alarmed look on her face.
Then, I remembered I have a birthday in a couple of months. It’s not really a big deal after a certain age, but it’s a good time to ponder your life, the transformations you’ve made as a person, assess your feelings about where you’ve been and where you’re going. Age is a wonderful thing and in honor of what I think will be my 40th birthday, here are 40 reasons I personally am ecstatic about turning 38, 39, or 40.
1. Despite my occasional mental blocks, I am more health conscious than ever. Was the food pyramid even invented before 1985? If so, my parents ignored it and fed us Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and pork rinds daily. I’ve learned that fruits and vegetables are quite tasty and healthy too.
2. I’m fitter than ever. Face it, we’re not 20 anymore, we have to hit the gym, we have to work it out, and after a lifetime of thinking I could never be a runner, I am proud to hit that pavement at my slow ass pace 4-5 times a week. Yes, most other runners pass me - some way older than 40 - but hey I’m out there nonetheless.
3. I can live wherever I want and decorate as I please. I can hang that Moroccan tapestry, the Tibetan flags and I can choose not to put plastic coverings on my sofa like my parents’ generation did. I still have plastic burns from those.
4. I don’t care what people think. Don’t get me wrong, I still get offended and occasionally my feelings get hurt, but I truly do not care whether people like me or not, whether they agree with me or not, or whether I’m on their friend list or not. This is a truly liberating feeling.
5. I’m a parent and I get to make the rules now. We can eat breakfast for dinner, watch movies in the middle of the afternoon, or visit as many museums and parks that we can muster in one day.
6. I embrace my quirkiness and my periodic bouts of oddness. Sometimes I say strange things and make random comments. When you’re not looking for approval you can be free to be as weird as you like.
7. I embrace my laugh. I have a very loud, dorky, guttural laugh, and personally, I dig it, but I recognize why some might find it a turn off. Who cares though? Not me.
8. I gave up smoking. I called it quits over ten years ago and it was by far the best relationship I have ever ended.
9. Speaking of relationships, I don’t brood over pretty boys anymore. This is something I should have learned in preschool – if they don’t want to play with you, it’s all good, someone else will want to.
10. I am comfortable saying no. As a former people pleaser, this was particularly hard and only recently was when I started to feel okay with not being able to do everything that was asked of me. The world continues to orbit regardless.
11. I’ve become an introvert. More of a spiritual awakening as opposed to a revelation, but it’s made me question how much of our personality is defined by labels put early on.
12. I don’t need to pigeonhole my spiritualism to anyone. Maybe I’m a reformed catholic, flirting heavily with atheism, or courting Buddhist practices. I can believe what I want without having to justify it to any church, organization, or person.
13. I don’t have to smile if I don’t want to. This isn’t a beauty pageant or a Miss Congeniality contest. If I’m not in the mood I don’t have to fake it.
14. I’ve eliminated toxic people from my life. I highly recommend this. There is no need for any type of toxicity in your life, so whatever age you’re in, if you find yourself surrounded by toxic people, it’s time to do some spiritual cleansing.
15. I can choose to walk away from bullshit conversations. At times, I’d be at a social event, and with no warning whatsoever I’d find myself listening to the biggest pile of bullshit I’ve ever had the audacity to hear. I can walk away. I don’t need to argue just for the sake of correcting every ignorant person I meet.
16. I’ve become a minimalist – this one is a work in progress but I’ve realized that I don’t need to buy a bunch of crap, the latest gadget, and have a big house to show the world how successful I’ve become. There is nothing to prove to anyone that can be demonstrated via material goods.
17. I’ve paid off my entire student loan balance and it felt orgasmically good. Spell check is alerting me that orgasmically is not really a word, but when it comes to paying off your student loans, I beg to differ.
18. And on the topic of orgasms, I’ve become more comfortable in my own sexuality. Society has inundated me and womankind with different notions and ideas of what we should like, how we should perform, and how sexualized/non sexual we should be. That lurid propaganda is no longer dictating my primal pleasures.
19. I enjoy my own company tremendously. Being social is great but discovering you love your own company the best, is the most wonderful gift you can give yourself.
20. I am open about my progressive political ideas and have no qualms about voicing them.
21. I also don’t have a pressing need to scream my liberal views at every NRA bumper sticker I see driving through Miami.
22. I have friends that may or may not be right wing conservatives. I prefer not to delve into that facet of ideological difference between us, but they happen to be pretty decent people. I know. Shocking.
23. I don’t need to show my boobs to be sexy. Or my legs. Or my midriff. In fact, I don’t need to use my body to be sexy. Here’s a crazy revelation: Intelligence is pretty darn sexy.
24. I don’t need to wear makeup if I don’t want to. Bare faced ladies are beautiful too. I like my freckles, my lines, my imperfections.
25. My clothes don’t need to match. Wearing different prints and patterns is pretty cool, or says my über cool Italian husband.
26. I can openly enjoy period pieces on PBS Masterpiece. I don’t know, perhaps there a million Puerto Rican Downton Abbey fans out there, but something about British television drama just turns me on.
27. I can still pursue my dreams. One of my biggest inspirations was a woman I met in my previous office job; she held a Ph.D. in Psychology and at 50 decided she wanted to become an attorney, so she went to law school. At 50. If that doesn’t rock, then I don’t know what planet you’re from.
28. Being a nerd and a social outcast is probably the best thing ever. I was a closet nerd and an outed social misfit my whole life and if in fact I could send my child self a piece of advice, it would be to nurture that; it could take you farther than you could ever imagine.
29. It’s good to be kind; in fact it’s Great to be kind. I’m instinctively a good, kind person but I think I spent a lot of time rejecting it, not wanting to stick up for the underdog for fear of god knows what. Now, I actively seek to be kind, especially to the underdog.
30. I find gray and silver hair attractive on both men and women. Especially on women. All shades of gray feminine aging are beautiful.
31. I’m finally comfortable with my gender, my culture, my language. For the longest time I questioned whether I was too Puerto Rican, looked too white, too brown, acted too girly, spoke English with too much of an accent or Spanish with too much campo slang. Now, it’s a take it or leave it attitude.
32. I forgive and ask for forgiveness more openly. As best stated by Alexander Pope: “To err is human; to forgive divine.”
33. I can discern bullshit with much more ease than before. This is a great thing because you can decide whether to allow people access to your life Before they turn it toxic.
34. I don’t wear under wire bras anymore. Those things will cut you like a motherfucker.
35. I don’t want a boob job anymore. Or liposuction. Or plastic surgery. Ever. I am happy with my natural body, my saggy parts, scattered stretch marks, and uneven coloring. There are far more important things to think about in this life.
36. I’ve finally found a deodorant that works. And guess what it is? Lemon. All natural, 25¢ lemon. Let’s bankrupt the carcinogenic deodorant corporation!!
37. The first lines of the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald says it all:
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.”
This rings true on so many levels, but in essence it confirms what took me almost 40 years to get, don’t be so judgmental.
38. I’ve learned to curb my narcissistic tendencies. Turns out my problems weren’t on everyone’s mind 24/7; in fact people have their own problems, worries, and lives to live. I think if we could all get this on the most basic, fundamental level the world would be free of a lot of ugly self-entitlement.
39. I’ve become a better listener. Less is more, and definitely less talking is more learning. Note: This one might be a work in a progress.
40. And last but not least, I’ve learned that no one needs to approve of anything in my life. It’s enough to trust myself with decisions I’ve made. I’ve allowed myself that to the fullest.