"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Thursday, November 2, 2017

We Are 40

When the sun rises tomorrow morning, I think I might finally feel like an adult. 

I mean, it's been heading that way for some time, what, with my recently realized penchant for Tupperware, my enjoyment of school board meetings, and the realization that sometimes it actually is cold enough to wear a coat. But I've still been 39, still abiding in my yellow decade, bright with youth and promise. So even though I've matured and grown and become a better person, I could still say I was in my 30s. And that doesn't sound so old.

But 40? When I was a kid, 40-year-olds were grown-ups. They had investment portfolios and carried briefcases. They used big words and signed important documents. They wore nylons and dress suits with shoulder pads. Blazers. I've never been a grown-up before. At least, not like that.

But I've always been me. I've always been Joy. And as I cross that magic line tonight and step into a new decade, I'm choosing to accept it as a milestone -- as a celebration of the gift that I've been given -- of getting to be me for an even 40 years. My rate or depth of maturity is up to me. Not all old people are wise. Other people -- young people -- can be astoundingly wise beyond their years sometimes. The human experience has so much depth, regardless of age -- it's undefined by it. Of course, it would be ideal if one's maturity was reflective of their number of years on Earth, and it is in most cases. But people are just people. Just grown-up kids. They're just themselves, at their core, collecting and accumulating life experiences and translating them into some sort of meaning through their own one-of-a-kind filter. 

It's not fair to look at an elderly person and just see an "old fogey," not giving them credit for the person they are inside, for the life experiences they've accumulated. It's also not fair to look down on someone younger and think of oneself as better, more mature. I've thought a lot about this in the last six months. I work with a bunch of 20-somethings -- millennials -- kids that were born when I was in high school. I could have babysat them. I was considering colleges while they were learning to walk. But you know what? They're smart. They're fun. I genuinely like them as people. I recognize that they're smarter than me in a lot of ways, and just as I didn't want to be looked down on when I was their age, it only makes sense that I give them the benefit of the doubt -- get to know each of them for who they are -- their individual cores, their unique filters -- despite the fact that we're currently living in different stages of life.

So 40 isn't what I thought it would look like. It isn't what I thought it would feel like. 

So what does it feel like?

All my life, I've hated doing dishes. Like really hated them. Our kitchen has often showed it, too, and seen the brunt of it. And all my life, I've noticed that my mom, my dad, and my grandma don't necessarily mind doing the dishes. It's not like they like doing them. But when the dishes need to be done, they do them. And I've never understood it. I mean, my grandma is 88 years old; how is she not tired of doing dishes?

So what does 40 feel like? Surprise! It feels like doing the dishes. Like, actually feeling like doing the dishes. Not minding them. Finding a little bit of pleasure and peace in it. 

This is a new development for me, something that's been growing steadily over the last year. But it's true. I find peace in doing dishes, in taking care of what belongs to me, in properly utilizing my resources.  

40 also feels like having a real concept of how much I don't know, of admitting that I don't know it all and that I never will. I love writing and editing. I do it for a living and have often prided myself in being perfect. But am I always right? Absolutely not. Do I make mistakes? All the time. Do I miss things? I did today. I once heard it said that nobody knows more than a college sophomore, and I believe that to be true. The older I get, the more I come to terms with the fact that I don't know what I don't know. And I am absolutely fallible. I am far from perfect.

I'm also getting worse at parking, if that's possible. Every time I walk up to my vehicle after work, I think, "Nice parking job, Joy."

So, this is 40. An ex-know-it-all who enjoys doing dishes and packing my food into Tupperware containers that I then dutifully carry up the elevator with me in to work. A bad parker, yes. But still me. 

Still a word nerd. Still an amateur detective, always curious about the scoop. Still into colorful things. Still into weather and all the things it affects, like pinwheels and wind chimes. Still into good coffee and music. Still into things that smell amazing and taste delicious. Still indulgent, probably to a fault. ;-)

So this next decade will be "emerald" for my funnily wired brain -- not yellow. A bright, translucent, iridescent gem-green will serve as the backdrop for the next 10 years of my life. I think I could do a lot worse.

Hello, 40. I'm still me.