I have young kids and haven’t quite hit middle age, though, after birthing those four kids, my bladder may disagree
Since I graduated high school at the end of the last century, my former classmates are now starting to celebrate their fortieth birthdays. I have quite a few months until my own, but, as I watch their drive-by parties, see the oversized cardboard faces in their yards, or like their shots of quiet nights with cakes made their kids, I realize that 39 is a pretty good age. I've got four small kids, I feel young and healthy, and I hopefully have a ways to go.
That doesn’t mean I’m not starting to feel the years. An old volleyball injury is becoming early arthritis in my hip. My head contains more gray hair than my own mom's and not only has that line reserved its place between my eyebrows, it has laid down the picnic blanket, set four place settings, and started pouring iced tea.
I’m no longer young but not quite old.
As the forties become less of a far-off destination and more of a welcoming beacon, I'm seeing things differently. I am blessed with four kids who get along and are still young enough to find adventure at home. It takes just a extra couple of swings for the summer and celebrating a big Christmas for them to think the world is great. Their imaginations are unending yet whatever I say is the truth. If Mommy says we need to stay home, that’s what we do. If I say we’re camping in the mountains but we’re actually in the backyard, they hear bears. If I say we’re flying to Disney, they hop on the dining room bench and Brooklyn serves as stewardess before they eat Mickey-shaped waffles.
People with newborns or high schoolers don’t have it quite so easy, nor those parents who have to let their kids go to college alone. Not to mention the nurses and doctors who are actually doing life-saving work. My little nest is wrapped in a warm cocoon at home. Complete with a new fire making skill I picked up once I recognized that is now the fastest way to get friends to come by.
Leaving my job was equal parts devastatingly humbling and astonishingly liberating. I had received a glowing review just a few months earlier so, logically, I believed her when she said it wasn’t me, but, considering it happened to me, it clearly was! Now I have time to do what I actually want. I’m hanging on by a thread yet so ready to soar.
Change is hard. I grew up with strict values and viewed things as right or wrong. It wasn’t until I left home that I could see things differently. Going away to college certainly helped. Travel also played a huge part. When I studied abroad, I quickly befriended some locals. Living half a world away, my chill Australian friends taught me to be more carefree.
It happened a second time when I met my husband.
I didn’t realize he had that much to teach me. AJ had some bad habits. He wasn’t as healthy as he should be. He smoked. He didn’t plan ahead (to my liking). He had never carved a pumpkin. But he was open to change.
AJ is a great guy. He is caring, no doubt about that. He’s loyal and kind. He makes me laugh. He is incredibly supportive, like a good sports bra or a shell protecting an egg. Another Boston Terrier? Let’s get a bigger one. Business school? Sure, honey. Move to Connecticut for my job? Why not. A year off to focus on the kids and my dreams? Whatever you need. Wait, what? A year? I thought you said a few months.
When we got married, although I knew I was far from perfect, I didn’t think I had to change. My faults weren’t due to conscious actions but rather, something innate within me. I lack confidence. I second guess myself.
AJ helped me see that is wrong.
He has helped me to actively be a better person. He shows me how to learn from my mistakes, not be afraid to make them. He makes me more spontaneous. He calls me out for being too competitive. He introduced pasta beyond spaghetti to my diet.
As Earth moves around the Sun for the fortieth time in my life, AJ has slowly showed me the spectrum of colors of that world. There’s little right and wrong with him. There are reasons and empathy.
At 39, I’m old enough to see my weaknesses but young enough to do better. Until I can travel again, I’ll continue to explore myself and learn where I can. In these past nine months, trapped in my house, those lessons come from my husband. How to improve my own self. How to be more empathetic. How to be a better spouse. How to correctly place the kids' order at McDonalds. AJ is my rock who teaches without judgement.
I’m going through a career change, perhaps, and with it, a bit of a (near) midlife crisis. As I totter into the unknown, I’m excited the next journey is with a loving 44-year-old (today!) by my side, my childbearing behind me, four little ones surrounding me, and the next, hopefully more than, half of life ahead of me. I am extremely happy, but I have a long way to go before I’m satisfied with where I am.