This morning, I came across a blog post that’s being shared by a number of my Facebook friends. It’s called This is 39, and in it, Allison Slater Tate paints a wistful and… well… sort of depressing picture of what it’s like to be a woman on the cusp of 40. She references things like cancer. Yoga pants. Divorce. Watching our parents grow old and die. Trading stilettos for ballet flats.
Well, I’m only 38 1/2, so maybe I’ll feel differently six months from now– but I have to tell you that while I respect Allison’s outlook, I actually think 39 is awesome. And incredibly fulfilling. And an age that all women should anticipate with wild excitement. Here’s why:
At 39, you feel confident in a way you never have before. You feel equipped to make your case in a business meeting, talk to strangers at a cocktail party, and speak out when you see an injustice. You understand now why older women have told you that your thirties are better than your twenties and your forties are better than your thirties– although you didn’t believe them at the time!
By now, you have lived through some really tough stuff- divorce, the death of a close friend or family member, serious illness– and you have emerged stronger, more resilient, and with a far deeper appreciation for life and the people who love you.
Although you complain about it, there’s a part of you that loves the streak of gray that’s popping up at your temple and the laugh lines forming around your eyes. The chipmunk cheeks of your youth are finally receding, the wrinkles are still few and far between, and you know from many years of experience what kinds of makeup, clothing, and hairstyles look best on you. You’ve still got it and you’re ready now to own it.
Having children has made you understand and appreciate your own parents in a new way– and they are finally seeing you as a woman rather than their little girl. You have deeper conversations with them now, and you’ve learned to listen to their advice and overlook their shortcomings. Family means more to you than it ever has before, and you put far more effort into keeping those bonds strong.
You may not be able to fit in your high school jeans and you’d rather die than appear at the neighborhood pool in a bikini, but you find it doesn’t matter as much as you thought it would. You’d much rather have your own imperfect body and all the wisdom you’ve acquired over the years than return to your physically superior 20s and have to learn those tough lessons all over again.
You watch with a swelling heart as you see other 30 and 40-something friends and acquaintances take charge of their lives and make major changes for the better. This one finally leaves her emotionally abusive husband and tells you that she feels hope for the first time in years. That one loses 50 pounds through healthy eating and exercise. These women are making the same discoveries you are about life and love and seizing the moment, and there’s a sisterly solidarity between you now that just wasn’t there in your twenties.
You have been humbled. Repeatedly. You have made stupid mistakes, put your foot in your mouth, and let pride get in the way, and you’ve lost friends and estranged family members at times because of it. Because of this, you have learned to apologize when the occasion calls for it. To withhold judgement and hope that others do the same for you. To let go of resentments and not harbor grudges. You still make horrendous mistakes, but you’re learning from them and becoming a better person.
If your marriage has survived and thrived, you feel blessed to have discovered that lasting love between a man and a woman is one of the greatest gifts you could ever have hoped for. Mass media makes it seem like infatuation is the end-all and be-all of love, but you’ve found something far deeper and more fulfilling.
At 39, you know that the moment to act is NOW. You’re more likely to do what it takes to climb a mountain, learn a new language, go to Hawaii, start writing a novel, and actually do the things you’ve always wanted to do. You know now, more than ever, that there’s no time like the present.
You’ve discovered the importance of having good friends in your life, and of choosing your friends wisely. You’re investing time and effort into friendships with women who inspire you and lift you up, and you’re ditching toxic relationships with women who are unreliable or just plain mean.
Forget about trading in stilettos for ballet flats. You’re thrilled that you can actually afford a nice pair of platform stilettos now, and you wear those ridiculously high heels every chance you get. You’re working hard and living within your means, and you’re pleased that you can indulge yourself every now and then with a girl trip or a mini shopping spree, without breaking the bank.
You give more hugs now. Send more gifts. Help more people who need it. You take time to write thank you notes and e-mails, or even better, to say it in person. You notice people who are hurting now, whether it’s the bag boy at Kroger or your next-door neighbor, and you’re more likely to leave your comfort zone and reach out to them. You do this now because people have done it for you, and it made a difference.
You are flawed. You are imperfect. And you are becoming okay with that. You are learning to drop the facade of perfection and to be vulnerable with others. You find that in turn, they become vulnerable with you… and bam. Instant bonding. You love that.
These are just a few of the reasons that being (nearly) 39 is freaking amazing.
And I’m pretty sure 40 will be even better.