I switched on the radio as I drove away from the preschool this morning. The first song was a live version of Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days and the second was Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield. It was the most appropriate 40th birthday soundtrack: old enough to get caught up in the highlights of my younger days, but still hopeful enough to think the best is yet to come.
Overall, I have no problem with 40. I'm wiser than I was at 30, I care less about some things (relationship drama - any relationship, even Facebook) and care more about the right things (being with the people I care about the most and making certain my kids get into the best colleges possible*). Yet, I had a momentary freak out yesterday - in an airport, where the worst soul searching happens - wishing I could slam on the brakes for just a minute. While 40 doesn't bother me, 41 does. It's the never ending passage of time that picks up speed as one grows older. I never thought I'd turn 16 or 21 because the days moved by so slowly, but now the treadmill is running at full speed and I want to take it down just a notch.
I remember my mom's 40th birthday, which to me, really marks my age. I am old enough to remember my parents at my age. Two years into her 40s, while grocery shopping with my mom, I remember her having a conversation with the male cashier (I think the male part is relevant) where she happened to say that she was 40 years old. My youngest sister, sitting in the cart, corrected her as if she was doing my mom a favor. "No mom, you're 42!" My mom blushed and asked my sister if that was necessary. I was used to my mom lying about her age. She had dark Italian hair that was so brown it looked black, making it easier for her to knock a few years off her age.
Kids change so quickly as they grow up. You may not see someone for a summer, then when you do, you notice the kid has grown three inches. The changes are constant and seem to come so fast. Sometime in the 20s, it feels like looks stay stagnant. Yes, hair colors, cuts, and styles change, but for the most part, my friends and I all looked about the same for a good 10+ years. Now it feels like the next change is beginning. It's so odd to run into an old friend and notice new lines on her face. It's not a judgment, it's an observation of time. And if it's happening to her, it's happening to me. While in New Orleans this week, Kevin and I sat on a couch under a window, which is when I noticed his hair was turning gray. He shrugged, as if it was no big deal, but I wanted to ask when this happened. When did the gray hairs happen? Or the laugh lines? Do I need glasses? What did I walk into this room for, anyway? When did we start to age? I know it was always there, happening slowly and quietly, but when you notice it, it's shocking.
This birthday begins a new chapter, but I won't know the story until I look back years from now. My 20s were spent going to college, living in Washington, D.C., going to grad school in Boston, working, moving around some more, and meeting Kevin when I was 27. It was a decade of me. We got married soon after my 30th birthday, ushering in a decade of family. With my kids getting older, they need me slightly less...and less and less with each year. By the time I'm 50, Clover will be in college. So much is going to happen in the next 10 years, and while I can't wait to see what happens, I wish it would happen in slow motion.
*Calm down, it's a joke. We're going to homeschool college them.
A 40x40 conclusion will be posted soon. Spoiler alert: I did not finish the list.