When I was in eighth grade my father turned 40. I vividly remember it. We newspapered his office and filled it with black balloons. Black banners with "Over the Hill" were draped across the walls. We threw him a condolence party.
I thought he was so old. At the tender age of 13, I could not imagine what it would be like to be 40 years old.
I found out recently - and it's fabulous.
Forty has long been considered the tipping point for middle age, simply because the average lifespan continues to be around 80 years old. However, many recent articles and studies are claiming that "60 is the new 40." Rather than slowing down and feeling older as we pass by our 40th birthday, many people continue to live, work and play well beyond. It's not until much later that they begin to feel ready to pull back and not continue full speed ahead.
I look back at four decades of life events and am amazed at everything I've done. Gone to school, graduated college, built a career, gotten married and had three kids - just to name a few. There's been cross-country moves, job changes and travelling adventures around the globe. Wonderful highs, like my wedding day and the births of my children. And devastating lows, like getting fired and suffering through infertility. But all that doesn't make me feel old, just experienced.
My 20s and 30s were spent building the life I enjoy now. My husband and I worked our butts off. We sacrificed, we took risks, we succeeded and we failed. Today, we can enjoy the fruits of that labor. We've built a home and a family. We're to the point where financially we can enjoy a comfortable living and generously give back to those that supported us along the way.
I met my husband when I was 21. In two short years (at age 42), we will pass the marker where I have spent more of my life with him than without him. That fact blows my mind a little, but I could not have asked for a better life partner. We came together as kids ourselves, really, without a clue; and have navigated this crazy life together ever since. I credit him and my parents with helping me become the woman I am today.
As I've grown and changed, so have my friendships. Some friends have stood the test of time. Others have passed through my life for only a short while. I look at friendships differently now. With aging, I've gained a confidence in who I am and what I offer. If they don't enrich my life and add to my happiness, I'm comfortable walking away. Having a small handful of friends that I cherish is better than a multitude that bring me down.
Then there are my kids. So far, I've only had 10 years to watch them grow, but how they have. As much as they challenge and frustrate me, they also bring a joy and pride that can't be contained. I look forward to seeing them progress through their teens and into adulthood, and being beside them every step of the way. Parenting is a wild ride, but I'm blessed to be on it.
Chronologically, I am now middle age. But I believe that is far from a negative. Look at everything I accomplished in the first 40 years with no previous experience! Now that I've got these year under my belt, I can only imagine what I'll be able to do with the next 40.
Former North Attleboro resident Melissa Introne is the mother of three children, who consistently challenge her preconceived notions of motherhood. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.