Sunday, May 16, 2021

[READ] I am 40. I am not dead yet.


Do you ever feel like you’re standing still while the world moves around and through you? Do you ever feel fulfilled but empty at the same time? I guess this is what 40 is. Grappling with your inner journey, your past and present journey and the journey untravelled. Like many people 40 and over, there are these insidious unwritten rules about who we are are meant to be by 40 and after 40. I wish when we were young we knew just how detrimental those societal stereotypes and expectations would be on ourselves and others. How telling a girl that her life meant nothing without a husband, family and home was the biggest lie society ever told.

I never walked the line growing up and I never played by any of those so-called “rules” of growing up. I was fascinated by art, by books, by films, by ideas and by music. The meaning of growing up or being successful are very different things but they are also entirely subjective to everyone. My parents had children very young and similarly got married at warp speed. Was that the path they wanted? I’m not sure. They divorced after 2 kids. They moved on to new lives and new directions. As a kid I thought by 25 you were meant to be married to the love of your life and have a house and a kid on the way. The hilarity of that is now overwhelming but so too is the societal judgement and prejudice for not following that path. At 40 I still feel like I’m growing as a person daily and keeping your own life together seems incredibly different to that of our parents and grandparents generations who seemed to lack the joy of the existential crisis and the eternal feeling that even now we still feel like children. It’s a different time and a different world.

By 18 I knew that my path was not going to be a “stereotypical” one. I knew this weird kid was headed somewhere else. I was of two minds about it at times. I loved the world around me but struggled to find that connection in humans at the same level of passion and propensity as mine. So I took a different journey. Maybe a lonely one at times but most of the time a rewarding and fulfilling one. I went to college and got a degree with honours (first in my family to do so), I left my small town and moved 8 hours away to the city. I lived alone, I worked, I read, I saw bands, I wrote, I made some of my first real friends, I lost my virginity, I drank too much, I battled with chronic bipolar depression and anxiety and later borderline personality disorder. I fell down many times and got back up just as many.

Despite having the worst luck in life, with money, with jobs, with friendships, with relationships, I continued to anchor those pitfalls into something to fight against both internally and externally. Trust me, that was not easy. I worked and I worked and eventually I created a great career in publishing that lead to a position in England. I never thought I’d leave Australia let alone move to the UK, travel to Germany, Spain and Italy. On the side I wrote and I wrote and started a blog and printed two poetry books and put out a necklace collection. My longest relationship was with my dog named Bowie (after David of course) who was my closest friend in this world for 14 years.

People went on around me to grow careers, relationships, families,mbuild businesses, buy houses and all that typical palava. Me, I rented a room in a share house, watched films, read, wrote and went to shows just like I always had and worked a day job. I battled mental illness and physical illness of various forms and various severities but just kept hanging on. But then something started to shift. I started to feel a strange inner guilt as 40 approached. The more I got asked have you got a man or are you seeing anyone special? Aren’t you worried about not having savings or property? Do you want kids, cause you’re getting on? I started to for the first time feel like there was something I missed or maybe something I did wrong because I couldn’t achieve any of those things and still haven’t. The irony is most of those questions came from women not men.

I’m fiercely independant but I am also fiercely motherly to my own dismay at times. I am lucky I am blessed with a father who sees my life as an achievement and doesn’t consider any of those typical things necessary to be happy or “successful” in this life. He’s just happy as long as I’m happy which is what any parent should be. We place so many expectations on children, teenagers, ourselves and others. It’s not healthy nor is it nurturing or envouraging of the amazing hum,am atributes of individuality and free will. I’m still trying to figure out why at 40 and fast approaching 41 I am starting to feel a sense of loneliness and inadequcy that I haven’t felt about this aspect of my life before. Is it just a society thing or is my biology reeking havoc as I now start to realise that life is a countdown and time will run out?

I know so many incredibly strong, smart, incredible women with their own vibe and life going on that struggle with this same internal battle and the reality that being single at 40 and beyond is incredibly difficult and beyond disheartening. I never wanted to be defined by a relationship nor do I now but to know connection and feel love, yes I think that’s something innately most humans want.

I have hope for the future that these outdated “life goals” will become far more abstract and happiness and personal journey will take the reigns. So what you’re married with a house and a car and a kid and husband but are you happy? If so, you got gold so hold tight. But for those of us, the dreamers and the offbeat ones, who cares if you dont own your home or arent married. You are playing life by your rules. You are being true to your journey not the one others have tried to impart on you. We need to let go of the guilt, embarrassment and shame of getting older as a woman and also not conforming to what traditional society expects. And as people, particularly women, need to stop shaming, judging and comparing life’s journey in relation to superficial possessions and traditional ideas of what life means at any age.

I am 40. I am not dead yet.