This week, I turned 40. Forty. Cuarenta. Kwarenta. Apat na pu.
As is true for every decade of life completed, there is much expected of a 40th birthday. And I can only guess that it becomes an even bigger deal the older one gets. I don't remember people fussing much when I turned 20, other than that it also coincides, for most Filipinos at least, with graduating from college and of course trying to get employed.
However, when I turned 30, I must admit the level of angst that I had to deal with skyrocketed! It almost felt like a death sentence to some degree, ESPECIALLY since I was still single at the time. It was as if all of a sudden, a bunch of deadlines decided to present themselves to me without giving me proper warning or preparation. And that is most unfair, don't you think? All of a sudden, every single thing had a ticking sound to them. Reproductive system. Love life. Career. It was simply insane. Everything had to be done now, achieved NOW...or else. Well, I never really understood the 'or else' part but I'm willing to bet there's really nothing to it. Sadly, society has not learnt as of yet, how to be kind to women reaching their 30s. I actually feel it was such a fun time but there were just too many party poopers either outside of me or in my head that just spoiled it for me.
Anyhow, life went on and now I'm here and so is 40. Our paths have finally collided and I refuse to make it as dramatic as some would make it out to be. And what do people say about turning 40?
Well, I've heard that 40 is the new 20. Give me a break! I was a mess in my 20s, with a sh*tload of insecurities that didn't make sense so remind me again why I'd want to go back to that?
Some have also said that life begins at 40. That's kind of sad to believe isn't it? Especially when most of my adventures happened in my late 20s to early 30s.
And then there's this viral image or meme that I feel so uncomfortable about because I don't think I can adopt it for myself....
Yes, I'm forty. But I personally can't find the audacity to define myself as fierce, let alone fabulous. The dictionary defines 'fierce' as 'violent in force; furiously eager or intense; menacingly wild; savage.' I may be cerebrally and emotionally intense but other than that, I would never define myself as fierce, nor would you if you met me. I'm generally not assertive, certainly not confrontational, introverted and too uptight to be 'wild or savage' when relating to others.
A number of people sent me birthday greetings where they used the word 'fabulous' on me, and though I sincerely appreciate that, I also wonder if I have any right to this word. I'm flattered some people consider me fabulous but honestly, I know I'm not there yet. 'Fabulous' is defined as 'incredible; exceptionally good; almost impossible to believe; breathtaking; first-class'. Am I really just being too hard on myself for believing that I'm far from being fab, or is my self-assessment pretty accurate? More importantly, which one should matter more? My perception of myself, or others'?
Since I only scored one out of three in that 'fierce, fabulous and forty' trinity, I think I'm better off being honest to myself and the world. In this spirit of honesty, I created this photo and offer it as an alternative...
I may not look all glammed up and would never be runway-worthy, and my joints may be achy, eyes needing some help. But I'm forty and I made it this far! I celebrate my life the way it is right now and can only really feel grateful for experiencing so much love from so many remarkable souls around me! No I don't have much money. Am currently not working outside the home and some people might think I'm wasting my life or my brainpower by not pursuing a career. But if there is one gift the 40s brings, it's probably an increased sense of self or self-assurance. It might still be fragile but it's certainly stronger this time around.
And perhaps that 'fierce and fabulous' claim is not meant to be a pronouncement of one's state at 40. Perhaps it's a declaration of what we can become now that we've crossed another threshold.
I am not sure. At 40, I've also found the humility to admit I am not sure about a lot of things and that life is constantly in flux. And that it's okay to live in uncertainty, failure, fear and weakness, or that my truth may not be acceptable to someone else. All I know and am certainly sure of, is that the most important thing for me, the only thing I consider worth working hard for is Love. Don't ask me about what career I was meant to do, or what job will fulfill me. All I know for sure is that I was meant to give love, be 'in' love, feel love, write about it, breathe it, be intense about it. That is what I know at 40, with farsightedness, achy joints, stretch marks, flabs and all.
Thank you for being part of my (real AND virtual) life!
I am happy to be 40!