On 29th September 2016 I turned 39, and in the past few months I’ve come to realise something. Forty is, for many, a fearful turning point in life. ‘Oh no, forty! We must (insert random activity here) before we turn 40!’ women seem to cry. From tattoos to travelling, we all seem to feel that 40 is the tipping point before which we should have done a particular something. As if, when we wake on our 40th birthday, we spontaneously combust or turn to dust. Or perhaps both. But I have been guilty of this and want to explore these feelings via this blog.
Recently I was clearing out some drawers (unusual for me, am a hoarder, bound to be more on this as the blog continues…) and found a ‘To do before I’m 40’ list. There was everything from ‘learn Spanish’ to ‘get a tattoo or shut up about it’.
Why was I so fixated on doing things before I turned 40? What was driving this age-based deadline? One thing I know for sure is my motivations weren’t unique. We all do this. Women are turning 40 as we speak, yesterday, tomorrow. And they’re all judging where they’ve been, where they’re at, and where they’re going. Instead of celebrating, we’re saying ‘shoulda coulda woulda’. So many of my friends are turning 40 and I want to document how it feels to live the final year of your 30s and talk to those turning 40 and others about how it feels or felt. Whether they saw 40 as friend or foe.
The thing for me is that at 39, I am finding life is rather fine. And I like that it rhymes.
At 29 I didn’t know who I was in the way I do now. Since then I’ve been travelling, been through therapy, had my heart broken, written a novel, done two ski seasons… am I approaching 40 with a smile because I have ticked so many of those ‘before 40 bucket list’ moments? I don’t think so because one woman’s bucket list item could be another’s ‘I’m a celeb’ bushtucker trial.
And there are so many more things I’d like to do. From more books to writing a sit com, through to the next stages of relationships, whatever they might be. Do I have to say I can’t do them once I turn 40? Is this some unwritten life rule?
So where am I coming at this from? You can see from the biog on my website I’m a writer, I work at Metro and I’ve published a book. I have spent a large part of the last decade writing about my life, my love life and my feelings and opinions. I’ve been lucky enough to do a huge amount of ‘once in a lifetime’ things through work. But for me, there are still many things ‘unticked’ for me on the ‘life list’. I’m unmarried, I’ve never lived with a man, I don’t have kids. I’ve not been to Costa Rica (my next dream destination), and I can only speak pigeon Spanish. I am, if honest, still in a love hate relationship with my dress size. I often wonder if and how I should embrace being an untidy person.
I am tired of the self-imposed burden of 'to do' in life, but at the same time I have hopes, dreams, and goals.
Does this mean I should be writing a blog about losing a stone before 40? Being a size 12 at 40? What I hope to do is more embrace the now. And to use this blog to embrace the now.
For example, you might find I do a post about how I love M&S because even though there’s often an octogenarian next to you also fingering a leopard print cardi with fondness, in M&S I am a 14, so god bless M&S.
Or perhaps I’ll write about how, actually, I don’t feel the need to run the London Marathon again, because it hurt my hips and I had to stay sober for months on end while training. Talking of being sober, there could be a post on dry Jan – not taking part (pah! Also already written about that before) – but more how I’ve learned, finally at 39 to say what drink I like or don’t (Sorry, Pimm’s and Mulled Wine, you’re overrated).
I’ll just muse on things that happen over the next nine months, all related to my age and time of life. Plus interviews with other women about their own experience of 39 and 40.
This blog, 39 is fine, is about saying ‘here’s how it feels to approach 40’, to embrace it, to discuss the fears and excitement from mine (mainly) and other women’s point of view. I have decided to focus on women for this as, well, I am one, and also you have to draw parameters somewhere on any writing project. But, hey, there might be some guest male blog posts to mix things up a bit. Why not eh?
I’m not going to try different things, no pre-40 bucket list. Instead I’ll muse on life at 39, as I enter the final calendar year, 2017. My 40th is in September 2017, and from now until then I’ll be charting the feelings – high and low – of being 39. But mostly, I’ll be hoping to prove that it’s not a deadline of doom, and that actually the approach of 40 means that being 39 is totally fine…