Forty, I’ve decided is the perfect age. Thirty is fraught with anxiety that your 20s are over; 20 is in the shadow of 21 (highly overrated and an accolade of arrival better suited to 25); 16 is too saccharine from my current vantage point and everything before that is a bit of a blur.
Fifty must be pivotal, I have no idea… although 60 – a widely celebrated milestone – seems ridiculous for its pomp in light of how much more living appears to happen in its wake.
Forty is when you gain perspective, I should know, I’m just a few years away. And like the women who penned essays for Lindsey Mead's "On Being 40(ish)," I appreciate the ability to neatly box four decades of my life "away" and start afresh.
Don't get me wrong – away is not the precise word, life is a continuum. But I do know what I’m done with and although I’m aware 40 will happen like any other day – there will be no abrupt pause – I feel just a little, tiny bit more mature and a bit more self-assured and a bit more me.
Collectively, I’m somewhere afresh and largely this is where Mead’s book is at.
These are the voices of women writing for their generation about specifics: life post-divorce, mid-life musings on beauty, friendship, mortality, motherhood, the pressing feeling of “what now”, the pleasure of letting go of hang-ups, and a clarion call to engage with who you actually are.
In the chapter “It’s a Game of Two Halves” by prolific author Veronica Chambers, describes 40 as a nightclub.
She writes, there are a whole lot of girls who can’t get in: "Natalie Portman is amazing, but she can’t get in – not yet. Zoe Kravitz may be an old soul but the bouncer at the front won’t take her fake ID.
"This is a forty-something club and you are partying with the likes of… Cameron Diaz. Look around!
"There’s Melissa McCarthy, Zadie Smith, Lucy Liu…Our sixty- , seventy-, and eighty-something mentors: Oprah, Meryl Streep… and Helen Mirren are up in the VIP booth dropping science like the boss babes that they are."
Many of the writers express a similar sense of self-actualisation. Even if they lament their youth, they’re able to see the disregard they had for it at the time it: and either way they’ve still gained a frame of reference.
While some swap raising their kids for caring for their parents; look death and disease in the face; or acknowledge failure: freedom is still a recurring theme. Taffy Brodesser-Akner, who is a feature writer for the New York Times Arts, in the chapter “Quantum Physics for Birthdays” writes: “Forty is a rest stop in which you can pause to hold something in your hand and examine it from all sides…"
Whether you feel culturally irrelevant; as though you’re “coming to terms” with how far you’ve got with your career; conversely feel a sense of self-fulfillment or feel as though time is going soo fast – chances are, you also don’t have the time for anything that doesn’t really matter.
To me that alone is a gift and if you don’t see it, these writers’ reflections will help you to do so.