This past year, I had a big birthday. I turned 40. I’ve never been the kind of person who bemoans birthdays. In fact, through my 30’s, I believed things just kept getting better and better: my looks, my relationships, my confidence. But for some reason, 40 has thrown me a curveball. There are days I feel like I lost my sparkle overnight. Times when I pile on a stack of bracelets or apply swipe of neon pink lipstick – go-to, feel-good practices of mine for years to look instantly stylish – and suddenly, I think the bracelets look trashy, the lipstick garish, me sad. I feel like a wilting flower past its prime.
Becoming older forces you to view relationships in a new light, too. Friendships I’ve clung to for years – out of a sense of duty, or loyalty, or insecurity – are now being examined and evaluated. Often we define ourselves by the company we keep. As I start to redefine who I am, I wonder about friends who don’t call back, who don’t make an effort, who make me feel like a desperately lonely seventh grader all over again. Time is a much more valuable commodity these days, with a small child and a husband and adult responsibilities. How I spend my time has become increasingly important to me. Despite sharing years of memories and experiences with someone, if a person doesn’t make me feel like my supported, best self, is it worth continuing to invest in the friendship? And just as important: am I being that responsive friend to someone else?
In this past Sunday’s New York Times, Dominique Browning perfectly captures the nuances and ironies of aging in her essay, I’m Too Old For This. I’m a devout Sunday Times reader and always find an article to love, but this particular piece really resonated. If you missed it, you must bookmark it and read when you have a few moments. Even when you’re surrounded by community, this process of aging – of figuring out who you are and the life you truly want to live – can be a lonely business. Browning’s writing is assuring and comforting in the way that a lifelong friend should be – plus, she’s hilarious. Make sure you take a look.