Content Warning: Article mentions death.
Our society has created this huge fear in aging, especially for women. When I was about to turn thirty, I remember how many people were surprised that I didn’t flinch over what my age I was turning that year as if I should want to desperately hold onto my twenties and never let go. I was never all about that whole “it’s the x anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday” thing that many others did. Ten years later, as I am weeks away from turning forty, I refuse to be upset about this number even as people I went to school with go, “Oh great, I’m forty, I’m old now.” Insert every “over the hill” joke you’ve ever heard here, then add in some nasty attitudes that middle-aged women aren’t as good or desirable as women in their twenties. The last one really isn’t that hard to do in all honesty; the entertainment industry has been pushing that narrative forever.
One of the biggest reasons I’m not afraid to turn forty is because I understand good and well that forty is a gift that not everyone is lucky enough to get. Two college friends have passed away within the last twenty months or so. Both were a year younger than I was. By the time I had met them back when we young adults that still qualified as teenagers, their lives were nearly half over when we all thought they were just beginning. It’s a hard reality check. I’m now old enough that people with kids the ages of mine that I know have been lost to things like cancer. It’s a scary truth, but sometimes you need to take a moment to remind yourself that the more years you get, the luckier you are, and not everyone gets to be luck.
Another reason I’m not afraid to turn forty is actually Taekwon-Do. I started Taekwon-Do a little over two years ago when I wasn’t quite thirty-eight. Women do not often start contact sports at thirty-eight when they have a history of not being traditionally athletic. I did though. Statistically, 94% of students who start that first class don’t make it to the rank I’m at now, but I didn’t drop out, I made it to the 6% that are still there. I pushed myself to learn and grow in ways a lot of people my age aren’t out there doing, and I’m really proud of it. This last testing cycle, I successfully tested to earn my red belt. According to our belt philosophy, red stands for danger. It cautions the student to show care and control and warns opponents to stay away. Every time our Head Instructor awards a red belt, he makes a note about how the student is “officially dangerous now.” I decided that I wanted that red belt testing back in June because I wanted to officially be dangerous by my fortieth birthday and that was the attitude I wanted to launch my forties with.
I am not going to fear being middle aged, I am going to be the thing that should be feared. I’ve earned my forty years and the wisdom that comes with them. I’m out there doing a sport most people begin when they are far younger than I am. I don’t need the world to tell me what I’m worth; like Peggy Carter, I know my value. Many of the women I know in their forties have adopted a certain confidence in knowing what their self-worth is and not having the time or energy to put up with those that don’t value them in return. I absolutely admire this quality in my Gen X friends and am ready to adopt it myself.
I do not need to waste time or stress about people who behave in toxic ways and I certainly don’t need to cater to them. I’ve never been one to try to conform my personality to fit suburban mom stereotypes, and I’m certainly not going to start doing it now. I’ve noticed I have a certain unwillingness to put up with toxic behaviors that in my twenties I tiptoed around the handling of far too much. Now, when I see twenty-year-olds describing those situations, I adopt a “nope, don’t tolerate that, shut that down now” assertiveness I wish I had had back then.
As far as I’m concerned, forty is going to be absolutely great and I’m not putting up with anyone telling me otherwise.