”Ooh the big Four Oh!’ the words came out of my best friends mouth in the tones of ‘aha ha ha you’re forty nah nah nah nah naaah!’ I shrugged and grinned and we laughed. I hadn’t really given over a huge amount of brain time to it as there is nothing I can do about it and I’m way beyond the age of getting more than mildly excited about birthdays.
When we’re very little anything beyond about twenty is seen as ‘old’ and anyone with gray hairs is pretty much ‘ancient beyond counting’ that’s if we think about it at all. At that age we’re so young – so far at the other end of the perceived spectrum that it’s inconceivable to our minds that we could ever be twenty, or thirty or…god forbid! Forty! What’s more I remember as a youngling making a solemn oath with myself never to become ‘old’ in the way that I saw in those around me. I hated the checking of fuel prices every time we went on a car trip, the endless trawling through the ‘property’ sections of the local paper, and the – to my fourteen year old self – sheer boredom of politics, the BBC News and the Neighbours (apparently an endlessly fascinating source of conversation) No way! Never! Not Me! Ha! Have you seen the price of fuel recently? You bet I check it! I turned forty this year, my partner did so five years ago and I remember all too well the days of introspection and dark moods ‘what have I achieved’ ‘where am I going?’ ‘what have I really done?’ that haunted her for weeks in the run up to it.
I must admit I had the same feelings about it but not as intense, I’m in the unenviable position of having a birthday that falls scant ten days after Christmas which tends to render it either a continuation of that celebration, or an extra effort when everyone’s already partied and jollied out from the week of Christmas/New Year fun. It’s always been like that, I’m kinda used to it. This one however was special. The conclusion I came to when I considered the very same questions that my partner had done made me realize that all in all much as I loved being ‘young’ nowadays I don’t embarrass so easily, I’m not the easily intimidated shy young thing I was – heck I’ve even been known to argue with the boss!
I remember all too well what I was like as a youngster, coming from a fiercely rural background and attending school in a more urban area I was already an ‘outcast’ since I didn’t spend my time hanging around the local shops, or in the school loos putting on makeup, nope – I had animals to care for, responsibilities, and that took up my time. I was also fairly solitary since there were no local kids that were invited round, I had one special and dear friend who is still my closest friend even though she moved ‘across the pond’ five years ago (thank god for the internet!) As a young adult I was still – if I’m honest – a fairly sheltered soul, also naive.
Thankfully age and wisdom – well they don’t necessarily go hand in hand but certainly experience kicks them over into your team and if you’re wise you learn the lessons they bring. You do have a voice, you do have an opinion, right or wrong it’s Your opinion and valid for that fact. You can control how your life goes and who you have in it. I would not trade being fifteen again for anything unless I could go back with the same knowledge I now possess – BUT – here’s the thing that knowledge comes from living a life, making the poor choices, the silly mistakes (and the huge great big ones) it comes from learning when to compromise and when to make a stand, it comes from wiser eyes assessing a situation and not assuming that your own ‘way’ is either the ‘right’ way or the ‘only’ way.
It comes from having survived forty years on this earth without going mad or dying That fourteen year old kid could never have envisioned the life I have now – I tried desperately to say to my partner that owning her own house, holding down a difficult and responsible job, being ‘her’ regardless of how she used to feel is an achievement. Sure as two women in a same-sex relationship we do look around and see others of our age with families, with lives so different from our own that the expectations of society do put us in the ‘failure’ section for want of better understanding (and to top that off the rant from a Cardinal in the Catholic Church just last week now renders us a ‘grotesque subversion’ and a marriage for us would be ‘akin to legalizing slavery’ apparently – please – give me five minutes in a room with him)– we should be ‘happily married (to a man) with 2.4 kids’ I say to that!
As far as I’m concerned what I have achieved is being ‘Me’ regardless of what my family and society thinks I should be. I will share my life and heart with whom I please because I have earned the right by the simple fact that I am a human being with the same damn wants and needs as every other human being on this earth What have I achieved? Fifteen years in a loving relationship for starters, what else have I achieved? I am a dog trainer, an artist, an initiated Wiccan, I am in employment, I contribute to the economy of this country.
I try to be a ‘good person’ I’m a horse rider and owner, I’m a responsible carer for animals and probably soon my aging Mother as well. I am a Daughter. I am a woman. I will stand up for those who have no voices, I am ecologically minded, I am the generation that remembers not relying on computers for everything. I am resourceful. Mostly what I am is ‘Me’ I’m celebrating this year by being me, doing the things that make me happy (such as getting into blogging lol) I have begun riding lessons again with a view to trying our horse in dressage – first lesson for twenty-one years.
My partner who shares the equine fascination has her first lesson in over thirty years on Saturday. I am an active member of a respected local Coven. I will continue to see the dogs in my classes turn out as well as I can teach their owners, I will do more art (and post it on my blog – no more the ‘am I good enough’ doubts, I will damn well BE good enough or else) I will continue to being me with the sense of purpose and strength of character that forty years on this green earth have given me.
Written by Sue Beard on the subject og turning 40
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