I did it, y’all. Earlier this month, I turned 40. 🎉
It was a milestone I’d been eyeing for ages, a bridge I looked forward to crossing. I love any excuse to celebrate, and am always grateful for the gifts of getting older. And while every birthday is significant, decades carry more weight. They tell bigger stories.
For example: my 20s were spent in Texas, falling in love, building a community, running marathons, and expanding my horizons, with no real purpose beyond pleasure. (A noble cause, to be sure.) On the cusp of 30 I moved to North Carolina, and during that decade my passions crystallized. I got married, earned an MFA, and wrote three novels, all unpublished. I figured out my budget and my career (in that order), bought a house, and became an aunt. Instead of expansion, I explored depth.
Now I’ve reached my 40s, and I hope the seeds I’ve buried will begin to bloom, that I can start harvesting the fruits of my labor. Pull up a chair and grab a plate; if all goes well, there will be more than enough to share.
But first, I want to take a moment and capture life as it is right now. A literary time capsule on the cusp, per my birthday tradition.
Here we go. Here we are.
This is 40
Forty is writing, even when I’m technically taking a break, and trusting that I’ll find my next story soon. It’s accepting the ebb and flow of creativity, and understanding that rest is as important to the process as work. It’s feeling somewhat disappointed that I haven’t published a novel yet (I definitely thought I’d be a bestselling author by now) but making peace with where I am. Forty is a life where art and creativity are cornerstones, essential and unyielding, and the beauty and focus that brings to my life.
Forty is family, of origin and by choice. It’s an abundance of nephews (one perfect boy here, another on the way), and an ongoing group chat with my sisters. When it comes to friendship, forty is quality over quantity, and making plans far in advance because we’re all in our busiest seasons. It’s book club meetings, a monthly stitch and bitch, Monday Run Club, work friends, and Google Calendar invites, because routine is the best way to keep connections alive.
Forty is actually caring about my career. It’s moving into management, becoming a mentor, and trying to reconcile my complicated feelings about capitalism with my desire for stability and good benefits. Forty is pride in my work, and wanting to get better at it. Liking my job is the biggest surprise of my adult life, and also the luckiest. If I have to work, I might as well enjoy it.
Forty isn’t perfect. Sometimes, on darker days, it’s the feeling that time has peaked and is now beginning to run out. There’s still so much I want to do and see and experience and accomplish—travel the world, publish a book, run the New York City marathon, start a commune. Forty is beginning to realize that some of the wildest dreams of my youth will never come true. The path ahead has narrowed, which feels both utterly natural and wildly unfair.
Forty is ten years of marriage and two decades together—half my whole life. It’s turning our front yard into a garden, which is the perfect metaphor. Even after all this time, we’re still planting, still nurturing, still putting in the work so we can enjoy our garden for years to come. Forty is the certainty that those years will come, and that we’ll still be here to gather what grows together.
Forty is finding pleasure in my body and settling into my skin. It’s weight lifting and sweaty yoga, easy runs around the neighborhood and slow walks with the old dog. It takes a little longer to recover from even the mildest abuse—hangovers are now avoided at all costs—but it’s a fair trade for the confidence and appreciation I feel most days.
Forty is homegrown cherry tomatoes in everything, overdue library books, chickens and bees, a 171-day Duolingo streak, and a self-indulgent newsletter. It’s owning a beautiful home, walking to the YMCA, eating everything in a bowl, and playing Wingspan. Forty is the cusp of so many things—international travel, two incomes, my next novel, a fall garden—and I wake up every morning grateful and delighted to be here.
Cheers to forty, and thank you for being a part of it. 💛
For my birthday, I baked a box of brownies with a swirl of tahini, per the recommendation of Abigail, aka This Needs Hot Sauce. 40 is all about celebrating who you are, and I am a swirl of something extra.
To Find the Answer, Change the Question
“I was stuck. So I changed the question. I stopped asking ‘What should I do with my life?’ And I started asking: What matters to me right now?” 🌻
Newsletter fave Kara Cutruzzula just launched a brand new podcast, called “Do It Today,” which is a great fit for readers of this newsletter! From the description: “It's an up close look at process and practice, a reminder for you to do your most meaningful work, and a mini dose of encouragement in 20 minutes or less.” Sign me up! 🌈
“Newness isn’t inherently a virtue, in interior design or elsewhere, but it has nonetheless become one of the most prized characteristics in American consumer life.” Our house was a flip, but they kept the original hardwood floors, so I do not feel quite so attacked by this article. 🏡
Being Child-Free Lets Me Live My Most Authentic Life
“There are various reasons why someone would be child-free by choice. Some hold the political idea that with overpopulation and resource shortages, being child-free is the ethical choice. For others, it is rooted in the desire for more mental and physical freedom than a parent might have. And then there are those who simply don’t have the interest in taking on the long-term caretaking role that being a parent truly is.” 💃
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I loved this so much! Even though my 40s kicked-off in the early days of COVID when I wasn’t sure what forty or anything else looked like, this feels perfect for 42, too! I teared up when you said the road narrowing felt both utterly natural and wildly unfair. 😭 Perfect. 💕