February 5, 2009

On Reaching the Age of Forty

I've never wanted to be older than my current age. While the other girls were pining for the day they'd be old enough to wear make-up and shave their legs, I worried about getting old enough to have to pay bills and taxes. While others looked forward with great anticipation to being old enough to date, drive, stay out past midnight, or drink, time dragged me unwillingly through puberty and into young adulthood. I waited until I was almost seventeen to get my drivers' license (quite a feat in the Midwestern suburbs, believe me).

It's not that I wanted to remain a child. I simply knew that as soon as I got older, I'd wish I had appreciated my youth more. In other words, I spent entirely too much time thinking. I was a strange child who listened when adults said things like, "kids your age always . . ." and "kids your age never . . ." and vowed to myself to be or do just the opposite of what they expected. When I finally did get my drivers' license, I went three months without driving because I heard my dad say he was sure I'd always be asking for the car. I can be stubborn that way.

In some ways, reaching forty feels like reaching a sort of no-man's land. Not young, not old. Every other decade seems more momentous. Thirty was a bigger deal -- sort of the official cusp of adulthood, and fifty sounds more distinguished -- half a century, after all. Forty feels very . . .average, I guess, a state I mostly try to avoid.

O the other hand, in Jewish tradition, 40 is one of the most significant numbers. In the Hebrew Scriptures, it rained for forty days and forty nights during the great flood, and the Jews wandered for forty years in the desert before getting the word they were headed for Israel. So maybe I'm finally leaving no-man's land, rather than entering it. The first forty years of my life were a probationary period, a trial to test and strengthen me for what lies ahead. I'm looking forward to entering the promised land.

Posted by ldfs at February 5, 2009 2:17 PM