Does Life Really Begin At 40?

Jomay first birthday

A few days ago, I noticed that my husband was looking rather “sad”. I asked him why.

He said he was thinking about giving me a nice party on my 40th birthday, but since the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t seem to end very soon, he’s afraid we’d be stuck at home on New Year’s Day.

I chuckled. I said I’m okay with not having a big party, and I’m fine with being stuck at home with him on my big 4 – 0. Like, really. No biggie. I thought it was romantic that way, anyway.

I truly meant what I said. I guess I’m just too old for that kind of stuff (big parties).

But geez, I am really getting old. Now I wonder what my mother felt (or thought) when she turned 40.

I vaguely remember my mother’s 40th birthday. I was only 14 then. When she turned 40, she was married with six kids.

She didn’t really have a career, and we were poor. She had been through a lot – she had some ‘ups’ and plenty of ‘downs’ – but I remember her always being happy around her children.

I love her so much. When she turned 40, all I could think of was,” My mother is getting old, I hope she lives a long, happy life.” At that point, 40 seemed so very far away that I couldn’t possibly imagine a day would come when I would reach that ripe old age.
But soon I will be 40. Married and employed, but no kids.

If there’s one thing that my mother and I have in common, it is that we both had some really good ‘ups’ and plenty of nasty ‘downs’.

But let me tell you one thing: Despite of it all, we’re both stubborn, and we never give up.

So back to being 40. There is a saying that goes like “Life begins at 40”.

Generally, people think they can conveniently waste their younger years away hoping that they have enough time to make things right in the future. Others believe that you have to work hard so that by the time you are forty, you have enough experience and skill to do what you want to do with your life.

So it got me thinking: If my life begins at forty, then was I dead for the past 39 years?

As I approach 40, it makes me look at life slightly differently. I can now anticipate that this represents the halfway point in my life. I guess the most pressing question is: Do I really want the second half to be like the first?

Having said that, I realized that I never really focused on what kind of life I wanted to create for myself. Sure, I had dreams. I remember looking up the bright skies and imagined myself being a successful lawyer and entrepreneur – and maybe married with four adorable kids. These little moments of musings made me smile and gave me some much-needed hope during the darkest times of my life.

But life didn’t turn out the way I had originally envisioned it to be. My younger self, who was then busy juggling school, work, family and community commitments, spent the last 39 years just trying to do what was in front of her as well as she could. I was always on survival mode. Poverty made sure I kept working and running like a headless chicken. But poverty also taught me so much more than I can imagine.

As I get older, I slowly manage to get to taste the luxury of choice. When you have much lesser things, responsibilities and people clamoring for your attention, you tend to have more time to think about what you’d like the rest of your life to look like.

And that exactly is the reason why, in the past few weeks, I’ve found myself throwing some really good existential questions at myself. Some questions really get me emotional, but a few are really good stuff. So good that it’s giving me some good vibes worth pursuing.

Did I make a lot of mistakes? Hell, yeah! Do I have any regrets? Maybe. I have won some battles; I have also lost some. I faltered and then found my feet again. I’ve tried out new things, I’ve seen new places, I’ve met all kinds of people – all these had made me the deep and rich person I am today. Each experience has played a role in shaping my life. And even if I had a time machine, I wouldn’t change one bit.

I am not looking forward to a big 40th birthday party. Rather, I am looking forward to my next adventure that’s bigger than life.

For the next forty years, I will insist on my right to be as joyful, silly, happy, goofy, full of wonder, as enthusiastic and excited as I want to be until the day I die.

And if anyone looks at me dubiously as I’m giggling uncontrollably, or whooping with glee – I will gladly let them know that this is what getting old looks like.

If being forty means being able to do more than I ever thought possible, then I welcome it with open arms.

So to all of you who are turning 40 just like me, let me tell you this: Age is truly just a number.

You’re not 40. You’re 18 with 22 extra years of life’s valuable experiences.

Jomay Amora-Dueck is a city girl who longs for countryside at heart. As she gets older, she realizes that her passion for writing and travel grows stronger each day.