It’s been way too long since I’ve written here. A lot has changed in my life in the past few months. When I started this blog a few years ago, the tagline read, “A single thirtysomething hospital chaplain learning (and unlearning) about life, death, God, myself, and other things along the way.” The “single” part changed in a big way when I got engaged last August, and in an even bigger way when I got married and became a stepmom to two young boys in March. Those changes (and others) have made it difficult to find time to write, but today I must. This is the day I lose another part of the tagline. As of today, I am no longer “thirtysomething.” And officially, according to one group that has meant a lot to me over the years, today I no longer qualify as “young.” The above photo was taken on my honeymoon, when I took a drink from the Fountain of Youth. Obviously it didn’t work.
Yes, today is my 40th birthday. This is not a milestone I have looked forward to, if I’m being honest. I don’t feel that old, although admittedly some days my body reminds me. I’m not ready to be approaching midlife (especially when I haven’t had a baby yet). And yet here I am. I was reminded in an email yesterday about my new status. For the past several years, I have been an active member of The Young Clergywomen Project (just last week renamed Young Clergy Women International), particularly in the secret Facebook group where we shared the joys and challenges of life in ministry. There are women in this group I’ve exchanged messages with when I was going out of town and needed a place to stay, and they opened their homes to me. Others have written to me when they had parishioners sent to my hospital for surgery, and I visited those patients and prayed with them. I offered my guest room to them when they needed a getaway near the beach. They’ve given me recommendations for books, dating websites, clothes, sermon helps, TV shows, and cosmetics. It really has been an extraordinary community experience, almost completely online. Despite being part of many different denominations, serving in different countries, we have much in common, including our age. We are “young.” Of course, in order for that to be true, someone has to define “young.” And the email yesterday reminded me, “As you are turning 40 this month, we will be retiring your membership soon.” Ouch.
Facing this new decade of my life, at the same time I’m a newlywed and new parent, I am forced to reevaluate my identity. There are ways people knew me, ways I knew myself, that don’t apply anymore. I’m no longer the student and international traveler I was known for being in my 20s. I haven’t been in school or left the country since I was 29, and I really miss both those things. I’m not the freewheeling singleton I was in my 30s, which felt like such a huge part of my identity. I don’t miss the loneliness that sometimes accompanied that, or the fear of my future, but I do miss making my own schedule, and having a clean house. Who am I now, as I head into my 40s? Wife, stepmom, aunt, still chaplain and author and daughter and sister and friend and dog mom. I feel the need to rediscover now what makes me uniquely me.
One way I’d like to try doing that is by doing new things. I’m planning 40 new things to try in the next year that I’ve never done before. The good and bad thing about being my age is that now I’m responsible enough not to put anything on the list that’s unreasonably risky or exorbitantly expensive. So, no hiking to the rim of a live volcano in South America or anything. Most of my 40 new things at 40 will be done locally and at low cost. A lot of them will be things outside my comfort zone, but they may seem downright boring to other people. I’ll write about them here. I hope you’ll follow along. I’m excited about my 40 new things.
And I’m excited about having a partner in this whole getting older thing. My husband will also be turning 40 this month (three weeks after me, the big jerk). He constantly makes me laugh, gives me different perspective on life, teaches me parenting skills, encourages me to challenge myself and keep rediscovering who I am. I really am incredibly thankful for him and this adventure we’re on together. We’re raising two kids (along with their other set of parents) and two dogs, getting ready to sell our house, having a new house built near the boys’ school, hoping for a baby, playing shows as Rogue Two and selling CDs, writing songs for the next CD, learning to manage our finances as a couple, and at any given moment at least one of us is probably on some diet. We have a lot going on in this life together. And I love it.
Hard as it is to think about being 40, I know I wouldn’t want to go backwards if I could. There’s a freedom that seems to come with each passing year, a feeling of being a little more at home in my own skin, and it’s priceless. I only realize it when I hear people a decade or two younger than me worrying about something that doesn’t really matter. It dawns on me that there’s no way I can make them understand that it doesn’t really matter, because some things you only understand as you get some more mileage. I’m far too tired right now to explain it more eloquently. (Getting older does, unfortunately, mean being tired more often.) For now I’ll just say that I’m looking forward to all the things I’ll be able to understand ten years from now. It’s true, I’m no longer young, at least by some definitions. But in the end that’s probably not such a bad thing.