(With apologies to Jimmy Buffett.)
So I’m going to be 40. Not some day. In two days. On Friday. 40. The big 4-0.
I remember when my dad turned 40. I remember all the silly cards and black balloons emblazoned with “over the hill.” One of his friends gave him a cane. I was 12 at the time, and 40 seemed…maybe not old, exactly, but really far away. Like a country that I knew was on the map but never really expected to visit.
And now 40 is 48 hours away. Not an exotic country on the opposite side of the globe. It’s the Starbucks a block away.
I don’t feel quite as bad about my life–the life I’ve already lived or the life that I will live, going forward–as Jimmy Buffett did in his song. I don’t really think I’ve made any giant mistakes; in fact, I feel pretty good about a lot of the big decisions I’ve made. I went to a great college. I chose the right career path (and I had opportunities to follow other paths there, but managed not to get derailed. See: Jennifer’s law school acceptance, spring 1998). I followed the boyfriend to California after grad school. I stuck with writing. I married the boyfriend. I had two kids. We moved to Nashville.
Not to imply that I haven’t made any crummy decisions along the way. Bwahahahaha, no. But we won’t get into those now here, in public, on the Interwebs. Most of them aren’t really noteworthy anyway. Especially not anymore. Not even worth a tweet or a post on Facebook, and thank God that those social media outlets didn’t exist back then.
Yes, overall, things have turned out okay. Better than okay, really. And the things that really weren’t okay are still there, on the pages of the history of my life, and I haven’t forgotten them. They affected the person I became. I just try not to let them define my current life. So why do I still feel a little melancholy? Good question.
I moaned to my husband the other night that now that I’m going to be 40, I’m never going to be the lead singer of a rock band. I’m never going to medical school (he snorted at this). I’m never going to be in the Olympics.
But so what, right?
About a year and a half ago, I interviewed author Alice Randall for a magazine article. She had just written the (very fun) novel “Ada’s Rules” about a woman who decided to embark on major changes to her lifestyle to become healthier and happier. The book was terrific. Alice Randall was even better. After we’d talked for about an hour, and I’d started to put away my notebook and voice recorder, she asked me if I was ever going to write a book.
[Side note: people who write for a living get asked this question all. the. time. Some respond with despair because they really want to write a book but just can't seem to make it happen. Others use this as an excuse to talk and talk and talk about the novel that they've been writing for an eon. Before you ask a writer this question, decide how much time you have to listen to his or her answer and proceed accordingly.]
I hesitated and decided to be honest. Usually, I tell people that my job as a journalist is to tell other people’s stories, not my own. But sitting there in her living room, I said, “Well. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe….” Because maybe I do. And maybe my glib answer isn’t really completely true anymore. I admitted to her that I didn’t know exactly which story to follow yet, but that I thought that somewhere inside of me, there was a story or maybe many stories that I wanted to tell. Someday. I just wasn’t sure how yet.
And she said something that is so profound that I still think about it all the time. She nodded reassuringly and said, “God isn’t finished with you yet.”
That has become sort of an unofficial mantra for my life.
God hasn’t finished with me yet.
I may be (gulp) turning 40. But it is far from over. I am far from over.
It’s reassuring to think that maybe, just maybe, a lot of the living I’ve already done is a prelude to the rest of my life. A warm-up. Important, but not all there is. There’s much more to come. Yeah, I’m not as young as I used to be, and my kids are starting to give me gray hair, but it’s okay.
God hasn’t finished with me yet.