When you cross the 40-year line, there are certain expectations that you put on yourself. These are things that you forgave yourself for not being so good at when you were in your 20s, or maybe even your 30s.
I thought "40 years old" was a finishing line, the place that marks when you are a "mature adult" — when you have all of your beans together. I had some pretty high expectations for who and what I'd be at 40. But, some things just didn't catch up to those expectations.
I’ll say it. Even though I actually enjoy seeking out new recipes and trying to create a culinary masterpiece in my kitchen night after night, I am really not the best cook and I cannot bake.
I love sorting through recipes and imagining how great they are going to taste, but it’s not often when I take that first bite that I actually taste what I thought I was making. I’m terrible about overcooking, adding too much salt, undercooking parts and having to microwave things after my family has taken a few bites. Very rarely does my family complain, but they do suggest going out to eat — often.
I’ve been doing laundry for 30 years. It’s something we all have to do. After all that practice, I really thought there would be something that would just click.
Nope, not so much. I still have no problem letting clean clothes sit in the “clean” hamper until we run out of clothes in that hamper. I hate hanging up and putting away clothes.
Thankfully, my husband is one of those guys who likes his pants hung a certain way and prefers his dress shirts not to have been sitting in the hamper for a week, so he is in charge of laundry.
There are countless websites, books and professionals out there who have hundreds of tips on how to get and stay organized. I know because I’ve read most of them, but as I look around my office there is no organization in sight. I know where things are — pretty much. However, I just get so busy going in so many directions that I really have to take a whole day and just clean out the clutter.
I suck at making friends. I know it is partly my extremely introverted personality and the fact that I work from home, but I really struggle with making and keeping friends. I thought at this point in life, I would have learned how to meet new people and not want to hide when someone I don't know comes up to me at a party. I have a few friends who are just as introverted as I am, and we hold onto each other for dear life because we don't want to have to go through the nightmare of trying to make new friends.
Truthfully, there is a long list of things that I thought I’d be better at. At 20 years old, I figured when I got to be 40-something I would have mastered hang gliding, climbed Mount Rainier, taught culinary classes at a local vegetarian collective and started working on knitting alpaca sweaters. Apparently, I imagined myself becoming some sort of new age superhero.
At 40 years old, I realized some new things I am actually good at instead.
In my youth, I loved to write, but I never thought that I would do something with my constant journaling, storytelling and passion for words. It wasn’t until I turned 40 years old that I actually realized I am an excellent writer, and I can take that passion for making art with words and do something wonderful with it. So I started a blog — Dancing with Fireflies — and from there, I kept writing, not only for myself, but also for other blogs and publications. I am doing something with my gift.
From candle making, embroidery and DIY projects, I have a lot of crafty skills! I took my skills at embroidery and opened up an Etsy shop — Morning Tempest Studios — and started selling some of my embroidered baby items. I gave up buying store-bought candles and learned how to make custom scents for making candles at home. I am an artist when it comes to turning junk into treasures.
Of all the things I thought I’d be when I was older, I didn’t expect to be so good at being a mother. In fact, before becoming a mother myself, I really didn’t care much for kids. I never babysat, I didn’t know how to talk to babies and I was certain cleaning up baby poop and toddler vomit would just end me.
I was wrong.
Being a mother for the last 25 years has been the best thing I’ve ever done — and I am really good at it. Sure, I had bumps and lessons along the way, but I love being the mom in this family. I am the one that the kids come to when they need to vent and talk about life. I am the one they know will take care of them when they are sick, the one they trust will remember all of the funny things they did as children and the one who will dry their tears.
Now that my own children are all grown up, I get calls from other mothers asking for me to come over and teach them my baby soothing tricks, show them how to make a fussy eater enjoy dinnertime and how to get an infant to sleep at night.
No, I didn’t learn how to meditate or become a yogi, but I learned how to stay calm and let it go — to breathe and to take time out to put my head back on.
It took me 40 years to be able to look at myself in the mirror and not attack the image looking back at me. Forty years of trying to keep up with media expectations taught me that the only expectations you can live up to are the ones that give you the biggest rewards: hugs from your children, the respect of your partner and peace of mind when you go to bed at night.
There are lots of things still on my list that I want to learn, and I still have time.
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