You may find yourself asking, how did I get here?

For some people it's a song that takes them back to that moment in their past. For me, my life and past are defined by movies. I remember who I was with, how I felt, the smells, sights and sounds of the original moment. Last night I watched a movie that I haven't seen in years. When it came out, I was with a different person who was not my husband and I was childless. I was a 27 year old woman in graduate school waiting to venture out into the world. I was on the cusp of true adulthood. I was younger.  I was free. The movie, the moment opened Pandora's Box. 

I remember being young. That's a lie. I barely remember, though I want to remember. Instead, I feel the morose pangs of the middle-aged. I wonder why this turning point in my life has hit me so hard-- this new phase--40. I am self-aware enough to understand that 40 is arbitrary, a meaningless number neither the first, nor the last I resent and will for a brief time, despise. In fact, I hate odd numbers, though I have enjoyed some odd-numbered ages.  

Is it vanity that makes me cringe? The feeling of horror as, for the first time, the twelve-year-old cashier, who I'm sure isn't 12 but looks it, doesn't ask for ID? Partly, but only partly. I come from a long line of fixers--when the face naturally wrinkles, the hair grays, the neck sags gather your wits and your money and head to the surgeon. I'm not opposed to doing so, though currently this is not my problem I realize, partially relieved because it means I have some depth. 

However, this does not mean that when I look in the mirror, I'm not alarmed at the person who stares back, often with a confused look. How did I get here? The woman staring back at me is not someone I know and that, not the fine lines and the wiry grays, scares me most of all. 

When did I lose touch with her? How do I get her back? Am I in the beginnings of an identity crisis? A mid-life crisis? Should I go dye my hair burgundy or tattoo some strange symbol on an ankle? This is how I dealt with things in my twenties. I wish it were as simple now.  

How did I get here? How did I get here? I hear that voice in the back of my mind whisper as I try to figure out where I want to go next. Who I want to be when I grow up? I'm grown, I now understand, but what do I have to show for it? Should I have done things differently? Strived harder for a career, a direction? Where am I? How did I get here? This is not my beautiful house, these are not my beautiful children. Who is this man I sleep next to? Why don't we see each other more often? When did we fall into a mild, though not yet alarming, state of disconnect.

I don't know the answers to these questions and I don't know how to find them. I know I'm confused, a bit lost, a bit jaded and still somehow, lucky. The thing about 40 is that it symbolizes my descent into a new phase of my life. It means that I am headed into the second half, and the real problem with that is coming to terms with the decisions I made in the first half. I have always heard people say they have no regrets. I call bullshit. I call liar, liar. Regret is as much a part of life as inhaling and exhaling. The strangest and most terrifying thing about regret is learning to come to peace with it. That's where I am now. 

I am figuring out how to let go of the less than stellar decisions, the road(s) not taken, the one thing led to the other thing domino effect that is life. I need to find a way to move on past things that never seemed to be an issue. Of course, now I realize they were always there, always waiting to call me back for reflection, for forgiveness. The dream school I never applied to, the people I have lost, the things I wish I'd said, the opportunities I never took, the dreams I let go of--I need to forgive myself for living my life the way I knew that I needed to and the only way I knew how.

During my thirties I was so busy having children, buying a house and building a life that I didn't have time to think about my decisions and my past. Now, there is room to breath, to reflect, to think and it just so happens, that time is coming at the same time mid-life is rolling around. 40 is nothing more than a poor scapegoat, in the right place at the wrong time or vice-versa. How did I get here? That is the question that I believed I had to answer. What I realize now is that that question is irrelevant. What is important is another question: Where am I going and can I arrive there with grace and without regret? I hope so, I really, really hope so. 

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself

The Talking Heads, Letting the Days Go By

If you enjoyed this post please check out a humorous look at my mid-life crisis: 


  1. This is wonderful! As someone who is turning 50 in a little more than a week I think the big birthdays can bring up so many feelings and I think that is great! It's how we move on and redefine ourselves. At least that is how I look at it.

  2. I ask myself this pretty much daily now and yes I still can't wrap my head around the fact that I am two short years away from 40! Crazy, but still as much as I do like my life at this stage, I still just can't believe how quickly it all has gone so far!

  3. Happy 40th! I admit, I was not thrilled when I turned 40! It got easier, tho. Now I kind of forget my age, LOL! (Mid 50s-ish.) The 50s are the bad-ass years! So you have that to look forward to!)

  4. Same as it ever was, just older and wiser. :)

  5. I will be turning 40 on my next birthday, and can totally relate. I barely remember yesterday, let alone any of my 20's.

  6. 40, for women especially, feels so loaded. But I would NEVER again want to be the neurotic mess I was in my 20's!

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