Ah, 40. I looked at my reflection in a glass patio door today, really looked at myself. I am feeling wonderful, completely. But for some reason – maybe it was the Khruangbin that I was grooving to, the laundry drying in the sun, the fact that I had finished my work early and had the entire day to enjoy, the chickpeas cooking on the stove and the dough rising, the fact that all my bills are paid, the hawk screaming in the sky or the goats bahhhhing from the little Argentinean finca next door – I stopped.
Yes, age is simply a number, but at some point, it goes from being a curse to a badge (and then beyond, I guess, may I find out). You go from being “just a kid” to an “adult,” and if you’re lucky a “senior.”
Forty years, upon my head,
To have you call me child
Ship of fools. – Good ole Grateful Dead
But there the different kinds of adulthood badges. A major part of being an adult is financial independence. This comes to some really early, in their teens, and some have an endless and epic failure to launch. This means being able to support yourself and your lifestyle, and it usually results in a big house-full of things as proof of successful adulting.
So now that all my material possessions are able to be carried through a crowded airport in Argentina when the employees are all on strike and all the flights are canceled, (trust me on that one), am I back to being “just a kid”?
With time also comes patience, foresight and planning, spiritual connection, ability to open your heart more to others (usually this really hits people who have kids, so I’ve heard). Older people have built up a certain level of wisdom.
All of that is nice, but unquantifiable. How do you know you’re a grown up? Since I no longer have material possessions, I tried to think back to things that I’ve accomplished with my life thus far. Because statistically, I’m rolling into middle age, which is crazy. I still get pimples! Yet this is life. This is 40.
I tasked myself to name 40 of my accomplishments. In no particular order:
- No cavities!
- Sticking a handstand for a solid 20 seconds that one time on the dock. Maybe this is a lame accomplishment, so I’ll add the ability to nail a headstand with regularity in Yoga classes AND also tumbling over in spectacular, hilarious ways, and loving both the success and the failure
- Graduated Phi Beta Kappa from college and with honors from high school
- Catch excellent and fun waves; I’m also skilled on flatwater with a stand-up paddleboard.
- Helping people heal themselves with Reiki energy work as a Shihan
- 25 years of vegetarianism
- 25 years of growing my leg hair
- The ability to build warming fires
- Music: learning the ukulele and djembe, singing, playing music professionally
- Hugs! So many hugs!
- Created and implemented a successful political campaign that will benefit thousands of children and families in perpetuity
- Developed lucrative professional writing career that allows for travel; I am my own boss.
- The ability to let go … to shed my possessions and all that is familiar and resist fear.
- Captain of varsity field hockey team and lead many in school plays, as well as president of numerous environmental and social clubs starting in 6th grade until senior year of university
Been engulfed in heartwarming, blissful, healing, romantic love and prioritizing love in all forms for all beings every day
- Knowledge of good manners, including proficiency in formal dinner table settings and dancing a waltz or the cha-cha in high heels
- Naturally remaining somewhat ageless (did you know I was 40?)
- Lived in many different countries, including ones with non-English native speakers
- Sharing the teachings of Yoga professionally with a 200-hour certification
- Being a young professional in corporate, non-profit, small private and government jobs: I also quit all my jobs without burning bridges.
- Donated 10-inch-long locks of hair, twice, to nonprofits benefiting cancer patients
- I’ve picked up a lot of trash, through volunteering with civic clubs or individually
- No tattoos!
- Learned to ride a bike (and walk, crawl, etc.)
- I can drive a manual shift vehicle, albeit not very well at all. Maybe I speak Spanish a little better – a statement that makes me hang my head! I’m working on this!
- Physically all the parts still work – a couple broken bones, two sprained joints but they’ve healed. I wake up without pain, and that’s saying something
- Used daily journalism to force removal of road bedding on beaches, draw attention to water quality and politically pressured officials to acknowledge needs of environment
- I can change an impeller on a boat, fix irrigation systems and do light automotive repair, and I don’t let sexism stop me
- The ability to make yummy meals out of whatever I can scrounge in a kitchen, as well as bake my own tasty breads and make yogurt
- Earned a master’s captain license from the US Coast Guard; I professionally sailed and captained boats up to 47′.
- Ability to make excellent cappuccinos and lattes and know the difference
- I am able to and enjoy SCUBA diving, snorkeling, swimming and freediving.
- No kids! Look, I know having kids is the biggest accomplishment for parents, and I love kids. But I am doing my part to reduce the human burden on the planet, because not getting pregnant actually takes some planning.
- No arrest record! I have never been behind bars … “The man can’t keep me down!” But my fingerprints are “in the system”: I pass Level 2 background checks and have a TWIC card.
- Roller skating backwards
- I’ve hiked to 1,700 feet above sea level on the Appalachian Trail, and I’ve been 1,000 feet underwater in a submarine in the Atlantic Ocean.
- I’ve read many, many books, magazines, newspapers, legal documents, white papers, essays, blogs, e-books and zines. I like to read; I am curious and love to
learn. (Currently reading young adult fiction, so, yeah … the final Hunger Games … will Katniss kill Snow? DON’T TELL ME!)
- I’ve sat in meditation for 8 hours at a retreat but also enjoy meditating in much shorter durations almost daily.
- I can bust out up to 50 push-ups, and I can also run 5K. Both require some weeks of working out, but it’s doable.
- I own my own feelings and accept responsibility for my actions. That being
said, I am content!
Phew! That was tough. I’m wondering which ones impress you and make you think I’m an adult, and which ones you think are lame and make you think I’m a kid. What does that say about you and me? I hope I have another 40 years to ponder it.