The summer my son Kyle graduated high school he asked me what age I thought was the best time of a person’s life. I sat still, staring over his shoulder, thinking. The question stumped me a bit. We ate in silence as I considered.
I had to answer, “I don’t know, but for sure it isn’t before the age of 40.”
“Really?” His head shot up and he looked directly at me, “Why?”
I smiled. I wondered if he was surprised because I didn’t pick a youthful age or because I picked an age that didn’t coincide with his birth.
“Life is better after 40. A lot of the angst you feel right now finally goes away.” I set down my chopsticks, pushed my bowl away, and leaned forward, “that background anxiety to life, ‘What type of person am I going to be? Am I good enough? Will I be successful?’ It’s exhausting.”
Kyle stopped eating.
I continued “Around forty I had enough experience to know that most events in life are not catastrophic. When those anxieties started to fade, I felt relieved of a burden. I accepted myself to a greater degree. It’s not that I can’t still grow, in fact, I think I’m better at change now. I know what I’m good at and what I’m not.”
I picked up my chopsticks and started playing with the food in my bowl, “I carried an outdated vision of my perfect future self as a tall, blond, seventeen-year-old girl with long nails who read French novels.” Counting off each point with my fingers, I said “It took me a long time to realize 1) I haven’t been seventeen in years, 2) I’m a brunette, 3) My nails always break, and 4) I have dyslexia and can’t read French even after taking it for two years in college.” We both burst out laughing.
“It sounds ridiculous, but figuring out whatever stupid standard you put on yourself, getting rid of it, and accepting who you are is a gift. But, it takes a while to receive it.”