A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My 40s…

redheaded fury thinks about her 40s

It’s true: I’m knocking on the big 4-0’s door. I love that I still get carded when I walk into a bar and I have excellent skincare to thank for that, but aside from looking younger than all 37 of my years, I feel 28 and have the sense of humor of a college student. Poop jokes are still funny, I’m a sucker for cute hamster pictures (don’t believe me? I feature one per week on my Facebook Community Page) and I’m a self-professed Snuggle Whore. I think sock monkeys are so inherently ridiculous I can’t imagine a life without them and have developed a strange addiction to crystallized ginger and now buy it in bulk.

So what’s so funny?

I had lunch a few weeks ago with someone for whom I once cared for very much. After recounting the tale of a startup gone [boom] and finding myself with my own shingle hung out once again, the discomfort on his face was measurable with each twist and turn the story of my mid-thirties has taken. A forgiving landlord (thank all that’s holy), a tireless work ethic and goddamn hard work all brought me to where I am today where I can delightfully say that W2s are a thing of my past and I love  1099s so much I want to make a blanket out of them. Some people aren’t made to work without a net.

I never thought I’d be the kind of person to work without a net. But I am.

Screw the net.

At the end of last year, I ran down my decade in review. A delightful journey that was even more brilliant in retrospect. This year, I find myself in a strange situation as I stare my 40s in the face. They’re not as scary as they make themselves out to be.

  • Love: It can come at any age and there’s no limit, right time or “supposed to’s.” It just is. It takes the shape of passions, people, places and experiences. Who’s to say you can’t find what lights your fire long after your teens and 20s? In the past 12 months, I’ve fallen in love with so many things that it seems as if my prior 36 years were just practice and now I can finally start living with purpose. How beautiful is that?
  • Energy: It’s not just about slamming back a Venti mochafrappalatta-skim each morning to get you through the first meeting – it’s what you put OUT there. I’ve built a career based on honesty and colorful language. Some people hate me, and I say GOOD! Love me, hate me, just don’t be indifferent.  Indifference is stagnant energy, like a dead bird floating in a pool in one of those Utah canyons. It just sits there. When you put out energy and live your life with momentum, people can’t help but get on board for the ride. F-bombs and calling out asshattery each week – that’s ME and it’s a great place to be at in life where your ME pushes you forward each an every day. And it’s a pretty cool feeling to know something you do or say pushes others forward. Wow.
  • Shoulda: I can look back at my life and, when in the midst of something I’ve come to love in my 30-something, think “I should have started this sooner…” I now know I shouldn’t have. That I started doing it at exactly the right time and I’m exactly where I need to be. There are no “shouldas.” We do what we do. While I’d like to stab everyone on Twitter who fills their stream with quotes day in and out, there’s one I live by: ““We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” (Jim Rohn) We make our choices, we accept the related consequences. Owning the decision process eliminates the “shouldas.” Ownership is dandy. Have you tried it?

And here I sit, on a sunny Denver morning, well on the road to 38 with 40 peeking at me like a Kilroy Was Here drawing from WWII. I have no regret. I’m in love. My career is…well, fucking brilliant. Small Dog sleeps by my feet while Big Dog hunts endlessly in the backyard for birds and squirrels. I get to do what I love for clients I adore and live my days knowing the love I put out there comes back to me in spades. So I’m not so afraid of 4-0. It’s not so big. I think I’ll celebrate 39 and 41 with a lot more fervor. And it’s funny – I never imagined I’d be 38. We never think about “OMG – I’m going to be 38 one day!” But here’s why I’m glad I’m 38:

  • I never went to law school.
  • I never had children in my 20s.
  • I’ve still never taken that bike tour through Ireland.
  • I still don’t like squid.
  • I love riding my bicycles and am a gear whore to the Nth degree.
  • I don’t mind the middle seat on airplanes.
  • I don’t need to put on makeup everyday (though I usually do).
  • I understand the difference between love and lust.
  • I see business in terms of relationships, not money.
  • I think my parents would be proud of the gal I’ve come to be.

That’s what’s funny. All of those things put together. What’s your list? Mine is uproariously hilarious…to me, at least. And that’s what matters.

This is the first Redheaded Fury blog I’ve posted since January, so welcome. They’ll be a regular occurrence each Wednesday. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, you’ll find my standard unpopular thoughts and blunt advice here on RedheadWriting.com and Thursdays are reserved for my Dear Redhead Op-Ed over at ToyWithme.com.

26 comments
The Redhead
The Redhead

Having recently just been thrust into Dante's omitted circle of hell and still in the process of drawing a map to get out, having gotten back on my bike has been a godsend. Not riding = no endorphins = depression = hell. I'll take therapy on two wheels any day :) And for the record, I do NOT envy your winters ;)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Another lovely list - thanks for dropping that off, Darien :)

Darien
Darien

I've never been inside a Turkish prison! (Despite walking by one every day for lots of my childhood) I never had kids and will continue to defend that decision. I still getting surprised when I get hit on by kids young enough to be mine (I'm 35. I got carded for a lotto ticket last week) I am terribly happy with how things turned out, despite failures, misgivings and bad decisions. That's what growing up is for, right? 11 years of college, two and a half degrees later and my parents are finally happy with me because I got married and they don't have to worry. However they got to that point isn't important because now that they are happy, I don't have to worry about justifying my decisions to them anymore. I will never get tired of learning things, no matter how that lesson comes to me. I think I've learned enough in life and done more than anyone else I know to make decisions that will be good for me, even if it occasionally involved bail money.

John Friedrich
John Friedrich

Thanks for this post, Erika. My path to my mid-30's has been similarly convoluted. Ignoring the "advice" of those who believe in the necessity of safety nets and process and following my passions have led me to opportunity, a job I LOVE and a woman I love more than anything or anyone else on the planet. There's certainly been a lot of decisions I've made that I (and others who don't mind their own business) have questioned. But over the last few years I've learned that ruminating on where I went wrong only serves to hold me back. I've learned to look at the past, celebrate the good and bad and enthusiastically move forward. With this approach I was able to use my passion for bicycles to get a gig as an outsider blogging for a bike company which less than a year later turned into a job at that same brand. Holy. Shit. And the best part is that it's not due to the tiniest shred of luck. It's from my love of riding bikes and my love of sharing that excitement with others. It's from my willingness to work my ass off (well, my ass is still pretty big, so maybe I have to find another metaphor). It's from my desire to not just work hard, but to work hard at always being better. Incidentally, my job now is to teach bike dealers about our products and the company, which means that I get paid to talk about bikes- and since you need to ride a bike to feel what it's all about I also get to ride bikes. At work. Part of my job. Anyway, thanks again for reminding people what life should really be about. And keep riding. Bicycles keep your spirit and body young. Seriously, even as a 35 year old guy I still get carded.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Deb - thanks for visiting! I'm looking forward to the adventure as well :) 38 - here I come!

8Deb8
8Deb8

Just discovered your blog and, since I'm also staring 4-0 in the face, was drawn to read this post. Great stuff. I absolutely loved turning 30, but at 35 I wasn't sure how I felt about 40. Now, at 37-going-on-38, I just say "bring it on." Life is good and I know myself like I never have before. Who knows what discoveries are waiting to be found in my 40s? Not me, but I look forward to finding out.

janermcg
janermcg

I find this post to be quite reassuring. I've given the whole concept of age too much thought in the last year as I find my age to often conflict with what I'm doing or "should be doing." While I'm someone who can still say "I'm in my effing 20's" to excuse any reckless behavior, I live the life of a 28-30 year old. Perhaps that's more my maturity age. Despite the number, it's nice to know that it doesn't have anything to do with the timing of when things happen in life. I still have friends that expect prince charming will show up by age 23--and when he doesn't they will settle & then even if his horse knocks them over at say, 37, they'll probably miss it. So the big 4-0 just means you're wise. Thanks for sharing so that now I can live in the best of both worlds; being wise in my 20's and still have a great excuse for bad behavior.

janermcg
janermcg

I find this post to be quite reassuring. I've given the whole concept of age too much thought in the last year as I find my age to often conflict with what I'm doing or "should be doing." While I'm someone who can still say "I'm in my effing 20's" to excuse any reckless behavior, I live the life of a 28-30 year old. Perhaps that's more my maturity age. Despite the number, it's nice to know that it doesn't have anything to do with the timing of when things happen in life. I still have friends that expect prince charming will show up by age 23--and when he doesn't they will settle & then even if his horse knocks them over at say, 37, they'll probably miss it. So the big 4-0 just means your wise. Thanks for sharing so that now I can live in the best of both worlds; being wise in my 20's and still have a great excuse for bad behavior.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I agree - thanks for stopping by today!

The Redhead
The Redhead

On occasion, I say something brilliant *without* f-bombs ;-) Thanks for stopping by today, Kat!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Rachel, great to see you again! Hope all is well. And kudos to you for enjoying the path on which you walk!

Rachel
Rachel

My 'Without a Net' musings have the working title of 'Smoking My Business Cards.'Great post. Why I'm glad I'm 37?- I have more empathy and less judgment than I did in my 20's - thanks not to the things that were easy, but the things that were most difficult (starting with my divorce).- Similarly, thanks to my combo yuppie/dirtbag lifestyle, I have better perspective and understanding about big issues like healthcare.- I appreciate having status on airlines, but now realize it's not worth the time and energy to rack up the miles to get it.- I have the savings from a decades' worth of hard work, and I still have the strength, flexibility, and time to enjoy it. - I love all the channels on my satellite radio (with the exception of religion, sports, and traffic).- I spend time at the library. Not yet, but someday I will volunteer to work in one.- I appreciate Facebook's consideration of me when they put "It's Complicated" as a relationship status choice.- I roast my own coffee beans. - I enjoy quilting. I'm not very good about it, but that's what is great Not very well, but that's what's so great about quilting.I could go on... Thanks for helping me look at what's good about my life on a day when I needed it.

Kat Jaibur
Kat Jaibur

I love this post for a lot of reasons. First is that, while I've seen and love your feisty f-bombtastic side, I never knew you could be so inspiring. Go, Red. Like you, I've played without a net for most of my career (and in my 30's, with the help of a forgiving landlord). My one trip back into agency life, I kept saying, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." And you're right. Screw the net. The net is an illusion. I love that you are in love with so many things that you feel you're now living with purpose. That is really IT. I love that you know that Energy is not something you get. It's something we are. AND it's what we put out there. I love that you're not worried about being everybody's cup of tea. LOVE THAT. (I wrote a blog post about that last week. http://bit.ly/dfngHH Easier said than done for a lot of us. ) I love your Jim Rohn quote, and intend to use it. I love all your bullet points. Most of all, I love that you "live my days knowing the love I put out there comes back to me in spades."Almost missed this, but when I caught it on the 2nd pass just now, it made me tear up. Damn you. Love you. Happy Birthday, whenever it is.

Ingrid
Ingrid

SUH-WEET!! 40s rock! And so do you!!

jenniferwillis
jenniferwillis

Wonderful! Sing it!I'm a teeny bit older than you are, having hit my big 4-0 last November. It's such a funny number. I remember when each of my parents turned 40 -- I am now the age my mother was when I graduated high school and went away to college. Compared to how I feel at 40 and my life choices, my parents seemed older to me when they were my age.When I was 30, I started thinking about writing a book -- or at least an essay -- called, "Living Without a Net." A dear friend who was my "safety man" -- the one I thought I'd marry if I didn't find anyone -- had just set his wedding date, with someone else. But I didn't get around to writing my own treatise, I suppose, because I was too busy living it. So few of us have the courage to cast off these bowlines, as Mark Twain admonished*, and I'm thrilled to read such a celebration of "alternative choices" on your blog this morning.Like you, I didn't have kids young (or ever... yet?), and enjoy both my writing work and my life with a good man and good dogs. My career isn't in as fabulous shape as yours right now, but it's getting there.There are things I'd do different, sure, having lived and learned. But that's experience to be applied moving forward, rather than regret looking back. I think you have a wonderful attitude about that.I'm beginning to understand the adage that youth is wasted on the young, but I'm more concerned about the waste that piles up day after day when we try too hard to cram ourselves into conventional boxes that don't fit, all to please people who probably don't care all that much anyway about what we do. There is great self-knowledge and wisdom that come with life experience (not just with aging), and that brings a simple but joyful freedom that you just can't put a price on.* "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that youdidn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail awayfrom the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.Discover." -- Mark Twain

The Redhead
The Redhead

Life is waaaaaay too short and good for you for the ball-grabbing actions! And I'm glad I'm a favorite. Always great to see your comments, Tammy.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Yeah, I don't bounce like I used to, evidenced by last year's shattered ankle. But hey - the ankle led me to the man I love. THAT'S something to be thankful for!

Tammy Colson
Tammy Colson

I'll be 40 in July. I've made a buttload changes in my life since 35 rolled around. I stared my mortality in the face a few years ago, and decided that I wasn't living the way I wanted. Grown kid, divorced, and starting my own business... and doing the things I put off for "work" a few years ago. Life is too short. Loved this post. Love your outlook.I think that's why you are a favorite in my reader.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Something else to look forward to! Great to see you stop by again, Jim...

The Redhead
The Redhead

OOOOOH! Both? Love it. (Don't hate it at all)

jim
jim

The best thing about the 40s are that you have both maturity and, usually, money.

MommyNaniBooboo
MommyNaniBooboo

Fabulous.You'll be happy to know that I love you AND hate you... you know, in a loving way...

m1nd7r1p
m1nd7r1p

Awesome! Having just turned the big 4-0, divorced, kid-less, successful, the only thing I regret is not picking up climbing before 37. And the only thing I miss is the resiliency of youthful flesh--tendonitis sucks. ;)

Trackbacks

  1. […] second one is “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to My 40s” by another very colorful, very feisty redhead:  Erika Napoletano. (The queen of the f-bomb almost […]

  2. […] second one is “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to My 40s” by another very colorful, very feisty redhead:  Erika Napoletano. (The queen of the f-bomb almost […]