1975 was a conspicuous year: the Prime Minister was sacked by the Governor General, Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, the Vietnam war ended, Margaret Thatcher was elected as the first female leader of the Conservative party in the UK and the battle between VHS and Beta video tapes began. Terrible things were happening in Ireland. Jaws the movie was released and Saturday Night Live debuted. Civil war began in Lebanon and the Egypt-Israel peace accord was finalised. Interestingly, 1975 marked the first International Year of the Woman.
And I was born. That was 40 years ago.
My kids think I am old. I was around for important historical events: the LA Olympic Games, the death of Princess Diana, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, 9/11, when the Challenger exploded, the Gulf Wars. I was alive before mobile phones and emails, when owning a taxi company actually meant that you owned a taxi. I was in France, when the Euro came into existence. They find it very amusing that I predated Google and wonder how I ever survived without it.
Turning 40 has been a rite of passage for me – I am younger than many of my friends, and turning 40 felt like I would finally come of age. I was excited to turn 40, happy for the days of babies and toddlers to be behind me, to have three kids at school and have time to focus on my career and the things I am passionate about.
At 40, life was no longer about surviving those sleep deprived days and nights, but rather, about embracing the future and being empowered to take back some control. Of course, the reality is that it is still far from smooth – the stress of working, the cost of private school fees, the overscheduling, the guilt of not doing any of it properly, the abject lack of time.
Just before my 40th birthday, I took down from the shelf the numerous boxes that contain the papers of my life and I started going through them. The letters from old boyfriends, the birthday cards from family members long passed, my diaries from primary school, assignments from high school, workbooks and articles from high school, and university essays.
Upon reflection I learnt that we are essentially the same people at 40 that we were at 16,18 or 21. As the years pass by, people may mellow, they may speak in a more palatable way and may have learnt the skill of restraint. Perhaps people have been humbled by their experiences and become more emotionally intelligent through the crucibles that they have experienced. We might be refined versions of ourselves, but the essence still remains.
Late last year, I went to see Oprah on tour. Whilst I am a celebrity cynic, much of what Oprah said resonated with me as I have found it to be true in my own life:
- Everything is better when you share it
- Every experience grows you
- When things go wrong it is life pushing you in another direction
- Whatever happens to you also happened for you- it will never be wasted
Turning 40 has been a reflective process, an opportunity to interpret and understand the events that have constituted my life, the people I have met along the way, the decisions I have made and how I have responded to the things that were not in my control. I am excited to see the end of one decade and the beginning of the other.
Laura Randolph said “If life begins on your 40th birthday, it’s because that’s when women finally get it….the guts to take back their lives”. I don’t know who Laura Randolph is, but she is right. Bring it on!