I turned 40 this past April. I was so looking forward to that day. I don’t mind getting older, and for some reason, 40 was really important for me. The day came and went with lots of well wishes from family and friends. . . and then a great sense of dissatisfaction began to descend and stayed for many many months! Every day I would look in the mirror, assess my life and say, “Really, this is all you have accomplished by now?!?” And it threw me into a bit of an identity crisis — I was not all that I thought I would be by 40, and suddenly I felt behind the 8 ball. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I felt old, over the hill or incapable of still doing things, but for a Type A “gotta get it done” personality, I did not do and looked like a Type Lazy personality.
What I have come to realize over the last several months is that it was hard for me to achieve all that I had hoped I would by now because I have not been being authentic. Ironic since authenticity is one of my highest values. The truth is, I’ve spent 40 years trying to be who I thought I needed to be in order to be loved. And if I wasn’t busy trying to figure out who each person needed me to be, then I was busy trying to convince them that there was no way they could love me (you can ask my husband about this one).
Trying to be who everyone needed me to be goes back to grade school. I didn’t dress cool enough, my attitude didn’t fit in. . . . in high school I wanted to date a particular boy so badly that when my best friend asked him if he liked me (OMG teenage girls) he said, “she wears too much make-up.” The next several days I wore less make-up and he noticed, but still didn’t ask me out. Most of us go through something similar, but then when we hit college we find our groove. I never did. Everything I have ever done has been with many judgemental voices in my head assessing my actions. This theme was so pervasive in my life that I would even shop for housewares and clothing and think, “Would so and so like me in this?” “Will xyz person think this fits my decor?” “Will he/she like me more or less for this purchase?”
Of course all of this means that not only have I been pushing people away – let’s face it, we all know when there is a faker in the room — but I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy trying figure out who I needed to be in order to be liked. That’s a lot of energy that could have gone into making stuff happen for me! Teaching and writing were the two areas where I showed up pretty authentically. I guess it’s been easier to hide behind a pen, and when I teach I never wanted to be a “guru” so I aired all my dirty laundry for everyone else to learn from.
Forty is the beginning of the “wise woman” and it is about time I showed up to the party as my true and authentic self. What does she look like? I have a wicked sense of humor, I like to sing out loud to songs from the 80’s, I LOVE chocolate – but it has to be really great chocolate, I like a cheesy romance as much as I like self-help books, I really love to get dressed up for black tie events, I love my children with all of my heart and soul and I really wish I had a hybrid Lexus. The rest — I’m still figuring it out. The best part is, I’m guessing more things will feel right and good in 2011 – at least they’ll feel right to me.