I’m Forty

By Amanda Kenco

I’m Forty

So here it is, 3 am, a week into the 40th year of my life, and I’m wide awake. I’m awake for a myriad of reasons, the main one being that I’m not asleep. My mind races about everything. What needs to be done, what I haven’t done, what I should have done, regrets, grudges, shame, what will I do, and when the hell am I going back to sleep? Perhaps firing up the old computer and writing at 3 am is not the fastest way to get some zzzzs, but I’ve also been reading for the past hour and that ain’t helping either.

The past few weeks leading up to the official marking of me as a, horror of horrors, middle aged woman, I received a lot of unsolicited advice from friends of mine in their fifties. All of them seemed to be trying to reassure me that this was not in fact the end of my life. Geez a monetti, if you keep telling me it’s not that bad, then it certainly is THAT bad. Lots of the advice sounded like it came straight from a motivational Pinterest pin. “You’ll love your forties.” “You’ll look the best you’ve ever looked.” And my personal favorite, “Forty is the new 20.” Really? Forty is the new 20? I must take issue with this one – because, honestly, 40 is not anything like 20.

At 20, I was in college, taking naps in the middle of the day, staying out all night, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, chain smoking cigarettes and well, ahem, other items. I swore I would never work with computers. I would live my life as a performing artist. I did not understand why my college was forcing me to have an email address that consisted of just a bunch of letters and numbers that no one, except maybe Rain Man, could remember – and I was never going to check it anyway. I despised the idea of those new fangled cellular phones, because I did not want people to be able to track me down any time of day. And quite honestly, even though I live and breathe by my phone now, I still don’t like idea that people can track me down anytime. I know I can put it on silent, it’s permanently on silent, but I have to check it eventually. Back then, if I left the house, I’d simply leave a note saying where I’d gone, or maybe I wouldn’t, and they would just have to wonder, but they certainly couldn’t just call and find me. I am wistful for the days when I only had a phone plugged into the wall and no answering machine. If you called and I wasn’t there then too damn bad for both of us, or perhaps just too damn bad for you. I didn’t want to talk to you anyway. I know this is a cliché attitude we’ve all heard a million times, but we’ve heard it a million times because it’s true! We’re all too connected for crying out loud!

At 40, I cannot stay out drinking all night long and show up for work at 8 am as if I’ve just had a good eight hours of beauty rest. I cannot smoke cigarettes (because they’re going to kill me). I’m ten pounds heavier than I was back then (ok, we all know that’s a lie, but that’s the most I’m admitting to). I’m married with two kids, a mortgage, a pile of debt, mental illness (don’t act surprised, aren’t we all crazy?), two email addresses, a plethora of social media accounts and a full time job. I’m volunteering for WAY too many things all because I’m an idiot who can’t seem to say no to anything. Except PTA…I can’t stand PTA. I know that makes me a terrible parent, but…well, sorry, get off my back already. I can’t do everything, and those witches are downright judgmental (sorry to my wonderful friends who are active in the PTA and make my children’s school freaking awesome, but all your cute snack-making, carnival coordinating and crap just makes me feel like a big fat loser).

Speaking of school, when have we, as a nation, decided that a leprechaun must visit every kindergarten room each St. Patrick’s Day and tear stuff up, pee green in the toilet and leave coins all over the place? As if that little annoying Elf on the Shelf isn’t bad enough? That green bastard didn’t visit anyone when I was a kid. They’re supposed to be sitting at the end of the rainbow guarding their flipping pot of gold, not knocking over chairs and tearing up perfectly good paper in kindergarten class rooms. I love my children’s kindergarten teacher, and I know this was not her idea. She’s forced into it because she can’t not do it when every other K class (I’m just going with K now because I’m tired of writing out the whole word) in the world is doing it. Then my child comes home wondering why the hell the leprechaun didn’t stop by our house? And we’re freaking Irish! We invented this crap and nowhere in my “how to be Irish handbook” does it say the leprechaun makes visits to your house to spread cheer and glee to children. Isn’t that Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy’s jobs? In fact, St. Patrick’s Day really has nothing to do with leprechauns at all. The truth is, according to religious theologians, and as cited in the Bible, and according to a various Vatican resources, it is a high holy feast day that should be celebrated with reverence by knocking off work early and getting royally drunk. And as a good Irish Catholic girl (okay, middle aged woman), I abide by these rules stridently and with my head fully immersed in Guinness.

Alright, I know that, as usual, I’ve gotten way off topic here so let’s get back on track. Forty is NOT twenty. It is TWENTY + TWENTY. My arse is tired. I work a full time job and take care of my children. And I don’t want this to turn into a big old fight between working mothers and stay-at- home moms, because, yes I’ve seen the bumper sticker, “Every mom is a working mom.” And it’s true, every mom is a working mom, and it is a full time job. But, if you’re a mom with a job outside the home – well then you’re a person working TWO full time jobs. And that’s incredibly exhausting. I don’t like to hear about how women who “choose” to stay home do so because they value their children more than a career or some such malarkey. I would love to have the “choice” to stay home. I cannot count the number of times I’ve dropped my children off at day care and sat in the parking lot crying my eyes out because I DO NOT HAVE THE LUXURY OF CHOICE. I do love my children more than my career, but staying home ain’t the hand I’ve been played. So, if I want to bitch about having too much to do and can’t make cutesy snacks and come to every flipping PTA meeting it’s because I’m working TWO FULL TIME JOBS! Again, sorry to my wonderful friends who are stay-at-home moms, you’re total rock stars, and I’m jealous as hell.

Okay, again, back to being 40. It is definitely not the new 20. But, I do find I am much more comfortable with who I am and care less about what people think of me. That’s part of why I started writing. I was tired of hiding what I really thought for the sake of someone else. I can write about my life, insult, cuss and be my true self (who apparently has a major potty mouth). Who am I kidding? I still give a giant shit about what people think. I’m still crushed with every rejection. I’m still scared every time I publish a blog post of what people will think; if they’ll hate me, if they’ll decide I’m unworthy – you know, the regular. I still am unhappy with my 125 pound frame (shut the hell up right now, it’s true, it says so on my driver’s license). I still cry when someone I thought was a friend turns their back on me. A friend of mine was just telling me that if people do that then they’re not good enough to be my friend in the first place, but it still hurts. I’m striving to love myself more and appreciate each moment. (Alright, now I’m starting to cry – for heaven’s sake, why the hell am I awake?). I love my stretch marks and scars and see them as proof of a life where I’ve taken risks, lots of them, and I’ve survived.

And hopefully, my stay-at-home mom friends and PTA rock stars will not hate me. I’m 40, I’m tired, and I can’t sleep. Cut me some slack.

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