Reflections on Forty

By Melissa Face

For the past couple of years, I have noticed significant changes in what brings me joy. A great sale, for example, is pretty darn exciting. An upswing in my 401k balance is another fun topic of conversation, but that hardly ever happens. And scheduling more than one medical appointment in a day gives me feelings of productivity and accomplishment that really cannot be rivaled. All of these habits point to one fact: I’m not young anymore.

And just in case there were any doubts, I proved this truth recently when I called my parents after a visit to a new pharmacy. “They are so nice here!” I said. “They filled my prescription quickly; my out-of-pocket was cheaper than other locations, and I was able to make a cup of coffee while I waited!”

“That’s great, Honey,” my mom said.

I paused for a moment and thought about what I had just told her. In the past, I have called my parents to describe restaurant visits, share updates on an interesting piece I was writing, or repeat something hilarious one of my students said. But today, I called my mom to tell her about a trip to a drug store.

“Holy crap,” I thought. “I’m old.”

Getting older definitely has its challenges. My skin and hair require maintenance that wasn’t necessary in my younger years. I take acid reflux medicine to offset the side effects of my blood thinners. And I make food choices based upon how they will make me feel the next day instead of whether or not I enjoy eating them.

Despite these hardships, I must admit that there are some pretty awesome things about getting older.

For starters, I have learned to say “no” and not feel guilty about it. Whether it’s serving on another committee, assisting with a school function, or accepting additional responsibility at work, there are times when I must say “no.” Years ago, this bothered me a lot more than it does now. But I have learned that there is no one sitting around, brainstorming ways of making my life better or easier. No one else is putting my needs first. That is my job. And sometimes that means taking care of me and saying no when my plate is full.

Another benefit to aging I’ve noticed is gaining the ability to own my faults and not be too hard on myself for them. I know that I can be impulsive and easily distracted. And I realize that those are only two of many faults and imperfections I have. I make mistakes, but I also admit when I’m wrong, and I apologize when I hurt someone’s feelings. These are not easy things to do, but they are much easier now than when I was younger.

I’m also aware that I’m not very domestic, and now that I’m forty, that’s probably not going to change too much. I don’t enjoy cooking and I only clean before vacations or when I know someone is coming over. I’m grateful that there are other people who don’t mind those things, and I’m fortunate that one of them happens to live in my house.

One of the biggest insights I’ve had is that my past does not define me. I am no longer the immature and irresponsible 19-year-old that I sometimes still hear in my own head. My mediocre high school career did not determine my future success, and I can still accomplish anything I want. I can be proud of what I have already achieved, and I can stop trying to prove myself to people who never realized they were asking me to.

The wisdom and confidence that come with aging are incredible. Sure, I go to the doctor a lot more frequently than I used to, and I’m sometimes a bit shocked by my own before makeup reflection. But I love my age, and I especially love that even though my skin is saggier and more wrinkled than ever before, I’m finally feeling comfortable in it.


About this writer

  • Melissa Face

    Melissa Face

    Melissa Face is the author of I Love You More Than Coffee, an essay collection for parents who love coffee a lot and their kids…a little more. Her essays and articles have appeared in Richmond Family Magazine, Scary Mommy, and twenty-one volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Read more at

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2 Responses to “Reflections on Forty”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your positive outlook and fun loving personality shines through. I firmly believe my life began at 40.

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