Reaching Mile Marker 40 on the Road of Life

Photo by Nandhu Kumar on

I turned 40 this past Thursday! During the last week of my 30s, I set an intention to finish my 30s and begin my 40s with as much joy as I could find in each day. On this 4th day of being 40, I’d say it’s been a success. That joy included dancing, of course. I also enjoyed four different birthday cakes, which felt appropriate to celebrate each decade.

Looking Back

There has been much reflection as well. My 30s was the most significant decade of my life, to date. It witnessed my journey into competitive ballroom dance, becoming The Girl with the Tree Tattoo, publishing my books and journals, and earning the title of World Champion. It also watched me journey into the worlds of entrepreneurship and personal development. During my 30s, I advanced my career and moved from one corner of the country to the other. As my 30s came to a close, I reveled in the joy that is Zumba and explored new realms of dance, including ballet and modern. I felt a little sad to know I would be saying goodbye to a decade that meant so much.

The last 10 years haven’t been all sunshine and rainbows. There were plenty of dark days and difficult times, but I don’t feel the need to revisit those. I’d rather celebrate the good days and the triumphs over the dark times (even if triumph on some days meant simply getting up and dressed). I found it interesting as I reflected back on the last four decades to recognize the phases that my adult life has gone through.

In my 20s, the focus was living my life in the ways that I thought I was supposed to live, or in the ways that the world or society expected. I graduated college, got a full-time job, bought a car, and got married.

In my 30s, the focus shifted to living my life in my own way but still wanting to prove to the world that I could succeed. There was a need for that external validation, to show others that I could do it. I became single again and insisted on competing in dances that were full of tradition while showing off a full-back tree tattoo. I forged my own paths while hoping for approval.

As I begin my 40s, I notice that my concern for the opinions of others, when it comes to how I’m living my own life, has faded. I’m living my life in the way that makes me feel most aligned and happy, and I just don’t care about whether others approve anymore. It’s a liberating feeling and one that I’m grateful for as time moves me closer to the age when many women start to feel invisible to society. This shift also explains why I feel less motivated to be visible on social media constantly or force myself to blog when I’m not feeling inspired to share. What I need, love and/or desire out of my life has been prioritized over what others want or expect from me. So it’s ok if society forgets I exist just because I’m becoming a “woman of a certain age.”

Looking Forward

Considering how much I experienced and accomplished in the last decade, it’s exciting to wonder what my 40s will see me through. A small part of me feels a bit of pressure to make sure my 40s live up to my 30s, but at the same time, another part of me is telling that first part to chill and not burden us with expectations already. Let the 40s be their own decade!

I’m already continuing to expand my personal dance world – I signed up for a Fosse-style jazz workshop that goes for four weeks starting next weekend. I am EXCITED! I haven’t taken a jazz class since I was about eight years old, so when I heard about this workshop, I jumped at the chance. Bob Fosse is such an iconic figure in the dance and musical worlds, and jazz is such a fun dance style. I just can’t wait!

I’m curious to see how big of a role ballroom dance will play in this next decade. My ballet and modern teachers smile at me when they put a waltz on now because I can’t help but light up and start swaying when I hear that 3/4 count. I miss my ballroom dances, but I’m also getting so much out of these other dance styles. If/when I do get back to more regular ballroom training, I’ll be bringing a whole lot more to the dance floor thanks to them. Part of me wants to get back into ballroom just so I can see how different it feels after taking regular classes in other dance styles.

Right Now

At the end of the day, 40 is just a number and it’s not like I was transformed dramatically when the clock struck midnight on my birthday. It’s a mile marker on the road of Life with a round number, which for some reason, we as humans like better and focus on more than other numbers. Society may view me differently at age 40 than they did on the day before my birthday when I was still 39, but in reality, I only aged a day.

Even though it is just a number, I have to admit that I view myself a little differently too. It does feel significant to think that I’ve now been on this planet for 40 years. I feel the weight of the wisdom that’s been gathered over that time period. As I mentioned already, I also feel liberated as a result of learning and accepting that others do not get to dictate how I live my life.

I know some dread the passage of time and watching that age number tick higher every year. Some see it as a countdown to the end, but I see it more like counting all of the levels I’ve won in Life. I’m celebrating the reaching of this mile marker. I value all of the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated so far, and I look forward to accumulating more as my life continues.


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