Last Friday I turned 45.
I started my birthday weekend working from home, with a plan to take it easy after a few hectic weekends (and before the inevitable holiday push). This has left me with a lot of time to sleep, and think.
And what I’ve been contemplating is. . . . 45.
I have been surprised by how “alright” I am with my age. I’m not 39 again. I’m not halfway to death. I’m neither over, or under, the hill. And those eye and forehead wrinkles that I was fighting a few years ago with various creams and serums, are now evidence of a life spent smiling – and I will consider myself lucky to add to my collection.
In comparison to when I turned 40, this birthday has been a lot quieter. No big party surrounded by many, many friends. Instead, time spent with a closer circle, while still feeling the love of a larger community.
And while my birthday celebrations have been quieter, at 45, I feel myself getting louder.
I’ve accepted that I am volume-challenged. My voice is loud. My laugh is even louder. And while I have tried to lower them both, it just never sticks. I’d apologize, but I’m kind of over that.
Instead, I’m trying to use my voice more – because at 45, I’m less surprised by the stories of those we expect to behave themselves, but don’t. Stories of sexual harassment, racism, violence, inequality, intolerance and hatred still devastate, but now I try to speak on the things of which I have an opinion, and as well as amplify and defend other voices on those topics where I have much to learn.
And I have so much to learn. At 45, I understand my privilege has sheltered me from so much – there are times when I don’t even know the proper vocabulary! But I do know the biggest mistake I can make is to assume I understand experiences beyond my own. So I’m keeping my head, and my heart open to ideas, opinions and perspectives.
At 45, I understand there is a risk of expressing an opinion that may not jive with neighbors, friends, educators, or prospective clients. But I’ve also come to realize that there are some subjects on which I can’t stay silent – they roll around my brain, demanding attention and pushing their way out.
My husband, who also celebrated his 45th trip around the sun this month, commented “45 is okay, but 46 is really going to suck.”
Maybe, but I doubt it. Because at 45, I feel like we are just getting started.