Recently, a friend gave me a sweatshirt displaying the words “Nineteen 83 Original.”
I slipped the soft fabric over my head and pushed my arms through; the cozy sweatshirt fit perfectly. I looked down at the retro print, loudly and proudly displaying the year: ’83. I contemplated whether to wear it out that night. It was comfortable, I liked the way it felt and looked, and it was honest—I was literally wearing my age. Was that okay?
Would my mom have ever worn a shirt that so boldly proclaimed her age? My aunts? My grandma? Never ask a woman her age—don’t I remember being told that at some point in my life?
Yet, I have no hesitation in wearing this number that reveals my age quite literally where everyone can see it.
I’m just a couple of months into my 40th year of life, and it doesn’t seem nearly as old as I once thought it to be. Maybe it’s a shift in my own perspective, maybe it’s a cultural adjustment, or maybe it’s because my social circle is growing old with me, but I’m okay with being 40. I don’t think the decades of my past were my best years. The glory days don’t seem as glorious as the place I’m sitting in now.
Like my new sweatshirt, the beginning of midlife is comfortable for me. I like the way it feels and how it looks. It is honest and real and authentic . . . like it’s begging me not to hide it.
Turning 40 didn’t bring with it some new revelation of confidence or a lack of concern for what others think like I thought it might. I’ve read articles telling stories of women who found themselves in their 40s. I don’t know that I’ve found myself so much as I’ve found yet another version of myself, one I’m comfortable sharing with the world.
A version that’s gained wisdom from walking through some tough decisions. One that’s become acquainted with grace because she’s made mistakes and learned from them. A stronger version that has walked through difficult, heartbreaking situations and survived. One that is more able to recognize joy and contentment because she has a better understanding of what’s beautiful and important in life.
But mostly, I think this 40-year-old version of me realizes she doesn’t have to hide her age. The accumulation of years is something to be honored and appreciated.
These years between life and death are each valuable. There’s no reason to dread the number of candles on the cake because each represents a gift—another year we’ve been given to live and learn and love.
Even before we were born, God knew the days we’d be given, and I have to believe each is worthy. Each can be used for His glory. With God, no year is wasted, not even a day within it. There is no expiration date on our ability to be used by Him. Therefore, we should embrace the days and years we’ve been given.
There is no shame in our age. It’s not a secret number to be revealed only to those with access to our birth certificates. Yet, on the other hand, I don’t think it’s just a number without value or significance. Actually, I think it’s much more than a number. It’s a vessel that holds memories, accomplishments, and hardships from years worth of living. A vessel that will carry us into each new year, waiting to be filled with living and experiences.
We don’t need to hide our age. Maybe, with a little perspective and God’s help, we can even learn to wear it proudly.