I recently turned 40. I had been anticipating that day for about the last year and a half. Sometime shortly before my 39thbirthday, the reality that I would be hitting a major milestone soon set in. My first thought was one of delight. Even though I have been “grown” for a long time, I recognize that for most people, there are levels to adulthood—legal adulthood, “fun” adulthood, old enough to know better, old enough to do better, and then solid adulthood.
For me, solid adulthood happened somewhere between 30 and 35. It was when I knew better, I did better, I was completely self-sufficient, and I became crystal clear about the things that mattered to me.
My 30s was when many of the life lessons my mother taught me began to ring true:
“You will be able to count your real friends on one hand”
“Stay humble because life can change in an instant”
“Value the people close to you because they won’t always be here”
So, what is so special about 40 besides that fact that it just feels like a big deal? For me, it is the marker of PEAK adulthood. I jokingly told all of my close family and friends to prepare for me to be obnoxious during the entire year that I turn 40. I am planning to rebut every suggestion, correction, and/or piece of advice with, “I am 40 years old. I got this.” Of course, I was joking…mostly…because even being solidly comfortable that I have this “adulting” thing under control, what I know for sure is that there is always room for growth.
As the big day approached, my faves (i.e. my parents) kept asking me what I wanted…as in what they could buy me. I realize that after losing two other children, this is just as much a celebration for them as it is for me. Every birthday of their “survivor child” is a big deal.
When I was younger I would have a laundry list of things I wanted for my birthday. As I have gotten older and recognize that the important things in life aren’t things, the list has become much shorter each year—a piece of jewelry, a bottle of perfume, a gift card…something simple and useful.
This year I could not think of anything no matter how hard my mom pressed. I had an idea of what I might get myself (a Mercedes SUV and a Louis Vuitton bag) but I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted anyone else to get me. As I continued to ponder, I decided that I didn’t want any tangible gifts at all…not even from myself. Well, I may still get that Louis bag but the things that I want…that I really want…are not things that can be bought. So as 40 approached, I decided that I would “gift” myself the following:
· Leaving anxiety, excessive worry, and fear in my 30s. Many of us survive, but don’t thrive because of fear. We spend years confined by the limitations of our anxious minds. My gift to myself in this year is to be free.
· Leaving behind the people, places, and things that no longer serve me. Just because it worked for me at another point in time doesn’t mean that it works for me now…and it is ok to let go, unapologetically. A job, a friendship, a relationship…if it is a soul suck, it has to go…
· Making my own wellbeing a priority. If that means saying no to family, friends, or other activities, I will do what is best for me at all times. I will remind myself that it is ok to take an entire weekend for ME, even if all I do is stay in my pajamas, sleep, and watch Netflix. I am not “doing nothing”. I am nurturing my spirit.
· Continuing therapy. I experienced a trauma last summer that forced me to go to therapy. Previously, I was one of those people who was on the fence about therapy. I believed it was a good thing…but for other people, not me. However, I could not have been more wrong. It was one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. Having an unbiased ear to help me process my sh*t has been so good for me this year.
· Taking care of my heart…literally. I will eat right, exercise, and manage my stress. I rebuke the notion that some ailments are inevitable (high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes). It may run in my family but it stops with me.
· Working on my body goals while fiercely loving and accepting the one I have right now. I will nurture my body by loving it, dressing it, and owning it.
· Reconnecting to my spiritual center and fellowshipping with others. A classic case of church hurt over ten years ago sent me running away from any and everything “Christian”. I have maintained a personal relationship with God but I have wanted nothing to do with church or “church people” since that incident. I have learned that while we may not be responsible for the things that hurt us, at some point, we are responsible for our healing. I choose to forgive and move forward.
· Accepting life as it is and not what I want it to be. No more living life from a checklist. Regardless of whether or not the things I want to happen, actually happen, I will be resilient, accept life as it comes, and not allow setbacks to take me out of the game. I got this.
· Giving myself grace to just be. Life may be unforgiving but I do not have to be that way with myself. I am a living being and everything that lives, grows. I will extend this grace to others as well.
Finally, I will choose me and celebrate me…always. If I don’t, who will? Channeling my inner Oprah, “What I Know For Sure” is…we teach others how to treat us by the way we treat ourselves.
Happy 40th Birthday to Me!
Kimberly D. Connell is a higher education administrator, writer, blogger, and social justice advocate. She is fiercely dedicated to unapologetically uplifting and empowering Black women and centering Black women’s issues. Kimberly has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology/Criminology with a Minor in African American Studies and a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration.