girlfriend, aarp, age, aging

Meredith Miotke

The Secret Life Of A 40-Something

What nobody ever tells you — but we will.

If there’s one thing we know to be true, it’s that by the time we’re middle-aged we know the only thing constant and consistent in our lives is change. And yet, this season of life we’re in — the one where we’re supposed to finally have it all together — is wrought with uncertainty and strife. I mean, they don’t call it a midlife crisis for nothing.

Nobody told us it would be like this. As a matter of fact, we’ve been told mostly the opposite. Commercials espousing the peaceful serenity of newly empty nests, lucrative and satisfying careers that we’ve reached the pinnacle of, and visits with financial planners to discuss where to deposit all of our newfound disposable income are presented to us as if reaching middle age means we can finally relax and start to “live.” Even the internet is full of articles like “Things I Don’t Care About Anymore in My Forties,” and “20 Reasons to Love Your Forties.”

We’re supposed to simultaneously be liberated, yet mature enough to have constraint.

We’re supposed to no longer care about the appearance of our bodies, but then told it’s never too late to “get in shape.”

We’re told aging is to be done gracefully and without intervention, and yet we’re met daily with wrinkle cream advertisements and plastic surgery options, because it’s perfectly acceptable to change what nature and time is doing to you — if you feel like it will make you happier.

Happier. It’s all about finally hitting that sweet spot of adulthood where you’re happier, and you’re supposed to land there in your mid-40s.

What nobody tells you is that the sweet spot of middle age brings along with it some very sour changes. Changes that nobody is immune to, and for which avoidance is simply not an option.

Somewhere around your mid-40s you probably are going to be dealing with a metamorphosis that is happening right under your roof, and that involves cranky attitudes, stubborn know-it-all eye rolls, and empty refrigerators. And they’re called teenagers. Oh, what you wouldn’t give to be back in the toddler years, where a nap and a lollipop could solve most of the day’s problems.

Somewhere around your mid-40s, 20-year marriages suddenly scratch the seven-year itch, and friends you’ve only ever known as a “couple” suddenly end things. You’re left wondering if that fate will one day meet your marriage, or if you’ll be able to hang on “until death do us part.”

Somewhere around your mid-40s, death in fact does begin to greet you, but in ways you both expected and didn’t expect. Aging parents — with or without illness — begin to feel burdensome at times, as the child (you) now makes a major role reversal, and becomes their caretaker. And disease and terminal illness begin to strike many in your peer group, snuffing out young lives you assumed would get another half to live.

And finally, somewhere around your mid-40s, the urge to reevaluate career and life choices taps you on the shoulder, begging the question, “Is this really your passion? If not, do something before you regret it.”

So what exactly are those 20 reasons why I’m supposed to love this age? Where is the joy in this ever-changing decade of gains and losses?

I think I know the answer, and it’s found somewhere in your 50s. If I can just keep this life ship afloat until then, I’m sure it’s all smooth sailing thereafter.

It has to be, right? At least by then the teenagers will be gone.