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Bits & Pieces: Welcome to 40

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More than I care to admit I find myself thinking, “Ugh, kids these day!” And I sound like my parents when I hear myself asking a dozen times a day, “Who left all these lights on? Don’t you boys know we have to pay for electricity?”

A bigger sign I might not be such a young muchacha any longer is that I’m thrilled to be on my sofa as I write this on a Friday night. I’m dressed for the occasion in the most unsexy pair of pajamas — the oversized, slightly stained T-shirt I stole from my husband’s closet about a decade ago — a decade that is now in the rearview mirror. Hello four zero and hello slew of emotions tied to this milestone birthday.

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For one, I’m a bit caught off guard that I’ve somehow entered full on ma’am status. It’s one thing if you’re living in the south where everyone gets ma’amed. But, when you’re at latitude 39 I’m not so sure the shoe quite fits. Can someone come up with a different title for women who are not quite a misses but not quite ready for ma’am either? If they did it for the tweens I don’t think it’s too much to ask to do it for us.

Then there’s the mountain of disbelief. And sorry in advance for sounding so cliché, but holy hell time flies! I remember parents at high school graduation said it would happen but I did not believe a word seeing that the high school years often felt eternal.  And to add to my bewilderment can someone please explain how a person like me, who holds the label “middle-aged woman,” instantly goes into dancing fool mode when I hear some ‘90s hip-hop?

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But, possibly the strongest and by far the most welcome emotion attached to this new decade is sense of ease and contentment. It’s an incredible realization that I just don’t give a damn about so many things that used to consume my brain. This calm is a far cry from where this journey to adulthood began.

Looking back on my twenties I can tell you it was not a time when my mind was at rest.  On the contrary I had a considerable amount of uncertainty. For the first time in my life I had no financial hand-holding. On the surface I was having fun fluttering around like a butterfly in the breeze, but inside I was weighed by anxiety trying to figure out who I was. The boyfriend and I jumped from job to job and city to city. We lived and worked abroad for a short while surviving on odd jobs, our sense of adventure, and maybe a little too much cheap beer.

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During that decade I was consumed by big questions like, “What do I want to do for a living?” and “why are we always so broke? Immediately followed by,  “Do I really need to buy health insurance?” It was a time where I was trying to balance low paying jobs with big dreams. Together we survived the unreliable car, the crappy jobs, and the stress of yet another insufficient fund notice. Somewhere in mix we were able figure out how to get the money to finish school and get closer to our careers. I married that boyfriend and a year later arrived at 30.

I quit being such a headcase and settled into life a bit more (or maybe life settled me). I worked tirelessly to pay off my student loans and save for a down payment on a house. There were trips abroad for work and pleasure. My husband and I finally had our careers on track and it felt good to not go into major panic mode when our car had an unexpected issue. Like many of our friends, we were hitting some of life’s bigger milestones like buying a house and meeting our baby boys. It was one exciting big life event after another.

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And now 40. I’m convinced this new stage of life is another turning point, an age that has ignited a stronger sense of urgency in me. And because time’s a-tickin’ maybe I’ll finally stop being such a sissy and get my first tattoo, that and really, REALLY focus on weeding out the petty bullsh*t more than ever before. I suppose I feel that arriving at roughly the halfway point one is able to see over to the other side, a place we’re all heading.

Don’t think I make it a habit to dwell on my own death, but I do have a strong feeling that if the last twenty years flew by the next decades will for sure go screamin’ by.

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Indeed, there are times that I’m scratching my head wondering how I got qualified for all this adulting, and why it takes my body so long to recover from that last workout. But, if arriving at this age comes with more calm, more confidence and more peace of mind I say bring it!

Forties will be fantastic and to celebrate my fortieth trip around the sun I’m going to bypass the cheap beer and instead mix up a margarita with a quality tequila and real limes while I crank up the ‘90s gangster rap. Then I think I’ll watch an episode or two of Friends, all while bumming around in my grungy old T-shirt. Oh, Friday night, you never had it so good.

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Judith Ritschard was born by the sea in Mexico then transplanted to the Roaring Fork Valley where she turned full on mountain girl. You might spot her in her huarache sandals on her townie bike trying to keep up with her two wildlings in Carbondale.