A few weeks ago, I was catching up with one of my dearest friends from college. She’s a TV producer, and talked about how the business has changed in the 20 years since we’ve been out of school.
“It’s all young go-getters and they’re out for blood,” she said. “I used to be driven, but now? Well, now, I don’t care. I just don’t care. I want to do my job. I’m not out to set the world on fire or impress my boss. I just don’t care.”
She looked at me sheepishly and then was somewhat surprised when I slapped my hands on the table and yelled, “Me, neither!” in the middle of a packed restaurant.
I care, but I don’t care. I don’t care about impressing people or being the first or best or whateverest. I want to do good work. But it doesn’t have that very personal, very life-or-death feel that it used to. It just … doesn’t matter.
I believe this is the mythical “everything changes once you’re 40” mellowness that people whisper about. It’s like the next step beyond when I realized in my 20s that nobody cares what my hair looks like, even though 13-year-old me refused to go buy mulch with my mom until after I washed and dried my perm.
This 40-year-old freedom doesn’t have a name, but I have given it a symbol. And that symbol isn’t iconic music, or dance, or poetry. It’s the double bird, because that pretty much embodies how I feel about most things. Also, it still feels like a minor act of rebellion. Flipping somebody off? Kind of amateur. But flipping somebody off with both hands? You really don’t care. And folks best mind your awesomeness.
And so I was meeting a new woman in a business setting. And we got to talking, and she mentioned that she was turning 40 soon.
“Oh, you’re gonna love it,” I said. “I turned 40 not that long ago.”
“It already feels different,” she said. “More relaxed.”
I nodded. “Yeah, now I pretty much just feel like this all the time.”
And instead of being horrified or plastering a fake, get-this-weirdo-out-of-here smile on her face, my new friend relaxed just a tiny bit and exclaimed, “YES! That’s it exactly!”
I don’t know why turning 40 is supposed to be a bummer. I feel richer and fuller than ever. And classier. Obviously.