Last month I had a conversation about age with one of my table neighbors at a convention. She was only a few years into her thirties, just as I’m only a few years into my forties. We mused about our twenties together, and I came up with a summary of these ages that I’m pretty proud of:
“When you’re in your thirties, you stop giving a shit. When you reach your forties, you still don’t give a shit… but your body starts to.”
I remembered my twenties. I’d spent so much time trying to figure out Who I Was, but I was also fortunate to fall into webcomics at the right time, so I had a lot of help figuring that out with like-minded people. It’s like the person I’d always meant to become was finally taking shape, but much of my twenties was spent refining that shape and smoothing out the rough edges. I was, however, very sensitive about what people thought of me.
I remembered my thirties. I feel like I finally became Me, mostly because I’d stopped giving a shit what people thought of me once that final shape had become refined and defined. I gained a personal confidence that finally felt genuine. My thirties were also momentous: I married the love of my life, a few years later we were fortunate to buy a house together, and we had a son. I fell into a physical fitness routine that saw me get into the best shape of my life. My thirties were great. I stopped giving a shit about what people thought of me and everything fell into place.
Now I’m in my forties. I still don’t give a shit what people think of me, but my body gives a shit what I think of it. I fall asleep on the sofa more times than I care to admit. My back hurts if I sleep in the wrong position. My feet have developed a constant dull ache that doctors can’t identify. Headaches I used to shake off in a night now last for days on end. I’m not in constant pain or anything like that, but my body is definitely… in its forties. It’s sobering at times.
(Small disclaimer: I realize I am lucky enough to have a body that’s been mostly physically healthy. People with chronic health problems have a much more difficult time much earlier than hitting their forties, and I feel it’s important to recognize how fortunate and privileged I’ve been in that regard.)
My twenties were the vital development of my Self. My thirties were the realization and evolution of Me. My forties may herald the beginning of not how I view myself, but how I care for myself.
But I don’t think I’ll ever give a shit what people think of me again.