In my kitchen cabinet, over the hyperbolically named coffee counter, is a mug. It's a cartoon, with cartoon font, and it says, "I'm 40, I ought to have more money by now."
It was given to my husband by his sister, his younger sister, a number of years ago. It was supposed to be a joke, funny.
But the only actually funny thing about 40 and beyond is that saying is sort of an ironic mantra. By now, you're supposed to have a lot more of everything: money, patience, perspective, wisdom, answers. Certainty.
I walk through each day feeling very I don't know-ish and everyone really looks to me to be quite certain. I answer calls each day to provide something. I want to turn to everyone and ask what I should do, what I should be, is this where I am supposed to be, is this it? Instead each time I turn to ask, instead someone asks me and I realize I am past the asking, as far as phase is concerned.
So as much as I feel very much in the thrall of a second adolescence, instead of being on the receiving end, I am on the giving end of life.
A very fast-paced life. I want a pause button to hit. I want to be able to say let's take a breath here. I want to be able to take a big risk and fail.
But the thing about after 40 is it's really a space that wants solid ground beneath it. It wants a clear path, with way points. I'm ages past being on my own journey, now I'm a conductor responsible for the well-being of those on my track.
I spend each day making a million little decisions, being decisive, figuring out things, being certain. It's a myth, really.
I'll tell you the truth -- I watch you and you look pretty certain. You seem to have it figured out. I think you know what you're doing. I bet you don't read the "what you ought to do by now" news articles and mugs and feel like you've let down some major principle of this time of life. You probably hear morality tales about the "what not to do" and feel relieved.
The only thing I am certain of is that I'm uncertain.
I've been on a marathon run and I am winded. I want to stop here, take a breath. I want to figure out if I want to keep running, why am I running, do I want to go where I was headed? I want to be uncertain. I want to get some water, maybe a banana, and think on it. I'd like to walk a while.
I'm tangled up in time, though, and if I stop it will drag me. So there it is: fear and uncertainty. Fatal flaws at 40 and up.
It makes people uncomfortable, these things. I know it does. So I will tuck it into a pocket somewhere and carry on, making decisions. Just in case you are looking at me, though, do not figure I know what I am doing. I'm fairly uncertain and this is who, what, when, where and how I need to be just now.