In age-obsessed America, it seems we are destined to never be happy. When we're 12, we want to be 16. At 16, we long to be 21. By 25, many start fearing 30. As we approach the end of our 30s we seem to almost universally become obsessed with not looking or feeling 40. Beyond the 40s, we must think it's all down hill because we increasingly turn to pills and procedures in an effort to virtually stop aging altogether.
Enough I say! While it's too late to redo the first 40 years of my life, I for one am not going to spend the next 40 years wishing I was some other age. How much time have I already wasted? Adding to that would be a crime.
I am 43. And, I can honestly say that my early 40s have been some of the best years of my life so far. No, I am not as thin as I was in the 20s or 30s. I certainly have more wrinkles. And I do have less energy - though most people would still put me in the "energizer bunny" category. But, despite all these things, I think 40s are fabulous because they are the time so many of us finally come into our own. We've probably already accomplished a lot - professionally and personally. And we have likely figured out what really matters to us. This lets us stop obsessing about things that don't really matter and start focusing on the things that do. And, we can afford to expand our horizons - beyond just trying to improve our own lot in life to really trying to make the world a better place too.
As for aging well, I have always tried to work out, eat right, and take care of myself -- and I still do, with more or less success depending on what else is going on in my life. But for me, as I entered my 40s, it was great to feel so empowered and to stop being so hamstrung by feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. I spent way too many years thinking that no matter what I did it wasn't enough: I wasn't pretty enough; I wasn't smart enough; I wasn't successful enough. And, from what I observe, I'm not alone. Many of us spend much of our lives beating ourselves up for all that we are not. When, what we should really do is celebrate all that we are and use it to the fullest extent possible. That is probably the greatest lesson aging has taught me and even if it took a few wrinkles to learn this, I'm grateful for it.
I'm sure everyone hits this "I'm OK" state at a different point in their life, but for me, turning 40 wasn't some awful thing. I remember thinking on my birthday: I am pretty damn lucky. My youth may be behind me but if you look at the big picture I've pretty much got everything I wanted. It makes me feel like the next 40 years - which I certainly hope to have - are just icing on the cake. Of course in my view, icing is what makes cake so sweet, so I really am looking forward to them! And, I pledge not to become one of those women who obsesses about each passing year. What about you? Are you ready to celebrate every year?
Perry Yeatman is SVP of Corporate Affairs for Kraft Foods and co-author of the award winning book Get Ahead by Going Abroad: A Woman's Guide to Fast Track Career Success.