40 is… self-absorbed. Criminally so. But that’s probably not just ok, but inevitable, necessary…


Today, I am 40.

Thank you.

It’s kind of fabulous.

Frightening, too, because… promise not to tell anyone under 40? OK. Frightening, because… well, I thought that by 40, at 40, I’d have things more figured out. You know? I’d be… all grown up.

Oh, don’t press me; don’t make me be specific. I know I’ve done a bunch of all the things… children, marriage, career (sort of). I have no complaints and no regrets, very, very few “I wish I had” U-turns…

I just thought—when I was 10, 20, and even 30—that by the time I reached this particular number, four decades on this earth, I would be more… enlightened. More “done” this whole growing up thing.

That’s all.

Instead… here I am. So very, very flawed. And unfinished. And uncertain. And not sure what next, where next, how next…

And you draw me into yourself and hold me and ask me… do I know anyone who’s “done”? All grown-up, you mean? I ask… Yes, you say. Do I know anyone who’s… got it all figured out—or at least says/presents as if they do?

(Always, you and I, with the qualifiers.)

I think.

Yes. Yes, I do.

And what do you think of them, you ask…

And there is only one thing to say, isn’t there? They are either boring or insufferable, these rare people who’ve got it all figured out, who are “done.” More often: both.

There, you whisper into my self. And you’re neither. So. What next, where next, how next—that’s what’s so very exciting, yes?



Today, I am 40 and I am feeling very reflective, pensive and utterly, utterly self-absorbed. Perhaps even more so than in adolescence when SELF was emerging from CHILD. And now, SELF is emerging from/fighting with/playing with/contradicting/stretching/breaking/building SELF, and wow. What next, where next, how next?

I think… let’s go this way. This way—yeah, there, that-a way. For a while, anyway…


And, because, 40 is so very, very self-absorbed—criminally so, ridiculously so, in a most frustrating “needs a hard slap upside the head and yo-princess-you-are-utterly-insignificant-in-the-grand-plan-of-the-universe-so-why-all-the-angst” kind of way—here is what my 40 looks like, is. In pictures and words. Because. Writer with an iPhone.* Lethal combination for the self-absorbed year. And, go:


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PS “Jane,  so… self-absorbed?”

“Utterly. Pretty sure, my love, temporarily. But here, in my play-space, where I can do whatever I want.”

PS2 This, here? Naked? Not so much. It’s always, always a performance. Even when it’s an utterly self-absorbed one…

*Most of the “self” images are from the #365feministselfie project. Because. Power.

25 thoughts on “40 is… self-absorbed. Criminally so. But that’s probably not just ok, but inevitable, necessary…

  1. You have 50 to look forward to. 50 is when you take a look at what you have done (have “done” now there is a novel word…) with your life for half a century…you do a bit of mathematical fandangling on your fingers (with your tongue stuck out for good effect…) and you realise, with a bit of shock that you might not be going to make another 50…you are probably more than halfway gone! “ARRRGGHHH!” “Holy shit! I have wasted half of my life contemplating my navel, yelling at inanimate objects (the television being the brunt of most of my angst), trying to either fit in or opt out and all of this time you could have been DOING SOMETHING!” You can, at this point, either panic or run around like the ubiquitous chook with its head cut off. This is when you have an affair, go travelling in far flung places with only a knapsack on your back and a disturbing look of concentrated determination on your face that scares the natives or you just start to melt into the furniture and give in…

    OR you can start to learn…you can pick up all of those loose ends, stringy bits left over from the last “X” amount of years that you have been leaving them laying around, and you can start to weave, knit, crochet, glue (I will leave the method up to you as who knows what crafts have managed to reciprocate their way into your own personal experience quotient…) them all together to make a rope…NOT to hang yourself with, but to climb…to find what this all means to YOU. To stop trying to fit in and start trying to figure out. I found 50 (well…it found ME actually…I didn’t have much say in the matter!) to be distinctly liberating. I thought that I would be hiding under the bed with Earl the pit-bull nibbling on the carpet in abject terror (where he just nibbles on the carpet because he is a NAUGHTY DOG!) but strangely I am calm. I think I have fretted the fear out of myself over the last 50 years and am left with an absolute wonder that I made it this far and a newfound desire to learn, to grow and to discover and the best bit? I have to time to do it.

    Enlightenment is overrated. Wonderment is the bomb. I salute you on your 40th birthday ma’am. I salute you and I welcome you into a decade of discovery and forgiveness for your own personal perceived shortcomings as suddenly they aren’t going to matter much anymore. Life gets a lot simpler and a whole lot more meaningful. I wish I knew this when I was a kid…it would have given me something to look forwards to while I was trying to lubricate myself into those skinny jeans, buying ALL the Nutrimetics cosmetics and layering 10 bottles of mascara onto my already overloaded eyelashes so that when I batted my eyes at the object of my desire, he KNEW ABOUT IT!

  2. Happy birthday, dear bloggy friend! Right behind you, I am…. I would like to see you naked, though, one of these days. Not naked naked, OF COURSE, but less performance. Just sayin’. Maybe something to think about in your 40s. xo

  3. When I turned 40, I was horrified for days in advance. My mother’s mother (who had quite a *euphemism alert* history), said, “Stop moping. You can still do all the things you ever did except now you’re smarter about some things than you were.” I do agree that enlightenment, in some absolute sense, is over-rated, but mostly, even when it comes, it’s momentary—five minutes here, five minutes there. And then the pause is over and we’re back in our lives. If the faces in your pix are any indication, Birthday Girl, it’s been a year you couldn’t imagine a year ago. Tested. Shining. Burnished, even. Carry on!

  4. I’ll be 40 next year… Wowzers. I guess it’s a milestone for me not in that I thought I’d have more figured out by now {because though I know I am not “done” I do feel very content and fulfilled in the path I have chosen thus far}, but that it just seems so old! It’s midlife! And then I get all vain and worry about wrinkles and tummy fat and gray hairs….

    And I totally get what you say about being self-absorbed. I think I am focusing more deliberately on mySELF right now, after decades of focusing on my career and my students and my children…. not that I’m neglecting them, but I’m realizing how precious the time for reflection and me-time and me-development is.

    I just love this post, Jane. One of my faves of yours. Happy Birthday! 🙂

  5. 40 felt like a huge milestone to me. I didn’t like how it was going to feel for maybe nine months before my 40th birthday. On the day, something switched and it was suddenly awesome! 40 was fabulous and so was 41 and 42 and now 43. You will totally rock being 40 Marzena. Be as self absorbed as you like 🙂

  6. Things that I love you for:
    Coming up with this: “I wish I had” U-turns…
    Being unapologetically hot, awesome anything.
    Labeling that photo of your kids “embodied”.

    Happy self absorbed 40, friend! May all 40-year-olds be as undone as you.

  7. Aw Happy Happy 40, you. Here’s to never figuring it out, always being open, and being as naked as you can when you feel like it. I’ll be 46 in August, and haven’t figured anything more out except that there’s stuff that doesn’t need to be figured out. XO

  8. Pingback: Mosaic II | Nothing By The Book

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