This month I turn 40.
As this notable birthday approached, I kept waiting to feel some sort of feelings about it all. An impending and overwhelming sense of mortality, perhaps. Maybe a surge of youthful recklessness, an irresponsible spending spree, or the desire to become a yoga teacher. I was ready for anything.
Instead, I decided to close my business, learn about WWII, and start investing in higher quality clothing items, particularly those with elastic waistbands.
Not bad for a going over the hill journey.
As the big day got closer and closer, offers for parties and gatherings to celebrate came my way, but none of it felt right. I’ve never loved big celebrations where I’m the focus of attention. What I was craving was quite the opposite: Alone time. Quiet. Vast open space and a bed to cocoon in, alone.
Yes, a solo weekend away at the Oregon Coast is what I wanted for my birthday!
Luckily, my wife understands these introverted needs of mine and doesn’t take it personally. I’m certain this in one of the contributing factors to our 16 years together. That and our uncanny ability to get all of each other’s jokes, however dry or cryptic.
My weekend away arrived, and with it a flurry of excitement mixed with a bit of anxiety. Would this time away in fact be relaxing and rejuvenating, I wondered. Or would I feel unsettled, unsure of what to do when I got there, missing my family or feeling guilty for having this gift of time to myself?
I eagerly packed my hiking clothes, yoga clothes, bathing suit for the hotel hot tub, pajamas, slippers, a knitting project, two books and as many journals, tarot cards, colored pencils, markers, my DIY pedicure supplies, and enough toiletries to do skincare treatments for a gaggle of 30-somethings. I had no idea what I would end up doing all weekend, but I wanted to set myself up for some of my favorite pastimes.
The first few hours I was at the coast did feel unsettling. The possibility of doing anything I wanted felt daunting. With the absence of dependents or an outside schedule to guide me, I was literally unmoored. So I did what I usually do when uncertainty strikes: I walked.
I took to the beach and meandered over rocks and chunks of shell-studded sand. I peered into briny tide pools glistening with clusters of mussels and the pastel-colored tentacles of dozens of sea anemones. I watched wave after wave roll toward the shore and crash into the rocky coastline. I scanned the surface of the water for whale spouts. I took deep, unhurried mouthfuls of sea air and kept moving, one foot in front of the other. Eventually my shoulders relaxed and my mind stopped spiraling. By the time I headed back to my hotel, my head felt clear and open.
I could do whatever I wanted, But I didn’t have to do it all. Now and moving forward into the next decade of life.
Over the next 24 hours, I settled into an intuitive schedule of resting, eating, walking, reading, soaking, writing, and sleeping. Thoughts of the outside world mostly faded away and it was just me, listening to the waves.
I didn’t have any huge revelations or breakthroughs on my weekend away. But what I did experience felt far more powerful. I felt affirmed in my path and content with myself.
This is the true gift of turing 40.