This is 40

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.

17 thoughts on “This is 40

  1. Sounds like an amazing weekend! I could use that right about now … and I get the unsettled beginning too.

  2. I love this. Today is my 40th birthday and I am having many of the same feelings. I was met with a dose of mortality yesterday as my dad called to have me help him design the headstone for he and my mom. It gave me a good laugh with the timing, thanks dad!

    I love that you went and spent some time alone. It sounds lovely and refreshing. I chose the party route because that’s something I love and I’m really looking forward to it. I agree with you that it is a true gift to turn 40. It comes with a level of calm that I didn’t expect and I’ve never felt before. Is contented excitement a thing because I think I have it.

    Happy birthday, Sonia!

  3. I love this! I turn 40 in July and I’m excited to turn forty bit feeling that midlife angst right now

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. This is such a lovely piece….thank you for sharing! I am of an extrovert, but this sounds like such a grounding, peaceful gift to yourself and something I am seriously contemplating. Im glad it was a great experience and happy birthday!

  5. …“missing my family or feeling guilty for having this gift of time to myself?”—I feel this every time I’m away doing something for myself.

    You are an excellent writer, Sonia. I resonate with every word. ❤️ To you and your family. Happy 40!

  6. Beautifully written Sonia. And good for you following that inner voice and giving yourself that quiet time for you.

  7. That midlife angst is real! I like to think of it as information – like if something is really bothering me for a while, it’s probably time to look at it a little closer.

  8. Thank you Jera ❤️ That mom guilt is a tough one to shake. For me, it gets easier the more I take time for myself. Everyone is fine and I’m better than before, whether it’s an hour to exercise or a weekend away.

  9. You might have found the meaning of life on that Oregon Coast, contentment with yourself. What a great birthday gift. Happy 40th fellow forty year old!

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