There, I’ve said it. I’m the big 4 – 0. Yesterday was my fortieth birthday. And I truly could not be happier. I could be coy, and lie (maybe a little bit more each year) about my age, but that is not my truth. The truth is, no matter how you slice it, whether you use “old math” or “new math,” I am forty years old.
In having attained forty years, I have experienced my fair share of triumphs and tragedies. But all that I have lived through has been the greatest learning experience. Looking back on my twenties, I realize that I didn’t know much at all about life – but I was a quick learner. By the time I was thirty, I was certain that I had it all figured out. But thirty-one through thirty-nine taught me that I had only reached the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I can tell you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, now that I have reached forty, there is still plenty more to learn, to live, and to experience.
According to the CDC, the average life expectancy for women in the US is just under 78 years of age – which means I’m more than half way there! As I am now aware of the fact that there are more days behind than there are ahead, it is near impossible not to reflect back on my life. Scanning through both major and minor events, I cannot help but think, “Has my life meant anything thus far?” The following poem (often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, though some speculate that to be incorrect) has helped me to answer that question:
What Is Success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,
This is to have succeeded.
At forty, I can declare myself a success based on Emerson’s criteria. Can you?