It’s so cliché to feel like you know more about life at 40, but really I think that might be a thing. And it did kind of sneak up on me! I was just 39 and sort of going along doing what I had been doing. Listening really carefully to others. Reading about life and how to live it well. And doing what I’ve always done which is to be, for the most part, good at following the experts’ cues about how to live. And then I turned 40.

I mean, it didn’t happen overnight, but during the year of 40 I, all of sudden, kind of trusted myself the way I trust a friend. Now I am 41 and it’s only in the last few months that I have officially noticed this, but I guess with the years in my profession and in marriage, I know what I am doing sometimes. I ask for help less, not because I am too proud or don’t want to, but because I know the answers to my own questions a lot of the time. I’m even able to give advice!

I can get quieter in order to listen to myself, my “gut” which never really made itself known so prominently until recently. I enjoy my own company. When I have to make a difficult decision, within me I have a team of advisors who weigh in and help. They point to this experience or that moment, and I don’t know how they know when to call on what material, but it just materializes. It’s so weird because I know I am still an apprentice in this thing called Life, but I am developing callouses instead of raw blisters and I have some muscle memory and stamina.

I know what it feels like to grieve. That’s new. I also feel like I know the definition of karma and it’s not what you think. It just keeps you honest. I know what it feels like to fail and I know that failing is a good thing. See, before I thought the whole thing was not to fail. I mean, I watched Oprah as a teen. How could I be 40 before I knew this?

Oh 40, you are a surprise. It sounds old. It truly does. Not to a 60 year old but to me, until now, it sounded old. To my 18-year old self I swore I would be 40, but I wouldn’t BE 40. I especially swore I wouldn’t wear bad clothes or be heavier than I wanted to be. Oh 40, how did you cast your spell?

At the start of 42, I realize how solid I feel in myself and I can recognize short and long periods in life when I have and haven’t felt this. Is 50 going to prove to me that this clarity is still all an illusion? There is so much less anxiety at 40. So much more acting as a Labrador Retriever does about life and basically enjoying it. Gratitude is sitting there, accessible at all times. I am overwhelmed at the beauty of life and the ability of the human spirit to overcome, and overcome.

Don’t get me wrong. I still learn and need to learn so many new things each day. I went to a conference today and learned about a new privilege, Cisgender, which I never knew I had. That’s humbling to go through life with a privilege and power unexplored. But the over 40 in me knows that this is not the last time (god willing) that I will learn a powerful and transformative lesson and that I will continue to shift my sense of self in this world.

There is a privilege in this moment that 40 reminds you to breathe into, to embrace. And learning to breathe at 40 seems really late. Well, not to be cliché, but better late than never.