Thursday, July 23, 2015

"40 and life you got it..."

... "40 and life to goooo!"

I am about to turn 40. "The big four oh." My soon-to-be 40 friends want to celebrate. Debauchery in Vegas, a comfortable cruise through the Caribbean... "something big!!! We're officially old!!!!" I feel like I should be more excited.

I guess I'd be a lot more excited about partying if we were really celebrating being older. I feel like "turning 40" is a strange pejorative to those who are about to experience the event. There's always too much talk about the stuff we used to be able to do. The fun we used to have. The games we used to win. About how we didn't have to worry about getting hurt or sick or what the kids ate. Talking about turning 40 resembles funeral planning. Let's put together a poster board of all the good times we had, play some old songs, and pour out a 40 for the "fallen," defined as dating psychos or blockading the road with garbage cans or whatever. A couple of friends have had the juevos to tell me that I've "lost something" as I've gotten older. I suppose on the surface, it's true: I won a lot of awards through my 20s that I don't win any more, and I know a lot of people admired me then that don't today.

Look on my works before I turned 40, ye mighty, and despair!

But the truth is that I'm excited to be turning 40. Really excited. I enjoy being older. It's unbelievably gratifying having your toddler bum rush you when you get home from work. I have open, honest conversations with my friends. I say fewer dumb things, and I'm a better human being. I complain about work and I really complain about familial responsibilities like taking care of my parents, but these things have also validated my existence. I've impacted real lives in real ways. I'm authentically happy.

And really, it's that last point that matters the most. I respect who I was when I was young, but I was chronically miserable in my youth. Home was a scary place, and I never talked about it. Just wore a smile and moved on (side note: as I've gotten older and more open, I've learned that the "dysfunctional family" is what most people call "family." Why that makes me feel better about everything and embarrassed to complain about my upbringing is strange, but it does). For all the sad and hard things that have happened recently, from the death of my parents to starting a new career, I am overwhelmingly optimistic about the future. There's so much to accomplish in my career, so many fun things to do with the kids. How can the future be anything but good?

On my 40th birthday, I'll be in Baltimore for the ASHG Annual Meeting, presenting some research I did about how primary care physicians respond to the disclosure of incidental findings from whole genome sequencing. As for a blowout party, let's pass on the Motley Crue, crime-is-time thing. I'm game for anything that involves my kids, anything that involves plastic lightsabers or robots or other future-minded fantasies. Onward ho!