Formidable Forty

As of this writing, I am about two weeks past my fortieth birthday.

I distinctly remember the weeks leading up to my thirtieth birthday. I was not happy at all. My dear mother-in-law had just lost her battle with cancer. On the same day, our beloved cat Bunny died. My father-in-law was living alone in Paranaque, so we had to move out of our townhouse in Pasig to stay with him.

I remember one evening when we were hauling boxes and bags into the car, and it was drizzling. I was tired, and the enormity of all the changes happening in our lives, one after another, just felt like a giant weight. “And I’m turning 30,” I thought. I burst into tears.

When my thirtieth birthday came, my husband and our friends threw me a surprise party, and I cried tears of joy.

People near and dear to me at my 30th birthday. Apparently the few pictures I took were awful because I was too busy having fun!

Still, I do remember feeling overwhelmed, as though there were things I was required to tick off a checklist, and time was running out. I felt like I was running out of time to have a child, to do something with my career, to get the body I wanted, to travel.

It’s such a far cry from how I feel now that I’ve turned forty. I told my friend Eileen, “I love how anxiety-free this birthday is. It is truly liberating to reach 40 and really NOT CARE. Like, a big F You to everything and everyone HAHAHAHA.”

Sure, I was on a high from all the birthday greetings, and the joy of being with my family. I was stuffed with good food. But I was also carefully examining how I felt, on the days leading up to my birthday, and the days soon after, and I was really struck by the vast difference compared to how I felt when I turned 30.

My birthday weekend in Antipolo

I know ten years can make a big difference. In the ten years that have passed, I’ve given birth to my son, I’ve come to terms with my sexuality. I’ve come to appreciate my body, for all its strengths and weaknesses. I’ve done a lot of interesting and exciting things at work. I’ve traveled. I’ve suffered tragedies and celebrated victories. I’ve come to accept some painful truths, and discovered beautiful ones too. And one of the most important things: I’ve learned how important it is to really, truly take care of myself, to value myself.

My birthday road trip to Tagaytay

At 40, I really truly do not give a damn anymore what other people think or expect of me. At 40, I know what I’m worth, I know my limits. I know what I’m willing to fight for, and what I can live without. I know my true family and friends. I know my truths, and I am always, earnestly, looking for ways to live them.

At 40, I think I have discovered what empowers so many women when they get to this age: the realization that we have every right to go out there and take what we deserve, that we matter, that we have the freedom to do with our bodies and our lives as we wish, and we only need the courage to make full use of the freedoms we have.

I love the hashtag that came with my birthday cake from the Comms Girls: #FitFabFormidableForty. I rather enjoy the thought of endeavoring to deserve it.

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