I turned 40 and nothing really happened: A few things I’ve learned along the way.


I turned 40 with aplomb and positivity. I ditched domesticity and dishwashers and hightailed it to Vegas with some girlfriends. I soon landed back in Rhode Island, the land of very little milk and honey, to land my first full-time job since 2009.

It’s been a dizzying frenzy of doing ever since: working, scheduling, partying and sleeping. Yes, sleeping. My insomnia has completely ceased without explanation. I slumber for a solid eight hours. I feel like a traitor to my own neuroses, and I can’t believe how delightful sleep feels.

A 20-year old me. What will I learn?

A 20-year old me. What will I learn?

But really, I turned 40 and nothing happened. No moment of Zen that clears up life’s issues, no bender worthy of bragging rights and shame. I was given a slice of adulthood in the form of a robust benefits package. It was all kind of dull. But, I gaze at my picture above, at a 20-year old troubled, intelligent, loyal and misunderstood young woman and think, “what has she learned along the way?”

Soak yourself in heartbreak while you can: To be awash in purely wretched heartache is a lovely and essential experience that  should be clung to once or twice. My romantic heartbreaks are, hopefully, over, but what a shame if they’d never been there. I want you to rub the dirt of heartache into your skin, breathe in the melancholy, and choke on the sad songs. Remember it. It may never happen again, and it is an experience to embrace. The sorrow ends, it gets better, love sprouts again..

A perfect ode to heartbreak.

A perfect ode to heartbreak.

And may I suggest wallowing in sadness while listening to Sinead O’Connor’s The Lion and the Cobra. That album sounds like what tears taste like.

Party like Kate Moss: Go ahead, eliminate the drugs and alcohol, but have some fun while you can. Life does not stop after 40, or after squeezing out a few kids, but it does slow down. I danced on every table that could hold me; I wore the highest heels imaginable, and walked home with bare feet on filthy streets. Tell bawdy stories in inappropriate settings. Live. Taste. Hurt. Don’t apologize…well, unless you fool around with your best pal’s boyfriend-make no mistake, that action deserves an apology and flowers.

My friend Dina. Friends since the '80s.

My friend Dina. Friends since the ’80s.

Keep your Friends: Family is life, yes, but your life is also your life. Don’t always confuse the two. If you don’t show up, you won’t keep being invited. I clutched onto my friends through moves, divorce, sickness and a bad attitude. They are mine, I am theirs and together, we are glorious.

The grass may be greener on the other side, but there’s cat urine everywhere: If I wanted a McMansion with a luxury vehicle and lavish vacations, I should not have majored in English Literature and stumbled my way into adulthood. I can own that, I can stomach it. I live on the wrong side of the tracks in a lovely New England town, and the view is divine. The sooner I realized to be content with my lower middle class surroundings, the better life became.

mom ,jMarry Well: This has nothing to do with money. Marry someone that knows you have a life, too. I’ve lost so many girlfriends to Neanderthal men that still think women should be home baking gluten-free snacks for Bucky. Gross. Don’t get married and try to change someone. A jerk is a jerk, a good guy is a good guy and a chauvinist will always be a chauvinist.

Be Good: People can be such assholes, don’t be one of them. The hierarchy of high-school popularity never ends. It’s at work, at our kid’s school, at the bus stop. I resort to my high school antics: I let my freak flag fly high, listen to The Cure and quietly laugh at how uncool cool people really are.

mom-communionOwn your faith: I’m Catholic, now let the bashing begin. Does my Catholicism mean that I am an anti-homosexual, anti-abortion zealot that accepts molestation? Jesus Christ (oops, forgot that commandment)! No, it does not, and it also does not give people the right to bash my faith to my face after mentioning that I am on my way to church. Is there any other religion, other than Scientology, that this is acceptable?

Here’s the deal, I was raised Catholic and I am raising my children that way. I take it fairly seriously and attend mass as much as I can. I don’t get into all the sticky stuff and vote in whatever way I choose. Own your faith, don’t be ashamed by it.

My celebration of 40 continues. Tonight I will toast family by attending my niece’s starring role in another Massachusetts production. Tomorrow night, I will heavily imbibe with friends, all of whom I have known since that top picture was captured. So much and so little has changed.

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