Permission to Fail
Updated: Jul 18, 2019
I didn’t really freak out when I turned forty. It felt like any other day.
Just with cake and enough candles to cause a small house fire.
My metabolism decided to backslide down the hill called, ‘you can’t eat pizza and not regret it’ somewhere around thirty-eight. So in all honesty, I didn’t mind crossing the official threshold. From everything I’d heard from those already enrolled in the club, my forties would be just like my thirties, only I’d have less f*cks to give – and would feel empowered to say so whenever I wanted.
My thirties with no filter.
How could that be all bad?
The first couple years felt fine. Honestly, life in your forties is so damn busy you really don’t have time to sit and contemplate deep thoughts until you’re at least half way through it. Your forties are full throttle. The twentysomething happy hours and thirtysomething preschool playdates have largely be replaced by holyshithowdoIraiseateenager and/or crapmyparentsareold and I need to take care of EVERYONE. Instead of going out on the town at 10pm, you’re snuggled in bed trying to decide if you can keep your eyes open through one more episode of House Hunters International. (They always pick house three when house two is clearly the best option. The lack of filter allows you to openly call them morons.)
It’s all fine. Really. You can totally pretend to like cauliflower crust, sugar-free coffee and that medieval roller thing you’re supposed to be pressing into your face nightly to get rid of impenetrable laugh lines.
By forty-three, I thought I had this all handled.
And then John Lennon hit me.
Life’s what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
I read that sentiment for the first time in my high school yearbook. The kid with the all black clothing and ‘edgy’ reputation used it as his senior quote. Ironic, of course, cause we all got sentimental about life passing us by at the ripe old age of eighteen when truthfully we had never even been out of our sweet suburban nests and our plans only involved who to make out with at a Friday night football game.
But at forty-plus, that cliché comes back to smack you in the face.
At least it did for me.
Wait, is this a mid-life crisis?? “You’re finally here! I’ve been waiting for you!”
But… Hmmm…Did this box come with instructions? Cause I thought this just included a tattoo, a sports car and experimental Botox?
Instead, I started noticing a common theme running through phone calls with similar-aged friends. We’re all more secure with ourselves than ever before (Go empowerment! You do you!), but also unsure of where we fit in. We’re old enough to be President for god sake. But how can we be old enough to carry a nuclear football that ends all known existence when we’re barely balancing work, kids, family and somehow getting the basket of clean laundry folded and put away?
We’re overwhelmed with everything and underwhelmed at the same time. We have too much on our plate and yet we look around and wonder how everyone else our age has “made it” and we’re still trying to decide what to be when we grow up.
Wait. Shit. We ARE grown up.
When did that happen?
How did I get put in the hot seat and not even realize it? The chief caregiver for everyone. My iTeenagers are suddenly addicted to Steve-Jobs-crack. My parents take 89 pills a day and suddenly need to be driven places and reminded of things. Everyone at work looks ten years old and acts entitled to 18 weeks of vacation, variable deadlines and double the pay.
That girl I went to college with is the CEO of Northrup Grumman?
They made four hundred gazillion dollars last year and, if they could tell us without killing us, probably half the stuff inside the nuclear football. What? How can that be? We’re old enough to do that?
WHERE IS MY SPORTS CAR?
Where is Oprah?
Don’t we all get a car?
(Can it please not be a minivan?)
Somewhere along the way we collected a mortgage, some tax dependents that look like mini-me’s and a prescription for anxiety medication. Those gummy-bear vitamins gave way to melatonin because: WHAT THE HELL IS SLEEP!?
And then there’s the realization John Lennon was right. (Or the guy who actually used that line first.) Life has gone by at Mach speed and I need it to all slow down. I need to figure out what I’m doing, who I want to be, how to carry a nuclear football and convince my son to shave that weird furry mustache suddenly growing across his lip. I still need my mother’s hand to hold and I need an Excel spreadsheet to chart my bucket list, my 401k and the possible places I left my keys.
I went to school to be a journalist. The girl with the pencil tucked in her bun and the spiral notebook permanently attached to her hand. I got married. I had kids. Bought a house and that minivan I love to hate. I don’t want to take any of that back. Many dreams have been fulfilled. Some have been permanently stored up on a shelf. I don’t need those to tumble back down again. I just need to feel like I’m not too old to try new things. Like I’m not too late.
I spend my whole life feeling late.
Getting the kids to practice.
Getting dinner on the table.
And figuring out exactly where I go from here.
We live in this social media epicenter where everyone around us seems to be killing it. Everyone has 89 thousand followers, 6000 likes and a POP Snapseed filter that makes life picture perfect. How do I possibly jump on that bandwagon when it’s clearly left the station?
Am I too late to catch up?
Are we too old to hitchhike?
(Of course we are. Don’t hitchhike kids, the world is full of serial killers now. They have to have something to put on Dateline NBC. Besides, it’s not called hitchhiking anymore, it’s called Uber.)
This is where I’ve spent the last year: Wondering if I’m too old for new dreams. If I got so busy making plans for Sunday night dinner and Tuesday’s deadline that I never fulfilled my purpose in life. Or even figured out what that purpose is.
Is fortyplus too old for babystepping toward a new version of me?
If Oprah came and gave me my midlife crisis car, I’d have to pay taxes on it, but I wouldn’t have to walk.
But walking is what I’ve decided to do. Because as I make that transition to carrying for my aging parents I know I don’t want to get to their place in life and look back with regret. With what-ifs. What if’s are life’s biggest assholes.
I have to give myself permission to try.
To try new things.
The fear of failure is the scariest thing.
But not as scary as the fear of never knowing.
It’s time to embrace cauliflower, John Lennon’s song and who I could still become.
So here I am. This is me. @harlowcole
I’m trying this.
No more waiting around for an Uber or Oprah.
<3 - Harlow