The Zero Years: Hitting 40 (or 30, or 50) and Hitting Reset

40 outfit

I was sure this outfit made me look 20

When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine what the adult version of me would look like. The only image I could picture was a generic brunette woman in high heels, miraculously free of freckles, holding a stylish clutch in one hand, and the upturned collar of a plaid blazer with the other – an image I probably borrowed from a model in a 1984 Spiegel catalog. I think I thumbed through the catalog’s pages and picked a future Colleen with just as much thought as it would have taken to decide upon the high-waisted, poly-blend, machine washable day-to-night stretch slacks that Colleen was wearing (slacks available in brown, black, crimson and navy).

But now, here I am – the adult Future Me; I’ve finally caught up with myself and am admittedly more excited to see what my kids will look like in 10 years, than what I will look like.

The arrival of Future Me has been on my mind for a couple of reasons. Not only does this week mark the one-year anniversary of the start of my saga with an incapacitating mystery brain illness and its iffy-turned-outstanding prognosis, but also, and more alarmingly….people born the same year as me have started turning 40.

We, the 1974ers, have been standing here holding our breath, waiting for our turn to jump into the 40’s abyss…an abyss I’m guessing smells like coffee, wine, car wax, chia seeds, and New Year’s Resolution gym sweat. We’ve already made our way through the 30’s abyss that was rife with kale, other wine, Black Fridays, parenting tips, and 5K’s.

I’ve been watching people gracefully handle their Zero Years– whether it’s 30, 40, 50, 60 or beyond – and how they choose to handle the new beginning the Zero allows them. They take a big trip, have a party, or sign up for a marathon. They write about it, too. They soul search, make a decision, change their hair, change their career, make a resolution, let go of something painful and, if all goes well, see the Zero for what it really is – a privilege.

We’ve made it! We’ve made it and the Zero rewards us with a chance to reset. Maybe we’ve been clinging a little too hard to that 9 year, but when we get to the Zero, it’s not an end, it’s a beginning; it’s a relief, and it’s a big deal.

Sure, 40 marks the beginning of getting to say “20 years ago” and still refer to a time in our adulthood. We check a different demographic box on the survey. We remember our parents in their 40’s when we thought they were so old. But now we know – they weren’t old, we were just young and dumb. It’s time to accept the reality that the NFL won’t be drafting us, and we might not get the chance to give the Academy Awards speech we wrote when we were 10.

But maybe we’re finally kinder to ourselves, and to each other while still enjoying the youthful luxury of expecting the best from ourselves, and each other. Maybe we’re still (or again) struggling to figure ourselves out. We’ve amassed actual life experience, and pray that it lifts us up instead of weighing us down. We’ve made mistakes, and we’ll make more, but maybe we’ll lean on that experience, and make smaller ones and fewer of them. Hopefully the Zero brings the wisdom that we’re not alone in this – whatever our “this” is.

It’s nice to have the company, and maybe in an inevitable moment of weakness, when we are comparing ourselves to each other and evaluating who’s accomplished what by when, the Zero will help us remember that not one of us is doing it exactly right, or exactly wrong. We each have sweetly unique stories to tell, augmented by all those Zeroes. I remind myself of this every day – when I’m feeling a bit lost, or unsure, or uppity.  I reminded myself of this when my husband woke up on his 40th birthday, and somehow looked younger than he did the day before.

Let’s help each other greet the next decade warmly so we can move on to the next thing like “make dental appointment” and “take up the bass guitar,” and let’s be happy we made it all the way to Zero.

Happy 40th to all my fellow 1974 babies. By the way, 1974 gave the world a lot of stuff: “Happy Days,” “Good Times,” “Little House on the Prairie,” Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” Stephen King’s “Carrie,” and Carl Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men.” 1974 brought you Leonardo DiCaprio, Jimmy Fallon, Elizabeth Banks, Christian Bale, Tiffani Amber-Thiessen, Lark Voorhies and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (that’s most of the “Saved by the Bell” cast right there), Ryan Seacrest, Amy Adams, Nelly, Cee Lo Green, Victoria Beckham, Derek Jeter, Lil Kim, Steve Nash, Carrie Brownstein, Kate Moss, Penelope Cruz, Alanis Morissette, Joaquin Phoenix, Eva Mendes, Jenna Fischer, Mekhi Phifer, Bear Grylls, Jewel, Da Brat and Hilary Swank. You have 1974 to thank for “Blazing Saddles,” “The Sting,” “The Godfather: Part II,” “Chinatown,” “Young Frankenstein,” ”The Conversation,” “The Towering Inferno,” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” In 1974, Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s timeless hit “Takin’ Care of Business,” was released as were Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” and Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.” Don’t forget Connect 4, the Magna Doodle, Post-It Notes, the Rubik’s Cube, Hello Kitty, Dungeons & Dragons, liposuction, the Heimlich Maneuver, and Richard Nixon’s resignation. 

40 bakingI got my 40-year-old lady haircut when I was 12.

You can find me on Instagram at colleenweems,

and Twitter @FulcrumChron

26 thoughts on “The Zero Years: Hitting 40 (or 30, or 50) and Hitting Reset

  1. Gerald says:

    Colleen, I am so glad you’re doing better one year later. I am also so glad that you continue writing/blogging. It makes my day reading your posts.
    Too bad your year can’t also claim Dustin Diamond (Screech) from Saved the Bell! There was a rumor he died, but he is alive and well. It’s very impressive the list of people, events, creations in 1974. I am most impressed that you had a “vision” of the future you!
    Gerald

    • The Fulcrum Chronicles says:

      GERALD!! How wonderful of you to read and share such a thoughtful note – it was great to hear from you! And Dustin Diamond/Screech – oh my gosh, we still reference that guy every once in a while. Well, obviously, we can’t wait to catch up in person. Thank you again for the note! xoxo

  2. Patti says:

    40… hmmph…. “shakes fist” you kids get off my lawn!!
    (when you are staring down 51it seems that 40 is nothing more than a fond memory… if only my memory was better)

  3. Betty Hempstead says:

    Love your wonderfully written blogs! But about turning 40—–you’re still just a kid and only getting started on life! May the next 50 be even better than the first 40.
    Mrs. Hempstead/Sequoias

  4. bristlehound says:

    Having just ticked over one of the ‘zero’ years, I can tell you that it gets better and more fun. No longer do the things that take up the time of the 40’s, require ones attention. You can pretend not to hear things, fain an illness and avoid a boring night out, eat what you want because you can’t get any fatter and be anything you damn well want to be. I am as smart as I have ever been, I laugh at dumb things, people let me sit quietly alone on a park bench and I may just swing it for some older age pension benefits. Ah! Life is pretty good and you young ones have all of this in front of you. B

  5. Sheila traum says:

    The zeros are just a hole , waiting for you to fill it in with the next exciting phase of your life! We are so lucky! Your writing is so fun and thought provoking!
    Sheila traum

    • The Fulcrum Chronicles says:

      Thanks so much Sheila for reading, and for your very thoughtful, kind, and encouraging note! I really appreciate it. (and your positivity and kindness comes through the computer just like it does when I’m sitting in your chair and I appreciate it so much!) xoxo

  6. Britt says:

    This is excellent. The message, the writing, your hair… the whole shebang. You are welcoming the next zero with grace and gratefulness and love. Welcome to 40, smart girl. The wine here is delicious. xoxo

  7. xxTruthBeToldxx says:

    Ohhhhhh I so so so loved this blog! Although I’m not 40 yet I’m 32 moving to 33 soon and it’s so weird to know that 40 is just around the corner. This was so fun to read. I hope your brain is really ok I wasn’t sure of you were serious about that or a figure of speech.
    Good health and fortune to you xo

    • The Fulcrum Chronicles says:

      Thank you so so much for reading and for your note! And you are right on the money, 40 sneaks up on you (and 35 gives you just a little taste of that feeling.) I really did have a bad brain situation exactly a year ago – it’s been a long recovery, but I’m thankful to be here, and looking back at it. Here’s my post about it that gives a few (light) tips in case anybody finds themselves in a similar pickle: http://wp.me/p10D9d-fG. (It’s my “Don’t Get Bangs” post in case the link is wonky. Take care and thanks again for reading! xoxo

  8. Kate says:

    Hello Future You! When I hit 5-0, my husband taught me how to give myself a life check up using a “life map.” Have you heard of it? You look at your past and present, then project out the future you want. Then we took what works for him (mapping) and what works for me (journaling) and created a guided journal with life maps. Plume/Penguin published it – MY LIFE MAP: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future. I wish you many more Happy O-birthdays!

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