I’m excited to turn 40. It’s not going to happen for another seven months, but I’m looking forward to it. After I turned 28, I used to dread every birthday and getting older. I would try to play it off like I was really excited to be celebrating my birthday and I usually was because it meant getting to spend time with friends, but deep down I would feel pangs of anxiety at the thought of aging another year. I’m not sure about men, but women are fed this lifetime’s worth of bullshit about the importance of staying and looking young. This is not to say that I don’t put on serums and lotions that are supposed to slow down the progression of wrinkles or dye my roots monthly to keep the grays at bay, but I feel honored to be aging.

I was listening to a podcast a while back and the guest was asked about aging and what their thoughts were on it. I was expecting the guest to lament about getting, looking, and feeling older as we have all been trained to do. Even though I can’t remember which podcast it was, I’ll never forget what this person said. They said, “Aging is a privilege. Not everyone gets to do it.” That shit hit me really hard because I had never thought of aging in that way. I have four friends who all passed away under the age of 40. When I turn this age, I will have outlived all of them. In all reality, I already have outlived my friends that passed away because 39 was the oldest age one of them made it to.

It’s intense to think about this, to realize that I have outlived people that I knew and loved. It is also intense to think about the fact that not everyone gets to age. Not everyone gets to look in the mirror and see wrinkles, gray hair, and other notable signs of getting older. I do complain sometimes about getting old, about my lower back pain, my increasing amount of gray hair, about not being able to handle my liquor like I used to, etc. but I try to keep in mind the blessing of aging.

I don’t know if it’s a common mindset that many people have when they think about hitting those milestone years that lead into the last half of our lives. Many people fear and dread getting older; I was one of them. I think what we fear is the erasure of our youth, our carefree days, days where we had little responsibilities, mornings we could wake up after a night of drinking and be able to carry on like nothing happened, taking a physical fall and not being phased by what it did to our bodies. But, when you really think about it, youth is great but it’s not everything.

Even though we live in a society that praises the ability to stay youthful physically, it’s not the end all be all of life. I think having a youthful heart is the most important aspect to take away from those days. Staying joyful, humorous, and playful is what I want to keep with me into my gray days. Having the ability to laugh at life, laugh at myself, and look for those very slim silver linings will keep me (I hope) feeling lively until my final breath.

I’ve got seven months to go until I hit that 40th milestone, an age that, at times, I felt I wouldn’t hit. Instead of feeling like I’m hitting a brick wall of aching knees and more crows feet, I anticipate jauntily striding through that door and welcoming the second half of my life. I feel like I’ve turned the corner in a lot of ways these past couple of years. I cry more easily than I did before because I’ve let go of some of that toughness I harbored for so long. I laugh more easily at myself because I’m no longer trying to impress many people and have embraced my quirks. I love more fervently and express it because I have learned time and again that life can be short and you just never know when someone’s light will be extinguished and you can’t love them fervently anymore. Even though I feel some panic every now and again about getting older, I’m also excited to see what the rest of my days have in store for me. That’s some crazy shit to admit in a world where aging is seen as our enemy and not as a privilege.

Not much, really.