why 40 is not the new 30 ( + ‘weird’ is good for your soul)



You were wild once. Don’t let them tame you. — Isadora Duncan

When someone found out that my 40th birthday is almost upon me, she chirped, “Don’t worry – 40 is the new 30!”

Although I don’t remember what I said in response, I remember what I thought:

I don’t want 40 to be the new 30.

I’ve already been 30. I felt like a student who handed in a good paper and wants credit for her work.

I wasn’t sure why I felt this. It’s not like I want to get older and die. It’s not like I enjoy this growing awareness of my own freaking mortality. It’s not like I am displeased when people tell me – as they have since I was 19 or so – that I look younger than my age (thank you, excessive facial baby fat).

Then I came across some information about the word ‘weird’.

Weird, or wyrrd, as the mythologist Michael Meade explains in his book FATE AND DESTINY, comes from old roots that include the German werden, meaning “to become, to grow.” We are each born with a unique mix of limitations, gifts and potential – fate (the cards we are born with) and destiny (the story in the soul we are meant to live out) – that

“taken together comprise that which is truly weird and inherently unique about us.”

It’s our weirdness – our uniqueness – that enables us to be remarkable, to shine, to create a kind of value in the world that can’t be dismissed, ignored, imitated or replaced. The word ‘destiny’ can mean ‘to stand out, to stand apart’, especially when it involves the revelation or demonstration of one’s inner genius. So it’s by developing our weirdness that we find our true destiny. Our unique point of awesomeness. Our superpower. Our special sauce.

Or not.

Because, as it happens, no one is born into this world with a set of instructions that neatly dictates what our gifts are and how best to use them. Maybe we sense, deep down, the story that we are meant to live out — the purpose and meaning of our own individual existence – but we don’t exactly know what it is, and there isn’t anybody who appears on our doorstep to tell us.

All we can do is explore the world, each other, and the nature of our own experience.

All we can do is pay attention to the things that come up for us in the twists and turns of the living narrative that is our life, in the

“fateful issues and darkest areas that most of us try to avoid, outwit, or outrun.”

Life has a way of forcing us into events that we would never in a million freaking years choose to live out on our own. It’s those nights of the soul that show us who we are – and who we can be, if we choose to walk into our own potential (across that broken glass, those burning coals).

We are forged in fire and conflict (which is why ‘conflict, conflict, conflict’ is the first rule of writing fiction).

Wisdom, as Meade points out, involves “a darker knowledge of life as well as ways of finding uncommon illumination.”

I realized that it was the ‘darker knowledge’ I wanted to protect. It is that deepening ownership of my proud weird self. Claiming that ’40 is the new 30’ felt like a dismissal of everything I’ve come through in the last ten years, including the death of my infant son and my divorce. Those things are part of me now. They are my broken places.

And I am stronger for them — and weirder, and more unique, for the ways this life has knit me back together.

At 40, I’ve got more goddamn soul.

To learn your destiny is to know who you are (and vice versa). To fail at this is to live out a secondhand existence. To consume your life instead of create it.

Someone recently observed in the comments section that so many of us don’t know who we are. When 40 is the new 30, when we try to age backwards, is that really such a surprise?

Jul 31, 2012

12 comments · Add Yours

I agree with you, Justine.
I wouldn’t want to be 30 again, I dont want to be 20 either I have already done that.
Although I wouldn’t mind if my body worked the same as when I was 20 ;)
And being weird, I say dare to be different


“Life has a way of forcing us into events that we would never in a million freaking years choose to live out on our own. It’s those nights of the soul that show us who we are – and who we can be, if we choose to walk into our own potential (across that broken glass, those burning coals).” That resonates pretty strongly with me. I’m at a point in life where I am facing an immense amount of conflict. Though conflict makes us stronger, it doesn’t make those incredibly trying, testing, and emotionally draining times any easier.

Empowering but also honest. Love it.


Love your earthy soulfulness


Yes. This. I turned 40 last fall, with mixed emotions. It was the first time I have balked at birthday. I was stoked to turn 30 and be done with my 20’s for good. But 40…it challenged me. Granted, I had a lot going on, most of it challenging. What I realized, finally, was that, as you and others have observed, I would not like to redo my thirties, or my twenties, or–please no–my teens. I’m stronger, juicier, more sure of who I am. Yes, I would say it’s embracing my weird. I do it more every day, possibly at my peril, but it makes for a hell of a ride, and one that I could not have untaken a decade ago. I am less tame, more wild, more able to embrace that as I move away from expectations of what I should be and on to my own vision of what I want. Cheers, Justine. Your 40’s are going to rock, promise.


I’m in my late 30s and will be turning 40 in a few years time. I loved my 30s – I became more confident. more sure of myself, more determined. I learned a lot- and managed to brong forth my inner goddess. I’m looking forward to more lessons – and a sexier life – in my 40s and beyond!


I am not 40 yet, but not dreading the approach of that age either. I feel more ‘me’ with every year that I am living. And loving the acceptance and love that comes with it. So let the 40’s come for me. I am ready as I can be :)


Hi Justine: Suspect that your well-meaning friend (or acquaintance?) was attempting to offer you “comfort” when none was needed. We are (still) a young civilization with it’s predictable bias toward youth. Cherishing our well-earned worry (and laugh) lines is the first sign of beauty that endures. As someone with way more runway behind me than in front of me, I find myself resisting attempts to get me to be who I was…or wish I could be who I was, again.


A friend smoothed out my transition into my forties one day when I was ranting. He said, “You’ve entered your *uck-you forties.” How liberating a comment that was! Yes! It’s not that I run around saying that. But there’s a lot I take less seriously, and a lot I take more seriously these days. I’m over BS and the lies society feeds us. And I’m embracing the gifts that are uniquely mine. It’s a tough decade to be in – but I’m working it. Great post! :) e


Yes, you were right to balk at the well-meaning comment. I’d never want to go back 10 years to who I was in my 30s. 30s-me wasn’t bad, she just wasn’t who I’ve become. I’m both more comfortable with who I am, because I know myself better, and better able to challenge myself. The security of survival, of soul, make me freer in my 40s than I was in my 30s.

Besides, there is the basic fact that I’m guessing we’d all be [whatever age you’re turning] than dead, so I say embrace and celebrate every birthday.


I am turning 30 next week and feel in the minority of women my age because I am actually looking forward to my birthday – to thirty. I see women transition from their 20’s to their 30’s onward with new-found confidence and self-belief, and a growing sense of who they are and awareness of living authentically to that. It’s not like they suddenly have it all figured out, but there’s a wisdom there that is slowly developing and strengthening.

Plus red lipstick looks way hotter on older women!

Seriously though, I have only recently discovered your blog and it is a powerful voice that I feel blessed to read. Lovin’ your badass style… Thank-you!


I recently wrote a guest post on my own thoughts on turning 40. It is upon me as well. My thirties have felt like a decade of proving myself. No more. I am ready for the clock to turn. When you turn 40 you get to wear crazy gardening hats just because. You don’t have to explain why. (This is second time I have come across Michael Meade’s name – I guess I need to pick up one of his books)


40 is nothing. Wait until you are 60.


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