Monday, July 13, 2009

One persona at a time, please

I turned 40 a few months ago.

Yeah, yeah, I know; I've mentioned this at least 160 times in the last few blog posts. Yesterday, as I mindlessly peeled pistachios for a dessert dish (and popping every third one into my mouth) I finally realized why turning 40 has turned into something of a personal obsession. It's because it's time for me to let go of the role I've played the last 10 years or so and move on to the next phase of my life. And that scares me, so instead of moving forward, I've found something else to expend my energy on and focus on--that I'm 40, and aging is no longer a vague concept but an actual reality. 

My life has sort of been divided into decades, each with its own "persona." During my 20s I was the young professional, working in PR and racing to met deadlines; dating, partying, essentially spending my life in the typical self-centered mode of your average 20-something. I did have other goals for myself, loftier (in my youthful opinion, at least) goals that had to do with writing the "great American novel" (uh-huh) but somehow those goals got shunted to the back of the line in favor of having dinner with clients and preparing presentations.  

So I met my hubby when I was nearing 28, married him at 29, and popped out a baby at 30. The second one came at 32, and I spend the remainder of that decade doing the mom/wife persona--whatever I thought that should be (my wife/mother thing veered wildly at times from Dr. Laura to Roger C. Shank.) My career took a back seat to kids, and the goals I'd had in my 20s that had taken a back seat to my career fell even further into the abyss of "someday I'll get to it". I spent hour upon countless hour shuttling my kids from play-dates to dance to gymnastics to piano lessons to the park and 'round again. When they got into school I threw myself into volunteering life as if my life (or theirs) depended on it. 

If that weren't enough, in my quasi-guilt that I wasn't contributing by holding a full-time job, I volunteered for several local non-profits from the local Library Foundation to children's charities to community groups. At times I was busier planning fund-raisers than I would have been had I actually worked outside the home. 

But I've realized over the last few months that my kids don't need me as much, either. They're content to spend the day--all day--with very limited contact with me. Plus, my wild overindulgence in charity work quickly burned me out--not to mention irritated my husband to no end ("Darnit, Kim! If you're gonna work this hard, you might as well get a job and get paid for it!"). So where I used to be the center of my children's rather limited universe, their universe has now expanded considerably and I find myself on the periphery. And that's fine--it's absolutely how it should be, in fact--I'd be worried if it wasn't. But I find myself with time on my hands that I never had before--and trying to figure out what to do with it.

Yes, I am freelance writing. The summer season is slow, though. And so I have time--at last--to mull over next steps. It's like I've suddenly awakened from a dream where I am now edging toward middle age--the years have gone by astonishingly fast. 

But what do I want my 40s to be? I'm at the proverbial "crossroads" (in other words, a mid-life crisis). According to, on average the American woman lives to be 81 years old. So at 40, I am nearly halfway done with my life. Wow. So the question becomes, with half my life now behind me, what do I want the next half to be? The kids obviously don't need me as much, I've limited my volunteer hours--both at school and in the community--to sane levels, and I've got one freelance writing project in the hopper right now. 

So while I'm now in the process of developing the "persona" of my 40s, at least I now recognize why I've been so obsessed with turning 40. That's something. 

I have a vaguely formed idea of what my 40s should be. I'm working on it. It has to do with finally making the time to write the book that's been in the back of my mind for the last 20+ years. Plus, I'd like to focus more of my freelancing on writing magazine and Internet articles, rather than just corporate and business stuff like fact sheets and news releases. Don't get me wrong; I truly enjoy the corporate stuff. There's no reason why both can't be part of the career I fashion for myself. Also, I'm currently writing a cook book with a friend ( and that in and of itself will play a large part in shaping the direction I go as I head further into my 5th decade. (yikes--did I really write that?? But it is--the beginning of my--gulp!--5th decade!)

So now that I've figured out why I've been so mopey about being 40, I can use that energy to focus on a new direction--and a new "persona." Hmmmm.....published cook book author has a nice ring to it....

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