This year I turned 40.
A number of deep changes have occurred amongst this human milestone. I got a diagnosis for years of unexplained pain, I have paid off enormous amounts of debt (with more still to go), and I stopped giving a shit about many, many things.
Someone at work told me that turning 40 comes with physiological and psychological changes that produce this sense of letting go. For me, I have interpreted this new decade as a signal that I am absolutely enough, just as I am, without the artifice of wanting more.
I have always been underestimated or overestimated – as if my fatness or intelligence or upbringing or “coolness” have been a predictor of my outcomes. But there are choices in life, and sometimes those choices seem strange to the people who are observing them and not actually living with their consequences.
I pursue knowledge without the need for prestige. I pursue meaningful work without needing the validation of false authority. I pursue a relationship without expectations that the person needs to complete me or be an accessory to a performance of a social life. It is enough to be mostly comfortable, mostly fulfilled and mostly satisfied.
Life is not only the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is fleeting at best, and if we’re lucky, we get enough moments of it that we can be okay with the downwards curve that is sure to follow. Meaning isn’t made by constant fulfillment; it’s made by experiences, some good some bad, and by remaining truthful to the reality of yourself through it.
I have had some experiences lately that only reinforce my resolve. Whether it’s an ill-thought out comment, a display of gross ego or bearing the brunt of other people’s projections of their own insecurity, through it I see that the path I am taking is the right one for me.
I have become more of that stoic I glimpsed in my 20s. I become less of the sage who absolves people of their guilt and responsibility with my endless understanding. I allow myself to say “enough” and mean it.
My minimalism is opening up space for intention. Less noise, more clarity.
Less wanting. More value.
Less. And less still. Until there is everything I need.
Image: Joshua Petker