This one is for parents of daughters, brothers of sisters, and every young woman who might need a little reminder of the new 40 and all the beauty that lies ahead comes from within the self.
When I turned 30, I watched my ex-boyfriend drink himself to the degree of delirium at the Black Jack table. He was an alcoholic, which he admitted to on our third date in Paris. I thought our love could fix him, so we commenced a whirlwind romance that eventually moved us from France back to the United States. For my thirtieth birthday celebration, I invited a few friends for a weekend in Las Vegas. On the trip, he was drowning so deep in intoxication that an embarrassing altercation occurred outside of the hotel restuarant. I woke up the next morning with bruises encircling my wrists like handcuffs on a Genie chained to her master of senseless romanticism. I knew I had to get out of the relationship but for an eternal romantic that I was, it was an improbable concept. So I stuck it out, until I returned from a family vacation in South Africa, only to discover that our home was empty. He disappeared.
At the time, self-destruction was the sole pathway I knew as a form of medication – or, false healing. I drank until I was crying on the kitchen floor, waking up with my cheeks stuck onto the battleground of tears that flowed all night long. We continued to see each other, without commitment, for more than a year. He would go to bed at night, lying next to me while recounting details of his latest flame in the city. My heart bled profusely, but the pain was somehow a demented pillow of comfort. Even in those moments, I thought our love could still fix him – then, me.
I’m uncertain why I put myself in the latter. The idea of martyrdom oddly boosted my confidence level, playing the pretend role of heroine in our story was my way of altering the narrative when the reality was completely outside of my control. It took five years to fully recover from the breakup, if there was one lesson that I could go back and truly learn, it would’ve been to modify self-destruction with self-nurture.
In this last decade, I’ve done my best to utilize cultural experiences that have serendipitously lifted me to a constant movement of self-elevation. If I went through another mini heartbreak, I would pamper myself by picking a dreamy destination and let my conversations with locals or solo dinners enhance my present moment. Whether it was journaling with a glass of wine in Sintra, Portugal, or strolling through the hills of Cinque Terre, Italy; the aches that twisted my heart would transcend into an introspective reassurance. In these snapshots, a deeper voice within me would always ignite a simple yet powerful reminder: I will be okay.
Two weeks ago, I would’ve painted the vision of life in my forties as a quieter one with less traveling revolving around companionship which for me, is never defined by marriage or kids but compatibility. For me, compatibility far outweighs the ring. Now, on the week of turning 40 years old, that vision has vanished and I find myself redefining the next decade with a bit of heartbreak but a whole lot of self-pampering.
There’s something truly powerful about turning 40. It’s about taking the power back in situations that are outside of our control, whether it pertains to the coronavirus pandemic or a breakup. I think success these days, are constituted by those who can best adapt to changes or life’s unprecedented turns. While my life seems to move forward as it always does – traveling from country to country – my inner self remains grounded and steady. I no longer need voices of reminder, knowing that “I’ll be okay” is now an automatic switch when things go terribly wrong.
Unlike a decade ago when I thought treating pain with more pain was the solution, I now choose to spoil myself with a week at the Ritz so I can live life like Coco Chanel even just for a little while. Beyond that, I decided to march into my forties with an abundance of self-care, in opulence, completely by myself.
I hope this note empowers every young woman in times of crisis to: stay classy, remain authentic by being true to yourself, and always mark your boundaries by taking back your power.