On turning 40

This past weekend I turned 40 (if you didn’t catch the sweet and hilarious Happy Birthday post from Elli and Jess on Saturday, do) and in a little over a week this blog will turn 10. That means that for the entirety of my thirties, I have been writing more or less regularly on this blog. For a quarter of my life — longer than I was a teacher — I have been sharing things I have made in this space. For a whole decade, I have been connected to the online sewing community. I’ve gotten to watch it grow and change, just as I myself was growing and changing in real life: having children, moving, starting a business, renting a studio, and so on. As readers, you have shared this decade with me, which is — let’s be honest — a little strange, but also really amazing and cool! Nothin wrong with strange.

I love being forty, and I’m definitely not ashamed of my age or growing older. I always joke that maintaining an online presence as long as I have requires a certain amount of inherent narcissism anyway, so the idea that I would feel badly about being forty is ridiculous. Forty is great! I made it this far, WOW, high five, me! And now it seems that having made it, I should be able to share helpful and uplifting thoughts that reveal how truly old and wise I am, right? Ummm. If anything, I’m even more hesitant to unleash any nuggets of wisdom than ever. The experience of approaching forty seems to be characterized by an increasing (and somewhat disturbing) knowledge that I know just about nothing at all.

What I know now that I’m forty = a lot less than I thought I knew at 30 = a crap ton less than I thought I knew at 20.

Side note: I thought I remembered reading a wise quote about what you know at 40 versus 30 versus 20 etc, and when I looked it up, it turns out what I was remembering was a line by JLo from InStyle magazine last year:

“In your 20s you think you know everything. In your 30s you realize you know nothing. And in your 40s you realize you’re not perfect and that’s OK.” – Jennifer Lopez, InStyle Magazine, Feb 2016

Admitting that I read InStyle (occasionally) feels like a step backward. Or not? You decide. Even saying that can be taken the wrong way, like I don’t think JLo can possess wisdom (not true) or that InStyle is elevated reading material or a good use of my time (pretty sure no tho?). There, I added the that (occasionally) to make myself look better. Is it better? I don’t know. See, I really just don’t think I know anything anymore.

(by the way, I like this TedTalk: Why 30 is not the new 20 about why we shouldn’t write off our 20’s)

Now that I know I know just about nothing, I feel like I’m in a pretty good position to focus on the small handful of things that I do know, like: BE  KIND. Or how about SHUT UP AND LISTEN MORE? These things seem even more important now than ever. This has been a weird year to turn 40; disturbing and heartbreaking and disheartening, for many reasons. I’m not sticking my head in the sand. But I’m not going to act like I know everything, either. I have a lot to learn, but I do know something. And I have a lot of hope.

It’ll be fun to check back on this when I’m 50.


14 thoughts on “On turning 40

  1. happy birthday! I am turning 40 too this year and I don’t feel bad at all about it either (well apart from my flappy underarms!!:)) love this post!

  2. Beautifully and hilariously written, Rae! This resonates so much with me. Welcome to your forties. From the ‘I don’t know it all either’ perspective of almost-47, the forties are excellent! Growing older is far better than the alternative, as they say.

  3. 40 didn’t bother me much since I didn’t feel that age and certainly didn’t look it. Last years 45 was and continues to be harder. In between the two I had to start wearing reading glasses. I don’t get carded anymore, I worry about seeing the first grays (still haven’t, knock on wood) and I’m finally seeing some lines and wrinkles. There are some things I’d like to achieve by 50 and they seem so hard, if not impossible since I haven’t done them in the past 45 years. It’s like I’m suddenly in the same hurry as I was in my 20’s, so that part isn’t a bad thing at all.

    So Happy Birthday and hold onto that I-don’t-care-feeling. Continue to not stick your head in the sand, like I did. Be brave as you can, as wise as you need to be, and never stop leaping to new heights.

    Also, keep designing because not only do I enjoy wearing what you’ve designed, I was finally able to make something for my mom that she loves, the Cleo Skirt, and I was able to sneak in a bit of my own funky personality and style for her in my fabric choices. After making my mom stuff for 45 years, this is the first time I remember her using/wearing something I’ve made for her! You must be magic!

    • Thanks, Gwen! Such good advice.

      I love that you made a Cleo for your mom. That’s fantastic, and I’m so glad she loved it!! woot woot!!!


  4. Congrats on your anniversaries!!! I’ve been following your blog for the last 10 years & turned 40 this year, too! *feelingsoconnected* 🙂

  5. I have found that the older I get the more I realize that there is really no black and white just a lot of shades of grey and there are so many things we really have no control over. This is humbling because there are no easy answers but it has really helped me be more patient and compassionate with myself and with those around me. I think being able to be comfortable with uncertainty is one of the gifts of growing older. And just appreciating the good things in each day rather than always being focused on the future. And realizing that you are stronger than you thought you were because by age 40 or 56 in my case, you have had more things thrown at you and have come out the other end a bit stronger and a bit wiser. Also wisdom can be found in all kinds of places, even In Style magazine. 😊 Happy birthday!

  6. Congratulations and happy birthday! I remember first reading your blog when you wrote about Clementine’s nursery (although you had not revealed gender yet) and that cute little vintage lamp that inspired it. I found your blog from the buttercup bag pattern and I’ve always loved your designs and style. I remember reading that you were “temporarily retired from teaching” and thought I would be so sad if you ever decided to go back because the sewing world would be missing out (but those students would have a great teacher!). So glad you’ve treated us to your talent these 10 years.

    • Oh wow, Lindsay!! That’s amazing. I can’t believe you’ve been reading that long. Thanks for the sweet sentiments!!! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the blog. 🙂

  7. A decade! WHOOP! I remember the clementine letters project that brought me to your online space and I’ve kept up (mostly quietly) through the years. Happy Birthday!! I turn 40 in a couple months and am looking forward to it! **I read that quote by JLo too and put it on my fridge-she says some pretty dope stuff if one pays attention. I will admit to reading to allllllllll the fashion mags but I subscribe to The New Yorker so that makes me chic and sophisticated right?


    • haha love that!!! Wow, I can’t believe you’ve been reading that long, Natalie! That’s amazing!!! WOW! 🙂

      (and yay for 40’s!!)

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