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Random Thoughts Before Turning 40

alec vanderboom

I'm five months out from turning 40 and I'm having an identity crisis. I feel like I'm back to asking the big life and career questions that I last asked myself as a senior in college.

I'm sure this is a perfectly ordinary stage of development, yet I'm having trouble finding empathy within my own little Catholic world. My calm, unflappable 42 year old husband says "Age is just a number, why are you flipping out about it?" My closest In Real Life friend has 11 children. She has a child who is married and recently adopted a special needs toddler. I was about to ask myself over to her house for tea this week so I had a sympathetic ear to figure out all these weird, conflicting feelings in my heart. I know that she'll be a great listener, but I found myself pausing before asking for help. "How is that conversation going to go?"

I started researching my questions online. There is lots of advice for Stay-at-Home Mothers returning to work, but it all assumes that the most hands-on part of mothering is already over. God willing, in 12 weeks, I will have a newborn, a 2 1/2 year old and a 4 year old. I'll also be the primary elementary school teacher for kids in Grade 2, 4 and 6.

What the heck am I doing trying to find an "intellectually engaging work project" to complete in the next 6 months?

I feel this urge to reexamine "Who am I?" after 10 intense years of building a family. I'm about to take on a super intensive, all consuming project of raising another human being for the next two years. Right now I have this slight gap between my children. Abigail Clare is 2 and more independent than just a few weeks ago. My health during this pregnancy has gotten more steady.

I'm using this break in time to ask myself these big questions. "Who am I?" "What do I like to do?" I feel like I'm searching around for an anchor inside of a clear self-identity because I know the next few months of child-rearing are going to be rough.

I feel guilty because it's supposed to be enough of a self-identity that "I'm a Child of God" right? I picture St. Teresa of Avila talking to me through her writings and its like "Why are you looking for a career? You're career is God's will!" And yet, sometimes I picture her being more friendly and sympathetic. She's a woman who radically changed her entire life at age 40.

All I know is that I feel this shifting from responding 24/7 to requests from outside forces (the laundry, the need to settle intra-sibling disputes, house-hunting) to asking myself "What thoughts/actions/plans do I have in me that need to come out into the world?" It's scary to me that I've had such little practice directing my own life, rather than adapting to other people's immediate needs and wants. The few inventive things that I've done have come out really well in the past year. I want more of that!

I feel like I'm all alone, struggling with these feelings with God himself as my only guide. "What are you asking of me?" The move for me this summer, doesn't feel like mere geography. It feels like other pieces inside myself are moving and changing around too.

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for me.