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Failure At Forty

alec vanderboom

Six weeks ago I turned 40 amid a series of failures. I failed to sell my house. I failed to keep a baby in my body until he was full term. I failed to finish two projects I started as a new business owner. For three weeks, I failed to leave my house because of bed rest.

I failed at teaching. I failed at mothering. I failed at writing. I failed at keeping up my strict Carmelite prayer schedule.

I was so scared to turn 40 because I faced that milestone without any shiny achievements to hang my hat on anymore.

It's so crazy on the opposite side of 40, I feel happier. I don't have anything exciting going on in my life to talk about in shorthand among strangers.

But inside me there is a garden.

I feel good. I feel whole. I'm starting to feel like myself again for the first time since I was five years old.

I am not my house. I am not my bank account. I am not a good mother only when my kids are obedient and intelligent and dressed in clean socks and matching earrings. I am not my "output" as a lawyer, as a writer, as a sexy wife, or as a prayerful Carmelite.

There is a "me" underneath all the changes of my life that act as a constant refrain.

I am little. I am insignificant. I am irreplaceable. I am strong. I am brave.

I love.

I love specific people. I love certain books. I love big ideas. I love classic symphonies and strange indi pop songs. I love the ocean and national parks. I love flowers and kids and small animals. I love surrounding myself with growing things, because I am constantly growing myself.

I am so grateful for a full year of failure. I spent too many hours being tense with anxiety before age 40. The young me spent my time showing off for strangers. Now, I am learning how to show off my talents for one, easy to please person---myself.