Make it New: Turning 40

by Kathryn Smith

I’m entering a new decade in 2017. Like Star Wars, the Seattle Mariners, and the death of Elvis, I’m turning 40, and so far, when I think about this looming milestone, I don’t have strong feelings about it. When my partner turned 40, she felt a sense of relief, as though she’d been waiting to turn 40 her whole life. That 4 in the tens column of her age gave her permission to do all the things she did already: go to bed early with a whiskey and a bad crime novel, shake her fist at neighbors who don’t shovel the snow from their sidewalks, complain about rock and roll music (She’s going to make a fantastic curmudgeon one day.). I don’t think I have the enthusiasm for 40 that she had, but nor am I dreading it the way some people do.

In a way, this approach to 40 reflects a new approach I hope to take toward myself: Let what comes come. I have a tendency to be too hard on myself when I don’t accomplish items on the arbitrary checklists that exist only in my brain, to feel bad about myself when I learn of friends’ successes and achievements, regardless of whether I have any desire to do the things that they have done. My hope for year 40 is that I learn to give myself a break.

Of course I have some hopes and plans. I plan to read a lot of books this year, more than I usually average. I want to keep working on my art-making skills and make more interesting collages and other art pieces out of books. I hope to engage more in my community, particularly when it comes to supporting those who are marginalized. I want to grow a new crop or two in my garden and be more deliberate about preserving the harvest to last through the winter. But I’m going to take baby steps. And I’m not going to keep score, because when I do, it’s just me vs. Team Impossibly Perfect, and there’s no winning that game.

I’m not going to run a marathon, travel the world, or learn to speak French or play the guitar. For me, non-resolutions are the new resolutions. So for 2017, a new decade, a new kindness toward myself, and a knowledge that by freeing myself from my own expectations to do more or be better, I can let kindness and gentleness toward others reverberate into the world around me.

A mini chapbook of Kathryn Smith’s poems was published in issue 11.1 of Rock & Sling. Find more at She has no plans to join Twitter.

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