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  • Writer's pictureMollye Miller

FORTY


I’ve never felt further from my age. 


I’ve also never felt closer to my real, ageless self. 

Welcome to turning, being, celebrating, dreading, being in awe of, ashamed of, proud of and ambivalent about: life at forty.


For all of us 1983/84 millennials, we are quickly blending into the background, becoming irrelevant, old, and beyond our “prime.” (I don’t believe this, but that’s the rhetoric.) We’re rolled over the hill and into the void. The secret is: it’s fucking awesome in the void.


We don’t care anymore. I don’t anyway. Ok, I care but I care less. I don’t care (as much) what you think of me and I don’t care (as much) if you don’t like me. I don’t care (as much) that someone has accomplished something I still want to accomplish and they are much younger than me. (That one smarts a little but I still don’t care, as much. Forty is the new (fill in whatever age you wanted to be longer). For me that’s 25. I wish I were 25 again.


I lived in New York City then. I was in grad school for poetry (!!) and writing frantic and contemplative poems everyday was my “job,” albeit I was paying to write poems. Anyway. I wish I were there and 25 again and free and dumb and flirting with the city, with decisions, with my lifeforce, testing and challenging myself, and running my fingers along the sharp edges of an undefined future. I had endless possibility and I also had my very own early onset case of neurosis.


I panicked daily. I learned to dread interacting with people sometimes. Other times I talked with everyone I could. I didn’t take pictures almost at all then (I regret that) but I wrote about everything. I translated the city into blocks of text. I printed poems in my room and shuffled them into a folder to bring to hand out in class. I used pens and highlighters to mark up my classmates’ poems.


I loved everyone. I desperately needed alone time I rarely got. I Googled “panic attack” in the school computer lab once because I was convinced I was having one and didn’t know what to do. I was hungry all the time. I walked and road my bike for hours. I both relished in and worried about being in a long distance relationship. Where would it lead? Who were we both becoming? Did I care? I was self centered and people pleasing, stuck in place and too free to express in words. I adored my new friends. I adored the city. I was very poor.


I worked two jobs that criminally paid me loose change for my work: $10/hr (!)(and this is 2007 not 1992) at Anthropologie in Rockefeller Center. I also got paid $70/night (around 4 hours) hostessing at the Affinia Hotel Restaurant (RIP).


I was lost, bewildered, manic, impulsive. I used my refund grad school money, about $900, which I should have saved or invested or something smart on a trip to Prague. I loved leaving. I loved returning. I wanted to run away.


One of my dislikes (putting it mildly) was waiting for the G train to Brooklyn at midnight after post class drinks, or any time I was out in the city and hungry and tired and needed to wait for the train. I’d never been more tired and impatient. (Note I did not have a smart phone then and even if I did there was only ever spotty wifi in the subways in the early 2000s so you with had your thoughts, a journal or sketchbook or headphones if you were lucky to keep you entertained). If someone would have offered to carry me home at that subway station or to drive me home and let me sleep in the car I would have gone without question. (In fact I did sort of do this once.) The wait was interminable. It was probably 10 minutes. It felt like death.


I dreaded people often. I avoided men. I had a hard time looking people in the eye because my anxiety had gotten so bad. I ate very little. Of course I did. Who can eat in New York City? There’s so much going on, so much you’re missing out on, so much poverty, so much wealth, such astronomically high prices for a garden salad with dressing on the side. The bodegas were a godsend. All New Yorkers feel an affinity for bodegas which pop up on every other street corner like little dirty glowing oases. They are also fluorescent flames and we moths flutter to it. We drink its nectar, and diet ginger ales. We eat their seeded crackers and mini wines and veggie burger wraps, which make no sense, and granola bars and countless paper cups of coffee, of course. (S/o to the bodega at the top of the Bedford Ave stop for being so friendly and tolerant of me using a credit card to buy $2 bags of cashews and packs of cinnamon gum.


Anyway…now I’m forty and I live in Baltimore. I’m boring! I’m happier than I’ve ever been! I own a company. I’m a “creative” and a visual art editor for a magazine and I get to go to shoots all over the Baltimore and DC and the goal is to travel the world with my camera. And my little thoughts. And a platform to record and develop them. So I’m here now. I landed in a way. But also I’m floating AF because we never land. Or the land we land on is actually water. I'm sort of nowhere again. I’m 25.


But this time I belong. I’m ageless. I’m ageful. I’m aging.


That means I’m alive and it’s complicated and my body is sagging. But only a little, just a pinch here and there. Lower back pain. A desire to go home earlier and more often. A heart centered wish for getaways and vacations. An intolerance for meanness. An highly emotional response to problems I can’t fix, at least not immediately. Right now is good. It’s weird. It’s the worst it’s ever been. It’s the most wonderful we’ve ever had it. It’s always been this way. 


TL;DR:Whoever thinks 40 is old is too young to know 40 is young. I’m relevant AF and always will be and so will you. We need to make real change by cultivating empathy and radical acceptance so the world gets better and that includes all of us in our many ages and stages. So be nice. Make art. Go vote. Get old.


📸 I must make sure to acknowledge the skill of photographer @jessicaleigh_photo, who took these portraits of me. Her honest, heart-centered work lifts people up. I love that gal. Go follow her please!





And here's me at 25... Thanks, Alina Gregorian for the time traveling.



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