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Today is my 40th Birthday. Don’t worry, I’m not spending it in front of the computer. I pre-wrote this newsletter and I’m currently on a four-day trip with just my husband to a pretty part of North Carolina I’ve never been to, staying at a fancy hotel that doesn’t allow children. We're hiking, eating, reading, and relaxing. In a society that is obsessed with youth, being a woman turning forty definitely feels a bit weighty, but I’m generally at peace with it. My thirties had plenty of curveballs, like moving to multiple cities, job loss, career turmoil, pregnancies, miscarriage, births, the pandemic, and on and on, so I feel OK about closing that chapter. I’ve interviewed many inspiring women over the years who’ve said their forties is really when they started coming into their power and not giving a fuck about what anyone else thought. Bring it on!
I think my 25-year-old self might be a little miffed that I don’t still live in New York City and that I don’t have a high-powered job. But that’s OK, because 25-year-old baby Katherine hadn’t experienced much hardship and didn't know much about what was truly important.
As I reach this milestone, there are three things that are on my mind that I want to share with you.
1) You only get one body, so you might as well be nice to it. It’s virtually impossible to be a person, and especially a woman of my generation without internalizing negative messages about your body. Once you realize how pernicious diet culture and anti-fat bias are and how obsessed our society is with unrealistic ideals of youth, it’s hard to stop seeing and hearing it everywhere. Unlearning this all is a lifelong process. Here’s how I’m thinking about it lately: Rather than thinking of my body as an annoying, flawed, unruly thorn that deserves constant criticism, I’m considering, “How would I treat my body if it was a precious, dear friend of mine?” I certainly have not mastered this, but I think this looks like doing exercise that makes me feel good. Eating food that makes me feel good, (and not just in the moment of putting it in my mouth) and wearing clothes that make me feel good, whether that means maximizing comfort or looking really polished and pretty, depending on my mood.
2) Work isn’t going to be there for you on your deathbed. I think this crystalized for me during the pandemic when people were dying alone without their loved ones by their sides. Probably all anyone wants when they are dying is to be surrounded by the people they have loved and who love them. Your employer or your career or your awards and accomplishments aren’t going to be there with you in that room, ever, no matter what you achieve. While I do have the ambition to create a mark on the world, I don’t want obsession with external validation to distract me from the relationships in my life that are most important to me.
3) There’s no such thing as "having it all." Capitalism, social expectations of mothers, and the American obsession with individualism and hard work all feed us a bald-faced lie that we can have it all. These social constructions tell us we are one tweak, one promotion, or one lunch packaging strategy away from nirvana. If we can’t achieve it, there must be something wrong with us. Unrealistic expectations are the biggest killjoy out there. Now that I see “having it all” as an option that’s completely off the table, it makes me much happier about how large and small things in my life shake out. Not going on a fun summer vacation? That’s OK, because I can’t have it all. New work opportunity didn’t pan out? That’s OK, because I can’t have it all. Unhappy with something at my kid’s school? That’s OK, we can’t have it all. You get the idea. It’s an incredibly freeing baseline to work from.
So now that I’ve shared a couple of little pearls, I want to hear from you, Double Shift members. For tomorrow’s thread I’ll be asking, what are some lessons YOU’VE learned as you’ve gotten older? If you want in on this discussion, become a member of The Double Shift. You get great conversation on our members-only threads, virtual hangouts, and audio newsletters.
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Let's Transform How America Cares! Join me virtually on Oct 24th from 2-3pm EST to celebrate the launch of Better Life Lab’s newest, groundbreaking report, A Playbook to Transform How America Cares: The Care Movement’s Winning Tactics, Lessons, and Case Studies from the Pandemic-era and Beyond, written by yours truly! I would LOVE to have some Double Shifters in the audience! For more info and to RSVP for the link, go here.
See you in NYC? I will be moderating a discussion at MH WorkLife's upcoming Care At Work Summit NYC on October 26th, 2023. Join me for a thought-provoking discussion on The Cost Of Care: The Financial, Health, And Wellbeing Implications. I think there are still a few tix left, so hope to see you there, IRL!