Turning forty

As I approached the milestone of turning forty, I reflected on the journey that had led me to this point.

Stef is turning forty. This is not a photo of Stef being forty.

It seemed like just yesterday that I embarked on the adventure of moving to a new country, far from the comforts of my upbringing. Yet, during these years, I built a life filled with love, purpose, and a sense of belonging.

Despite the distance from my family and close friends, I threaded myself seamlessly into the fabric of my adopted home. I embraced the British culture with open arms, immersing myself in its customs and traditions — and merging the best I could bring from my Italian and Sardinian culture. Through the highs and lows of my thirties, I emerged resilient, my spirit undaunted by the challenges that life had thrown my way.

As I’m turning forty, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of apprehension about the passage of time, to put it nicely. Ageing had always been a concept I grappled with, a reminder of life’s fleeting nature I’ve always refused to accept. With each passing year, I am trying to embrace the idea that ageing is not a burden but a great privilege to cherish. I still don’t like knowing that my prime is gone already, as I feel like I haven’t squeezed the best out of it, and I could have done more and better.

Amid my fears, I have glimmers of reassurance. My dedication to fitness and love for sport kept my body strong and agile, defying the stereotypes of what it meant to be turning forty. My petite frame misrepresented the inner strength that propelled me through life’s challenges, whether it was overcoming a five-year chronic injury, lifting more than double my body weight, weathering the storms of infertility treatments, accepting a mentally painful early menopause status, or surviving a pandemic with a four-month-old baby I had no clue how to navigate.

I could not have succeeded in all of this without the support and unconditional love of my co-pilot in life, Franz. I don’t believe in soulmates, destiny, and similar jibberish, but if I did, he’d represent all of that. I am grateful for the family members who have always stayed close to me – first of them being my sister Sara – as well as those lifetime friends (and new ones!) you know they’re always here for you even if you don’t hear them for a while: you know who you are, I don’t need to name you.

As I celebrated another round around the sun, this time turning forty, surrounded by the warmth of my Franzischeddi, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for the life I had built. We have built.

Apparently, turning forty is a big milestone, and people keep saying forty is the new thirties. Despite the inevitable passage of time and my fears about it, I know that the journey holds promise and possibility, which are different from the ones I endured in my twenties and thirties. I promise myself that I’ll focus on defeating my mind’s saboteurs and learn to control and cope with my worst enemy—perfectionism. I owe it to myself, to the struggles that made me the tough person I am, to my husband and daughter.

Franz asked me the other day what motto our family would have if we had to get one, so here is my proposal: semper prorsum. Always forward.

With each step I take, I’m determined to embrace life’s adventures, holding onto resilience, love, and an unshakeable spirit. And pizza.

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