Today is my 40th birthday. While most birthdays feel special in some way or another, my 40th feels significant. Perhaps because one of my most vivid childhood memories is celebrating my father’s surprise 40th birthday. I couldn’t believe that I was invited to a party with so many adults. And now, I look back at the moment and wonder if my dad felt exactly the way I do today. Sure, I woke up, age 40. But really, aren’t I just a kid? My license tells one story, but my internal clock is feeling quite young.
For so long, I have felt a desire to move forward. Checking off goals and hitting milestones to gain a sense of accomplishment. But this year, different emotions take center stage: immense gratitude for the blessings in my life and a need to slow down, experience the present, and breathe in the sacredness of unpromised time.
Pirke Avot explains that one reaches a stage of wisdom when turning 40. But I don’t think this means that suddenly, a person is ready to understand the mysteries of the universe. For me, turning 40 has gifted me the wisdom to pause. When my daughter asks for me to play with her, I am finding the wisdom to always say yes. When a sunset beckons a second glance, I am learning to not let God’s artistic canvas go to waste. When a friend or congregant looks forlorn, I remind myself to ask again, “But how are you, really?” The wisdom I am finding is a release of expectation and an invitation to enjoy this beautiful life I get to live.
I guess the wisdom in turning 40 is not realizing the significance of a particular age; rather, the wisdom is realizing the significance of embracing every single moment.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.