I was first reminded of my upcoming birthday while busy writing my entry for 16 November Gratitude when it dawned on me that I’ll be 40 years old in the new year.
It didn’t occur to me as a good thing neither nor as a bad thing. It doesn’t really mean anything to me. Just a number – that happens to be celebrated in a pretty big way around the world. I believe that, given any unnatural disasters, I will live to about 86 years old. Seems like a pretty good age to expire. Yeah, that seems about a good age to die. Given that thought, middle age would be just around the corner for me then… but, I’m also of Chinese descent – and I enjoy following the customs that go hand in hand with my culture.
;Why would I celebrate “40”?
Chinese people don’t generally have big birthday celebrations until they are 60 – and every 10 years thereafter until they pass on. The magnitude of the celebration increases the older one gets.
The roles which numbers play in Chinese custom, belief and culture is second only to food. Certain numbers are considered lucky, some are ‘neutral’, and others unlucky. The number “4” sounds like ‘Si’ (death) in pinyin Chinese. Just like some people are highly superstitious about number 13, Chinese avoid numbers 4 and 14 (even when choosing phone numbers, room numbers or selecting dates for special occasions).
For men (women have different bad luck ages); the40th birthday is considered a year of uncertainty and danger, so to avoid bad luck, Chinese men do not celebrate their 40th birthdays. Instead, they remain 39 for an extra year. Some Chinese do not truly celebrate their birthdays until they turn 60.
However, 41 – should be a good age – odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) are yang while even (2, 4, 6, 8) yin. When a yin number is combined with a yang number it forms a balanced number pair.
I guess the elation that I see in my kids faces every gift-giving season (or any gift-giving opportunity) has worn off on me… It just doesn’t seem the same when you really can’t scribble off a 100-item WANT list in 10 seconds flat anymore. Bucket lists don’t count. It is almost as though my goals are no longer measured in years so suddenly – age doesn’t matter at all. It’s a good place to be in.
My birthday falls in the middle of January. Yes, you know what comes next. I’ve always been the party-orphaned child who just took the cakes to school to hand out because there was nobody around during the holidays to actually come to my party. The same happened in the corporate workplace where, when my colleagues were planning their extended January holidays, I was just counting how many less chocolate croissants to buy for the office tea. I exaggerate of course. I have a really big family so growing up I was never without many many cousins during the holidays but if I have to dig and lament then that’s the story I’m going with.
I remember getting a Barbie doll for my 13th birthday. That is the most memorable birthday gift I can remember receiving. It was the year that I outgrew playing with dolls too. Now I receive perfectly (tongue-in-cheek) handcrafted gifts from my sons and (with respect and apologies to my parents) that seems to be more rewarding than any gift I’ve ever received.
The middle age goalpost was moved
The Chinese zodiac consists of 12 creatures. Each creature reflects one of the natural elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The 12 creatures multiplied by the 5 elements equals 60, an auspicious number in Chinese culture. Chinese astrologers consider the age of 60 to be the completion of one life cycle. Those who achieve the plateau of 60 years begin a new life cycle at that point
If I go by the above mythology, then I passed middle age 10 years ago. Woot! Where did time go? In fact, I should go and get a T-shirt saying “I survived my midlife crisis!” as I’m effectively into my final stretch before the new life.
What were the past 10 years like then? Pretty busy with a lot of awesome. Much of involved real adult stuff like getting married, having kids, building a career, climbing the corporate ladder and starting school all over again with the kids. I also only found out in my Midlife Adult Phase that I have a pretty severe brain dysfunction – we’re not quite sure what came first; the depression bipolar condition or the epilepsy and it is pretty pointless trying to figure that bit out. This is very different to the 10 years prior which were MUCH more carefree to say the least.
I also got thinking about what has been my best year ever.
- Standard 7 – so I must have been 14 years old. Loved that year in school.
- Any year that I was a Prefect at school – it’s always been a competitiveness thing with me not the badge persay
- 2003 – year I fell madly in love with my husband. Ah young love!
- When I was 27 years old – I always just wanted to be 27 years old, I had planned all my policies, studies and goals around that age.
- Then I always wanted to be 35 years old. By then I had 1 kid and another on the way. Good year all round.
I don’t know really.
What’s been your best year ever?
And, if you’re already 40 or 40+ then you’re older than me 🙂 – maybe you’d like to share your tips on growing old(er) for me?
I eagerly await my 60th and look forward to what good fortunes life will bring.
p.s. if you’d like to send me a pre-January birthday wish because you’ll be on holiday at the time – that’s okay too 🙂