Celebrating 40 with a Solo Hike in Presqu’ile Provincial Park
I’m Done Waiting for Prince Charming
In March 2015 I turned 40. For five years the big 4-0 haunted me with its ominous implications. It seemed like a season change was coming and the days were about to get shorter and sadder and lonelier.
Aging wasn’t the issue, it was all about the story that wasn’t working out the way I’d planned–a large stone tied to my ankle slowing me down, making things harder. For 20 years I searched and waited for Prince Charming and a little baby “cute-as-a-button” to enter stage right. Well dear Prince, I’m done. I will ride my own white horse into my 40s!
I would still love to go to the ball–but the waiting is over. It’s time to make plans, to claim a place for myself because I deserve one.
I’m letting go of not feeling like a grown up because I haven’t had a wedding. I’m letting go of not feeling like a woman because I haven’t had a child. I am writing a new story, changing the mythology that has hurt me and so many other women who feel like they aren’t enough because they are single.
And it’s not the Prince’s fault–the whole kingdom (including me) is to blame for keeping the story alive, for suggesting that single life can be shameful, for thinking that just because we want it all we should be able to have it all. We can still want partners and children, but if they don’t come on schedule we need to carry on and live our lives…really live them–and without apology, without compromise.
Maybe this is a story about learning patience, about releasing entitlement, about accepting the present, about being grateful for what I have, instead of longing for what you have.
“Some days you just have to create your own sunshine.”
Once Upon a Time…
…There was a girl who loved the outdoors, hiking, and camping. She was fearless and strong and happy. So for my 40th birthday I wanted to go to Presqu’ile Provincial Park to reconnect with the woman I was twenty years ago.
When I couldn’t find a friend to join me, I gave up on my birthday wish. I let the fairytale into my head and its characters confirmed I was indeed a spinster now.
“So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun.” Margaret Atwood
And she lives happily…
I didn’t like being a sad spinster–the beige fleece slipper didn’t fit. So I changed–I made a decision to write a new story. I like this 40-year-old woman a lot and she deserves a good life. In July 2015 I took control of the plot, banished the sad subtext, and planned the epic birthday trip that was becoming more than an excursion: a symbol of my future.
So I shed my spinster cloak and summoned my inner dragon.
I couldn’t sleep the night before Presqu’ile! I was too excited. I woke up early and packed the car. I arrived at 8:30 am. The park was quiet. I spent four glorious hours hiking along some of the trails, walking along the beach, and picnicking on the shore of Lake Ontario. It was better than I’d dreamed.
“There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.” Calvin Coolidge
Top Five Learnings:
- I am brave. I only screamed once (but to be fair the two chipmunks nearly ran across my bare feet).
- I am connected. The hardest thing about being single is that sometimes I feel disconnected. Alone on the trails, on the beach, or by Lake Ontario I felt deeply connected to my sense of self, to nature, to God, and surprisingly to all the people in my life. This amazed me. I expected to feel anxious, not peaceful and calm and grounded–and oh so happy! I was beaming the whole time.
- Remember to bring bathing suit!
- I belong. Usually when I go places on my own I feel out of place. People don’t even realize the faces they make when they see me at plays or in restaurants. But whenever I passed others in the park they said hello and smiled. There was no question in their expressions that I was misplaced. There was no pity, no curiosity. Just hello. Good morning. What a gorgeous day. We all belong here.
- I will be back. Oh yes. And I will be going to more parks and on more hikes. Forty truly has become an awesome beginning! (Cue Katy Perry anthem of your choice.)
I can create my own sunshine.
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot
And the moral of the story…
We need to change the conversation. We need to move the focus away from the ballroom and the dance cards and the gowns–rather, let’s talk about the woods, the lake, and if we need to, climb mountains (alone or with others). Celebrate every woman for who she is as an individual. Ask about her next adventure. Encourage her to take risks. Listen to her feisty spirit. Find a place for her in your ideology if her life looks different than yours. Take a moment to put on her shoes…(and realize it’s likely she has many pairs!)
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Maya Angelou