All summer I’ve had this number looming over my head as if being in the last few months of my 30s meant something, as if it were my last days being young and now I can’t say that I’m young anymore. Today I’m turning 40.
I’ve always been the baby in my family, by a very large margin, and while I still am, turning 40 feels like a big deal, like I can’t say that I’m young anymore. I mean maybe if I were talking to my 75 year old cousin about my life and all the difficulties, he could say to me, what do you know about anything? You’re only 40.
When I turned 30, I had just moved to Rome and I woke up that morning with an itchy head. I realised I had caught head lice from someone. I don’t know who because I didn’t know anyone in the city and I was by myself all the time. Probably from someone on the bus. I spent the day washing my hair with shampoo medicine and washing all my clothes and bedding. Finally, in the evening, I went out to Piazza Navona and I got my portrait done by an artist in the Piazza. I wanted something that told me what 30 looked like, but when she was finished, I didn’t look anything like me. Cartoon features and headlice. Me at 30.
It’s pretty amazing that 10 years later I’m living in Italy again and while I feel more settled now and I’ve got Marituccio and a house full of cats, I don’t know what’s next. Most of my energy for these past 20 years has been to find out a way to move to Italy and stay here. And I’ve done it! So now what? What does 40 look like?
I don’t think it’s important to know what’s next. When I turned 30, I was determined to make it work in Italy, to find a way to stay for good. Despite the headlice, I was feeling pretty good for being there. I eventually did it, with a lot of uncertainty and upheavals and I had to change countries twice. Still. Now I’m back in Italy and I can relax for awhile. I still get the shakes from the what-ifs and I freak out about work and taxes and I still wonder if I’m going to make it, but at the same time, there’s so much to enjoy around me and be proud of how far I’ve come and what I’ve done.
So today I’m going to my most favourite in Ischia (Cartaromana), eat at my favourite restaurant (Da Maria), and look out at my favourite views of the Castello, Procida, Monte di Procida, Vesuvius and the bay of Naples. I’ve been coming to this beach since I was a year old, so this is pretty much a 40 year tradition. And I’ll celebrate with Marituccio and my awesome visiting cousins from New York and think back on my past selves and how much they had wanted to live here. They would think that turning 40 was pretty grand.