On Being Over the Hill

February 8, 2015


You guys, you guys, I turned 39!!!

Two weeks ago.


I apologize for being a bit late with this birthday post. But I’ve had a lot of other important stuff to tell you about — like pee funnels and unicorn ski masks. (BTW, if you want a unicorn ski mask — and who DOESN’T want a unicorn ski mask??? — the Unicorn Ski Mask Lady is offering a special 20% discount on all unicorn apparel to my readers. All you have to do is use the code UNBRAVE. Thank you, Unicorn Ski Mask Lady for the special offer!)

Plus, I’ve been using the past two weeks to think about what I want to say to you about being almost-forty. Besides, you know, OMIGOD, I’M ALMOST-FORTY!

Not that turning almost-forty was a bad thing.

It was actually a really good thing.

I spent the day with friends doing fun stuff — eating free chili and drinking free beer at the Kalamazoo Chili Cook Off and getting a purple pedicure.


And then my friends threw me a surprise party, where I was plied with spring rolls and hotpot and princess hats.


All in all, it was a great day.

Until they brought out the cake.


You guys, this is what happens when your Japanese friend picks out the cake. She claims she didn’t know what “over the hill” meant, and she just got it for me because she knows I like to hike.

After the initial shock of being called an old fogey by a sheet cake, I started to think about the expression “over the hill.”

The thing is, you guys, I’m pretty sure whoever came up with this expression has never actually climbed a hill.

Here is the thing about hills: they are absolute bitches to climb. Take this from someone who has climbed more than a few hills in her day — many of them accidentally.

Climbing Sleeping Bear Dunes. BY ACCIDENT.

Climbing Sleeping Bear Dunes. BY ACCIDENT.

Here’s the other thing about hills: they’re not even all that fun to be on top off. From my experience, the top of the hill tends to be, well, disappointing.

Did I ever tell you about the time I hiked Mount Fuji in the MIDDLE OF THE FREAKING NIGHT, so I could be at the top of the mountain for the sunrise? And then the sunrise lasted all of five seconds and I was like, “SERIOUSLY? I JUST HIKED UP A MOUNTAIN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FREAKING NIGHT TO SEE A FIVE-SECOND SUNRISE???”

You want to know the best part about hills, though? It’s the part where you get to go down them. It’s the part where you should probably worry about falling, but you’re too busy galloping towards the bottom with your hands in the air while your inner-kid is screaming “WHHHEEEEE!!!” (And maybe a little bit of your outer-kid, too.)

It’s the part where you are completely and over that hill.

So, maybe it’s true.

Maybe I am “over the hill.”

But not in the negative way that the idiom implies.

But in the good “WHEEEEEEEEE!!! THIS IS THE BEST PART EVER!!!” way.

Because that’s kind of how I feel about my life right now.

I’m at the best part ever.

I even had this moment a few weeks ago, when I at this little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant, while I was on my winter camping trip. I had just spent the day trudging over eight miles of slushy sand dunes. (As I said, I have a tendency to accidentally climb hills. And the tendency to listen to cute park rangers.)

I hadn’t showered in two days.

I had spent my nights peeing in a bucket. And I’m sure I smelled exactly like someone who spent her nights peeing in a bucket.

I had ordered a pizza that was way too big for my tiny little party-of-one. I was coming out of the restroom, where I looked in the mirror to discover my face was blotchy and rashy from what I’m not entirely sure.

Then I spotted my huge pizza waiting for me at my table across the empty restaurant, and I thought, “I love my life right now.”

It’s possible the huge pizza was to blame for making me think this thought. It was a very huge pizza.



But this was not the first time I’ve had this thought lately.

Which is weird and totally unexpected because, honestly, I’m not living the kind of life I ever thought I would be happy to live.

It’s not that my life is bad right now. It’s just not the picture of the life that I thought I would fall in love with.

If my life were a character in a fairy tale, it would not be the Prince Charming. It would be the pumpkin — the one that the horse-drawn chariot turns back into.

After years of bouncing around from big cities to overseas locations, I now live in a small college town in the Midwest.

I have a job that I like, but I work much more than I should, and I don’t make a whole heck of a lot of money.

I have a very small apartment that I love, but I can barely fit into the kitchen.

I'm not joking about the kitchen.

I’m not joking about the kitchen.

I have a small amount of savings, but a bigger amount of debt.

I’m healthy and physically active and eat a ridiculous amount of vegetables, but I’m also overweight.

I have a small group of local friends, and a huge group of Facebook friends, but I spend most of my time by myself doing stuff by myself — the kind of stuff that nobody else really does by themselves.

I’m single, and I have been single for a really, super duper long time. Like, you know when other people say, “I’ve been single for a long time”? Take however long they’ve been single and multiply it by about about a hundred-billion, and that’s how long I’ve been single.

Even my cat is kind of a jerk.

Don't let all this cuteness fool you. She is a big, bitey jerk.

Don’t let all this cuteness fool you. She is a big, bitey jerk.

I haven’t done everything I wanted to do by the time I was almost-forty. I haven’t been to Antarctica. I haven’t slept in a yurt. I never published that book I was going to publish. Heck, I didn’t even write it yet.

But I’m much happier now than I feel like I’ve been in a long time.

This is not to say that I wasn’t happy with my life before. Or at least portions of my life before. I just feel like when I was younger, I was so fixated on all the stuff I didn’t have and the stuff I hadn’t yet achieved, that I was very rarely grateful for what I did have and for what I had accomplished.

Like, when I was thinner and able to fit into a pair of pants I could never even dream of fitting into now, I wasn’t happy about that. I just wanted to be even thinner and fitting into an even smaller pair of pants.

But now I’m all like, “Screw pants! Leggings for life!”

Is this what it means to be older and wiser?

Or is this just what it means to not give a shit anymore?

Either way it feels good.

It feels like I’m coming down the mountain after years of climbing and feeling really exhausted. And, then, even more years of being at the top of the mountain and being really unsatisfied with the view.

It feels like my hands are up in the air and my legs are galloping and I’m screaming “WHHEEEEEEEEE!” And I’m not even screaming it in my inner-kid voice anymore.

It also feels like at any moment I’m going to fall.

So I guess I should just enjoy it while I can.


What has getting older taught you?


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On February 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm becky hutner said:

    Happy belated 39th Sally!! I feel like I’m still going through the “being mad at myself for not achieving what I wanted to achieve by now” phase. Totally useless, energy wasting sentiments I know. Good for you for rising above. I for one am impressed with your achievements and cheered by your wise words.
    becky hutner recently posted..How to become a travel writer. No, really.

  2. On February 8, 2015 at 2:46 pm zoe said:

    Yup, this sounds familiar: “I was so fixated on all the stuff I didn’t have and the stuff I hadn’t yet achieved”.

    Not sure I’ll ever 100% get past it (barring any sudden miraculous onset of wisdom!) but I like to imagine I’m slowly learning to enjoy what I actually have 🙂
    zoe recently posted..Getting the hang of winter.

    • On February 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm Sally said:

      Oh, I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% past it either. There are definitely still days when I want more money and less thighs. But luckily those days are fewer than they used to be!

  3. On February 8, 2015 at 7:26 pm Priya said:

    Happy almost-forty 😉
    Priya recently posted..How To Introduce Hostels To Your Dad

  4. On February 8, 2015 at 8:30 pm Kaori said:

    Happy birthday (Otanjo-bi omedeto)!!! As I’ve climbed many a dune hills along Lake Michigan, I can totallly agree with you that coming down (sometimes tumbling down) is the very best part. I hope you have many more WHEEEEEE moments to come!

    PS: I think technically in Japan, “over the hill” for women is at thirty. *roll eyes* So I don’t know what your friend was thinking ;D
    Kaori recently posted..The BooksActually in Singapore

  5. On February 9, 2015 at 7:29 am Heather said:

    Sally! I’m so sorry it’s been so long.

    Happy belated birthday 🙂 I saw you post that cake on Facebook and had to smile. I love how you reframed the message and found a great application to the life you’re living and loving. Here’s to almost 40!
    Heather recently posted..Heather the Fantasy Football League Champion

  6. On February 9, 2015 at 9:32 am Penguinlady said:

    Happy 39!

    I hit 40 in Sept, and to be honest, it ain’t no thing. It’s not falling off a cliff. I don’t feel any older than 35, anyway!

    Maybe it would help to make some fun goals. My sister in law is attempting “40 by 40” – she wants to get to 40 countries in the next few years (I think she is starting at 18 countries visited). Maybe you could do 40 pies or 40 beers or… Whatever.

    My Gram lived to 95, so I figure I’m not even halfway there yet. Time yet to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

    • On February 14, 2015 at 1:19 pm Sally said:

      I was thinking about doing a “40 by 40” list but I already have a winter bucket list that I’m woefully behind on and a Mitten List which I just started, so I think I need a few less lists in my life. Even though I LOVE lists.

  7. On February 9, 2015 at 1:25 pm deb d said:

    happy birthday sally–i can’t believe you’re so young because your stories resonate with me and i’m sooooo much older than you– like starting medicare old. i’ve been reading your blog since you were in china and many times you speak directly to me. thanks for your insight. debd

  8. On February 9, 2015 at 2:18 pm Rick Michigan said:

    I remember hitting 21 and thinking, jeeez, I’m getting old. And then the 20’s when I thought someone 29 was old and 30’s – well, pretty bad. And when I approached 40’s I thought for god’s sake I remember when my parents were this age – do I look like them. OMG, I mean o-l-d parents like mine. And then you went to France and there were clubs you were to old to get in to without lying about your age like the reverse of when you were to young to get in without lying. And now much older and all this wisdom I’m supposed to say something nice but I can’t think of anything except, well, I’m alive – lol. But I will give you the sage advice to enjoy the walk down and live in the moment and not what the future might be. You’ll have plenty of time to look back. So yea, I did say something kinda nice. And I promise not to send you, by mistake, a birthday card exclaiming or is that proclaiming Happy 40th(in her case 50th) as I did with my friend Marilee when she was one year younger than that.

    • On February 14, 2015 at 1:18 pm Sally said:

      Wait. There are clubs in France that won’t let you in if you’re too old? Oh gosh, I guess I’m going to have to give up my dream of clubbing in France. Which is probably a good thing as I don’t even like clubbing in the US.

  9. On February 9, 2015 at 2:48 pm Isabelle said:

    Like, you know when other people say, “I’ve been single for a long time”? Take however long they’ve been single and multiply it by about about a hundred-billion, and that’s how long I’ve been single.

    I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN!!! I’m not going to say how many years, but I’m pretty sure I win! (feel free to send me an email if you want to compare numbers!)

  10. On February 9, 2015 at 8:20 pm Leslie in Oregon said:

    I’m so glad you are feeling more and more comfortable in your own skin! It sounds like you are entering a wonderful period, when you are both young enough and old enough (and clearly not “over the hill”). Enjoy…and Happy 39th Birthday!!

  11. On February 9, 2015 at 11:06 pm Alouise said:

    Happy Birthday Sally. Love the over the hill analogy, cause yeah running down hills and yelling whee is fun (much more fun than hiking to the top).
    Alouise recently posted..Save Rhinos with #JustOneRhino and Win

  12. On February 10, 2015 at 12:52 pm jennifer said:

    Happy belated birthday!

    When I hit 39, I was okay. When I hit 40, I was okay. But when I reached 41? Are you freaking kidding me? I am IN MY FORTIES HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?

    However, it is pretty damn cool to be in my forties and have a life set up where pants don’t need to be a part of my daily routine. I regularly model my pajama bottoms for all the people in my neighborhood as I walk home from Starbucks. What are they going to do? Laugh at me? Screw you, I have seen Mount Everest.

    Life is good.

  13. On February 10, 2015 at 8:51 pm Aurora said:

    Happy birthday! Having just turned 40 — I totally get the ‘I’m happy! and my life is not what I thought it would be!’ I’ve been single for awhile (long while) too, and doing solo adventures, and hanging with friends…. and I realized, lately, that — damn, it’s good – this life of mine! I think that my 40s are going to be amazing! Totally running down the hill, hands up – wheeeeee!
    Aurora recently posted..Intentions for this new year

  14. On February 10, 2015 at 11:00 pm Carmel said:

    I think this is what I’ve learned, too:
    “Screw pants! Leggings for life!”


    Sleep in a fake yurt. Real yurts (gers…really) are way too damn cold and you have to sleep on a glorified board. 🙂
    Carmel recently posted..A PLACE OF OUR OWN

    • On February 14, 2015 at 1:14 pm Sally said:

      I’m planning too, as they have a couple fake yurts (furts?) in Michigan. Only thing is they’re insanely popular so they’re all booked up on the weekends. I guess I’ll have to book one when I have a break from work.

  15. On February 11, 2015 at 1:46 am Carmen said:

    Your blog is seriously one of the best I read (and I read a LOT of blogs) because it makes me laugh hysterically each time.
    Thanks for making my Wednesday brighter.
    Carmen recently posted..Jean Paul Gaultier: A fashion genius

  16. On February 11, 2015 at 6:34 am Ron@MichiganHomes said:

    Belated Happy Birthday Sally! You are 39 and one more year, you are 40! Life begins at 40 they say and I believe that’s for real :). Hope you had a blast at your special day!
    Ron@MichiganHomes recently posted..This Tiny Home Is Probably Better Than The One You Are Renting Or Own

  17. On February 12, 2015 at 9:26 am Lucie said:

    Happy belated birthday!
    As someone older than you (hey, by like 7 months or so…), I’m very interested to know which Couch to 5k app you chose between the gazillions available in Google Play.

  18. On February 15, 2015 at 12:23 am Suzanne Fluhr said:

    Now that you’re almost 40, you can have a “Chuck It” list next to your “Bucket List”. A “Chuck List” is a list of the things you can safely say you’re never going to do and it’s OK to let them go. For example, on my “Chuck It” list—I’m never going to be a concert oboist. Med school is out of the question. I’m never going to climb Mt. Kilamanjaro. I’m never going to give birth to a baby girl….ad nauseum. BUT–I played 2nd oboe in my college orchestra. I went to law school, but I married a doctor. I climbed Mt. MacKinnon—-in New Zealand. No baby girls, but 2 baby boys and maybe one of them will help produce a baby girl. And one other thing you should do—Carpe diem. Seriously—every day. 39? Been there. Done that. 😉 Happy birthday.

  19. On February 18, 2015 at 6:36 pm Anita said:

    Happy very belated Birthday!

    I can completely relate to this:

    “Is this what it means to be older and wiser?

    Or is this just what it means to not give a shit anymore?”

    Who cares, it’s better this way anyways! The happiest I’ve been in life is in my thirties. They say the forties are even better – so I guess there’s more to look forward to 🙂

    • On February 21, 2015 at 9:38 am Sally said:

      Thank you, Anita! I have to agree with you on the thirties — SO MUCH better than my twenties. I seriously just want to punch myself in the face every time I think about what a spoiled, miserable brat I was in my twenties. Not that I’m not still a spoiled, miserable brat, but I’d like to think I’m not nearly as bad as I was back when I was twenty-three. (Shudder).

  20. On February 19, 2015 at 10:18 pm Laura said:

    This post turned out really beautiful! I think you’re right about age giving us more ability to appreciate the things we have rather than focusing on the things we don’t. But, some people never achieve that no matter how old they are. I know I often find myself focusing on the negative rather than being grateful for the positive, so thank you for the reminder. And happy birthday!
    Laura recently posted..The Temples and Shrines of Kyoto, Japan

    • On February 21, 2015 at 9:35 am Sally said:

      Thanks, Laura! And I definitely have my negative WHY IS EVERYTHING SO HORRIBLE AND WHY IS MY LIFE SO HARD days (or… umm… weeks… like this past one). But at the moment I’m just aiming to have more positive moments than negative ones.

  21. On March 4, 2015 at 2:34 am Ceri said:

    I love this post. 🙂 I just turned 28 and can already feel myself just getting more comfortable with life and the way I am and everything. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting older. If I’m half as badass as you are even when I turn 30, I know I’m onto a good life.

    Happy Belated! 🙂
    Ceri recently posted..My Five Favourite Things in February

  22. On March 26, 2015 at 3:13 pm Debby said:

    Belated happy birthday Sally! 40 is the new 20! Getting older has thought me that!

    P.s. You are hilarious! <3


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