So over the big four-oh

Once, when I was 6, I tried to imagine my life in the year 2000. I’d be 30 by then and, I figured, I’d know everything.

Well, that decade of my life arrived, and the answers still eluded me.

I’ll be 40 in a few days, and I still don’t know much.

I do know this: I don’t really feel 40. Mostly, I still feel young inside—some days it’s 6, others 16, occasionally 28—but it’s hard to quantify because, really, what does age feel like?

Still, 40 it is, and maybe there are a few other things I do finally know—nothing earth-shattering, nothing that my 6-year-old self could’ve imagined, but they get me through the day.

I know, for example, that I don’t care that I’m 40.

More important, I’ve learned that saying so is only a half-lie.

I don’t care about getting older, but I don’t particularly like the way it’s halfway to 80. Yet if I’m on the same track as my late great-grandmother, Grandma Zack, then this is just the 40 percent mark.

I’ve also learned I don’t want to be as mean and miserable as Grandma Zack, so now’s the time to figure out what makes me happy.

I’ve also learned family is important, but you can’t live your life to their expectations, and yet, there should always be some family members whose opinions and feelings count more than others.

It’s like, I know my mom isn’t right about everything, but her rightness falls into the 80th percentile, so I should, at the very least, listen when she talks.

Case in point: I now know that the Earth won’t stop rotating on its axis if you don’t make enough green beans for Thanksgiving dinner because, really, who comes for the green beans?

I’ve also learned a bit about self-identity. For instance, I know that yes, they’ll eventually stop carding you at bars and yes, it will sting—at least at first.

Speaking of which, I also now respect the power of bangs.

And how you shouldn’t ever cut your own bangs.

Or how the world won’t end if you occasionally break that rule, but your hairstylist might be pissed, and that could be worse.

And I know the camera doesn’t add 10 pounds—I really do look that big in pictures—but every five years I’ll look back at photos and think I looked pretty damn OK, so maybe I should go easier on myself.

I’ve learned it’s good to have friends who point those things out, but I also know that the older we get, the more difficult it is to maintain friendships, much less make new ones.

Also: Facebook, e-mail and Internet chat are poor substitutes for real-life interaction, but some days they’re the best we can do.

I’ve learned that the 99 percent of the Internet is made up of cute kittens, porn and obnoxious, anonymous commenters.

I’ve learned you can be opinionated and principled without being a jerk, but it’s also really important to know when to put on your bitch face.

I’ve learned that I’ll probably always feel 6, 16 or 28, but no matter what they try to tell you, 40 isn’t the new 30—it’s just 40, damn it.

And, honestly, that’s OK.