The Forty Year-Old Version Reaffirms a Needed Lesson

Turning 4o hits differently. Hell, turning 35 hit differently, but there’s something about that additional five years that makes your anxiety flare up. I’m square in that five year gap and the Forty Year-Old Version resonated within me in ways that other mid-life crisis films just couldn’t.

I am still young and designing my life after my quarter-life crisis. However, the fact remains 40 is on the horizon like the beam of a searchlight violently protruding through my bedroom window. It’s arrival is obvious. And with it I have questions, and most of it has been about questioning myself. In some ways Radha is me. A plus size woman, creative, with a larger than life personality that begins to doubt herself. That doubt then becomes a blanket as we have to navigate through the spaces of healing, and redefining ourselves amidst the pain. We become stuck; doing what we can to survive and the very existence of who we are is placed on this shelf void of sunlight and fresh air.

We go through the motions. Same monotonous routine. Grasping at the excitement of others to live vicariously through their lives, if but for a moment. Repetitive. But then the fog clears. This is where the lesson becomes clear and the reaffirmation begins. There is still life in you, and you have to do something bold to take a risk on yourself. As black women we often have to tow many lines, and many of them are a tight walk; with someone else on the other end shaking our line and making an already tumultuous journey increasingly difficult. Radha had to choose between inauthenticity and invisibility, between becoming a symbol and being herself. A choice that stares back at so many of us in the mirror. I am struggling with that choice.

Often feeling like I am suffering from imposter syndrome, the choice of authenticity and showing up for myself becomes heavy. Who am I to have all of these dreams, desires, and wants, and hopes and have the audacity to actually will them into existence. Radha’s struggle with finally stepping into her light and defining herself, and understanding that dreams change but who you are at your core does not was a moment that literally rang the idea bell. Taking the stage and owning her presence, not playing small in the room with those who “supposedly” had her fate in their hands, and releasing her own version of a hip-hop riot act was the unabashedly authentic audacity I needed to see; scripted or otherwise.

Let me be clear, I am not willfully avoiding the other messages in the film, it’s just that I’m not trying to have you guys here reading a dissertation. For me, and hopefully other women of color who find themselves in these moments of unsurety, the message of ‘it’s okay to be unapologetically yourself, do something different, to reinvent yourself, to make a new dream for yourself and not feel shitty about it’ hits close to home and I am compelled to shout about it.

We’re still fighting the stigmas of ageism, sex, and what it means to be a black woman in her 40s. With my age needle teetering closer to that benchmark, finding a relative film that I quite literally see myself in address those topics in a comedic, raw, and relative approach gives me joy.

The revolution around the sun will continue but what I do in the gap is what matters. Shout to Radha for showing me there’s still juice in the gap and to FYOV — Find Your Own Voice, Find Your Own Vision.

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Audrey L. Malone

Audrey L. Malone

Writer • Brand & Communications Strategist | Pageant queen w/ love of food & wanderlust - IG & Twitter: @alindaenolam