Written by Charlene Hartung

Curated

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27 Apr, 2023

I have had great adventures over the past 40 years. They say life begins at 40! I cannot help but feel that my greatest years are now behind me. And yet, in the same breath, I am such a different person and in a different place than I was just a few months ago. Filled with gratitude and constantly reminded to count my blessings, I am entering my 40s with a new love and appreciation for myself and my life.

My parents are now older, and so are my children. They will soon be teenagers, which makes me feel so grown up. Yet there are certain things I cannot do in the presence of my parents. I guess it comes down to how I was raised. I had a lot of freedom and never wanted to be held back, but at the same time, my dad was very strict about where I was allowed to go and where I wasn’t. The little girl who ran to the butchery at every opportunity she got and now works in a butchery – it’s my full circle moment. No matter how far or fast you run, your destiny will find you. 

I spent my teens totally hating myself and my life. My self-esteem was very low, and I couldn’t wait to get out of Swakop and build a new life. My face was filled with acne, and I didn’t have the hippest clothes like my friends did. Something every teenager wants, to keep up with the Joneses. My friends also enjoyed a lot of freedom, something I didn’t have because everyone in this town knew my dad, and I wouldn’t dare do something he wouldn’t approve of. Today however, I am grateful that I didn’t defy my dad back then because now taking care of yourself the way your parents mean it, has a whole new  meaning. 

I spent about four years in my 20s in Cape Town, living it up and enjoying student life. I also struggled with depression and remember feelings of immense loneliness. I moved to Windhoek at about 22 and made many wonderful memories with friends who have since passed on and many others who are still in my life today. I got married at 27. I was so ready to settle down. The time had come, and my husband came at just the right time. I’ve always known what I want my husband to be like, and even look like. I prayed hard for him, and the Lord was good to me. At that time I had calmed down quite a bit, and was starting to dream about my future.  He is my partner in everything, all my crazy ideas, my down moments and successful moments and just moments where just being is important and I cannot imagine taking on life without him. 

In my 30s, I had my babies and worked hard at my career and building our family business – a legacy I got to carry on – that my dad had built. It has been the greatest success of my career. I finally settled into my own skin and was very clear about what I would allow in my life and what not. Being a parent has taught me so much about who I am as a person. 

Now, at the beginning of my 40s, it has become more apparent that I am losing my mom, who was diagnosed with dementia a few years back. For many years, I fought her, and when I had kids, we just developed a new relationship. There have been two shifts in our relationship. One was when I came home from Cape Town and eventually got married, and another was when I had children. It’s hard to see someone you’ve known your whole life fade away and become a quarter of the person you knew, and sometimes there is nothing you recognize at all.

As I take on the next year(s), God willing, I want to continue making a difference in the lives of others. I want to keep showing up for myself and those I love, learning about friendship, love, and life. Being authentic, clear about my goals, working hard, and living my best life are important to me, and I want to show my children that that is the way to be truly happy.

I am now in the best shape I’ve ever been, and the skin on my bones feels comfortable, a place I have fought very hard to be at.

Here’s to the next 40! Cheers! 

XO Charlie 

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