A New Age

33 Days of Truth: Day 11

A New Age

Happy birthday to meeeee! Today I turn 33 years old. Lucky double digits. 😃

A friend once said, “Only the smart and the lucky get old.” I don’t think I’m getting old yet (although I have stuff to stay about that in a moment). Or that I’m particularly smart (although I did go to college). But, I sure have been lucky. 

Three score and thirty years ago, I was born three months premature, delivered via c-section and weighing a mere 2.5 lbs. Mom said I looked like a spider monkey. (Gee thanks, Mom!) A lot of folks weren’t sure I’d make it, I was so early and so small. The hospital where I was delivered did not have the proper neonatal setup to take care of me, so after I was pulled from the womb, they flew me by helicopter to a bigger, more technologically advanced hospital that had the resources to keep my tiny monkey self alive. 

It is common for preemies to develop all kinds of health and development related problems because they are undercooked, so to speak (lol). I remember getting tests done when I was little, to make sure I was on track with kids my age and following the normal curve. But other than exhibiting a fear of ambulance sirens as a child, I was fine. My early release date didn’t have any lasting negative effect, and overall I was a healthy, happy girl. 

Now that lucky girl is 33. Say wat! 

I can remember when turning 13 felt like it was unbelievably far away, practically centuries away. And then suddenly I was 13 and couldn’t believe how fast it came up. That about sums up what it’s like to turn 33. 

I also remember when, in my pre-teens, I went to my mom in tears and told her I didn’t want to grow up. I was scared of being an adult. It seemed really overwhelming. I wanted to keep being a kid and to keep life simple. 

I got over it though, so that by my twenties I would laugh and roll my eyes at friends who cringed whenever their birthdays came around. The ones who dreaded getting old. I thought they were being silly. They were far from old, first of all; and second, they were so lucky to be alive. I felt that everyone should always celebrate another turn around the sun. Not everybody gets that chance. It’s such a gift. 

Over the last few years, however, I’ve been singing a slightly different tune. I’m empathizing a lot more with those who recoil from turning another year older. I still do not have any issue with the number of years old I am, as seems to be the norm; I’m still delighted whenever it’s my birthday (yay, today!), and will announce my age proudly. 

It’s the speed of life that’s getting to me, as well as the small but noticeable changes my body is going through that I hadn’t anticipated would show up so damn fast. Like turning 13, it’s just happening so quickly. I blinked and went from child to teen to adult to—a slightly older adult realizing that in another blink, she will be an elderly woman. I’m not ready for that! And experiencing the people I love getting older. I’m not ready for that either. 

My parents and grandparents always looked a lot younger than their ages. And my siblings and I have been referred to as “the kids” my whole life. As a family we’ve been perpetually evergreen, but I see the changes coming. 

Some of those changes are wonderful and make my heart want to burst from fullness, i.e. having a baby nephew (and a niece on the way!). When he was born, I felt in that moment absolute peace with the cycle of existence. It made perfect sense, and the magic of it was alive and well. Unfortunately, I haven’t exactly been able to hold onto that ringing clarity of perspective…

In the spirit of my 33 day personal growth challenge of being vulnerable and honestly sharing the truth, I will say straight up: I’ve been freaking the fuck out about aging. 

I’ve been freaking out in a way I have never, ever done before. I definitely did not see this freak out coming. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed when it came to growing up. That’s how I saw turning thirty. Growing up, not older. I looked forward to it with a great swell of hopeful excitement.

When I finally hit the decade, I swear it was like hitting a minefield of mass thought forms on aging. As if every bit of our culture’s anxiety about it is scattered right there in the transition between 29 and 30, and all at once, WHAM! It hit me full force. The mental explosives blew my Pollyanna views on growing older sky high.

Ever since then, and in spite of myself, a runaway train of fearful, resistant thoughts have been gradually picking up steam in my head. Thoughts that don’t even seem like mine. Getting a grip on them was not something I was prepared to do, as aging is not anything I ever had to address in terms of my identity before. It’s taken three years to fully realize what’s been happening, to put on the brakes and demand that the thoughts just calm the fuck back down.

Maybe if I felt like I had something to show for my life up to this point, something I was proud of and could look to as being meaningful and worthwhile time spent, I might have maintained my optimistic stance on this aging thing. Instead, I have a jumble of experiences and many unfulfilled desires, and a pervading sense of disquiet about what I’m even doing with my life.

It’s worth noting, that I am beginning to regain a sense of composure and can feel the angsty-ness begin to shift and alleviate. Thank goodness.

My pre-teen self was on point though; adulthood is overwhelming. There is so much to do, and the time truly flies (whether or not you’re having fun).

I do not like being able to relate to the adage that in every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened. I’m looking around at other adults now and suddenly seeing how uncomfortably close I am to being their age; to the ages of most people’s parents and grandparents.

I see too many of them who have relegated themselves to the curbs on the road of life. Who’ve stepped out of the flow of things, separated themselves from the pulse of new experiences and challenges. They’ve surrender to being left behind, to being made obsolete and irrelevant, as society dictates. I see the bent shapes of their bodies, the wrinkles on their faces, this weather-worn quality to them that is downright depressing. They lack that youthful glow, that freshness and vitality, the invigorating anticipation of what is yet to come.

I see way too many folks who have given up and stopped blooming. They’re withering. They aren’t fulfilled, aren’t happy with themselves or their lives, didn’t really do much that added up for them. And they feel like it’s too late. It shows in their skin. Secretly, I’ve noticed, it’s beginning to show in mine. 

I’m scared of being at that point when there is more road behind me than up ahead, and not enjoying looking back at how far I’ve come. To have tired lines rather than laugh lines. To break down long before I’m due.

The other day, I heard the song “Get it Together” by India Arie and one line in it made me burst into tears. That’s been happening a bit lately; I am a little on edge emotionally, given recent events. I’m releasing a lot. Yet, as I am working through it, writing my way along this personal growth journey and resetting what isn’t working, the tears are more frequently from being deeply moved and inspired.

The line that got me was,

“You’ll never be happy and you’ll never be whole, until you see the beauty in growing old.”

Y-E-S.

I’m seeing it. The beauty. And I am getting myself together. Fixing my thoughts (or whoever’s they are). To make the most of whatever remaining lifespan I’m lucky enough to experience. Before it is too late.

As with many other areas of my self and life, I’m taking my power back.

I have therefore resolved, beginning at age 33, to regain the perspective I once had. To reach back through the void between 29 and today, to wrap my fingers tightly around my joyful innocence and naiveté and pull it into the present. I had it right, I know I did. It’s just that I’m only now being challenged to actually live it. To be it. 

Challenge… accepted. 😉

Conveniently enough, blogging made it quite effortless to do that reaching back. Turns out newly 30 year old me had written a post that says everything I could want to say on adulthood and aging now. I’m thankful she put it somewhere I could easily find again. Maybe, future me will look back on my current blogging efforts in this 33 Days of Truth challenge and be thankful for it, too. 

Here’s what I wrote around my birthday, three years ago:

I have highly anticipated turning 30 as a mile marker on my journey to true adulthood. Becoming an adult, to me, is about growth. I have still felt like a kid most of the time, wide-eyed and wondering, so new to it all. And yet I have felt the development of a great strength in me, a clarity and an ownership over my life that makes nostalgia over “lost youth” worth doubling up laughing about. Because it’s hogwash. Youth is a mindset, not an age. 

Most people consider maturity into adulthood the beginning of the end. But it’s only the end of the beginning. Life’s just getting started! The reason adulthood seems to suck so much is because everyone falls into believing that being an adult means you no longer have any fun and that you must now walk a boring, well-worn, narrow path of social duties and conditioned values: work a job, make money, get married, have kids, retire… Be “responsible.”

That kind of responsibility is simply a continuation of the worst part of being a kid: not having final say or full authority over your life. Yet as adults most people never gain the power to choose, to say yes or no; nor do they accept the real responsibility of TRUE adulthood, which is to determine for themselves what they want, what they do, when and how they do it. And who they become. 

Needless to say that is not my kind of adulthood. No indeedy. My adulthood, into my thirties and beyond, will be enriched by all the best of childhood: imagination, excitement, humor, silliness, play, fun, lightheartedness, freedom. I view this transition into a new decade and into adulthood as the turning point when I get to truly take the wheel and take full responsibility for who I am and how I live, owning my power and relieving all other authority sources from the task of telling me what’s up. 

So, yes. Eenie-meenie-minie-moe, I’ll do what I want, stick out my tongue at the dumb things grown ups say (especially about getting old! Old is for things with expiration dates and stuff that is unused and broken. Is that what they mean?!), and go splash around in the nearest puddle. 

HA! I’m a big kid now. 

* * *

Dear Me,

Happy Birthday! Welcome to a New Age. 🙂

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