I aged recently. I know that I'm doing that all the time, but the other day the universe bumped me up from 37 to 38 (I thought it would make it more glamorous if I phrased it like I was being moved up a class on a plane. It didn't work).
This is fine, I mean, I'm older, but my birthday is also the day that I get more attention on Facebook than ANY OTHER DAY OF THE YEAR. Seriously, people who I forgot I was friends with on Facebook tell me happy birthday, and I know it's silly, but it really does make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and that's good for people my age. Like the benefits of giving a senior citizen a dog. Lots of Facebook attention lengthens a life span, I'm sure of it.
I don't feel old, but it occurred to me that I might not be young either given the tone of the birthday cards I've gotten over the last few years. Or really, since I turned 21. Birthday cards up until 21 all basically said "WOOHOO!! You're older!" in the same way that they would scream, "WOOHOO!!! Spring Break!" Cards since then have just pointed at me and laughed. They say, "Look at you! You are sooo old! And you're reading this card! Do you need glasses for this card, old person, because you are so old?" So I don't feel old, but the birthday cards have been telling me that I am since I was 22, which leads me to believe that all greeting cards are written by 21 year old men on Spring Break.
But what are your opinions on all of this? After all, you're aging too, even if it's not your birthday, you are aging RIGHT NOW! How do you feel about it and what do you want out of this next year of your life?
You can't answer me directly, so I decided to ask people on the street. And by "on the street" I mean, "people who were in my kitchen."
I asked Emma how she felt about being twelve. She was surprisingly unenthusiastic. She stuck her tongue out of the side of her mouth and said, "Ugh."
"Can you expand on that?" I asked.
She sneered. "Yaaay sometimes?" she said, meekly. "It's right before I become a teenager. That's an uck... Actually, no, that's a good thing, erase that."
Her moods on this issue are all over the place. Definitely twelve. I asked her what she wanted to do before she became a teenager. She had a list, which I will call "Emma's Super List of Self-Improvement." And it's this, "Eat less pizza."
"That's your list?" I said.
"Yeah. And keep the house clean, and shower every day, and eat pineapples, apples, and plums. And get over my fear of the dark, and my fear of cats in the dark, and my fear of dropping a cup on my toe."
See, you never really know about a person unless you ask them because I had no idea that my daughter suffered from the fear cats in the dark or of cups on the toe. And really, I'm not sure where to go with this information. It's not something with a clear solution like other childhood fears. Fear of the dark - get a nightlight. Fear of cats in the dark - get a cat with reflectors. Fear of cups falling on toes...drink with combat boots? I'll have to read a parenting blog.
Christopher was much easier, he feels "ok" about being 10 years old. Really, I thought he'd have more to say about this. Ten years old to a boy is running, climbing trees, peeing outdoors, playing with pocket knives, ignoring girls, and skateboard stunts, right? No. Apparently, it's just "ok." I don't know, I think I just have certain ideas about how he must feel based on my own experience of being ten when I lived to run, climb trees, and pee outside. But to each their own.
Claire's goal for 14 is to smooth out the wavy part of her hair and to survive 9th grade. This isn't a social-based fear, but grade-wise one which I think is funny because Claire makes better grades than most people I know. So I'm confident she'll be ok, and hopefully she'll feel the same way soon.
Though I don't remember worrying about my hair or my grades, I remember feeling a whole lot of anxiety.
"How's it feel to be 14?" my dad would ask the morning of my birthday.
"I hope I make it to 15," I'd say with a blank stare, thinking of the school day ahead and all of the people who weren't going to talk to me because I was too weird, and frankly, too tall to talk to.
Which is why I'm always mildly surprised when I age another year. "Hey," I think. "I lived through school," even though it's been twenty years since school ended and not only did my worst fears not come true (that I would drop dead from being disliked) NONE of the people who used to make fun of me have friended me on Facebook so I really can start pretending that they never existed in the first place. This is one of the gifts of age that they never tell you about.
I wondered what else I would learn with age. So I asked my friend Christy, who was not in my kitchen but has been 38 for a couple of months now, what it's like and what I can expect.
"People will treat you like you are wise and all-knowing but inside you are still a shaky 18 year-old. Also at 38 you will start to wonder if you can get away with putting the purple streaks in your hair that you were too 'mature' and 'serious' to do in college. Then you will think about the time and expense involved and wonder if it might be easier to buy a tiny purple sports car."
Noted, Christy - LET THE MID-LIFE CRISIS BEGIN! Dye my hair! Drive purple cars! Sex with everyone! Eat the high sodium bacon! Drop all of the cups on all of the toes!!!!
My goal for this year is to become a full-time writer. But you know, even if I'm not by this time next year, I'll be a whole hell of a lot closer. And even if I just spend another year being relieved that I'm not 14 anymore, it'll be time worth spent.