November 1, 2011

Maybe It's Me: Reset and Restart, or, How a Duck and Frappacino Started It All

Maybe it’s me, but it’s interesting how immature we can be about age.

When we’re younger, we so desperately want to be older that we tick away the time every chance we get: we aren’t seven years old, we’re seven and a half years old, or seven and three-quarters years old. Without realizing it, this simple, naive act of marking time by the desire to be as old as we possibly can be every day prevents us from truly reveling in the innocence and freedom that only comes with youth.

Which is something we’ll wish we would have done more of when were grown-up and looking back.

And when we’re older, we so desperately want to be younger that we blatantly lie to others and to ourselves about “how old we are,” we make self-degrading comments about “showing our age,” we use synthetically made chemicals in and on our body to “reverse the aging effect.” Why? With age comes experience, knowledge, confidence, and skills. Why are we denying ourselves those earned rights?

After all, it’s everything we hope for when we’re growing-up and looking forward.

It’s the curse of humanity, right? No matter where we are, we’re never happy.

But we can be content.

Which, for all the turmoil bubbling just beneath the surface as I celebrate another birthday, I am at this point in my life. Content. I don’t necessarily want to be as old as I am, yet I have no interest in being too much younger. I feel as though I’m beautifully caught between two distinct moments in my life; and, while it’s a disruptive, conflicting feeling (am I too old to be enjoying this? I’m too young to feel this way already!), I’ll take it. I’d rather feel this struggle, then one of wanting and not having (youth) or of having and not wanting (seniority).

I like that in one breath I can still be moved by childlike wonder, and in the next am incredibly grateful for foresight and just “knowing better,” both of which only really come with age. But I’m also cognizant of the fact that I don’t know everything. While I feel like I’ve come into my own, understanding both myself and my world better than I did five years ago, I know that in five years from now I’ll look back and think, “I had no idea what I was talking about then.”

Which is an okay place to be in life, I suppose: somewhere between here and there.

Birthdays have always profoundly affected me.

Like New Years Eve, for me birthday they are a time to think about and absorb the previous year of life and the year to come. Am I who I want to be? Am I doing what I was created to? Do I honor my childhood the way I should? Do I acknowledge and appreciate the life I’m currently living? Do I look ahead at a future that doesn’t exist in fear or excitement?

Birthdays are a time to reset and restart.

And think.

It’s an interesting time to be alive, both with the state of the world and turning this particular “late” twenty-something age. I’ve never been a middle-of-the-road kind of girl. Not with my opinions, not with my emotions, not with my wants. I’ve always felt strongly one way or another.

And lately, I’m caught.

I want to be sad by this birthday. And while I’m unsettled by it, there’s also a feeling of indifference, too. I can’t stop aging – getting older is totally, totally inevitable. Nothing I could have done would have prevented this from happening. Yes, it’s a major disappointment to see my age climb further and further up. But, I’m thankful to be seeing it climbing at all. Another year that passes means another year I was able to live and love and laugh and be.

Part of the awkward feeling from this birthday may stem from the fact that I look almost exactly like I did ten years ago. This isn’t a bad thing at all! But it’s psychologically confusing at times for me to process fully. What I see and what I feel are beginning to be detached from each other. When I look in the mirror I see a bright-eyed college-aged kid; what I physically feel most of the time is a body that doesn’t quite perform, react, or heal the way it used to.

My “clock” certainly isn’t ticking, but after having been invited to ten weddings over the course of the past year along with multiple baby showers, I do feel at odds with myself. I currently have no desire to be someone’s wife or mother, and yet I feel like I’m supposed to feel like I should. What’s so wrong with wanting as much me-time as possible before giving that up? I don’t think there’s anything selfish about wanting to be the most healthy, happy, comfortable version of myself that I can offer another person. But, to be honest, most of this also stems from the fact that I’m now officially older than my mom was when she had me – her first born. She’s now been a parent more than half her life. Something about this resonates deep in my bones, the recesses of my mind, and the furthest corners of my heart. It’s the biggest reminder I think of how much older I’m getting.

Ten years ago, my mom introduced me to the arts and historical district of my now favorite city in the country. Despite being a late-teen, she bought me this bright yellow stuffed duck that had webbed feet bigger than my own hands (this made me laugh) from the indie toy store that specialized in book-related playthings. In complete contrast, she also purchased for me my very first specialty coffee drink - a venti caramel frappacino. And so I stood in the middle of the cobble-stoned streets, big giant sobs of frustration racking my body, while one arm clutched the duck close to my torso, the other hand gripped around the frappucino.  And I wondered . . .

Who was I?

What was I gonna do with my life?

How did my childhood slip away so fast?

Where would I be in ten years?

Despite its simplicity, it remains a very poignant moment in my existence, where the little kid clashed with the adult in me (for the first of many, many times might I add).

Since that moment in time, every year I think I know who I am (I'm closer now to that answer). Every year I know what I want to do with my life and try as hard as I can to achieve it (I'm closer to that now, too). And every year I wonder how the previous year slipped away so fast (I'll never be closer to understanding that).

But where would I be in ten years? I know that answer now with absolute certainty. Because where I would be in ten years is here. The girl . . . woman . . . I am now, writing about strong emotions towards yet another birthday.

I still have that stuffed, yellow duck. He's not as brightly colored anymore, but his webbed feet are still bigger than my hands and that still makes me giggle.

Specialty coffee drinks have continued to make me entirely weak in the knees (they've also become far harder to work off my hips).

And my significant other comes from that very part of the city I love where I wept unabashedly in confliction in 'lo those many years ago (and when we walk hand-in-hand through those same streets it's as if I get a private screening to the evolution of my own life).

The point is that I made it through that tumultuous teen year. Somehow ten years has suddenly slipped past, and I'll make it through this birthday, too (however unsettling or indifferent I may feel about it).  And will, once again, reset and restart from here: honoring the childhood I had, appreciating fully the life I'm living now, and looking ahead at a future that intrigues me.

And when it's all said and done, I can confidently say with childlike wonder: I'm content with how old . . . how young? . . . I am in this moment.