Musings from Home

A Measure of Progress

Today is my 45th birthday. And while I certainly notice age spots, wrinkles, dark circles, and gray hairs in the mirror, I don’t feel 45. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would think I can’t be anything over 35.

And yet, this birthday hasn’t bothered me at all. I don’t remember ever giving much thought either way to this particular milestone, which is odd considering how much I have either looked forward or not to some birthdays.

Like most people, I couldn’t wait to turn 16, then 18, and then 21. Then I stopped looking forward to getting older and started fretting about it. After college graduation, when I moved back home while I applied for jobs, I spent the time in between sending out resumes listening to Cat Stevens songs and seeing my life pass me by. It’s funny to me now and I realize how silly I was, especially since I got my first full-time job about a month after graduation. I was just so impatient to get my life started and conquer all those mountains ahead.

At 26, I started to look ahead with dread to 30, much like Sally Albright (in “When Harry Met Sally”) did to 40. I remember telling my brother that I saw wrinkles in the mirror when I smiled (again, silly me!) and that I was getting old. When he said I was still young, I countered that I was almost 30. His reply: “When? Someday!?” I was worried once again that my life was passing too quickly and that I hadn’t yet accomplished enough to tackle all that I wanted to in my lifetime.

As I got closer, I just knew that 30 was going to hit me like a load of cement, as some of my friends had told me it did them. One friend say she cried for days and was down for even longer. I braced myself for the same feelings.

But by the time I actually got there, I was in graduate school working on my PhD and I was dating the most wonderful man in the world. The night before my 30th birthday, Jim proposed. I spent the whole next day (week, year?) in a bubble of excitement, so I eased into my thirties almost without noticing.

Having heard that people tend to be upset by either their 30th or 40th birthdays, but not usually both, I wondered if 40 would knock me down, since 30 had not. A lot happened in the decade in between. Jim and I got married. I earned my PhD. We moved to Virginia. Emerald was born. Sadly, my mom passed away. I taught part-time at a local community college. I volunteered at Emerald’s co-operative preschool (as co-president for two years). Life went on pretty normally (with its joys and sorrows).

As 40 approached, we had something new to look forward to: Sapphire. In between getting Emerald ready to start Kindergarten and planning for the new baby, I had little time to worry about turning 40 — even as it happened. Six days after my 40th birthday, I had a beautiful, healthy baby girl, who was instantly adored by her parents and her older sister. What was there to be bummed about?

It’s sometimes the times between my birthdays that I think about all the time that has passed. At these times when I start to feel old and think about missed opportunities or things I handled less than stellarly, I think about what age I would like to go back to, if I could, to be young again and start from there. I’ve always known I wouldn’t ever go back to childhood or my teen years, because I don’t want to go through the “figuring out who I am and where I fit in this world” stage again. So I’ve often settled on my twenties — a fun, care-free time of life.

But I realized pretty quickly that I wouldn’t go backwards at all, even if I could. Overall, I like where my life has taken me and I wouldn’t be comfortable in the assumption I’d wind up here again, after correcting mistakes and reliving my youth. And most of all, I would never risk not having Jim, Emerald, and Sapphire in my life. You change one day, you change all that follows. Uh unh! Not me!

So although I have spent way too much time, especially early on, thinking about getting “old” (whatever that is), I have learned that I don’t really look at my age as a measure of how old I am. I see my milestones as an opportunity to look back on my life thus far and gauge how I’m doing with my overall goals. In my 45 years, I have educated myself aplenty, started a career (which has morphed into another), married my perfect guy, and most importantly to me, had two spectacular daughters. I am now in the process of shifting gears again slightly to spend more time with my lovely preciouses and to begin an exciting project with an old friend.

I see lots of light ahead. So, Welcome 45! We’re going to be great friends.

Now I’m off to get my hair cut and colored. Just because I’m 45 doesn’t mean I have to look old and drab. 🙂

Are there certain ages you dread or have dreaded? How did it turn out?

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Comments on: "A Measure of Progress" (3)

  1. Happy birthday!!!

    I didn’t fret about 30 at all. I had a baby and we were about to move away from a place I hated to the place where I wanted to be.

    And I *LOVED* turning 40. I fully embraced it and found it be enlightening.

    For some reason though, 37 was a tough one for me and I have no idea why.

  2. I loved 30 too! I wanted to be taken seriously, and being in my 30s was the way to do it. The last few years of 36/37/almost 38 are hard. I want to be older and mature without being 40. And 40 is coming awfully fast…

    Happy Birthday dear friend! Wish I was there to celebrate with you!

  3. Happy birthday, my dear friend. May all your wishes come true, I hope you’re enjoying good health today and in regards to your career shift, I affirm for you that you will come down just where you’re meant to be. Turing 45 earlier this month didn’t bother me, I get preoccupied with other issues and meaningless things I can’t do anything about just don’t mean much to me. I went gray pretty early on, (thanks ex-husband, Ha!) so I died my hair for decades. It occured to me I was afraid of looking in the mirror and seeing my abusive, mentally ill mother more than I was seeing signs of aging. I forced myself to go natural, and when I look in the mirror, thankfully, I see only myself. The way I look at it, I earned every gray. So now I embrace them. But for the period of time when I did dye my hair I really enjoyed it.

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