I turned thirty-five this week, and it feels more significant than my last few birthdays. Maybe because multiples of fives just seem more like milestones. Either way, thirty-five is a full-on, no-joke, legit adulthood. I’m lucky that I am thirty-five in 2013, because my choice to not be married to have children would have declared me mentally ill, a witch, an old maid, and plenty of other lovely victimizing identities for women. Still, at thirty-five, it should feel like I should have accomplished [blank] at this point. What is the [blank] anyway, and does it matter? Some other thoughts I have had surrounding this birthday:
In the early 2000s, I was an avid Sex and the City fan (the first three seasons were fairly satirical and witty before it turned into a nighttime soap). An episode that stands out is the season premier of season four, when Carrie turns 35. Some unfortunate misunderstandings causes no one to show up to her birthday dinner, she has to pay for the cake when it is delivered, which she later drops in the street. She moans to her friends how old she feels but of course it’s nothing that a little trip to their favorite diner can’t fix. I was twenty three at the time I first saw this and shuttered at the thought of being thirty-five. I remember thinking that death would be better than being in my mid-thirties.
By thirty-five, my mother already had two children in elementary school, went back to school part time to earn her teaching degree, and had a mortgage on a home in the suburbs. When my mother was 35, I was five years old, old enough to actually remember my mother as a whole person, not just random memories of breast milk and authority. I love my mother and have great memories of the time, but she seemed like such a mother. Sure, at five, I wouldn’t have an understanding of her full spectrum as a person, but thinking she was my age now is uncomfortable. How would I know what to do with a five year old right now?
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m lucky that I do have steady employment and am financially independent, but my job is not my passion. And my generation (I’m not a millenial!) is one in which we think we deserve to have our career be the same thing as our passions. Is that a selfish thought? Is it too late? Can someone nearing forty start a completely different career. You hear stories about this happening all the time, but really?
I own my own condo, which is a big sense of pride and achievement for me, but should it somehow advance me into some sort of adulthood that those who rent can’t experience? It doesn’t feel too different except that the bank is my landlord and I’m allowed to paint the walls. I’ve lived essentially on my own since graduating college, but sometimes if I sit back and think about it, I’m amazed that I can get myself dressed in the morning.
As we get older, our childhood memories get less vivid. High school seems like a lifetime ago, and I remember key events (and embarrassments) but I no longer can conjure up the everyday feeling of what my life was like. The scary thing is, I am losing my general memories of college. It all feels part of that fuzzy past memories.
I suddenly realize the appeal of “oldies” stations. I no longer have the patience to learn about emerging music or new, hot bands. I like the comfort of listening to music I already know. I’ve become what I always feared. Not to mention that I could theoretically be the age of the parents of most bands on the popular charts.
I now refuse to sit through any movie longer than two hours in a theater. I will not see any live music if the headliner starts after 9pm.
My “dream job,” if such thing exists, is to be a writer. The last few years I’ve comforted myself with the fact that my favorite author, Chuck Palahnuik published his first, and insanely successful novel Fight Club at age thirty-six. I guess that means I only have a year to complete my masterpiece.
I’m far off from loving and accepting who I am unconditionally, but I am more comfortable with who I am as a person and feel better about sticking to my values and convictions than when I was in my twenties. At twenty-two I proclaimed, “I don’t care about money! I just want a career where I make a difference.” Which was real cute when my first job out of college paid 18K. Now, I am not ashamed to realize that hey, financial comfort is okay to want. Not that I want to make money by kicking puppies, mind you. I know that I don’t thrive in crowded, noisy bars, so I avoid them without regret.
I’m terrified of teenagers.
I believe we never really change as people. I’m probably the same as I was as a teenager. Sure, out self-efficacy, choices, and life lessons change us. I know this because I’ve moved a lot and always plan on re-inventing myself, but always end up feeling like the same person. It’s unavoidable, and all I can do is hope to constantly become a better version of my self, even if the core self never changes.
I got my first tattoo three years ago, and I am so glad I waited so long in life to do so. Think about the tattoo you would have gotten at twenty-two. Are you ashamed? Probably. I’m pretty sure I have become the person I am going to be, so any tattoo decision will not be regrettable at this point. Looking to get my next tattoo this year, and by this point I should know who I am in life to make the right decision.
What does it all mean, anyway? Why do I still subscribe to some life schemas? What am I really supposed to be at thirty-five? Am I where I am supposed to be? And who* decides what the right place is?
*my parents, probably