I have a confession: I have to do a calculation any time I need to remember my age.
35. I am currently 35 years old, and maybe just typing that out will help to secure that number in my mind so I can finally remember how old I am without pulling the calculator up on my phone.
I’ve been slowly moving through this journey of accustoming myself to writing regularly again, and part of this process has entailed the stress of not knowing what to write (confidently, freely, at length) about, and the subsequent realization that the style that works easiest for me, at least for now, involves memories and observations.
As a result, I’ve been contemplating my age a lot lately and where I’m at in my life. I’ve been thinking about the past and who I used to be, and I’ve been ruminating on the many ways I’ve changed over the stretch of years.
I’m finishing Caitlin Moran’s “How to be a Woman”, and one of her closing chapters (the one I’m currently reading) is a reflection on her own age of 35 years old, and how,
“Soon I, too, will look down at my hands and realize they are the hands of my nana, and that the ring that went on shiny all those years ago has — without me doing anything about it — become an antique. I have finished being truly young. There will be a holding period, a decade or so of stasis, and then the next thing that will happen is I will start to be old. That is what is happening next.”
I wrote recently about having my first period, and as I wrote the piece not even two weeks ago, it was a bit startling — the clarity with which I remembered my experiences, the feelings I’d had during those times and the fact I’m still able to vividly capture those memories more than two decades later.
The memories of my adolescence — the potency of feelings, in particular — feel as undiluted to me now as they did at the time, except for now they can’t help but be tinged by a gentle kind of sympathy. That poor girl who didn’t know how to talk to boys, whose friends chronically manipulated her, who never should’ve streaked her hair — what would I even tell her? That none of it really matters, except in a way it does, because all of it shapes the way forward, lays down the foundation for what’s to come.
I grew up a quiet introvert, which made me pretty invisible to the people around me (that’s how it felt, at least, and I don’t think it’s untrue), but it also meant I spent a lot of time observing. I wrote as frequently as every couple of days in my journals, and though the writing itself was never sophisticated (so much the opposite, in fact, that I destroyed every tattered notebook just a couple years ago), I was already conditioned, even then, towards reflection.
I read a lot, too, (a lot) and this, combined with my desire to assign meaning to my observations and experiences, is what led me towards the humanities. There was even a period in twelfth grade and shortly after when I felt, with certainty, that I would become a writer.
After a year off following graduation, I enrolled in university and, eventually, declared an English major and Media Studies minor. My education, in turn, eventually led me to my existing adult livelihood of public sector communications.
But that’s just me reflecting on my childhood having set the stage for both a career in writing and a long-lasting attachment to personal expression.
I digress, somewhat, because my initial thought when I began writing this piece had to do with the fact that I am currently 35 years old. And that I feel simultaneously as young and vulnerable as I did in my teens, and like I’m suddenly and unexpectedly crossing the precipice from young to old.
It wasn’t long ago I considered my 20s part of my “adult life”, and now, when I think back to how frivolous, floundering and downright irresponsible those years were, they feel as foreign to adulthood as one could imagine.
(Case in point: I once let an ingrown toenail get so bad, it literally grew through my toe and out the end. I let this happen because I was too fearful or stubborn or idiotic to see the doctor and get an ointment and save myself the excruciating agony of stubbing my toe constantly while I waited tables in the evenings.)
If I’m being honest, my 20s feel like a bit of a blur to me, probably because there was just so very much packed into that stretch of a decade.
I fell in love, earned a degree and eventually moved cities. I began working full-time, bought a (used) car and made brand new friends. I gained (and lost) weight, learned to like wine and taught myself to cook. We bought our first condo, adopted a dog and eventually got married.
The fact that now, at 35, I legitimately can’t remember how old I am 100 percent of the time is a startling reminder that I am aging. It’s not even like I consciously went through a period of having to tell myself, “You’re a real adult now, smarten up”. It just happened organically, over time, so that one day I was projectile vomiting red wine all over the condo bathroom, and the next I’m forgoing a second glass because “I hate feeling hungover”.
(Though, to be fair, there are those rare instances in your 30s when you accidentally forget you’re not as hardy and resilient as you once were, so that on, say, a trip to Mexico with friends, you mix mojitos with chocolate martinis and cap it all off with fruit-flavoured shooters, until you’re bent over heaving into the hotel room toilet and sobbing to your husband how much you hate yourself.)
I watch TV nowadays and wonder if I’ve caught up to the age of the actors, or if I’m subconsciously choosing content that matches my age group. It’s the same with the doctor, the vet, the chiropractor, the dentist — professionals who once seemed so much older and distant from me are now, I’m acutely aware, of the same generation.
I reflect on all this from the comfort of my king size bed in our house on a cul-de-sac while the ceiling fan rotates above me, and even though it doesn’t get more adult than than that (or the fact I mowed the lawn the day before last), it also doesn’t feel possible that I could be in my mid-30s. In spite of my aching hips, the silver strands I sometimes catch in the mirror and the tiny creases forming at the corners of my eyes, I don’t feel old.
I still have stuffed animals stowed on the top shelf of the guest room closet, dream of the many more tattoos I want to get and adamantly refuse to wear any article of clothing that needs to be ironed. I still enjoy going to live shows, smoking weed and eating chocolate for breakfast. I still wear a nose ring, drive to loud music and, as I learned last week, remember every single word to No Doubt’s “Sunday Morning”.
It is true that I am aging. But in an unexpected way, it’s kind of nice. I’m remarkably more self-assured, more stable, much wiser and far more clearer on who I am and what I want from life.
The stability of my 30s may still be slightly unsteady at times, but it affords me the freedom to get real with myself. To find my voice, care less about others’ opinions and wear whatever I feel like. It’s not that I stopped being awkward, I’m just learning to own it.
This is my 30s.
It’s weird…but I like it.