My birthday is in a couple of days. It’s not a “big” one; my age won’t be easily divisible by 5. It is, however, making me think about how I feel about being another year older and how I think I’m supposed to feel.
I will be 41. Forty-one years old. My brain thinks 41 is old. I was 13 when each of my parents turned 41. As a brand new teenager, people in their forties were ancient. They were uncool, they were out of touch, they were boring. I may not have even thought of them as the same species as my friends and me. I must have realized that, if all went well, I would someday be that “old” myself, but I never thought about what that meant.
When I was a kid, I didn’t think adults could have fun. I guess I figured that the responsibilities of home and career and family negated a persons ability to enjoy life the way I was enjoying it. I assumed that the stupid things we kids did to amuse ourselves were so important they’d carry me through to the rest of my life or I would lose the ability to be amused. (Disclaimer…this isn’t to say that my parents were miserable. They had ups and downs just like everyone else.) Adult women don’t laugh at fart jokes, I thought. They don’t talk about boys or sing their favorite songs at the top of their lungs, sometimes changing the lyrics to something bawdy or ridiculous, right? I was even a little afraid of growing older. I remember telling someone that the thought of a routine life (going to work everyday, coming home to make dinner for the kids, just to go to bed and do it all again the next day) horrified me.
Now, 28 years after I became a teenager, I realize that in so many ways, I still am that 13 year old. Fart jokes are still amusing. I still giggle over good looking men with friends. When I hear a song I love, more often than not, I will sing and dance like no one is watching. I don’t feel any different inside than I did back then, really. (There are some aches and pains, but I attribute them to roller derby practice.)
The main difference inside is that while I do go to work every day, just to come home and do it all again tomorrow, I am OK with it. Today, I live the daily grind, and it can be boring and routine, true. The 13 year old me had some of it right. She wasn’t able to see the peace in living that kind of life. (I didn’t realize back then that not having children was a viable option, so I sure wasn’t able to see living in peace.)
Staring down the barrel at 41, thinking about that young teen-aged Dani, I can’t help but smile. She may not have been so scared if she knew it wasn’t too bad.