I am usually completely oblivious to how old I am. Seriously, I don’t know how it happened, but when someone asks how old I am, I genuinely have to do the math in order to get it right. Except for those milestone birthdays. You know, hitting 10 and finally being ‘double digits’. 13 to finally be a teenager. 18 to finally be an adult. (I snort as I type this. As if.) 21 to be able to throw away my fake ID (sorry mom) and finally be legal. 30 to prove that, yes, I think I am officially an adult. But the other odd years in between? Not so much.
In my teenage years, I had fully considered turning 40 to be a pretty big milestone. What was it going to signify? Well, I guess to my 18 year old eyes, it would be that I was old. (I snort as I type this as well).Whatever it was supposed to be, I knew 40 would be a big one that would probably cause me to swallow a little harder, and pause a little longer, and maybe reflect a little deeper. Funny thing is, do you know which birthday I didn’t even think twice about? It’s the dark horse of birthday creepers. It’s the one that flies so far under the radar that you really don’t even acknowledge it. That is, until you are about a week out, and you see it coming down the tunnel like a train. Who, you ask, is this devilishly sly number that rides in during the night and stares you down in the morning over your fresh cup of Chai tea? My friends, the number is 39.
I can hear those of you now who have flown past 39 laughing. “You think 39 is bad? Wait until 49.” “39? Well, girl, let me introduce you to 70.” I get it. The milestones get a little bigger with each passing year and come with a little more baggage. But for me, sitting here writing this little piece, it’s just me and 39. Having a stare-down contest. Waiting for the other to flinch first. We have five more days to call each other’s bluff. Figure out who is going to take who down first. At this point, I think we’re even.
As a child, I can vividly remember my mom turning 39. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal for her, honestly. Now, 40? 40 was a big deal. So much so that she referred to it as her ’39 and holding’ birthday. How about 41? 39 and holding. 49? 39 and holding. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure how old she ever was because her answer when someone asked was always ’39 and holding.’ I didn’t know why my mom dug her heels into 39 and hung on for years. And to be quite candid, I never even thought about it until yesterday. It dawned on me that in 5 days I will be ’39 and holding.’
Let me say that in no way, shape, or form am I feeling sorry for myself turning 39. But, it has kinda smacked me right up-side my head…mainly for two reasons. First, in my mind, I still feel like a kid. Remember that awful Britney Spears song “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman”? (Shivers but it makes a point) I guess I thought that by 39, I would have my crap semi ironed out. Things like who I am, where am I going, who is my tribe, what do I stand for. Big, soul defining things. Things that still seem so fluid and changing and confusing and downright perplexing about fifty percent of the time. I mean, wasn’t 39 supposed to be when everyone had it all figured out? I certainly thought so. Y’all, I still long to go back to vet school. I still want to sell everything and take the kiddos and animals and travel the world. I still want to be the Sugar Plum fairy in the Nutcracker that I never was confident enough to try out for. I sometimes still look around and think, did I make the right decisions? I teeter between being so fulfilled I could burst and being so panicked that this is it. 39 wasn’t supposed to be this, right?
Second, remember how I said I vividly remember my mama always being ’39 and holding’. Well, if that is true, then how in THE HELL am I about to turn 39. I mean, my mama is 39. Not me. Oh, wait. It’s about to be me, and as for mama. Well, she’d disown me if I went there, but I think it is safe to say the hold on 39 broke free, and she flew past it a bit ago. Me turning 39 means my mama is not 39. Which means she is aging. Which means so am I. And that may be the root of it all.
Aging is a beautiful thing, but I would be a bold-faced liar if I said it wasn’t scary. I’m a little pissed that my mama isn’t 39 anymore. That definitely wasn’t supposed to happen. Mamas don’t age. Like ever, right? I’m a little pissed that I’ve made it to 39 (almost) and still have so much I want to do and so much I wish I had already done. That teenage ‘Ive got my entire life to do that’ mentality broke down about 2 days ago, and I have realized ‘Nope. No you don’t’. So, I’ve spent that past 48 hours silently mulling over it all to myself.
’39 and holding. 39 and holding. Shit. 39 and holding. Grrrr. 39.’
In a weird twist of fate or an interception by the Universe, I picked up a magazine this morning as I was sipping my tea and giving 39 the finger. I randomly flipped open to a short interview with Sting. In a random twist of fate, the interviewer asked him how should a person handle aging. I loved his answer so much that I had to share.
“Philosophically. I think that as you face mortality, you learn more in the reflection than you could have perhaps learned in your glory. I think an awareness of mortality, an acceptance of it, enriches your life rather than makes you morbid.”
As I placed the magazine down and walked back to my computer, I looked over my cup of tea and still saw 39 sitting at the other end of the table. But, y’all. I think we’ve decided to make peace. I’m no longer going to run from it or enter into 39 kicking and screaming. Instead, this week is going to be a reflection of all that I have learned in the past 38 years and a readiness for all that is to come in the next 38 (and hopefully more). I think it’s ok not to have it all figured out and still be free to dream and chase and want. I think that is what makes us human and allows us to continue to grow, even past the dreaded 39.
Who knows, maybe you will receive a postcard from me and the family from some far off place outlining our travels. Or, maybe I might start taking ballet again. Or, maybe I will be able to watch my amazing daughter become a vet one day, if that is to be her path.
And maybe is going to be just fine with me.