I am creeping towards 32. Every day my eldest daughter reminds me that it’s almost May, which means it’s almost my birthday. With crazy excitement in her eyes she is thrilled that her mama is about to have a birthday. Birthdays, to her, are AWESOME. There are parties and cake and presents and balloons and friends and she is OLDER. And when you’re five, being older is amazing.
For me, growing older comes with it’s own set of baggage. I’m reminded pretty frequently that people younger than me are doing amazing things, things that I haven’t done, and likely won’t ever do. They are pushing for better sexual health education, demanding superheroes they can relate to (and getting results), calling out cultural appropriation, and being all around awesome. Folks, there is even a troop of Radical Brownies.
I have some things on my life to-do list that also haven’t been accomplished. While I’m usually okay with that, as I creep closer to the end of May, I feel a bit of panic rise in my chest. I’m getting older too fast, I think. I’m not ready yet. I don’t FEEL like an adult, I feel like I’m just pretending to be one most days. So why do I have to get older?
Maybe that’s why I feel such joy when I’m told I look young?
THE JOY! When I’m asked for photo ID buying a bottle wine for my Netflix binge later that night. Such joy when someone mistakes me for a student on campus. A swelling of wonderful, unadulterated joy.
The FLOTUS knows that joy.
I’m with you, Michelle. I feel that joy.
But Michelle, it’s time for the two of us to admit that that joy is messed.up.
I’m trying to embrace my life as it is, to feel gratitude and to be confident in myself and what I’ve accomplished. This is in turn tarnished by that little surge of joy when someone looks surprised that my age starts with a 3. Tarnished because in the end, there is something wrong with feeling joy at being thought of as younger: it hides the shame of growing older.
The joy is fleeting, and I’m left with the underlying shame of not having done enough, accomplished enough, lived enough. This is coupled with society’s lovely disapproval of aging and – gasp – looking older!
Sure, I want to have lots of energy and be vibrant and optimistic, but I’d rather not cringe at my age just to feel the “you can’t be!” joy. I’d rather just be happy in my own skin.
I want to go back to the excitement of birthdays – the thrill of ice cream cake and celebrations and friends and parties. I want to embrace my age, be thankful for my experiences, and realize that this is what adulthood feels like – for me.
After all, Aaliyah assured me ages ago on one of my favourite CDs that age ain’t nothing but a number.
I am now dating myself, but hey, maybe that’s the first step to age-acceptance.