Generally speaking, I have a pretty good philosophy on birthdays.
I’ve always enjoyed sharing it with people, year after year, when they moaned about getting old.
“One day,” I’d tell them wisely, “you’re going to look back at the memory of you at this age and think,
‘God, I was so bloody young.’
So why not just think that way now?”
I felt secretly very proud of my little theory, and even considered having it made into greeting cards, or, at least, bumper stickers.But then I realized I was about to turn 30.
I have always agreed with whoever it was who said that the 30s are the new 20s. Come to think of it, they probably are the same person who coined Thursday the new Friday and staying in the new going out, both of which I get exhausted just thinking about. But I always imagined the me in my 30s as a wildly successful type of person, hanging around on sailboats and laughing amongst carefree groups of attractive friends, drinking Carlsberg. I would still have the looks, attitude and joie de vivre of my 20s, but would not yet even have approached things like babies, $129.00 face creams and inappropriate convertibles.
Of course, that was when I was 23.
Over the past few weeks, though, I couldn’t figure out why the concept of 30 was troubling me so much. I really do believe that age is a state of mind, that it’s a marketing conspiracy to glorify youth, and that growing wiser is a great thing. Yes, my 20s were great, even the confusing parts, but I don’t expect my 30s to be a lesser decade in any way. In fact, I’m really glad to say goodbye to some notions borne of my 20s. Like the belief that Ikea is a good place to buy home furnishings.
But I was definitely bothered. I started shopping far too frequently. I caught myself staring at my reflection in the mirror and wondering why I’d ever thought that smiling was a good idea.
Then, the other day, I watched some old home videos belonging to The Greek. Very, very old home videos. Like the kind with no sound. The Greek is nearing the tail end of his thirties and has no sympathy for me whatsoever.
They were a blast. There he was, in full plaid-vest-and-matching-trouser regalia (he’s going to kill me,) holding his baby cousin (who is now a heart surgeon), running around
God, I was so bloody young.
And then it hit me.
It’s not losing my youth that I fear.
Okay, I don’t want wrinkles, I like being able to touch my toes, and yes, every twinge and muscle spasm sends my mind reeling with thoughts straight from the season finale of “Gray’s Anatomy”. But find me someone who actually looks forward to the slow disintegration of their body and mind and I’ll find you a hydrating anti-aging serum that actually works.
No. What I fear losing is a way of being – and maybe this is saying something already – that I don’t even know the word for.
It’s losing what, in our home video days, allowed us to ask a total stranger if they want to be our friend. And to hug someone because we like them, even if we’ve hugged them already that day. To cry during a movie when something bad happens– or something incredible. To stop and listen to a street musician playing a beautiful song, because there’s really no place we have to be that urgently.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve been reminded from time to time to do these things – but those times have become less and less frequent. Other reminders have made themselves known instead. Like that I still don’t really understand RRSPs, for example. And that I’m probably not wearing the right brand of jeans. Like how I really should own property by now, and work longer days, and do more stomach crunches and eat more salad.
Reminders that I should be quieter. I’ve been told throughout my whole life that I’m too loud, and have apologized for it for just as long. And how, when I see someone I’ve missed, I smile and say hello, rather than opening my arms to hug them, because I don’t want to risk the rejection of not being hugged back. Like that I shouldn’t cry so often about so many things – good and bad. And how I don’t really have the time to walk the dog.
The truth is, while 30 is going to happen no matter what I do, the more I spend my days living that way, the older I’ll become.
So yes: 30 is going to change me. It’s going to start slowly. Sometimes, I’m going to take a nap when there are still dishes to be washed. At some parties I’m going to hug people I like even if they don’t hug me first. When I cry at movies or at acts of human kindness, I’m going to try not going to apologize. In fact, I think I’m going to try to get far less use out of the word “sorry”, period.
Some Saturday afternoons, even when there’s no proper groceries and the bathroom’s a mess and I haven’t exfoliated since I don’t know when, I’m going to spend in bed with a good magazine. Some days, when things aren’t going very well in my life, I’m going to try – try – to say so to a friend, instead of saying “things are not too bad”.
And last week, after that huge storm, I threw myself into a snow bank. It may sound like a small act, but let me tell you, it actually felt great.
And it’s a lot cheaper than face cream.