My 20’s involved my letting go of an abusive lover, realizing I was a raging alcoholic, struggling through a grueling nursing school program that was more like boot camp, and oh yeah-getting married. I also had my first child at 27 and finally graduated college within a year of his birth. Much of it sucked but parts of it were glorious (i.e. giving birth to my beautiful boy). I wasn’t sad to leave my 20’s behind and move gracefully into my 30’s. During those years, I had three more boys, left my husband of 16 years and found love with R. I entered the world of the “work outside the home” moms and learned to stand on my own two feet. For the first time, I paid the rent, bought a car, forced myself to show up daily for a job I hated, and had all those other responsibilities that make one feel self-sufficient and adult. I also began my struggle with depression, although I did not realize it at the time.
Now here I sit at 42, wondering how in the hell I became this age. I don’t think I look 42. People tell me I don’t look older than my mid-30’s (god bless them and Botox), and I certainly do not feel 42 most of the time. I mean, c’mon, I have a nose ring for chrissakes! I listen to rock music (loudly), recently discovered I like Eminem and drop the F bomb more often than I probably should. I’m a mom of 5 fabulous kids, I work in a very granola crunchy environment. My mom seemed old at my age! She was repressed and conservative and all the things I am not. She was a Southern Baptist and the worst curse word uttered from her God-fearing lips was “damn!” She couldn’t have possibly ever had sex.
The thing is, I always thought I would move into my later years with grace. I could easily see myself in my 60’s, working in my garden, traveling, imparting wisdom to the younger generation, and not worrying about the lines on my face. The reality is that I still hope to continue to grow and become more enlightened. I’d like to keep working in jobs that truly help other people. I wish be the best mom to my kids I can be, and a good mate for R. I just don’t want to get older while doing so! I don’t want my body to become flabby or my face to sag. I still need to feel sexy and vibrant and desired. Hell yes-when I buy my non-alcoholic beer in the grocery store, I want you to card me! And go piss off if you do not! I cringe when anyone calls me ma’am. They mean no harm, I know. They’re just being respectful. Yet when I hear it, in my mind they are just saying “you’re really old.”
I feel as if I am being dragged kicking and screaming into an age that I vehemently oppose. My parents always said about aging that “it’s better than the alternative,” and I understand that logic. Hell, maybe I’m just vain and I need to get over it already. I should focus more on spiritual and emotional growth and less on what I look like. I’m not a shallow person-never have been. So why am I struggling so much with this? Where’s the elusive grace I’m supposed to have at this stage of my life? Why do I care so much if others me attractive? All those 20 somethings I’m so envious now will one day be my age, too. It happens to all of us lucky enough to survive this long. I guess I’m just surprised by my reaction to it. I never thought it would be painful to say goodbye to my youth. I just don’t know how to say goodbye to it when in my head, I still feel so young.