I turn 32 tomorrow. And forgive me, but I’m cradling my second glass of red with Hozier on repeat.
Bear with me.
I’m young, I know. Yes, I know. But the thing is — there is this complex tug of feelings inside like I’m standing firmly inside my prime yet faced with the loss of those wonderful things of youth: falling in wild, dizzying love, freedom to fly, first time things, two intoxicating lines on a pregnancy stick and the giddy sense of unknown things, all ahead of me like a bag of lucky dips. All these experiences are now things that once happened to me and in their place: a sobering practice of relinquishing the past, being a grown up and taking out the rubbish bin.
It’s gloomy, I’m aware. Gloomier than it really is, as age – for me – has brought with it a self-love I never possessed before. Growing older has been laced with peace from the hustle, unapologetic permission to be myself. Hurts have healed in the only way they should – by looking into a tear-streamed mirror and screaming: Is there anyone in this world who will not betray me? While the answer stared squarely back: “You, honey. You.” This is a beautiful thing. The most beautiful. But to go back, and do it all again with the me of now, well, that’s where my nostalgia lies.
Would I have chosen differently?
Am I wasting my time even wondering?
All I know is that I could write for days and turn it into a book to give my daughter when she begins to look with longing to a world beyond me. But – and here’s the point – would she even understand it? Would she take it in and swallow it down and hold it in her shaking hands aware of its value? Isn’t youth wasted on the young?
I google “female midlife crisis” and learn it’s a thing. I feel somewhat relieved. That it’s not just me who every now and again longs for the intoxicating freedom of not having to lie in the bed I’ve made. We all feel the need to be desired and full of possibility. We all face confronting adulthood with its responsibilities a tad on the oppressive side. We all feel the threat of ordinary hanging like a noose around the necks of our souls. It’s why people buy red sports cars and have affairs and uproot their lives in the hope for more. Its’s why they have more babies and change their houses and travel the world. Why they become addicted to shopping, obsessed with extreme exercise – because, to quote Hozier, “I guess any thrill will do”.
I keep googling.
I read that during “midlife transition”, our psyche “encourages us to move from having a sense of identity based on how we’re conditioned to see ourselves” – that is, based on how others expect us to be – “and more to how we truly are”. Some psychologist in mentioned article says that the concept behind it is that women can be so busy taking care of other people they don’t explore their own needs and desires.
Gosh, I can see a movie version already, Navigating Midlife: Women Becoming Themselves, following a couple of married-with-children women around who develop sudden crushes on bass players with man buns, only to mourn the fact that their sex-with-bass-player days are over, and go take up Bikhram yoga and transcendental meditation and crossfit and suduko and mountain climbing instead.
Said psychologist states that the midlife crisis is not something to be feared but, rather, embraced. (But of course she’s going to say that.) She says that we can use our midlife crises as a jumping-off point for rewarding creative and constructive pursuits, like launching new businesses or – wait for it – becoming artists. She tells me that instead of having sex with bass players, we can use our need to explore ourselves and our capabilities and our limits in a beneficial, constructive way. (I’m wondering if small bass player crushes are okay?)
There is this scene in the movie Whip It where an aspiring roller derby girl walks up to the roller derby league team and says, “You guys are my heroes.” Without missing a beat, one of the team members looks at the girl and says, “Why don’t you put some skates on and be your own hero?”
Isn’t that one of the best things you’ve ever heard?
We take this advice into our middle and old age. Maybe our best years have been and gone. But maybe they haven’t. It’s not about age then, but about how much we put into our lives that defines it – and us. There’s no need to flip out in a panic and chase down a handful of cheap thrills at every given opportunity.
Here’s the catch, like always: relish right now, make peace with ordinary. Our right nows turn into a past we one day lament. I will look back on the day I turned 32 and wonder how I never knew how young and beautiful I was. How much possibility lay ahead. How many roads with my car windows down I’d drive, breeze in my hair, free and full – of life, of love, of promise.
Now excuse me while I continue my mid-life crisis and go chase down a bass player with a man bun. Kidding! I’m off to buy a sports car.