Yeah, here I am hanging out on the top of the hill, teetering and a bit wobbly, inching toward the day I take a step over.
By the time you read this I will have just turned 39.
Over the hill. That’s how they define it.
I’m at the age where the High School marching band is playing the music I listened to as a teenager. I’m at the age where I couldn’t name one relevant popstar in a lineup. I’m at the age where I spend an excessive amount of my paycheck on multi-vitamins, pro-biotics and physical therapy appointments and I genuinely get excited about a vacuum cleaner.
I’m at the age where I’ve started telling my kids they don’t know how good they have it. I say things like, “When I was a kid, we didn’t have all these choices! When I was a kid I had one pair of tennis shoes and that was it. When I was a kid we listened to the AM radio station and looked out the window on road trips,” which prompts one of my favorite questions, “Were there even cars when you were a kid?”
Ugh. I remember asking my dad the same thing. I pictured him driving around as a kid in a covered wagon and I didn’t understand why he laughed so hard at the question.
I was five and he was 37, from the olden days.
And so I find myself there too. From the olden days, born and raised before high speed Internet and smart phones. When I wanted to talk to my boyfriend, I had to call his house and talk to his dad first. The horror. When we took a picture we had to wait at least an hour to see the result, and that’s only if you lived in a big town with a Walmart or something.
I am from the unique generation that grew up as high tech grew up. We were in high school during the release of the first cell phones and in college when Facebook was invented. We remember traveler’s checks and the movie theaters only taking cash. We paid per text message and wondered why it was event a thing. And we remember TGIF television where we had to, “gasp!” be in front of the TV on time and watch the commercials.
I could be wrong, but us almost-40-year-olds may be the last of human-kind that considers actually picking up a phone to ask a question, have a conversation or make a weekend plan.
We’re vintage like that.
Vintage like the relics of our childhood we recently found in a thrift store/museum. The orange Tupperwear juice pitcher that every household had in the fridge filled with green Kool-Aid. The TV Guide collection. The BUM sweatshirt. The McDonalds Happy Meal Smurf set. The My Little Ponies and GI Joe Figurines, Disney on VHS tapes and giant TVs that took a couple friends to move into our first apartments that cost us $400 per month.
Those were the days.
I say that now too, while rubbing that spot on my neck that always kinks, no matter how much I spend on ergonomic pillows.
When my family asked me how I wanted to spend my birthday, I didn’t say a long nap, but I wanted to. Instead I said I just wanted to stay home with the kids, maybe ride some horses and make breakfast. Let me sit for a little longer in the morning with my cup of coffee and I meant it. That’s all I wanted, to take it easy because I’ve been busting my butt the last decade or two.
39. If I’m lucky, that’s almost half my life behind me, but whew, that last part went fast didn’t it? How long does it take to start feeling like you’re getting things right? My thirties set me firm in what motivates me and solidified a career path that twenty-something me was too scared to define. And my thirties brought me into motherhood and then turned around and slapped me in the face with the inevitability of my own mortality. It cut me open, literally, right down the middle and is still working on teaching me that healing takes patience, that I can’t do a thing if I don’t take care of myself properly.
In my twenties, I thought I could do it all if I wanted to.
My thirties helped me discover that I don’t want to.
And while our society tries to tell women like me that we’re losing relevance (remember the pop star thing?) I’m happy to now have the audacity to call bull on that. I’ve been working my whole life to get to the very place I stand, and I got most of the way by navigating with an actual map.
So cheers to middle age, a place from which we can tell you from experience that you’re going to regret those jeans in a few years, but you most definitely should wear them anyway.