There’s been some buzz in social media lately about how fraught with difficulty it is to turn forty years old. Which, whatever: been there, done that. I turned forty years old last year. At the time I thought, Isn’t this the birthday where I get canes and bifocals as gag gifts and t-shirts that say things like ‘I’m not old, I’m vintage’ and at least one coffee mug with the words ‘lordy, lordy look who’s forty’ printed along the side?
Because, seriously: I did not think that I was old enough to be forty. It wasn’t that I feared aging or thought that anyone over forty is hideously uncool – it’s that I just couldn’t believe that I was grown-up enough to have the numbers 4 and 0 apply to me in any context other than grade point averages. I was not, in my own opinion, a grown-up. I still hold that opinion. I’m not a grown-up; I’m a girl in a state of arrested adolescence. Sure, I have kids, but if anything that has only driven the point home more clearly: ain’t nobody here but us childrens.
But here’s the thing: whereas last year, I thought that ’40’ meant ‘totally a grown-up, no avoiding it, no how,’ this year, I think that ’40’ means ‘totally not a grown-up, because who are you kidding?’ I think this, because this year, I am 41. And if there’s anything that I’ve learned in my 41st year, it’s this: it don’t matter what the numbers say on your driver’s license (or in my case – I don’t drive; how’s that for evidence of not being a grown-up? – my passport), age is a completely subjective experience, and has nothing to do with maturity. My body has matured. So has my mind. My spirit is, on the other hand, ageless. (No, not immature. AGELESS. Shut up. IT IS SO AGELESS.)
I am a grown-up. But I’m also a child who loves Disneyland, who has lost her Dad, who fears losing others she loves, who still loves unicorns and dolphins and who believes in fairies but worries that sometimes, the fairies fade, no matter how hard you clap your hands. And I’m not sure whether I should just keep clapping and believing and wishing the hurt and the fear away on clouds of pixie dust, or whether I should just do whatever it is that grown-ups do to not be sad and afraid, like drink more coffee and take more Ativan, which can be almost as effective as pixie dust, if my own experience is anything to go by, but far less magical. Or can I do both? Can’t I please do both?
Because I’m totally going to do both, anyway.