By the time many of you read this, I will be another year older. Well, I won’t be a year older, I’ll be a day older or possibly even just a few hours older, but the number that is my age will be plus one.
I have very mixed feelings about this… Or maybe I have no feelings at all about this… You see, there was a time when I didn’t think I’d live to be thirty. I’m not dying. I don’t have any degenerative or progressive diseases, not that I know about anyway (and if I do, I don’t think I want to know about it.) There are no curses or trends of early deaths in my family; in fact, very much to the contrary my grandparents all lived to a very old age, except my maternal grandfather who was in his early 40s when a man, distraught over his wife leaving him, wore a dynamite vest onto the same plane as my Grandfather and detonated it in the lavatory, killing everyone on board.
No, I didn’t think I’d live to be thirty because growing up, thirty seemed old. Thirty was “too late” to accomplish anything. I figured if you hadn’t made a life for yourself by thirty, you never would. To this day I struggle against that belief. Thirty was old in my mind, and I have never been able to imagine myself as an old person. I always assumed I was alone in that feeling. I still don’t know that I’m not, but I have found that as I get older, so does my image of what “old” looks like.
When I was coming up on my thirtieth birthday, Michelle and I were still roommates and we were about to move. I wanted to ignore my birthday and focus on the packing and move preparations. Michelle made a “special” dinner (special is in quotes because she made surf and turf, which she makes anytime there’s even the slightest hint of a worthy excuse, like a birthday, or a holiday, or a Saturday) but that was the extent of my celebration. On June 10, 2005, I got a text message from my friend Heather, who lives in Oklahoma, saying, “Happy Birthday! I guess you made it to thirty after all.” I replied with “Thanks! But my birthday’s not for two more days. A lot can happen.” You see, I wasn’t living in fear of dying. I didn’t really figure at that point that I would die. It was just that I’ve never been able to imagine myself getting old and for a long time old was defined in my mind as thirty.
If you’re reading between the lines here, then you realize that, yes, I still have doubts about my own longevity, and I think I’m OK with that. While my grandparents lived to ripe old ages, my Paternal Grandmother died at 86, of cancer after a four year battle. My Paternal Grandfather died just shy of 93, presumably of “old age” but not before slipping into dementia and depression. He lived four years after his wife died and all he wanted the entire time was to be with her. And my Maternal Grandmother? I don’t know what she died of, other than just plane giving up. She was a miserable woman her whole life and she was kind of determined to stay that way. Sixty years of Anti-depressants and addiction to Valium, followed by a 6 month stay in an assisted living facility she finally gave up and willed herself to die at the age of 84.
None of these are things I want to experience and if I’m not very vigilant I could easily experience all three. No, I’d much rather die in my fifties after, hopefully, living a full life, than live into my 80s and be miserable and sickly.
Wow, once again, on a major tangent.
Anyway, tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be 34 years old. When I turned 30, I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. I’m not sure how I’ll feel next year, turning 35, but for now, 34 is not so bad. I’m still waiting to feel like I’ve built a life for myself and given the major changes I’m considering, it may be a while still before I feel like I have. And yes, sometimes I get twinges of feeling like that makes me a failure, but frequently people tell me, and I choose to believe, that at 34 years old, I’m still young and can accomplish a lot in my life…
My feelings are mixed for other reasons as well. Growing up, we never made a big production out of birthdays. I’ve never had a birthday party. Not a single one. There’s never been anyone to invite to one. I don’t make friends easily and when I was a kid I was even worse. In my family, a birthday “party” pretty much consists of a dinner out, but nothing special because we ate dinner in restaurants all the time (mom never wanted to cook) and possibly a Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. Believe me when I tell you, Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake is not nearly as bad as it sounds. It’s actually quite delicious, but like the dinners out, Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake was a regular staple in our house so that wasn’t particularly exciting either.
Michelle turned 40 this year, and her sister threw a big party for her. There were at least 30 people at this party and they were all there to see Michelle, to wish her well, and to heap gifts up on her ancient head. I had a nice enough time, except for one isolated incident but it served to remind me that I haven’t, and probably won’t ever, have an experience like it. Poor me, whatever.
You know, I’ve written many times and verbally commented many more times, about how much I dislike contrived holidays in which you’re supposed to go through special efforts to show your affection for someone you care about when that should be a daily occurrence. I guess if I was honest, though, I’d have to admit that when a birthday (and I would imagine an anniversary) goes by largely unnoticed, it is a bit of a slap in the face, like you’re deliberately telling the person that they don’t matter to you and so there’s a part of me that wants certain people to make a big to-do about my birthday, even while I know that if they did, I’d be embarrassed about it.
I’m so not sure where I was going with this post, now that I’ve gotten this far in.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I’m taking the day off work. (In fact I’m taking Monday off work and making a long week-end of it. Since my birthday falls on a Friday this year, I thought there was potential for a birthday trip or something so I made sure I had the time for it. There is no trip and I’m still off Monday, but I’m ok with that.) Michelle and I are going to go run around a little bit. No firm plans yet, just a movie, probably food, maybe miniature golf or something. My mother has already informed me that a gift is on its way (first time in three or four years). It’s a book. I would assume I’ll get an e-mail from Erin. She’ll send it to my work e-mail and since she doesn’t know that I won’t be here, she doesn’t know that I won’t see it till Tuesday. Heather will likely send me a text. K will likely send me a Birthday Tweet (I did for her.) And well, now that I’ve written this whiny post about how pitiful my birthdays always are, I’m sure I’ll get a few “Happy Birthday” comments, all of which is, or will be, appreciated. Mostly, I’m just grateful to take some time off work to relax AND clean my house… If it’s possible to do both of those things at the same time…
Happy Birthday to me!