Aging? Who, Me?

agine who meAging is strange. I hear that word and immediately think of people older than me- like, much older. I feel like the word “aging” does not even apply to me. Same with middle age.

I mean, we are all aging right? Somehow though it doesn’t feel the same when talking about a 24 year old woman and a 44 year old woman.

I went through what may have been an intense midlife crisis a few years ago. I’ve called it a mental break down because that’s what it was.

During that breakdown/crisis I started to feel my “age”. I was 42 at the time, maybe 41.

I seriously started to wonder what the point of anything was. I was on the downhill. The best parts of my life were behind me. The fit and athletic body that could pick up a basketball and play a quick game without even feeling it the next day. The ability to eat whatever I wanted without consequence to my hips. Skin and a smile that wouldn’t quit. All of that was changing and I kept doing the math about how many years I might have left.

At my annual dermatology appointment that year my doctor told me the brown spot on my face was nothing to be concerned about. It was just an age spot. “My grandmother had those”, I might have mumbled out loud.

I think what made me feel the most sad during that period was that I had not lived a life I wanted. I had not done the things that, at my core, felt like me. I worked at a job out of obligation. I got married. I had two kids. I stayed home with them. I don’t regret the last 3 of these.

When I was in my early 20’s I wanted nothing more than to move to New York City. I know, I know. It’s cliche. I really wanted to though. People did it. My sister did it.

My sense of duty combined with the non-existent self worth that came with being a college drop out kept me in my small New Hampshire town. It was okay. I was lucky enough to make an incredible circle of friends, whom, all these years later I could not have done a better job of hand picking.

I started a successful blog. I got some writing published. I was interviewed for a national magazine. The woman who interviewed me was a real, honest-to-goodness, published writer. I loved her work and I was a little star struck.

I confessed to her that I had always dreamed of being a writer. I was in my early thirties at the time. “What do you mean?” she asked, “you already are”. Without her seeing, I cried.

A cross-country move, failing mental health, and other professional opportunities pulled me further away from this dream. I did not know how to pursue a freelance career. I believed that a college drop out could not be a writer, at least not today. I bought into the idea that an MFA was a pre-req for achieving your dreams. I read the words “if you can be anything besides a writer, be that.”

A couple of years later I read the words “I don’t know how I feel about that until I have had a chance to write”. Suddenly, the words my interviewer said to me swirled in my head along with the ones I was reading. As though through a time traveling machine I thought back to my many, many stacks of journals- kept from the time I was 8. I thought of all the things stored on my computers over the years, too. A piece for every major life experience; starting college, being at my grandmother’s death bed, becoming a mother, my changing views on religion.

The intention of these pieces was never publication. They were written for me, to process my thoughts.

My time spent blogging taught me that grammar is not my friend and that my eyes have a block to spelling mistakes and typos. Surely, this does not a good writer make.

But now I am 44. Almost 45. It seems all the reasons that stopped me from doing what I love matter less. A critic pokes fun at my writing? So? Someone shines a light on my flawed thinking? And? The grammar police say “and?” is not a full sentence?  Yeah?

At 44 what others think of me and what I love to do is not much more than something I glance at in my peripheral vision. This is a far cry from the thin skinned people pleaser I once was, which in part led to my mental breakdown.

I have done my work and am not just stable but thriving. Now, instead of feeling like life is over or has passed me by I am excited. I love being 40 something. I love the freedom that comes with it. I love owning my story. I love that, in so many ways, I feel like things are just beginning.

So maybe my body won’t recover so quickly after a game of pick-up. Maybe the wrinkles in my skin make me look more like 54 than 44. Maybe my hips have inched up to a number I never thought I’d see.

That’s okay. These hips have just started shaking and they don’t care who is watching.

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