I turned 39 on my last birthday. I’m not exactly sure why we’re so hung up on ages since they represent exactly zero guarantee of how much time we have left, but, we are. *sigh* Forty is coming. There’s a scene in When Harry Met Sally where Sally is having a bit of a hysterical, existential crisis and says, “I”m going to be forty!” Harry asks, “When?” Sally cries, “Someday!”
I saw that movie for the first time as a teenager but I still got the joke. Forty has long been a demonized age. It is celebrated with black balloons and cards that indicate you are now “over the hill”. (Which I'm totally guilty of perpetuating... with reckless abandon.) It is the tip over point into oldness which is, of course, the ultimate enemy. (Well, except for fatness. But, she and I are old buddies.)
As the dreaded year approaches, I’m wondering where this doom and gloom came from. If your body really feels like it’s turning to crap at forty then you are either not taking very good care of it or your genes kind of suck. (And I'm truly sorry for you.) I finished my first 5k six days before my 39th birthday. I couldn’t do that when I was 29. Hell, I couldn’t do that when I was 19.
And while we’re talking about running (okay, fine, that’s all I’ve talked about for months), being over the hill is a good thing when you run. At that moment, once you reach the crest of your last hill and think, “it’s all downhill from here;” THAT’S A GOOD THOUGHT! It’s a happy, I’m totally going to make it; I’ve gotten through the hardest part thought. Downhill comes with a surge of relief and accomplishment.
Maybe we all need to take a closer look at how life was when we were on our way up the hill. I’m not saying my 20s and 30s were all bad, but they certainly weren’t easy. I was broke (and/or spending more than I made) for most of my 20s and I’ve spent the better part of my 30s dumping every drop of blood, sweat, tears and milk into turning babies into functional school aged children. (Can I get a Back-to-School hallelujah?)
Well, some drops of bodily fluid were spent on becoming a nurse… You know what, lets go ahead and be done with that metaphor. Let's stick with hills.
ASIDE: I almost didn’t become a nurse because of my fear of what my fellow humans might ooze on me. After being in it for a little while now, though, bodily fluids aren’t even close to the worst thing that can happen to you on a shift. You throw on some OR scrubs and go about your day. The worst part of your shift is when you or someone near you either yells or calmly commands, “Get the cart.” As in Code Cart. As in someone is having a very bad day. Being part of that is way worse than a little blood, sweat, tears, vomit, urine, stool, mucus, etc. being sprayed on the pajamas and/or shoes we wear to work.
Anyway, raising kids is hard as hell and I would definitely characterize it as an uphill battle. Also, my eldest will become a teenager the month before I turn 40. From what I understand, that is the steepest, hilliest part of parenthood. So, from where I sit, being “over the hill” is a decade off.
Although, people do seem to be catching on because the black balloons again come out for 50th birthdays. If you aren’t dead yet, you get a whole ‘nother black ballooned birthday celebration to remind you that you’re going to be one day.
I say, whatever. You know what, bring on the black balloons. Black is slimming. Also, yoga pants are black and I enjoy both yoga and being comfortable. I also enjoy chocolate. Basically, fat people love black so piss off, ageists.
I certainly don’t want to wish away my 40s (or the remaining months of my 30s) but I can’t say that I’m dreading the prospect of cruising downhill. Things like having all of my children out of the house, weddings, grandchildren, having my mortgage paid off, being able to take nicer, childless vacations, driving a convertible — these are all part of being over that hill. Where’s the bad part?
Oh yeah, aging. Dying. I mean, I get it. Through my work, I’ve seen people aging poorly, and I get that there’s not a small amount of pain involved, for some more than others. But, like I say to all of my patients who tell me “don’t get old”: It beats the alternative.
And, of course I’m going to die. We all are. As Ray Charles sang, “Ain’t none of us gonna get out of this alive.” My biggest fear of death isn't so much the death part as it is leaving my children before they are fully grown. And, if I’m being honest, I’ll be irritated if my time is up before I get to see Hawaii or Italy. (Or the Redwoods... Or Portland... Or Montana…) But, I’m otherwise okay with my inevitable departure. Dead is where my mom is and I miss her so terribly.
Whether these next 11 months are my final ascent up the elusive hill, or whether I have another decade to go, I appreciate the chance. My someday is now. Struggling uphill or cruising downhill are both signs that I’m still here. I’m here with my kids and my family and my friends. I’m traveling and writing and throwing pottery and being silly at work with my nurse buddies and patients. I’m knitting and reading and hiking in my forest and, yes, I’m still running because it turns out I’m crazy.
My age is not a secret and it’s not something I feel ashamed of. Though, yes, I dye my hair. I’m also good friends with my tweezers — hey, I never said I was all that into looking old. But, being old? Bring it. Please.
I like to throw things.