Last Thursday was my birthday and I turned 32. I never really thought much about getting older; it was always too far in the future. But, I have to admit, this birthday actually got to me. It wasn’t the number of years that bothered me, it was more than that. I think for the first time I realized that I’m not a kid anymore. I have always felt like a kid on the inside, a little immature and silly. Unfortunately, this is beginning to fade. I’m seeing myself as too serious, too responsible. These things aren’t necessarily bad, just a sign that I’ve grown up.
I have become very introspective in the last couple of weeks. There are a few things happening that I never imagined would be part of my daily life. First of all, my body is changing. The veins on my hands and legs are starting to become more apparent. There are the beginnings of wrinkles and crows feet on my face. My super-cute nose is getting larger! I have never been terribly vain, but I want the person in the mirror to match the person in my head. I guess that I’m afraid if my image changes too much, then my personality will also.
I have been watching this new generation of people, the current teenagers, and I am completely astounded. The things that were cool in my days are either “old school” or completely unknown. I see some of the styles of my 9 and 10 year old students and I chuckle inside. Beware: some of the 80’s fashion has returned! The popular celebrities are all younger than me but strangely, they seem to be older and more mature than I am because I still see myself as a teenager.
I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore. At any moment, I have my favorite songs to play on my i Pod. I have also subscribed to several podcasts that I tend to listen to on a daily basis. In my mind, this is the equivalent of old people listening to AM radio. My favorites come from How Stuff Works. I also listen to ghost stories, nutrition and fitness and finance podcasts. I just enjoy learning, what can I say?
I also find that I am more accepting of my personality differences and of those around me. I am abandoning the teenage attitude of popularity and conformity. In high school, what people think of you and how popular you are is extremely important. I have always been an introvert and extremely shy, well, I still am. BUT, I am much more comfortable coming out of my shell than I used to be. Sometimes it does take me a little time, but I am becoming braver in social situations. I used to wish that I was more outgoing and easier to talk to. Often I would be the depressed wallflower living vicariously in those I admired. Now I am accepting of my introversion as a personality trait to be modified instead of a disease. God made me in a specific way and who am I to say that way was flawed?
The most crucial piece of evidence of getting older is surviving difficult times. I have been through financial trouble, a rocky marriage, a turbulent delivery of my daughter, a career change, death of family members, family squabbles, loss of friendships, homeless family members, health issues of close family members, and most recently, a cancer diagnosis of a parent.
The challenges we face build us into stronger, more passionate people. Yes, we have to become grown ups and we have to live with the consequences: love, family, friends, children and grandchildren, internal strength, wisdom, maturity, faith. My 11th Grade English teacher was pretty wise at the age of 45. He told us, “I am not ashamed of how old I am. I am proud to have lived each and every day that has been given to me.”