Today is my birthday. I turn 36 today, and I'd like to depart from the subject of knitting for a moment (well, not make it the number-one focus) to talk about something else.What is the big deal about getting older? I hear people say things like, "I'm going to be...gulp...forty this year, so...you know...I'm not exactly looking forward to it." What is so wrong with forty? Or twenty? Or seventy-five?
Your average child (at least the children I know, since I grew up in a pretty nice place and my friends and family who have little kids also live in nice places) has an annual flip-out about his or her birthday, and it usually starts a month or two beforehand. Rightly so...kids' birthdays involve cake, streamers, people throwing brightly colored presents at the guest of honor...nothing but goodness. Then, as we get older, we lose passion. In general. Not just for birthdays.
Did you ever notice how, when you were a kid, you were eating cookies and drinking Slurpees but you weren't worried about getting fat? That's because you were playing Kick The Can, Marco-Polo, and hide-and-seek from your buddies in the neighborhood. You were probably running from them or out-bicycling them to get away. Birthday cake was a treat, since you only had about five really close friends who had birthday parties every year, and some stingy grownup was actually giving you an appropriate serving size of cake. But what did you care? You were having fun and eating cake! All of your friends were basically motivated by the same thing.
Then, the kids got older. Some of them became the star football player, some were good at drama or math, and some were no longer your friends because you were either too cool for them, or not cool enough. People started to go unnoticed.
Now, in my thirties, I have to go to the gym so I can't feel my pants change in size when I eat the cake (I refuse to believe it's my body that's changing size...it must be the pants). Either that, or I do what I usually do: I stop caring. I will continue to look after myelf, but I will flat-out refuse to shun a piece of cake, birthday or otherwise, for fear it will make me fat. I take pleasure in cake.
I also take pleasure in getting older. It's not to say that I didn't lose the passion from being a kid to being a grownup like everyone does...I'm not any more awesome than the rest of us, so my passion has been doused as well...but I don't think my fall was as far as others' falls have traditionally been. And the only reason I can think of, as benign and silly as it may be, is that I like being happy and having fun over being sad and living with regret.
While I will talk about it with anyone on the planet, I will only very rarely pull the cancer card on people. Yes, I was treated for cancer twice before I even turned 30, but I was just lucky somebody noticed there was a reason for my fatigue and weight fluctuation. Others are not as lucky as I am. I did not, however, wake up in my hospital bed twenty times more grateful to be alive than I was the day before, after my surgery. I found out I had cancer, and said to my supermodel surgen, Dr. Daphne Denham, "Okay...well, cut it out, then. Fix it."
I do, however, play that card when people are complaining about things I think are not worth the calories to burn on the complaint. Example: "My boyfriend just doesn't get it. I mean, why should I hang out with his friends at a bar during the Super Bowl?"
Yeah...I've had cancer twice so I totally know what you mean. And by the way, it won't kill you to hang out at a bar for three hours so your boyfriend can show you off to his buddies. The Super Bowl, like life, is finite...I promise.
My left foot hurts every morning after I work. I have one gray hair that keeps growing in the hairline between my right ear and the back of my head, and every few months or so, I yank the sucker out because it doesn't lay flat. I have crow's feet. Galavanting down the street looks inappropriate now, but that doesn't stop me from doing it. I have way, way more bills now than I did when I was twenty.
But I am proud to be here, I am proud to have made it through some pretty darn crappy times, and I am very proud to continue to get older. It doesn't matter to me if people use me as an example of how to be or how not to be, as long as I make a difference somehow. Anonymity, I think, is what makes people lose their desire to get older. I may be wrong...it may just be plain old fear...but if you have something to live for, then you have no reason to fear getting older. And I have plenty. I may have an inconsequentially small place on this planet, but it's mine and I like it here. Bring on the crow's feet!