Age. What an interesting construct. Granted, you can’t argue with biology, but age is such a fluid thing. Everyone can picture the spry 90 year old woman who embraces life, beaming at everyone that touches her life, infusing every situation with joy and enthusiasm. Just as easy to conjure up is the curmudgeon, appearing 20 years older than his chronological age as he scowls at the world, finding only the negative in any given situation.
I know these two characters very well; I was raised by them. My mother has always had an infectious optimism, even when faced with life threatening illness. The opposite end of the spectrum housed my father and his failing physical health that was constantly exacerbated by depression and pessimism. My sister (the poet) recently summed up his mental and physical decline with the haunting observation that “He’s been dying since we were twelve years old.”
Wow, that’s not quite where I planned on going with this post, but it’s always something that pops into my head when age is discussed. So, with those two contrasting images in my head, I try to remind myself to stay youthful, to stay positive. My mom has always been the type to embrace her age and stand proud regardless of the stigma attached to each passing decade. I tend to be the same way, knowing that age is a number and doesn’t have any more control than you choose to give it. I’ll admit, I flinched when I saw 30 on the horizon, but it didn’t sting nearly as much as I thought it would. It’s interesting to look at that milestone age and think about where I assumed I’d be at this age. As a young girl, I fully expected to have at 2.5 kids by now. That idyllic, picket fence vision faded as I grew older and those 2.5 kids keep getting pushed further and further into the future, until they’re barely a twinkle within the twinkle in my eye. I used to have such expectations that linked life events to age– go to college until 21, get engaged by 22, married by 23, babies by 25– and I’m slowly shaking off those preconceived age-life links. Now I find myself having to defend my decisions in the face of other’s expectations about age and milestones. Luckily, I have a very supportive family and am able to confidently make choices, knowing they will be there for me to lean on when I need it.
And yes, I’ll tell you: I’m 31, I’ve been married almost 5 years and we’ve been together for over 12. I don’t have kids, don’t want kids right now, but don’t make any assumptions about what I’ll want in the future, so it’s always on the table. I do occasionally hear the tic-tok of the biological clock and always set the snooze to go off again in a couple of years.