People often say that age is just a number. Anybody facing a midlife crisis probably thinks those people can go suck an egg. But perhaps it’s just another way to say “I am content with my life right now.” It’s blase, laissez faire, devil-may-care to contend that the number of years you have lived on this earth is irrelevant. It’s human nature to freak out a little when you reach a certain age. Though what that “certain age” is varies wildly from person to person. The concept of time has different meaning for each of us.
When I turned 25, I panicked a little. I thought, “I’m half way to 50, and my life is not what I thought it would be.” I was single with no boyfriend and no prospects, no children, no master’s degree, living with a friend and her four-year-old son. I was not happy. I did have a college degree and a good job, however, so I got over myself and decided to figure out what changes I could reasonably make. There was a lot of whining and several pints of Ben & Jerry’s involved in that getting over myself process, but I managed.
Age 30 was a blur. I got married the very month before I turned 30, and with the wedding, honeymoon, and then discovering I was pregnant the very first month of my marriage, I barely even noticed the changing of a decade. Unlike at age 25, at 30 I was happy with the state of my life. I’d jumped from the “go suck an egg!” camp over to the “meh, age is just a number” club. I was in good health, and I had no real worries. I felt indestructible, like nothing bad could happen to me – the way a person feels before tragedy has touched their life.
But then my life went to hell in a day. October 15, 2004. The day my OB/GYN said, “There’s something wrong with your baby’s heart.” Time after that had completely different meaning. The days between my baby’s initial diagnosis with a congenital heart defect and the confirmation that he had a chance at survival were the longest of my life. They seemed to stretch on endlessly, like the tunnel in “Poltergeist” that elongated right before JoBeth William’s eyes as she’s trying to reach her child. It seemed impossible that she would ever reach the end of that tunnel and get to her baby.
Time after those initial days changed in meaning as well. The first year of my son’s life was an eternity while I was living it. Heart failure, medications, surgeries, and the ever-present fear. But looking back on it now, it seems like a blur. Just a blip on the radar. I feel the same way about my second son’s first year. It was a completely different experience because he is healthy, but sleep deprivation is torture even if there isn’t an underlying note of fear. And so the first year felt long while I was living it, but now that he is seven years old, the baby days seem like a brief moment.
Which brings me to another age-related cliche that people like to throw at me mostly when my boys are acting like crazy brainless beasts out in public (e.g. the bowling alley birthday party). You know what it is. “They grow up so fast!” This phrase forces me to nail a smile on my face and remind myself that it is not okay to slap people in public. In private, feel free to slap away. If you’ve invited one of these people into your house, however, maybe you should slap yourself. But I digress. In any case, like most cliches, if I am honest with myself I feel the truth in this statement. My children are seven and nine now, and I do feel as if they are growing up too fast.
Because (wait for it) life is short! That’s right. I said it. And I bet you’ve said it too. Unless you’re a Mormon missionary in Uganda, in which case maybe you’re going with “life is long.” Regardless, time and age are all filtered through individual experience and human perception.
I’m about to face another decade change, which is what prompted this post on the Weekly Writing Challenge from WordPress. I’m not as panicked about this milestone as I was at age 25, but I’m not as laissez faire as I was at 30 either. Life is more even-keeled and normal these days, so perhaps I will take it in stride. But we’ll see on April 2nd. Maybe I’ll post pictures of myself proudly wearing a tiara with a giant number on it. Or maybe I’ll hide in the closet with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Or maybe I’ll buy a monokini from Victoria’s Secret and dye my hair orange and start using gangster words like “gat.”
I guess I’ll have to wait and see if age is really just a number.