I turned 43 the other day, and a friend kindly informed me that I am now officially middle-aged. WTF?? Are you kidding me?
Of course I am “middle-aged.” I feel it. I do. Blame it on working with college kids day after day. Blame it on the stress of motherhood. The stress of carrying financial obligations. If we’re honest, and why wouldn’t we be, there are many things we could point to. The fact remains, my hair is grayer than it was a year ago; I have more wrinkles; and my clothes are a little more dated.
My students say things like, “You remind me of my aunt,” or “You look like my stepmother.” I am taken aback my these statements. I do double takes in the mirror. I review old files and tapes, wondering if the records are accurate. Clearly, there must be some blip in the matrix. How did I get here?
I think of my life before my son came along five and a half years ago, and it all seems like fiction, like a play. Even despite all the trials and tribulations of love, lost jobs, and finding one’s self – extremely real and life-changing events. Now, it all just seems like a storybook.
Parenthood changes everything. Period. Anything before that was some form of adolescent rehearsal for real life.
But let’s not harp on all that heavy stuff anymore. If we’re being honest (and why wouldn’t we be), reaching 43 is like reaching volume 4 or 5 in the Harry Potter franchise. It’s strange that Harry’s voice has changed and that Hermione is now beyond wearing a training bra, but there’s still a hell of a lot of magic to learn. And you’re not even close to defeating Lord Voldemort.
It’s weirder that I am supposed to be some grown-up who knows stuff. And then weirder still, that I actually do know some things. I have things to share and to say. I get listened to now like I know what I am talking about sometimes, too, especially in the classroom.
Some good things come with age. Sure, the sayings are true. You become “that old lady” teacher whose wardrobe you scrutinized at 20, the one who was pretty cool but still of a much older generation. There are volumes of pop culture references that are lost on you now. And you aren’t even sure what Snapchat actually is. Ultimately, however, you don’t care quite as much about any of the unnecessary agonizing over any of this.
You’re in wonder that time can pass so quickly, but you wouldn’t dare go back to 23 or even 33 unless you could take your wise 43-year-old self with you. I think I love you, 43, so what am I so afraid of?