On Growing Older, But Not Up

Fall has flung. The World is Your Apple Orchard, Go Pick Something. (Copyright LizHo, September 2012.)

I love this time of year. I always feel very renewed with the turn of the seasons, especially at fall. September is my favorite month –apples, school supplies, chilly evenings and the best holiday in all the land: my birthday.

Tomorrow I am going to turn 28 years old. (Most online retailers offer overnight shipping, for those who forgot to shop early.) TWENTY-EIGHT! I know in the grand scheme of things I’m still a spring chicken…or perhaps a summer chicken…a Memorial Day chicken, if you will, but I still can’t help feeling old. Or at least aware of my age in a way I’ve never been before. It is a weird age, 28, and one that seems so much older than the year before it. I’m officially late 20’s, closer to 30 than to 25 (but still closer to 18 than to 40, booyah!), I’ve out of college for longer than I was in it and seemingly every other day a friend announces their engagement…if they’re not already married. I think the first sign I really knew I was getting up there was when I stopped being scandalized every time a friend got knocked up. A few years two of my friends (both 25 year-old married ladies) announced, on the same day, that they were both with child and my first thought was to ask if they’d told their parents and offer rides to Planned Parenthood. I couldn’t process the idea that we were now at the stage in life when having a child (for some of us, at least) wasn’t some kind of disastrous Degrassi Junior High Life Lesson situation to be dealt with but, you know, an actual blessing and natural occurrence. I now just accept the news with a happy shrug and hunker down for an eternity of “bump” photos (the worst) followed by baby photos (every baby looks the same, let’s get real about it), finally followed by toddler photos (which are the greatest) until finally they post a detailed status update about potty training, and I am forced to defriend them and forget they every lived. Just kidding, friends, I love all of you and all of your children and I’m happy they’re regularly pooping in their big boy potties. Mazel tov.

 

 

The Awl (a website you should be reading, if you’re not already) has this great series on youth, and one of their writers just wrote a fantastic piece on being 27, an age that seems mythical, important, ripe for growth and change and yet carries with it a deep yearning to turn back towards younger years. I recommend reading the whole piece. It made me cry a little, half out of happiness because someone said so perfectly what I’ve been feeling and half out jealousy because, well, they said it better than I ever could.

She wrote: “At twenty-seven, everything before you is clean and solid and everything behind you is a bottle of Strawberry Kiwi Snapple, stuffed with cigarette butts.”

That might not seem the most poignant pull-quote but tell me, mid-twenties friends, isn’t that exactly how it feels? We have one foot firmly in adulthood, one still in youth and in between a gulf of wh-knows-what. We have to decide. Or do we GET to decide?

 

That’s me, here, with under 24 hours left in my golden, sexy, flighty mid-twenties: half old, half young, 100% undecided. I still love to get my drank on, so long as it’s before 10 PM and I give equal air time to NPR and Justin Bieber. I wear things called slacks and blouses, but buy them at Forever 21. I have health insurance, but don’t understand (or attempt to understand) anything my plan entails. I make regular dermatological and gynecological appointments without my mom having to remind me, but still call her at the earliest sign of a cold, flu, rash, weird ache in my leg, intestinal cancer, scabies or whatever other fatal disease I’ve self-diagnosed via the internet. I can’t eat spaghetti without getting sauce on my shirt. I don’t know what marjoram is.  I have a great job, a beautiful apartment, a handsome boyfriend who makes me daydream about the future, I know how to cook. I have so much student loan debt that if you paid it in quarters, it would circle the earth 786 times (Ok, I made that up. But it’s a lot!), I live in abject horror of pregnancy and childbirth, I can’t imagine every being responsible enough to own anything: a house, a car, a bicycle, nice pots and pans.

I have married friends and single friends and pregnant friends and friends with three year olds and friends sleeping with their ex-boyfriends and friends who’ve never slept with anyone and friends who might marry their current girlfriends, but don’t know and are OK with that and friends starting new jobs, idling in bad jobs, going back to grad school, buying houses, adopting cats, killing house plants, writing novels, living at home, drinking too much, not drinking at all, having it all together, having nothing together, not having a clue.

And I don’t know what’s going to happen to any of us, but I think we’re all going to be just fine.

Change usually make me panic. Unknowns usually make me panic. And yet, on the eve of a new year, a new phase in life, a gaping hole of unknowability and possibility and change, I feel as cool as a goddamn cucumber. There will be time to figure it all out, to get it together, to go from cigarettes & Snapple to clean & solid and on the way, why not just enjoy being a little bit of both? Let’s raise a drink – make it something totally mid-twenties: a warmish natty lite poured into a crystal goblet or a five-year-old Châteauneuf-du-Pape in a red solo cup, a cocktail with half watermelon vodka and half prune juice – to not knowing and not worrying about it. To being half old, half young and totally fucking awesome

Twenty-eight, let’s do this thing.