I’ve been thinking a lot about age lately. I’m thirty-seven years old, and suddenly the big “4-0” is rapidly approaching. It’s gotten me thinking about Meg Ryan’s character, Sally, from When Harry Met Sally, lamenting that she would someday be 40. She felt it was a big dead-end just waiting for her. I certainly don’t feel like it’s a dead-end, but it is definitely closer than further. Then there’s Stella, the protagonist in Terry McMillan’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back. I remember reading the novel, seeing the movie, and thinking that 40 was so far away. Not anymore.
I’m not really sure how thirty-seven is supposed to feel, but it’s not what I expected. Disability and retirement are not usual topics of conversation for a couple in their thirties with a young son. Yet, they are frequent topics of conversation in our home. There are times I feel much older, weighted down by restrictions and medical issues that are at the forefront of my life.
Other times, I feel hopeful. I am only thirty-seven years old. I had a successful teaching career. I’m beginning a successful, I hope, writing career. There’s so much time ahead of me, so many possibilities.
We are advised to “act our age.” But how do you act your age, when your insides don’t always match your outsides?
At times, I’m young like my son. Stretched across the floor playing a game of tickle and chase. Sitting in the grass, observing a ladybug on a blade of grass. Outside, looking up, marveling at the moon that greets us on the way to school.
Other times, I’m old, senior citizen old. Retired from my teaching position. A calendar of doctor’s appointments. A multitude of pills. Physical limitations restricting my activities. Needing help getting up from the floor.
And I’m too young for that. I feel too young to be retired due to a chronic medical condition. I feel too young to be tied down to doctors’ appointments and prescription bottles. Too young to own a walker, too young to be declared physically unable to serve on jury duty (Okay, that one I don’t mind. At all.)
Maybe I had to get this disease to leave teaching and give me the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mommy, concentrating on my writing. I never, voluntarily, would have left teaching, regardless of how frustrated or disappointed I may have become with the educational system. I was there for the kids, and I believed I could help and make a positive difference in their lives.
When I think about it, some of my major life events occurred at ages I didn’t expect them to. At the age of twenty-two, I moved out of my parents’ home and in with the man who is now my husband. I was married a few weeks shy of my twenty-third birthday. Sometimes, plans happen on a different timetable than the one we originally imagined for ourselves. I think my disability and retirement are like that.
At any rate, I’m thirty-seven years old, and much like when I was seventeen, I’m figuring things out as I go.