Birthday Thoughts: Graced With Another Year…(#GenFab)

The women of Generation Fabulous are out to show that the internet isn’t just for kids (and their moms). I’ve been part of this “voices of midlife” community for a few months, and it’s grown too big for Facebook to hold it any more. Founding members Sharon Greenthal, Chloe Jeffreys, and Anne Parris have just built GenFab its own little bit of online real estate, and it’s opening the doors to host the group’s monthly Blog Hop. This month’s theme is “Aging Gracefully(?).” Since this is the time of year when I think about that particular subject anyway, I wasn’t about to pass up participating, even though I really shouldn’t have stolen the time to write this.

“But I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now”
    –Bob Dylan, “My Back Pages”

Tomorrow is my birthday. It’s not a “milestone” one, but it is one of those numbers that ends in 9 and comes right before a milestone one. I’m spending the weekend at the pop-culture and comics convention WonderCon, the smaller sibling of San Diego Comic-Con. I’ll wear a costume or two, and go to panel discussions and screenings, and probably buy some ridiculous things. Twenty years ago, or even ten, I wouldn’t have envisioned myself doing such a thing ever, let alone in my late forties. But after feeling like a misfit among my peers for much of my adult life, I’m feeling like I’m living just about the right life for my age.

My adulthood took off at an accelerated pace–married at 19 and a mother at 20. It wasn’t exactly what I’d planned–not so soon, anyway–but with a lot of help, I was able to combine it with things I had planned, like finishing college and starting a career. By the age of 30, I was living in the conservative suburbs of a good-sized Southern city and well established in marriage, motherhood, and work. But much of the time, I felt as if I were play-acting at being a grownup, and that I was too young to have the life I had. My circumstances had more in common with those of women a decade or so older than I was, and I’d missed many of the young-adulthood experiences of other people my own age. On the other hand, my kid would be at least partly out of the house before I turned 40, so there was that.

All of us were out of that house by then, as it turned out. My marriage ended after almost eighteen years, and when my son went away to college, I moved across the country in the opposite direction; I was 38 years old before I ever lived on my own, and spent the first couple of years struggling though a delayed coming-of-age process–and dreading turning 40.

Birthday cake from 2006

That particular milestone came and went with some mild trauma, but since then, most of the time, it’s felt like I’m living the right life at the right time. I’ve gained and lost and re-gained weight, and I’ve changed my hair color a few times. I’ve worked on bettering my mental and emotional health. I’ve found a surprising new preoccupation to divert me from the tedium of more than 25 years in the same occupation. And for the last six and a half years, I’ve been married and raising children again (these came as works in progress when I married their dad)…but this time around I’ve (mostly) felt like I’m not way out of sync with everyone else.

More importantly, though, I’ve come to feel–more or less–in sync with myself. If I’m going to age with any degree of grace at all, I’m pretty sure that’s key. I need to keep hold of it through this birthday, and next year’s milestone, and whatever comes after that. Here in midlife, I’ve grown comfortable accommodating both the younger girl still inside me and the wise-with-experience woman I might become eventually. I don’t feel like I’m play-acting at being a grown-up, or at being anyone other than who I mean to be, any more (although you will find me cosplaying this weekend–I’m new at it, but loving it). Happy birthday to me!

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