When I was a kid, or maybe a teenager, my mum told me a story about growing up. She said she was thirty-five years old when she was ironing one day, and realized she was content with her life. Or that she liked it.
I don’t remember her exact words, but that story has cemented itself into a legend in my mind. For some reason, I picture her having this epiphany in the laundry room in her current house, toddler me playing on the floor nearby, even though that house wasn’t built at the time, and I wasn’t a toddler anymore. It’s just an iconic thought, an idea that has become a memory.
Four years ago, I stood at my own sink, and thought to myself, “in four years I think I could have this pretty well figured out.” I could imagine it – a sort of combination of contentment and confidence, being at peace with myself and my place in the world.
I turned thirty-five last Tuesday. We were out at our friends’ cabin; the weather was sunny but windy. We stayed in all day and played card games and dominos; Jared did all the cooking and dishes. It was very good.
I don’t claim to have life figured out, not by a long chalk. I still have my bad days, and I get grumpy easily. I still second guess myself, agonize over decisions big and small, and somehow manage to do both too much and too little introspection.
But I pretty much know who I am, I pretty much know what I think, and I pretty much like myself. I know how lucky I am, and I mostly manage to remember that. I guess you could say, I’ve accepted myself.
After looking forward to it for so long, actually being thirty-five is a bit anti-climactic. That is, I suppose, the point. The narrative heights and depths are only seen later. It’s a little like knitting a sweater – when it’s done you can see the shape of it, the purpose of all the contours made by increased and decreased etc., but the actual stitches one at a time are pretty much the same. We don’t have a plan for how it’ll all come out, of course, but at least we have some directions for the next row.
Another memorable bit of advice on aging came from an elderly deacon I heard preach when I was quite young, maybe middle school. I can still picture him, tall, thin, and bald, on the dais of the sanctuary with that horrid orange carpeting that was overhauled more than a decade ago. He said, “When I was young, I worried about what other people thought about me. When I was an adult, I didn’t care what other people thought about me. Now that I’m old, I realize people don’t spend that much time thinking about me.” I suppose that could sound morbid, but I’ve always found that bit of wisdom very comforting. I’m making this post a sort of rite of passage to the second stage. And, God willing, there’s much more to look forward to.