Today is my birthday, and growing older is strange.
I spent such a great deal of my life wondering what it felt like to be an adult, what it would be like when I got there, wondering when I’d cross that magical line and become some strong and capable person who doesn’t get tongue-tied leaving voicemail when someone doesn’t answer their phone.
Turns out that never happens.
I’m 29 now, and it doesn’t feel any different from 28. Or 25, or 21, or 18. Things have changed, surely; circumstances are much different than they were 11 years ago. I’m a mother, for one, responsible for the security and well-being of another tiny person. We have a nice little house, and I’m a stay-at-home mom because it’s totally cheaper than paying for childcare. But I still drive a Mustang, I still play video games, I still suffer anxiety at the idea of having to schedule a dental appointment for myself.
The only major difference I’ve noticed is the perception of time. When I was 18, 28 seemed a million years away. Because of it, I thought I’d be light years from where I am now. It’s funny now to look back at the goals I had for different ages and stages of life and realize that I had no idea what could actually be accomplished in a certain window of time. No matter how hard you work or how fortunate you are, some things still take a while. And while I hit on a few of my major life goals envisioned for my future at age 18, I think I missed more.
Because when you’re 18, it’s easy to sit back and say you’ll be married and have kids by the time you’re 25. That you’ll have a great job, big house, cool car by age 30. (Or be an author with a traditionally published book by age 30, if you’re me. Yeah, not looking so good on that front.)
Likewise, it’s easy to sit at those ages–past 25, just shy of 30–and be disappointed that you didn’t make it.
But it’s also easy to look back and think some goals were unrealistic.
It wasn’t until recently that I spoke with my mother about life and accomplishments and I realized that where we are today is leaps and bounds ahead of where my parents were at this age. It’s hard to look back and think of my parents as anything other than blessed, but when you’re a kid, maybe it’s just that you don’t know better. I’m sure my mother didn’t always feel blessed when she was expecting a sixth child and still living in a three-bedroom house.
I made my goal for marriage, and I made my goal for parenthood if I fudge a little, since she wasn’t born until my last month of being 25. Great jobs might be a matter of perspective. I get to stay home and work on my books, so I guess that’s pretty great. And our house might not be big, but at least we’ve got one, and it’s in good condition. I’ve also got the cool car, so there’s that.
I don’t know what to expect from age 29. It feels like a major threshold, the last step between being considered young and being considered an adult. But I have a busy year ahead of me, so you never know. If nothing else, I expect it’ll be a year of learning, and maybe one of the things I learn will be realistic goal-setting.
Like “become a traditionally-published author by age 35.”
Yeah, that one sounds pretty good.