Recently, I embarked on my 54th year of life. This is really my age, yes, I tell myself, 5–4. It seems like just yesterday the 5 and 4 were in opposite positions. Life is so long and yet it goes by so quickly.
I can’t help but laugh about people horrified at the prospect of turning 30, 40, or 50+. Aren’t these milestones a great cause for celebrations? It’s not really an easy or simple thing to have a long life. Most people seem to take that for granted. The challenges we face down that don’t break us are sometimes endless. I know they continue to be endless for me.
We’re not entitled to tomorrow. We’re not entitled to live in a country that stays free of war, famine, drought, pestilence, and Trump for our lifetime. Things change, everything could be different.
By the time you’re “middle-aged,” you’ve fought at least a few battles and emerged from them hopefully stronger. Eventually you become a seasoned warrior. You know you can face anything because you have. That’s something of which to be proud. It’s not a cause for lament. Growing is what aging is all about. We shouldn’t worry about aging. We should pay more attention to living.
What’s great about the age I am now is I’m over so many things. The age-vanity thing, the self-consciousness, obsessively worrying about how I look and what people think. I no longer do the put myself last, please everyone else first thing. I never say sorry for things other people did or didn’t do, or for someone else’s mood or experience.
My life doesn’t feel like it’s been just one life. I feel as if I have lived many lives during this lifetime. Perhaps they are actually “chapters.” Very different and distinct chapters in which I was very different and so was everything and everyone else. I think I had it right the first time. Life is full of many lives. I’m a survivor. I lived when I might have died. I am alive.
A funny thing happened this year. I felt really bored with the requirement that I celebrate the anniversary of my birth. I was born on a Sunday afternoon. It seems odd to celebrate on a Wednesday or Friday. Perhaps I should only celebrate my birthday when it falls on a Sunday and then only at the moment the time of my birth was recorded. Perhaps then it will feel special again.
I think about birthdays past, birthdays to come. I wonder, must I always do something to acknowledge my birth was x number of years ago? It really is starting to feel a little silly. I’d rather focus on celebrating morning coffee, rainy afternoons in spring and beautiful combinations of words.
Why do we celebrate birthdays?
This year, for the first time, I wondered why we celebrate birthdays. I don’t know why it took me a half a century to question the origin of this annual ritual, but it did. I asked Google to explain this celebration to me. I admit it, ever since the 21st Century began, I have been asking Google all my important life questions. After a quick scan of the search results, I have a few answers and few interesting, but ultimately useless tidbits of knowledge to share.
Celebrating birthdays allegedly began with the Egyptians, but it was just something Pharaohs did. The Greeks also celebrated the birthdays of its leaders but eventually extended the celebrations to the common man. Literally, just to the men. However, by the 12th Century, women were allowed to have birthdays celebrations too. (Isn’t it amazing how long it’s taking for all men to accept all women as equals?)
I don’t know if women fought for the right to celebrate birthdays as we’ve fought for the right to do everything else. Do I owe it to the sisterhood to keep celebrating my birth every January? I guess I’ll worry about celebrating next year if I make it there.
Do we ever really grow up?
Why do we think we’re only one age? Maybe we’re many ages at once. Aren’t there parts of our old selves still hanging around? I think my wild sixteen-year-old and cool 20-something selves continue to linger and make themselves felt. Sometimes I want to slip into them and feel their freedom. Maybe sometimes they want to slip into me and feel my strength.
That five-year-old girl at the top of this page is me too. When I was five, nothing bad had ever happened to me. I have to repeat that to myself. It’s hard to remember what that was like. I can still find that girl inside me. She is the keeper of my light and my joy. I have to make sure she doesn’t get too far away from me. She likes to play hide and seek.
There’s nothing to worry about getting older, as long as you continue to grow and stay in touch with who you are and cherish the part of you that holds your joy.
I’m glad I’m old! I hope you are or will be too.
© 2018, A. Breslin. All Rights Reserved