I’m going to be 34 next week. I always thought I would enjoy aging. When my grandmother and mother would complain about growing older, I would roll my eyes and ignore them. No one wants to get gray hair or aching joints, but confidence and wisdom and self-acceptance? That always seemed pretty great.
I owe my mother and grandmother an apology.
Suddenly, turning forty isn’t some far off fantasy where my life has sorted itself out and I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor. Suddenly, forty is SOON and I don’t feel sorted out at all.
I’m still not 100% sure of what I want to be when I grow up and I know no one would describe me as anything other than grown up. My body shows the effects of four pregnancies and three births. Even my red hair (which thankfully hasn’t gone gray yet) doesn’t make me any less invisible to most people I pass on the street.
Or at least that’s how I feel sometimes.
When you’re in your 20’s, everything is so full of promise. Mistakes only occupy the past. They don’t define you, because you have so many years to figure everything out. You have time to start over. You have time to change paths.
Now, mistakes suddenly take up so much space in the future. It’s not just that you screwed up. It’s that you wasted so much valuable TIME screwing up and time has suddenly become a precious commodity.
Listen, I know I still (hopefully) have lots of time left. Women in my family tend to live into their 90’s, which means I still have two more acts.
But … THIS ACT... This act is over and I worry that I made all the wrong choices.
I see my friends who have spent years accumulating promotions and raises and I wonder if I’m made a huge mistake by staying home. I see careers I envy. I see jobs I would enjoy. I worry that I put all my eggs in the wrong damn basket.
I realize that there are things I really want to do but I am so, so scared to try. I am so scared that I will fail and it will mean more time wasted.
I was just expressing these fears to my friend today when only a few short hours I ran across this little shot of amazing courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert.
Then, I remember aging isn’t awesome because you’ve figured it all out. Aging is awesome because you realize that NO ONE has it all figured out and that figuring it all out isn’t even the point!
I love being married but not because I’m perfect at it. I love it because it’s hard and rewarding and frustrating and magnificent and I’ve picked the most awesome person with which to take that journey.
I love being a mom but not because I’m perfect at it. I love it because it forces me to fail and then to pick myself up and try again. I’m so scared all the time as a parent, but it doesn’t matter because the momentum of life carries me forward through a million hugs and runny noses and temper tantrums and my fear wears itself out along the way.
Like I’m always telling my kids everything great in life is a little bit scary and I suppose that includes life itself.
Aging is HARD. My fear and regrets aren’t going anywhere. Neither are my mistakes. But I’m still here. I don’t know if I can envision my True Crone quite yet but I can envision Sarah 20 or 30 years from now. The version of yourself Tara Sophia Mohr calls your Inner Mentor.
I can see her. I can see her smiling with gray hair and lines around her eyes. I can hear her urging me on – past the fear, past the regret – into future where there might be less time, but there’s still plenty of hope.