Today I turned 35. Thirty-five. Thirrrtteeee-FIVE. And my mind still reels at how this could have happened. Most days, I still feel like I’m waiting to become an adult because that’s what my life had been: waiting to become something and looking forward to that next, big stage.
I was certain life started at 18. And then I realized, oh hey! Eighteen isn’t what I thought it would be! It must 21 that I’m waiting for. Yes! At 21, life begins!
Except at 21, I quickly realized the only thing that changed was my ability to drink legally. And since my boyfriend at the time sucked every bit of joy & happiness from my life, I didn’t even get to properly enjoy that until I broke up with him three years later, and then whoo boy, did I enjoy the hell out of being able to drink legally! I mean, a lot.
Somewhere between 24 and 27, I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be in life. I felt content. I didn’t feel like a misplaced and confused teenager. I wasn’t in college, living on pretzels and Diet Coke, worrying about the day I’d have to have an actual job in my actual field of study. I wasn’t in a break-up-every-other-month-dead-end relationship while all of my high school friends (it seemed) were getting married and having babies. I felt like I had arrived. I loved my job and I was engaged to be married. I had my whole life ahead of me and I was happy. Finally. I wasn’t waiting.
Or so I thought.
I had the husband. I had the house, complete with fence (brown, not white), and I had the dog to go inside the fence.
I had the pregnancy, the excruciatingly long and lady-part shredding labor, and I had the perfect daughter whom I loved more than I ever imagined I could love another human being. And yet? I didn’t feel like a grown up. I had met all the criteria for being an adult, but I still felt like a big fat fraud.
The past year has been… challenging, shall we say? I was pushed far beyond any emotional boundaries I would have thought possible to survive. And survive I did. For months, that was all I did. From the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to bed, it was all survival-mode, all the time. No planning for tomorrow, just getting through today. Even this very “grown-up” act of getting through “grown-up” life didn’t make me feel like an actual grown-up.
Now I have a two year old child, and after two years of changing diapers (are we pee-pee or poopie?!), I didn’t feel like a grown-up. For two years, I have fed her, rocked her, soothed her, played with her, taught her, and made sure her every need was met. (To be sure, Adam is a wonderful father, but does a mother’s mind really ever shut off when her child is concerned?). Despite the “grown-up” act parenting, I did not feel like a grown-up. A mother? Definitely yes, but I was still waiting to feel like a grown-up. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever feel like I viewed my parents.
I’m not sure what happened this summer, but something did happen, and when I wasn’t looking, grown-up snuck up on me. One evening as I was doing the sprinkler dance & trying to avoid getting soaked, I was all, Huh. I kinda felt like a grown-up right there. How ‘bout that.
And then there was the morning I was making blueberry pancakes for Ellis. In that moment, making breakfast for my daughter felt like the most grown-up thing I could ever do and I caught myself in a smile.
The rest of the summer has been filled with a hundred little moments like those where I realize that I am, finally, a grown up.
I’m starting to realize that 35 is just a number and not one to get hung up on. I thought I was supposed to feel a certain way at 35. You know, like a GROWN UP. I know now that I can feel any way I want to at 35. My vision of 35 was Dan & Roseanne Connor yelling at Darlene because she didn’t call home when she was going to be late coming home from the concert. That wasn’t me. I was 35 and Tweeting from my bathroom this morning about HOW COULD I BE 35? instead of getting ready for work.
I’m starting to realize that 35 is simply a measure of time and nothing more. It doesn’t tell the story. Only I can do that. Every new line on my 35 year-old face tells my story. Every step I’ve taken in life has brought me to today. To being a wife, a mother, a grown-up, me.