Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Time, aging, etc.

It's January and it's already warm. I see the sun shining a little more brightly. The spring semester is coming up and I've signed up for three classes. At times like this it's like I can almost see the time passing by right in front of my eyes. And I want it to stop. Not like I'm over the hill at 24, but I fear getting older. I feel like an overgrown college kid when I see people who are 18. Last year on my birthday I really felt like only a few months had passed since my last one. I felt like not much had changed about me at all in a year. I heard a song lyric the other day, "Every year is getting shorter", and I understood exactly what that meant. When did that happen?

And then today I watched the documentary 49 Up. I've really enjoyed watching this series. In a way it is sort of like a high school reunion or a reality TV show about aging. But after I finished it I realized, why do I need to be watching this when I can just look at my own parents and see the same thing? The subjects in the documentary are nearly the same age as my own parents. I only have to look at old photos and rummage through my own memories of them to see examples of people aging over the years. There are pictures of them in their 20's, so young and full of life, my dad with his still-dark curly hair, smooth skin, and chubby-cheeked grin, my mom with her long, straight dark hair and beautiful wide smile. Once I saw a picture of my mom at my exact age and I joked with her, "Mom, you were just a baby back then." Then their 30s. My parents were both 30 when they had me. In pictures of when I was just born, they look so young, so excited to have this little child and be on the cusp of starting a family. But somewhere along the line came the parents I mostly remember. The parents who were constantly stressed and tired--Mom the disciplinarian who always seemed to be nagging me and my sisters for some thing or another and Dad coming home from work in his jacket and tie, spent after a long day.

Then the years after the divorce. Tough years. And then now, where it seems they are both a life away from the way they were in their 20s and 30s. It seems they are both much more relaxed now than when they were when I was growing up. My mom especially seems so much more sure of herself. In the last five years, I think she has really come into her own. She's a savvy businesswoman and is working on a master's degree. She has shown me that there are definite advantages to getting older and that there are always going to be new challenges to face.

And thinking about all this makes me wonder, Is there such a thing as the ideal age? I think if someone asked me that right now I'd say that there's good and bad to every stage of life and there's not one perfect age. And, of course, it's different for every person. But I remember when I was in fifth grade, one of our writing assignments was to say what age would be ideal and why. Most of my classmates picked 18 or 21, I guess because you can buy cigarettes or alcohol. I picked 30. I thought 20 was too young and 40 was too old. And my teacher, this really cool lady who was probably in her mid-30s at the time, agreed with me. She said by that time you've settled into a career and probably a marriage, or decided not to marry. I think I have held on to that idea a little bit through the years. Though I am really dreading getting older, I'm sort of looking forward to that milestone of stability. Maybe somehow 30 will be the magical age where things will make more sense, relationships will fall into place and I'll finally see, ah-ha, that's what I should be doing with my life. Maybe at 30 I won't feel so insecure about myself. I guess I'll have to wait and see to find out.

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