Dear Middle Age,
You and I will be meeting soon. Very soon. How sneaky of you to have quietly crept up on me, unnoticed while I was busy moving and adjusting to a new home. Perhaps you have been occasionally revealing yourself to me as of late, peeking around corners, appearing right before my eyes, only to jump back into the shadows before I could be sure of what I saw.
Thinking back, I may have caught a glimpse of you on a chairlift at Mountain Creek, when every muscle ached after my first snowboarding attempt; and you may have been the one in the funny hat riding in the back of the Rutgers bus the night Dean and I looked at the young, drunk student vomiting before his stop and I thought "I could technically be his mama, biologically speaking".
One way that dear Elizabeth measures the proximity of life events is by determining if they will occur before the expiration date printed on the orange juice carton in her fridge passes. Well, I am turning 35 before our milk expires. And I don't need to tell you that milk goes bad much quicker than orange juice.
Of course, the jury is still out on whether you have ownership of "age 35 years". I always thought that you were not awarded any sort of rights until age 40 was achieved. However, I was corrected during an exchange with Dean a couple of weeks ago, when I (jokingly) commented that the sun visor I was wearing made me look like a middle-aged woman heading off to a golf or tennis game. His reply? "Well, you are close to middle-aged." What? I had no idea! His logic was that if you live until 70, 35 is smack dab in the middle, therefore middle-aged. Personally, I am hoping to live longer than 70 years, but I understand his reasoning. And for the record, I was not heading off to play golf nor tennis. Actually, I think I may have been heading to the library. Which may make me a nerd. A middle-aged nerd. Indeed.
I have to confess that my life is nothing like I thought it would be upon your arrival. Had I painted a picture of how you would have looked for me 10, even 5 years ago, it would have been Dean and I settled in Newfoundland so our children would grow up around extended family. Dean coming home from work to a house of our own that, while not exactly in the suburbs, had a decidedly suburban feel; me working part- rather than full-time so I could focus on our two or three kids, evenings of supper and homework, maybe dance classes or hockey games, outings to the park with the family, including the dog, or play-dates on the weekends.
Well, when Dean comes home, he is returning from a day of graduate studies in engineering at Rutger's University. And he is greeted by myself and Hunter S. Thompson the dog, we live in a wee rented apartment in New Jersey. Evenings are filled with homework alright, but its both Dean and I doing it - he working on probability or linear programing and me working on my first course towards my own masters degree in psychology. An occasional evening has been filled with a hockey game, but one of the NHL rather than the peewee league variety, and weekend outings may be to a movie, for a bike ride or, if it's a particularly exciting one, to NYC for some exploring or to see a live band. Dean hangs out with friends here, but I hesitate to call his time with them "play-dates".
Is it true that time seems to pass more quickly as we approach, and ultimately pass, you? I can't imagine it does, as I look back at any number of major events - graduation from Dalhousie with my occupational therapy degree, our wedding in Jamaica, our move to New Orleans - and they all seem like yesterday. Even the details of the times that are so very minor in the grand scheme of life; like the fact that I wore my black heels to eat at Dick and Jenny's and had to take them off at the North Mississippi Allstars show at the House of Blues later that evening because of sore toes (which happened during Jazzfest of 2005, a full 5 years ago); stand out with such clarity, it is hard to believe that I still don't have the dirty soles as evidence of my night of barefooted-ness.
I must confess that I have had quite a major change of perspective as of late, and I think that your proximity may have something to do with it. Do you often inspire change in people? The difference between "needs" and "wants", whose boundaries seem to be a little fuzzy to the young, have become abundantly clear for me. The "dream house" plan to be built on our land sometime in the future has been replaced with something more moderately sized, the trip to a fancy resort this summer has been replaced with a camping trip that we can bring our elderly dog along on. Don't get me wrong, your arrival hasn't taken away my love of nice things. But it has given me the desire to live well within our means, place the highest value on relationships and realize that things are simply that - things. That things in and of themselves can't bring you happiness or peace or fill a void. For the most part, I no longer worry what other people think. It's quite liberating.
Let me confess to you that I don't feel my age. When on campus, I feel more like the young student to the left of me than the middle-aged professor to the right. Yet I realize that, when the young student looks to her right, she likely sees two women who are very similar in age, and much older than her. Yikes! Do you ever feel your age, or do you always imagine yourself and your peers to belong to some younger generation? Some days I still feel like Dean and I are the young married couple in the room, even though we've been married close to 10 years and that title has long been passed to someone else.
My wish is that I can be one of those women that greet your arrival with grace, rather than one that is kicking, screaming, and hightailing it to the nearest plastic surgeon for a little botox treatment. (Though I must confess I have been using an anti-wrinkle night cream recently, and I have also been making sure I put on a good sunscreen and the aforementioned visor before spending any time in the sun, but don't take that personally). I hope I can take what I have learned by living life so far and use that knowledge to make you, although you're not quite what I initially imagined, some of the best years yet.
With hope that you'll be good to me,
P.S. Any tips that you can share on preventing wrinkles, sagging of particularly vulnerable body parts and wobbly upper arms when waving will be much appreciated.