Getting Older : The Annual Assault on My Ability To Deal With Stress

by - 8:58 AM

My 27th birthday is in two weeks, so there's an annual routine coming up on the agenda, starting....well, now.

Primarily, the stack of brown paper bags on my night table. I'm kicking a fun, festive birthday themed hyperventilation hobby. I'll return to this -- don't let me forget.

Secondarily, the shopping days count-down. 13 shopping days, folks. If you run into Ryan, be sure and tell him that he's not imagining the subliminal messaging. It's real. It's intended.


I've admitted this on a number of occasions, but I keep a 100% steady journal. I write one sentence every single day without fail -- it's the only thing to which I am consistent.  July is always full of nonsensical sentences that feel really important when I write them down, but then a year later, always make me roll my eyes.

But there's a pattern -- a fairly valid concern I'd say -- year after year. Is my life any more meaningful than it was last year?

I'm generally inclined to say no, but that's because change is incremental. It doesn't feel like much until you box it all up together. Anyway, let's investigate the hyperventilating a little more.

This time six years ago, I was anticipating my 21st birthday and I was hyperventilating hard. Which seems pretty dumb now, but six years ago I was such a loser. I had a lot to be worried about. I wasn't in college because I was taking a "break". From what, I wonder. It would be six months before I got my shit together and decided becoming a lifer at the restaurant where I waited tables was not an option. It seems stupid now, to be afraid of 21, but I think that was one of the scarier birthdays for me. Behind the scenes, what I was really afraid of was being stagnant; getting older while remaining uneducated with no means of earning a real living. And it felt like I should be growing up, because all my friends were graduating from college and I was still barely invested. And mostly hungover. And I had an older boyfriend who made me feel really comfortable, because as long as I've known him, he's been a real grown-up with a job and a sense of responsibility to pay bills.

See what I mean though, about change being incremental? Things didn't really change astronomically over the next few years. When I turned 22, I was still in college and still waiting tables and the same thing when I turned 23 and I only graduated right before turning 24. I bet if I'd asked myself if anything had changed from year to year, my quick answer would have been no.

I think birthdays stopped being frightening when I started to feel like I was doing something. At least sort of maneuvering forward in a way that felt correspondent to the years. 24, 25 and 26 were pretty comfortable birthdays.

That said 27 feels a little like 21 because everyone I know is moving into the next step. Gosh, when I graduated and got a real job, I felt like I'd finally caught up and got into the grown-up groove. Then in the last year, my friends started buying houses and having babies, and a few had their second babies. They obviously moved into a place where they think of their lives as permanent -- settled in one forever place and buildable. And honestly, it's like I'm the hungover girl still in college again.

Except this time, I have all the ingredients, but I don't feel like baking a cake just yet.

I think buying a house acknowledges permanence. The obvious implication is that you want to stick around for a while. Doesn't that knock your socks off? It's a commitment that you never need to say out loud -- I don't want to make it easy for me to leave.

I need to get one of those damn paper bags right now, because isn't it scary as hell to continue to get older and have no idea what you want? Meandering is useless. Time will pass no matter how you spend it, so shouldn't you just go ahead and build something? But what happens if you don't even know what the eff you want to build? And I guess the thing is, I know that 28 will get here, and eventually so will 29 -- and what if I still don't know?


I'm pretty sure I'm not actually neurotic -- I just think about some things too much. And I'm probably not the only one. It's like the world has a microphone and I get caught talking all the time, because weird stuff like THIS article pop up on my FB feed when I'm writing about age anxiety.

"Even for women who don’t consider themselves particularly conventional or competitive, it’s still easy to slip into measuring your life's progress against other people's. To notice the younger woman at work who’s already accomplished what took us half a decade to lock down, and think, “I’m so far behind.”'

Just click the link. It suggests that I'm sane, and I appreciate that. It also suggests that I can be chill for a few more years. And I really appreciate that.

And the thing is, I'm happy. And the logical part of my brain  recognizes that -- and recognizes that it's kind of enough. I have a really great job that makes me feel challenged and feels really valuable in terms of that building project. I have material things that I enjoy, and a husband whose main prerogative is to chase dreams. That's a cocktail I just can't put down.

But honestly, I know myself well, and so my main comfort is that someday I'll be turning 35, and I have a pretty good feeling that I'll look back at this time and totally roll my eyes.

And won't that be fun?

"What gets easier with each passing decade, I suspect, is not comparing yourself to how other people are living their lives. As I age, I fully intend to give fewer and fewer fucks about how I’m supposed to be, or when I’m supposed to accomplish certain things. It frees up head space for the sort of creative thinking I’d rather be doing. " - Ann Friedman, The Power of 29: And Ode to Being Almost 30

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