I’m not sure if it’s because I was busy with my college’s all-week literary and fine arts festival (I was both committee member, participant, and attendee of the various sessions), which culminated with a Holocaust survivor speaking about her memoir yesterday; or because I was busy catching up on grading; or because I was busy prepping for next week’s rounds of committee meetings and event planning —
either way, I didn’t mention to anyone who didn’t already know (immediate family and Facebook folks) that Friday was my birthday.
And I wanted it that way.
Unlike my mom — who actually DID forget that today was her birthday — I just wanted the anniversary of my birth to be a day of quietly appreciating just being alive.
So I blew off grading and attended that Holocaust survivor’s session; I ate all week way too much catered festival food and had triple helpings of strawberry shortcake on Friday; I swung by my folks’ place so that the little guy could see his grandparents, his aunties and uncles, and his cousins, while my family treated me and the little guy to carry-out Pizza Hut; I thanked folks on Facebook in the wee hours of the evening, before going to bed around midnight.
It’s hard not to sound cliche, but “39” is really just a number to me and, actually, I am looking forward to my 30s coming to an end. Maybe because I was in school for so long (all those degrees), but my mid-20s felt like an extension of my teens, and my early to mid 30s felt very much like a continuation of my 20s: still immature, needing to have life knock sense into me, needing to experience failure and, thus, truly grow up.
It wasn’t until I was 35 that I actually understood what being a grown-up meant. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I understood that my choices in my life will influence another person’s life well after I’m dead and gone, and — thus — I better not screw up.
It’s like jumping from adolescence to middle-age. WUMP — from 20 to 4o, with my 30s being a hormonal, angst-riddled, nervous breakdown, solipsistic mess.
That’s why the only real indicator — to me, at least — that I am reaching middle-age isn’t my actual life (after all, I’m the mom to a 3 1/2 year old, a status that plenty of women half my age have). No, the real indicator are my parents, who are in their mid-60s (my mom) and late 60s (my dad).
As I near my 40s, my parents near their 70s, and that fact is what makes me pause and realize that both they and I need to take care of ourselves if we want to be active in the lives of the little guy and his cousins (who will be 8 years old and 1 year old in the fall of this year).
The last vestige of my Decade of Bad Choices should be resolved by the end of this year, i.e., the Hubby’s and my impending divorce. It really is just dividing assets now, and I am content to let the Hubby and his lawyer do what needs to be done, as long as the little guy’s future is secure.
I see the fourth decade of my life as low-key but productive years of contributing to my workplace, guiding the little guy through his school-age and early teen years, and paying off my debts as fast as I can before he finishes high school.
What about dating?
As I mentioned to my sister, adult male companionship as a divorcee makes me cringe so much that I would rather wait until I’m in my 50s before I even entertain that possibility — if ever.
Will the little guy be an only child?
Most likely, he will be, for a long, long while. I often think about adoption sometime down the line, but not until Daniel has an active life on his own, with extracurricular activities, with his own peer group. Most likely sometime in his late teen years.
And, as for adoption, it wouldn’t be a baby, as I have experienced taking care of a baby — from newborn to now preschool — and that desire is very well sated.
Like my sister, before her own life got horribly side-tracked by her own bad choices, I’m thinking of becoming a foster mom some day, perhaps to a school-age child or even older.
The practical reason is obvious: I’d be in my 50s, and, as much as I respect older moms who strive to parent babies and toddlers in their 50s, I can’t see myself doing that. I’m not that hungry with baby-lust.
The intangible reason has everything to do with me being a community college teacher. I often find myself guiding my younger students to what successful adulthood looks like: the knowledge and skills needed, the pitfalls to avoid (even though some of those pits I have fallen into — but have crawled out).
Even though I was lucky to have been adopted as a baby, I see on the web and on TV plenty of kids who remain in the foster care/ group home system without ever becoming adopted. And when they age out of the system — turn 18 — who will support them then? Who will show them how college works, how financial acumen looks like, how to succeed in a career? Who will care if they succeed or fail, if only just themselves?
So — yeah. Good-bye, 30s. I’m looking forward to my helluva productive and active 40s, in preparation for a future in which, when I’m my parents’ age now, I can look back and think,
“Yes — so far… so good.”