I’m very small and sans cheekbones so I resemble a girl-child even though I am a 35-year-old woman with a demanding, grown-up job that makes me wonder what happened to the days when I was virtually issue-less and looked forward to things like menarche or my first Victoria’s Secret brassiere. When I’d spend the day scribbling feverishly about my crushes in a prized coconut-shelled diary (Ok, I still do that on occasion).
It is only recently, in fact, that I’ve begun to feel like woman. It has nothing to do with starting a retirement fund (um, that’s still under consideration). Or a newfound fashion sense. My wardrobe resembles that of someone who has scooped up all the residual girly dresses no one wants from the battered sale racks at Anthropologie. In fact I own several items of clothing which were most likely designed with a tween in mind (think Forever 21). So it’s not like I sashay around in snow-colored cashmere sweaters or tweed slacks. I don’t even own anything tweed – a fabric I associate with a more mature lot. And the lone pearl necklace I possess has never actually graced my neck, but remains buried in the corner of my jewelry box with the leftover party glitter. Fashion-wise, I’d say I’m more Zooey Deschanel than Jacqueline Kennedy.
So whatever has made me feel “more adult” as of late definitely transpired on a deeper, non-aesthetic level. Yet there was not one single thing in my life which catapulted me into this new realm of thinking. I do not recall sitting on a park bench spooning pineapple Chobani into my mouth and having some sort of epiphany. Rather, it was a more gradual, sobering realization – probably due to the heightened sense of self-awareness I’ve felt thanks to the cancellation of my Time Warner cable – which has made me realize that: I am no longer afraid of death. I know that sounds icky and morbid – and it is not something I think about often, only when, for example, I’m on the subway platform waiting for the 6 train and I feel a shadowy figure behind me. Taking a few steps back from the track I think what if some lunatic pushes me into an oncoming train? And then the fear dissolves when I realize that if I cannot control the inevitable (death or whatever else) – then at least I have lived a good, full life and had the opportunity to chase my dreams.
I am not depressed by any means and the fact that I’m considering starting a new scratch n’ sniff sticker collection shows that I must still be young at heart. Yet I now embrace the fact that at the ripe age of 35, I am one of those independent women who has done almost everything she’s ever wanted to do – and then some!
I’ve fallen in love a couple of times, jumped out of a plane (for fun), lived in Paris, fulfilled my higher education needs, written two books (which will probably be published posthumously, but still), done charity work, learned a few languages, hung out in places like Swat Valley, visited the Taj Mahal, learned to stand up on a surfboard (while surfing), etc. Admittedly being somewhat of an over-achiever, I have stuffed enough life experiences into the last few decades that I haven’t even had a chance to process half of them. Of course there are things I still want to do – eg learn how to sail, have children, have my books published while I’m alive, finally finish reading War and Peace – but I feel fulfilled to the point that my life doesn’t have to be about me anymore. In fact I welcome that.
I now have this sense that I’m turning a corner and I don’t want my life to be about the things I want to achieve anymore, because I have dedicated enough time to that and there is ironically a certain amount of dissatisfaction in that after a while. In fact, if the rest of my life is about suffering or taking care of others, eg ailing parents or newborn babies, I would be completely fine with that because I recognize that I’m one of the lucky ones who has had a long stretch of life in which to travel and essentially do whatever I have wanted to do. It is a luxury that not everyone has. So maybe I’m entering a more selfless phase of my life, and this makes me feel like less of a girl-child and more like a woman ready to take on real life challenges such as marriage and motherhood.
However if a huge wave were to pummel me or I were to fall off a ski lift on my next vacation and not make it, that is really OK. I mean, I’m sure some people would be very sad, but what I’m try to say is that it feels good to be at that place in my life where I could honestly say “hey, well it’s not like I didn’t squeeze a lot into my short time on earth and have a good time doing it.”
Though of course, I do really think I should finish War and Peace before I go. So I’ll have to keep death at bay for at least a few more decades.