The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Not Old Enough To Know Better

I’m turning 35 tomorrow and it’s sort of bumming me out.

Some of it’s the usual. I’ve very definitely reached the age where it’s undeniable that my face and body are not going to get more attractive. My leaps are never going to be what they once were. It’s quite possible I’ll never get my aerial back. Shopping in the Juniors section at Kohls is only going to become increasingly more humiliating.

A big part involves my inner conviction that I have greatness to offer. I blame this on my parents for successfully instilling in me that whole, ‘You can do anything you put your mind to,’ thing that was popular in parenting techniques in the 1980s. We don’t really do that so much anymore. Now it’s more of a, ‘You could be a lot of things if you work really hard, but it’s kind of a tough economy out there, so let’s shoot for not living with us once you’ve reached adulthood,’ mentality.

But the point is, my parents raised me to be empowered and aspire to affect the world or create in some way. So, you know, I sort of feel compelled to. But now that I’m 35 (- 1 day), I’m starting to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have gotten my shit together about that sooner. Like if I’m really going to write a book or whatever, should maybe I have already done that? What if this means I really don’t have any greatness to add to the world?

Beyond the issues of vanity and ambition, I’m just not even sure I’m comfortable with the idea that I’m actually just. plain. old enough to ‘know better’. Do you know what I did this morning? I went around to each of the four bathrooms in our house and switched out the hanging hand towels for fresh ones. Just because it had been awhile. And you know what else? I used dry shampoo on my hair so I could go an extra day without washing it. That’s right, dry shampoo and fresh towels; that’s where I’m at. It’s possible I’ve been possessed by the ghost of Nancy Reagan.

Really, though, what if I’m not ready to commit completely to responsibility and proper hygiene?  I mean seriously; I have lots of mistakes I still want to make, but by 35 it sort of seems like I should be through with the ‘testing of the waters’ and ‘exploring phase’ of early adulthood and well into the ‘settled down’ and ‘striving for stability’ period, doesn’t it? But what if I don’t want to settle down? What if I don’t want to ‘know better’, yet?

But I’ve been ruminating on all of this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that actually, it’s probably a really good thing I haven’t done anything super fantastic or amazing yet. It’s probably in my own best interest I wasn’t a raving beauty as a small child or teen. I’m actually sort of lucky I didn’t do all of the wild and insane things I could have in my late teens and 20s. Why? Because once you’ve peaked, it’s all downhill from there.

I could easily list dozens child stars who achieved greatness early only to burn out quickly in a fireball of drugs and insanity, but it’s actually kind of a depressing task (Lindsey Lohan, Corey Haim, River Phoenix, GAH), and I do not need that shit today. So instead, let’s focus on the positive:

10 Amazing People Who Peaked Post-35

1. Jonas Salk discovered the cure for Polio around age 40.

2. Erma Bombeck didn’t begin writing her world-famous humor column on suburban motherhood/life until she was 38 and her first book wasn’t published until she was 49.

3. John F. Kennedy was 43 when he was elected to President of the United States (and he’s the youngest ever elected).

4. George Clooney was adorable at 24 on The Facts of Life, but I think we can all agree if you had your choice, you’d have him at 40 in Oceans Eleven.

5. Anna Wintour didn’t become editor of Vogue until she was 39.

6. Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon at 39.

7. Gwenyth Paltrow was named People’s Most Beautiful Woman at 41.

8. Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five with he was 47.

9. Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t begin painting the Mona Lisa (which has been acclaimed as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.”) until he was 51.

10. Keith Richards, famous for not only his music, but also for his hard-partying ways, may have peaked artistically younger than 35, but at 62 he fell out of a coconut tree in Fiji and gave himself a concussion, proving his proclivity for shenanigans hadn’t been retired, even if he sort of had.

In compiling this list I’ve come to recognize I obviously still have plenty of time to write a brilliant novel, create an amazing work of art, become POTUS, cure one of the worst diseases of my time and be voted Most Beautiful Woman… or at least one of those. And I certainly still have time to act like a loon if I want.

So, in conclusion, GFY 35. You are arbitrary, and I am and will always be, young at heart. I am ridiculous for worrying about you. Plus, I really do prefer to only get better as my years go by like an expensive Oregon Pinot Noir, rather than flame out young.

And certainly GFY ‘old enough to know better’. I have plenty more ill-advised decisions and poor choices to make.

5 Responses to Not Old Enough To Know Better

  1. Sonia Sotomayor took the federal bench when she was 38. I turn 38 next month. For some reason, despite knowing I will never be on the United States Supreme Court, I feel really inadequate.

  2. Thanks for this pre-35th birthday pep talk even though you didn’t know you were writing it just for me.

    I’m coming up on it in August and, as I decided to roll back the clock last year and act like a teenager again, I get a little *Uh oh, should I be acting like a grown up now?* from time to time.

    Like all the time.

    So, at least you won’t be alone in your mid-30s’ shenanigans because yours truly is doing all kinds of crazy nonsense and I need someone else doing it, too. Insanity loves company? Or no. Maybe no.

  3. David Ricardo, the eminent economist, took it up at 37.

  4. The last paragraph — that totally owns. And if I already feel the same way at 30, 35 is gonna be the suck.

  5. “I think it’s better to burn out than to fade away … It’s better to live your days being very, very active – even if it destroys you – than to quietly … disappear … At my age, why do u think 1’m still here struggling w/ all the problems of this company – because I don’t want to fade away.” – Ahmet Ertegun

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