Yesterday I celebrated my 34th trip around the sun.
This past trip has been one of deep thought, of growth and change.
I’m grateful for this year I get to add to my age.
At 59 years old my father took his last breath, lying in a hospital bed, with his hand in mine. His body, weary from the treatment that ultimately ended his life. He resembled an old man, rather than a person approaching retirement. I watched him slip away, the last bit of life circulating through him, until it slid away in his final exhale. Still filled with hope, stones left unturned, animals left unnamed, a cabin left in a pile of milled beams. He didn’t die feeling peace. There was no magical moment when I knew he believed he had lived a full life, no romance. That single moment changed the path of my entire life.
At 34 my dad had already lived more than half of his life, and so I look at birthdays differently than most thirty-somethings. My fears don’t lie in growing older. White hair, I welcome you. Fine lines around my eyes, I’ve inherited you from my ancestors and wear you proudly like a map of the places I have been. I’ve grown weary of not liking myself.
I’ve discovered my inner rebel in my thirties. She wears clothes that don’t fit the design laid out for adult women. She speaks words that have been hidden away for three decades, and she has given up caring about changing people’s minds. She no longer desires to wear underclothes that spend the majority of their time wedged in uncomfortable places. She doesn’t pine after curves and slender figures displayed upon billboards featuring girls who are meant to represent women. It’s liberating.
I once envisioned my life as a basket containing a treasure for every year I lived. I now know that my basket becomes lighter as the years pass. With each passing year, I toss away another inhibition, and I glow a little bit brighter.
Where I once lived each day by the voices of criticism in my head, voices of those different from my own, I now quiet them in support of a smaller voice whose power is growing. Where I once worried about fitting in busy days to prove my self worth, I now aim to enjoy a slow-paced week, without proclaiming “I’m busy!” to those I meet. Where I once feared what was coming for me around the next corner, I’ve begun to learn the skill of relaxing into this journey that life is spilling out before me.
It’s good now. It can still be good tomorrow. For the most part, it’s up to me.
photo credits go to MoonChild, age5