On Feeling Older

sunset-hair

I feel older these days. There are times when I love this. I feel confident and as though I am truly growing into myself and becoming the woman I am meant to be. Sometimes I feel so proud of how far I’ve come over the past few years, impressed by how I’ve navigated certain situations with the grace and the maturity of someone much more experienced. I respect that I’ve made some tough decisions, and I have done so with strength. I am pleased with the direction in which my life is going.

But then there are days like today, where I just notice that I’m not as young as I used to be. Everything around me feels different, and everyone around me looks younger. When I look in the mirror, I look tired. There are bags under my eyes. It takes more energy than it should to get up in the morning. I wonder if my hair has always been this thin. I wonder if I look older. Things aren’t as easy as they used to be.

My mother likes to remind me that I’m “almost 30,” as if I am unaware of the demise of my own youth, something I used to think was eternal, but lately feels fleeting. I notice my age everywhere. On the faces of the girls wearing thin tights and torn jeans despite the winter weather, in the lopsided oversized hats only 16-year-olds can pull off. I see it in my friends, the ones getting married and buying houses and having babies. I see it in the clothing draped on mannequins as I walk down Queen Street West, gazing through the windows. They do not reflect my style or my desires anymore.

I see it in all the dreams I had, the things I said I’d do by 25, by 27, and now by the looming 30. I try not to become angry with myself for not meeting expectations I set for myself when I was younger, ambitions decided before I knew how the world really worked. It’s just that these are things I thought I’d do, that I’d have done by now. The movie version is playing out differently than the fiction I imagined.

***

Many summers ago, some friends and I would drink and dance in bars before stumbling over to afterhours clubs, one in particular, every single weekend, and we’d laugh and stay up until well after the sun came up, splitting cabs and dragging ourselves back to our respective apartments, passing tired baristas as they unlocked cafes around us. I felt so alive and young then. I felt like things would feel that way forever.

But they didn’t, of course. The summer ended and so did the parties. When fall rolled around, life took on a chameleon-like form and we all returned to our normal routines, whatever our normal was then.

I met up with those friends again this past weekend. It had been a while, too long actually, and we were reminiscing about things when the topic of that summer came up. We realized that five years had passed. It weighed down on me, thinking about how long it had been, how things can simultaneously change and stay the same. How there I was with the same group of people, but we were being civil and philosophical, our conversations had depth and meaning, and not a single person asked me if I wanted to do a shot.

And maybe that’s when this whole thing started, when I started thinking about my past self as the somewhat wild, young 20-something who lived life without fear and trusted that everything would just work out somehow. I was carefree, but I was also careless. I did not have the same boundaries as I do now. I did not understand the flaws in my character. The things I thought made me charming or endearing then, I’d never allow now. But still I miss her sometimes, the version of me who didn’t worry as much. And maybe sometimes I wish I could return to that era of innocence and ignorance, traits erased by age.

I’m not scared of getting older, but I am scared of life passing me by. And maybe that’s why I panic slightly when a milestone age comes and goes and I haven’t yet created some magnum opus that solidifies my place in history and justifies my struggles, the bane of a writer’s existence. Maybe it feels like time is passing by too fast.

But then I need to remind myself that I’m only 28, and while yes that is “almost 30,” it’s also not 30. I’ve become a different person over the past two years, and I’ll be different still another two years from now. I get conflicted dancing on this line between youth and womanhood, but I’m starting to learn the moves (I could never really hold the beat before anyway). And you know what, I may be getting older. But I’m also becoming a much better dancer.

Advertisements

J’ai peur

1st Halloween

I love Halloween. I dress up every year. I haven’t always gone all out in the costume department–and it was my parents who took care of it for my first few years–but, as sure as Chucky is a creepy doll, I mark the occasion with a masquerade.

For my first experience of the door-to-door ritual North America calls “trick-or-treating,” I was dressed as an angel. I was two years old. My friend Katie, who was my next door neighbour, was dressed as a clown. That was 32 years ago. Thirty-two. Years. As a little girl, before puberty and after most of my baby teeth had been replaced with the permanent choppers, I had a real obsession with dressing up as a gyspy. Who knew little me was so clairvoyant. When applying for my latest apartment, I was forced to look back at my residential history. It appears I’ve moved a lot. I’ve been restless, I suppose. Or perhaps I seem more transient because of the people to whom I compare myself.

Katie is a single mother to a son and works as a law clerk. Joanne has a son too; and a daughter, a husband, a dog, a cat, a nice teaching job, and a mortgage. Joanna isn’t married and doesn’t have any kids; however she works with children, as an instructor therapist. She’s getting her masters and she does yoga. Sarah is a high school teacher with an accountant husband, two children, and has a third one incubating. It’s not often we ladies “hang out” anymore, but we come together for the big stuff; the important stuff; the happy stuff; and absolutely the sad stuff. We catch up on what’s new. Laugh about that time when that happened and, she said this, and we wore that.

We were together a few weeks ago and for a moment, it was like we were teenagers again: full of hope and ideas and laughter. But then the conversation shifted. The topics were not on my life resume. Conversation obstacles galore! Child birth: nope, haven’t done that or actually witnessed a live birth. Not pregnant. Nothing relevant to say there. Next: curriculums. I’m not a teacher and it’s been 12 years since I took a course of any kind. Dietary concerns: not so much. I have dietary preferences. I can eat as much cheese as I want to. And then the conversation shifted to the reason we were all together: losing our parents. We were at a funeral. Joanne lost her mother to the dirty bastard that is cancer.

Only two of us have both parents. One of us has had the misfortune of losing a father and then a step father. We’re not getting any younger; which means our parents are getting even older. And those of us who aren’t parents yet? Maybe we won’t become parents at all.

When did I get old? Or, rather, when did I get stuck in this weird zone where my 20’s seem like a distant, fuzzy dream? When did the idea of dealing with a hangover become more unbearable than child birth without drugs? When did I become the person who worries about taking care of my parents–and why does it scare the shit out of me?

I’m terrified that I won’t have a family of my own–and I just decided I want one! The proverbial Everyone tells 20-somethings You that You have LOTS of time to decide on something like becoming a parent. But you don’t. You really don’t. You get to your 30’s and all of the sudden–tick. It’s the–tick, tick–biological clock that is tick tick TICKING (yes, that’s a My Cousin Vinnie reference, thank you Marisa Tomei). What about my health; sure I can take care of myself, but… Joanne’s mom was only 57. I say only 57, but then I turn around and say 34 is old. It’s a perplexing time. I’m afraid to die and I’m weighed down by life. I don’t have the career I always thought I’d have (let alone the income). I haven’t traveled as much as youngster me had planned to. My bucket list has a load of empty checkboxes, including the “get married to someone who is in love with me completely and whom I’m in love with fully and completely as well.”

I have a friend Angela who has been married for 10 years. I was the maid of honour at her wedding. We talk a fair bit and I know she has some of the same fears and concerns about her own life as I do about mine. However, I totally have a “grass is always greener” envy going on when I look at her. She and her husband Mike are like fictional characters Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. They’re amazing together. To me, while, sure, she could do lots of things starting now and becoming future Angela, to me she has something to be so proud of: that relationship she has with her husband. And, just like Ted from that damn TV show, I want that. I want what I think they have. And I’m petrified I’ll screw it up.

I’m dating someone right now, you see. He’s wonderful. I want to marry him and spend the rest of my life with him. I’ve never been so sure of anything. And what comes with this clarity? Fear. BIG FAT FEAR.

I love Halloween. It’s this day where you can dress up and be someone else. Be someone fictional and legendary. Be someone ghoulish and creepy. Be someone magical. Halloween is magical. When I’m someone else, the next day, when I go back to being just me, I’m not diappointed, as my ramblings might suggest I would be. I’m relieved. I look in the mirror and there is familiarity the day after Halloween. It’s me. And I’m alive. And I’m not so bad (I have some pretty darn good friends who I would not have if I were such a fuckup). And I have a whole bag of tiny chocolate bars.

Trellawny works in advertising, loves cooking, and is in a long-distance (but totally awesome) relationship. Names of her friends have been changed in this post due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.