being 38

My mother used to admonish my behavior by invoking my age. Whenever she expressed surprise or disappointment at something I said or did, she would add a year, saying “Rachel, you’re going to be [current age +1], so….”

It was such a part of our relationship, that I never noticed it, until, of course, she was gone. The last time she could conceivably age me was when I was 28, warning me that one day I would be 29.

I’m 38 now. And instead of my mother aging me, I have oddly asserted my age in the same way she imposed it all of those years. Rather than state my age, I catch myself saying, “I’ll be 38” or “I’m almost 38” to assert my status in the age hierarchy. Maybe I should have stated, “I’m 37” more plainly over the last year.

38 is a strange age. I have life experiences (gosh darnit) but depending on the circle, it’s like I just turned 16. With enough friends in their 40s and turning 50, I am impossibly (and sometimes enviably) “young.” And with colleagues in their 20s, I’m also inconceivably “old.”

I feel nothing about being 38.

By nothing, I mean, I feel completely and utterly fine with life. There are things I want to do and things I have done. More to do, think, write, cook. And lots that I’ve already done, thought, written, cooked.

Friends one year older, one year closer to the big 4-0 keep telling me that I’ll feel differently in a year about my age. I don’t understand how that could be possible. One year is an eternity and nanosecond. This past year was challenging–transitions into a new job, supporting husband in a major career transition, finding my way back to exercise, launching the podcast–and despite those challenges, I never wished for time back or for time to pass quickly.

In the scheme of things, I am really happy. I don’t feel like I am a year closer to total oblivion because now I’m squarely in my late late thirties. On my birthday, I woke up on clean sheets in a cozy bed. I ran two consecutive miles. My kiddos (with help from my husband) brought me breakfast in bed, I saw colleagues and friends during the day, people sent me Facebook messages, text messages, voice mails, hell, I think a carrier pigeon even swooped by to send me good energy. I ate sweets, felt full of love, felt my entire body bursting with complete satisfaction.

The best part of my day–the piece that put it all in perspective–was the opportunity to participate in a Yom HaShoah ceremony at our JCC. Yom HaShoah is Holocaust Remembrance Day and many organizations commemorate the day by reading all of the names of the Jewish people who died in the Holocaust. I was instructed to read the first and last names along with the ages of the victims. This is the second year I have participated, and I knew what to expect, but was not prepared to read the names of people my own age, people who once probably also woke up on clean sheets, ate cake, felt love. I have nothing to complain about and only good work to do for my family and friends.

So many things are right in the world. I am healthy, we are safe, we have a comfortable home, food to eat, vehicles that work, people who love us. The sum of all of these little blessings is this exquisite sense of comfort.

I can’t lament getting older. At least not today.

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About rglw

Sociologist mom writes for work and for pleasure.
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