Me: ‘It’s my birthday!’
Me: ‘I am going on 40!’
People: ‘Euhm.. well don’t worry. You don’t look 40. And you are only 38, 40 is a ways off…’
Ageing is a curious journey. When I turned twenty, there was rejoicing. A celebration of adulthood, the world is your oyster kind of thing. At thirty the mood started to change. The first mentions of ‘old age’ dropped from the sky like a drizzle before a storm. Questions like ‘how are you dealing with turning thirty?’ became a new normal. Fast forward a decade and I am getting apologies for being my age. In our society we are programmed to glorify youth. We spend millions trying to defy the laws of nature and hide away our ancestors in homes not their own. I hear myself cracking jokes about my old hips and realise the dept of the brainwash, because I actually love adding numbers to my years. Not because I care especially about growing older. But because I care about growing. Every trip around the sun, gives me more of something and deepens this human experience.
Young wise ones and old souls alike are the elders of our time and their magic has nothing to do with age. But there is one thing that only years will give you and that is perspective. At twenty I thought I knew it all and took everything, especially myself, really seriously. By the time I turned thirty Ilfe had gone through its cycles a few times. I felt happy, I felt sad, I was unsure of myself, there was bliss, I was lonely, I was angry, I was scared, I felt peace. It all happened. It all passed. I loved. I healed. I forgave myself. I moved on. I came to understand time always does its thing, even through the deepest darkest heartache. That eventually every single thing ends, every single thing changes, every single thing begins again. Some moments you remember always. More fade away. Most you forget without realising what you lost. It all matters and it all matters not. Living through my years has given me perspective and mellowed my outlook on life, softened my view of myself. At almost forty I no longer feel like I know it all. I haven’t even begun scratching the surface of the mysteries of living. Even more importantly I am comfortable with not knowing, committed to always be learning.
So I am proud to say I am going on forty. This season of my journey overflows with life and makes it easy to be so. Little humans running wild through my days, looking at the world with a beginners mind and sparkling eyes. I wonder how I’ll feel decades from now. When seasons change and I watch my sons leave home to wander the earth on their own, empty arms wrapped around myself. What happens when thoughts of mortality rise to the surface? I can only say that I don’t know. I hope I’ll face it with an open heart. I hope I’ll have learned to embrace all beginnings and endings. Even those of life and death.
Ageing is a curious journey. I feel strange writing all of this. I am 38. When did that happen? I remember being a kid and writing people my parents age off as ancient. And now here I am. A parent my parents age. I remember running around town in my mid twenties, greeting the dawn more often than not, pausing to go to my job in between. I’d see forty something humans out and about, my minds eye cloaking them in silence, while delighting in my own vibrance. Nowadays I still chase first light, my sons sprinting ahead as they loudly welcome the new day. My life has done a full 180 and I know now there is nothing silent about this phase of living. The other day I was walking down the street and I came across a group of humans hanging out, instantly going into ‘check out mode’ like you do when you meet peers. Do you acknowledge each other or do you play it cool and walk by with your head held high? And then one of them said ‘hallo mevrouw’. Cue dramatic music. Reality crashed down hard. I saw a flash of myself reflected in a window. Streaks of white in my hair, scars of living on my body. One son hanging on my leg, a second one running off, my third baby in a pram. They are no longer my peers. I have become their ‘mevrouw’.
Do we all have a forever age? An age we carry in our hearts frozen in time, even as our bodies are painted by our present? Is it the same age for everyone or do we all wear different numbers? And what is yours? In my heart of hearts I am still twentyseven. Ish. Reflecting on my life back then, I can even come up with a why. At that age I was on my own after more than a decade of (long term) relationships. I had grown into adulthood as part of another, never getting to know myself as just me. I was living alone, had a decent job and felt free for the first time in my life. The ultimate freedom of doing whatever you please, without having to check in with someone else. It was a time of discovery. A time of personal and spiritual awakening. There was so much joy and exuberance in my days. There was so much darkness and fear as well. On the other side of that journey there was me. It was like I woke up to myself, to my life. Parts of me keep changing over time, I discover hidden fragments and deepen my understanding of my shadows. But the true essence of me? That is always the same and has travelled with me to the future. Maybe our essence expresses itself as light, joy and freedom. Elements we are taught as belonging to the young. I am discovering they belong to all numbers. Twentyseven going on forty. Mind the (ever expanding) gap.