I thought that turning 30 would be rough. It wasn’t. For some reason, though, turning 31 bothered me. I do have to say that I don’t think it was so much about my age. It was more about the reality of what my daily life had become as the mother to an almost-one-year-old and to a three-and-a-half-year-old.
In a few weeks I’ll be turning 34. I have spent the last three years mulling over a whole range of questions for which I have very few answers. But I’m learning, at last, to embrace who I am.
You wouldn’t look at me and think, “Good gravy, that lady is fancy!” because I’m not. I’m just not. I can play fancy, and I like to play a little fancy now and then, but it’s been hard for me since having kids to find the energy for fanciness.
I found myself exhausted at age 31. I lamented that being a grown-up was hard. I felt a pretty profound sense of failure. I wasn’t the best at anything I was doing in my life. I wasn’t even good at most of what I did every day; my house was untidy, I didn’t cook very well, I lost my patience at least once a day, and I was pretty certain that I had lost the ability to say anything clever or interesting to any other adult. And so it was that I found myself at the bottom of a slippery slope. I stopped working out. I stopped reading my Economist. I stopped finding ways to keep up my Spanish. I stopped caring what I looked like.
A few months before my 32nd birthday, a friend came to visit us. I told him that I missed being able to walk into a room and command an audience if I wanted to do so. And he said, “Why, because you were pretty?” He didn’t even mean to say that in the past tense. But he did. And it stung so much that I was shocked into making a change.
At 32, I went back to graduate school. I started with a class in literary translation, and it was just what I needed. I felt inspired. I felt smart. I was motivated to shower and to wear clean clothes. After that first semester ended, I got a tattoo: a nerdy, philosophical tattoo. I knew I was done having babies and nursing those babies, and that tattoo was the start of my taking my body back.
I started doing yoga and eating really well again. For my 33rd birthday I spent a small fortune on a pair of red satin high heels. (And holy cannoli, are they hot!) A few months later I bought my first pair of running shoes, trained for six months, and ran in the Akron Marathon relay. And I’ve stopped dying my hair to cover my gray, because I’ve reached a point in my life in which I’m finally able to accept myself for who I am. And I really do think that the stripe of gray at my temple is just as fancy as my nerdy tattoo, my workout clothes and my red heels.
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