When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I was convinced I would die young, and I led the corresponding lifestyle. It was fast-paced, indulgent, excessive, and fun. It was also temporary.
When adulthood inevitably reared its wrinkled face in the form of a job that took place while the sun was still up, I started to loosen my grip on the cliche idea that I was fated to die a Jim Morrison-esque, bathtub, heroin-chic death.
Truth be told, I still felt young. Everything – all the important things anyway – still lay ahead of me: my career, babies, a marriage, a house. When I looked forward, there was still plenty of lazy, molasses-hued time left to decide who and what and where I wanted to be when I finished growing up.
Even after some of those things happened, the marriage and the first baby and the first house anyway, there were still days that seemed to stretch by painfully slow. Our baby was new and fresh and teeny and I was new and fresh and hormonally weepy, and every sleepless night had a way of feeling like an eternity unto itself.
I seemingly had all this free time to spend in ridiculously indulgent ways: reading baby books to obsess over whether my four-month-old was a genius, calling the doctor over everything he did or didn’t do, and making actual efforts to lose the pregnancy weight. I was even young enough to giddily embrace the idea of being pregnant again, without any trepidation about what that meant for my uterus or my psyche.
Now that I am in my late 30s and a mother of four, it seems my own mortality and the ridiculously-accelerated passage of time is shoved in my face every five seconds. With every new inch one of my kids grows overnight or each new life skill they attain, I am reminded of just how quickly this is all slipping by. All four of my children don’t even have baby fat anymore, and yet I still haven’t found any time to lose mine.
These kids now too have their own friends and their own dramas, and they have whole conversations that happen each day that I don’t even know a thing about. I’m fairly certain that there are moments that go by where they don’t think about their mommy, and the worst part is I’m supposed to encourage that instead of feeling more than a little heartbroken over it.
The passage of time is also apparent in my physical body – I had two different conversations last week with two different friends of mine about botox and stem cells and other interventions to mask the emerging evidence on my face that I must spend most of my time scowling. (To judge by my wrinkle patterns alone, I apparently have rabies.)
I miss the days when my beauty regimen consisted of occasionally washing my face with soap. Now I use a combination of paint and prayer just to be presentable enough to leave the house. On especially bad days (read: PMS), I simply cut the main power line to the house. Everyone looks better in candlelight.
Which brings me to my mental state. The delicate recipe of a decent amount of years spent pickling my brain in wine and losing brain cells as I age has left me with all the cockiness of a former smart person but none of the brain power to back it up. Once you add to that the sad fact that my smart phone addiction has completely destroyed whatever was left of my attention span and…
So, yeah. Here I am, (late) 30-something and feeling it. But as my looks, my brainpower, and my body parts slowly migrate south, the real truth is I’ve never loved my life more. Sure, I’m not as perky, in temperament or otherwise, but I’m the kind of content that is both more lasting and more internal. It’s a trade I’d make every time.
It has made me think: maybe the reason we want life to slow down so much as we get older is because we are actually enjoying it more. Maybe it’s because we’re wiser, better versions of ourselves, shaped by what we’ve already lived through, sure, but not defined by it. Maybe we just want a little more time to enjoy the stuff that we’ve earned.
Preferably by candlelight.