methuselah

In further deeply worrying developments: in a few weeks, I
turn thirty-four. Of course it’s been something I’ve been thinking about for
way more than just those few weeks. When I was about to be thirty, I joked
about being horribly, terribly old, that thirty is next to death, that as the
clock clicked over to midnight, I would suddenly be only a painful stagger away
from a broken hip and a very short and unhappy lifetime of embarrassing suppositories.
But I didn’t actually believe that. Mostly I didn’t believe that. More or less.
Not believing that every year past thirty brings me closer to death.

I’m going to be older. But thirty was not terrible and thirty-four…thirty-four is not old. Ish.

But old is not, in the end, what I’m worried
about, really. Thirty wasn’t the marker between young and old, strong and feeble, rosy
and withered. What it felt like to me, that thirty thing, was the big
roundabout that directs you one-way from kid and grown-up. It felt like some
kind of inescapable, unavoidable fast-and-strong dividing line between being
allowed to be an immature idiot still just figuring things out, and a real-live
adult.

Adult. What the hell do I mean by adult? By thirty, aren’t
you supposed to have gotten well, not everything straightened out, but aren’t
you supposed to have a pretty good goddamn idea of what the hell you’re doing,
an inkling, just a tiny inkling of who you are, and where you need to go?
Aren’t you supposed to start thinking about getting your life in some kind
order by the time you are thirty? I know there isn’t some kind of law somewhere,
scrawled in permanent marker on the side of a building or carved deeply into a
mountain by the terrifying hand of god, I know that this isn’t actually any
kind of rule made up by anyone but me, but I just cannot shake this idea of
thirty, this feeling of required adultness, this vague sense of failed
responsibility.

Thirty, I think, is a good age. It was an important age. And
being this idea of an adult, being this idea of thirty, I can’t shake—right there is something I still haven’t got any sort of handle on. And that’s
why it felt, and still feels, like I wasn’t allowed to be thirty, yet. In my
thirties. I hadn’t gotten my twenties right, and for fuck’s sake, there are
things from my teens I think I’m still supposed to have taken care of.

When people are surprised at my age, they’re not saying to
me, "Wow, you’re really thirty-three? I thought you were twenty-six or twenty-seven!" because they
are thinking ah, she is so fresh, so vibrant, so youthful! They are, in fact,
thinking ah, so young she acts. They don’t say to me, "You look so
young!" That would be nice. No, they tell me, "You seem so
young." I don’t have the poise of an adult, or the self-possession, or
even the resources to fake poise and self-possession. Of course, nobody thinks
they do, and yes, all of us are perpetually caught up in an elaborate dance of
social fakery and so on and so forth, fine.

That doesn’t change the fact that I’m still an emotional
wreck, with all the immaturity and wretched self-absorption of a fourteen-year-old girl. I jump up and down, I shriek, I have little to no self-control. I am
selfish. I don’t know anything. I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know
how I’m doing it. And for fuck’s sake, I haven’t accomplished much of anything,
either. Thirty-four years on this earth is supposed to have been plenty of time
to have done important things. Some kind of important thing? Just one thing?

Okay, I thought. A list of accomplishments! Write a list of
accomplishments, and it’s bound to soothe you, if only a little bit. The list
fizzled out around number four, and then I was writing things like "can
walk in straight line!" and "have thumbs." It wasn’t very
encouraging.

And, and, and. But you know, I’m not going to catalog
everything that makes me unqualified for being in my mid-thirties, because then
I’ll have to start last-minute panicking about how I’m not ready for forty.

I might be having a crisis. Just a small, uninteresting
crisis.

When I turned thirty, I was in Dublin. Maybe I wanted to be some place wild and romantic on my birthday, so that some
sense of that adventure would flavor the rest of the year, follow behind me, be
carried around inside me. Maybe I thought, I want to be outside of my regular life
when it happens
. I say "when it happens," as if something was going
to magically click over, and things would start ticking, and the rest of my
life would be impatiently waiting for me, up the path and around the turn,
tapping its toe and wondering what the fuck it is that was taking me so long
to catch up.

I saw the city I’ve always wanted to see, before I turned
some significant age. Being in Dublin,
thousands of miles away from home, it gave me a sense of perspective. A way to
look at the long view, the panoramic view of my life, and a chance to figure
out exactly what it was I was fumbling my way toward, what it was I wanted and
what it was I only thought I wanted.

That didn’t last long.

This year, I will turn thirty-four in San Francisco, and maybe, even though it is not a round
and important emblematic number, maybe this will be the year everything turns
around and I become smart and polished and socially apt. Maybe this will be the
year I slough off all the stupid. Maybe this will be the year I have a
breakdown, and wouldn’t a nice warm hospital be an excellent place to live out
my end of days, where the only pressure I have is whether I want the red or the
green gelatin.

It is a comfort, though, to know that I made it through
thirty and thirty-one, -two and -three. And if I got this far, maybe I am not as far
away from being whomever it is I am supposed to be someday. Or I could just
keep making my way through the years and someday that’ll be enough.

  14 comments for “methuselah

  1. anon
    October 4, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    “Slough off all the stupid.” You slay me, Anne, you really do.

    At 37 (oh, by the way, enjoy this last year that you’ll be able to say that you’re closer to 30 than 40!), I feel I’m barreling toward 40 without a clue, so I don’t have much advice to offer.

    When I think of 37, it sounds mature, together. When I look at 37 in the mirror, it often still looks clueless.

    I comfort myself that in these modern times of extended adolesence, kids are still teenagers in their twenties, which means your thirties are your twenties and you don’t have to be a serious thirty year old adult until forty. So I still have a three year buffer.

    Actually, and in this I’m being totally serious, even though I still have much to learn, my life is much happier at 37 than it was at 27 or especially at 17. So I am convinced it’s just going to keep getting better and better. I wish the same for you.

  2. KC
    October 4, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    At 38 I am on my third career as an adult. My boss is a woman 6 months younger than me with a Masters Degree, a husband, 4 children, one dog, and a house. I live in a rent-controlled apartment that is perpetually too messy to allow company into and live paycheck-to-paycheck, single, childless, a freezer full of vodka and frozen french fries.

  3. anon
    October 4, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I think I’m in love with KC. She had me at freezer full of vodka and french fries.

    Actually, she had me at third career as an adult (I’m on my second but the third is on the way) and also the messy apartment bit. Oh, and that childless thang too.

    But, really, it was the vodka.

  4. October 4, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Anne, you are in my head, as usual. I just turned thirty a week ago and I’ve been going through the same kind of thoughts you’re talking about here.

    Granted I’m also completely hung up on an ex that I didn’t even date for very long and I’m sitting here wondering when, exactly, I will be old enough to not be thrown by stupid boys who smell way too good.

    But I digress. :) Yeah, hello, my name is Beth and I have no idea where the hell my life is going. You aren’t alone.

  5. LadyCiani
    October 4, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    I agree with everyone who posted above me, you’re not alone in not feeling like an adult.

    In my head there’s not just the “not owning a house” thing, and “not having life figured out” thing, there’s also the, “Wasn’t I supposed to outgrow this acne by now?” thing. Because, how can you be an adult (or feel like an adult, anyway) if you’re still breaking out?

  6. October 4, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Hey, my name is Beth too and I have no life clues either. But who really does? Even though I still occasionally feel as if somewhere along the line my life went off the track I vaguely imagined when I was younger, how in the hell could I have known at 15 or 16 or 18 what I’d want out of life? How can you choose when you haven’t seen all the choices? When I’m not worried about everything, I prefer to view my meandering, crisscrossed, roundabout track as taking advantage of everything offered along the way to Right Now.

    At least til I start worrying again.

  7. MMTFL
    October 4, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    “I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to go to school and obey the rules…” – from my hero Peter Pan. Being a full-fledged adult is so overrated. I know I am heading closer and closer to 60 (58 in January) and I refuse to fully grow up. It’s not worth it. Sure, we have that day to day stuff we have to deal with but enjoy life to the fullest and full steam ahed.

  8. October 4, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    I know it’s somebody’s birthday every day, but Jesus did you have to write this post on mine? I’m 31 TODAY and have been asking myself the same questions for awhile. I’ve resolved to celebrate the pain (yes, really) and success of the past year with my favourite people. The fact is, I don’t feel like an adult but you know what? My friend Marjorie is 50 years older than I am and at 81 she can’t believe she’s a grown up…and she’s one of the most fantastic people I know. Maybe the key is to not give in to adulthood. Live each day for what it is — yours to celebrate, whether it’s your birthday or not.

    I’m heading out for fabulous Greek food now — anybody want to come?

    Big hug,
    j

  9. sally
    October 4, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    After giving it a lot of thought, I think I must define adulthood as “bone-crushing responsibility and a lot of pain, mental and physical.” Having survived a lot of both by age 44 (which does feel old, btw), I also think the other element is an ability to laugh at yourself, to see the true hilarity in your own current and ongoing plight… (there’s always some in there somewhere.)BTW–that pain, both self and other inflicted. I’m not blaming all of it on other people!

  10. October 4, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Thirty-four? I’m 44, in college pursuing a (Bachelor’s degree–got tired of 20-something chippies with perky breasts and pretty hair and degrees in things like “theater design” being my boss and making $20k a year more than me while I did all the actual work. So here I am.

    I have no house. I have two cats an a new marriage (one year this month), no savings (blew threw that moving out of town to go to college two years ago), a messy house, a freezer full of limoncello and artichoke ravioli, diabetes, no health insurance, and a tired, fat ass.

    And I wouldn’t change a thing.

    And BTW? 37/38 was a fabulous time for me–I constantly grazed at the male buffet. Ah, good times.

    You’re a child. Really.

  11. October 4, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Thirty-four? I’m 44, in college pursuing a (Bachelor’s degree–got tired of 20-something chippies with perky breasts and pretty hair and degrees in things like “theater design” being my boss and making $20k a year more than me while I did all the actual work. So here I am.

    I have no house. I have two cats an a new marriage (one year this month), no savings (blew threw that moving out of town to go to college two years ago), a messy house, a freezer full of limoncello and artichoke ravioli, diabetes, no health insurance, and a tired, fat ass.

    And I wouldn’t change a thing.

    And BTW? 37/38 was a fabulous time for me–I constantly grazed at the male buffet. Ah, good times.

    You’re a child. Really.

  12. October 5, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    But look at all that has happened to you in the past year or so. You’re in better health now (and I say “health” instead of “shape” because it isn’t just about the weight, but about your overall physical condition). You’ve made a job change, you’re writing a lot. All of those are good things.

    I’m only a year older than you and I don’t really know crap, but that’s my take on it, and I’m impressed as hell at what you’ve done.

  13. October 6, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    It’s weird, because 34 didn’t “get me”, but 35 did. Now I’m 47 and I look back and think… “what was I worrying about?” I love this time in my life, but I’ll tell…. it goes so fast. Don’t worry about your age. Actually, try not to worry about anything except staying close to your personal goals and happiness.

  14. October 7, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    I’m only 27 (eek) and I have a broken hip, they are not only for the old, if you are stupid enough to drive in a blizzard, and hit a jeep head on, then you might well get one too. lol

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