I'm digging my heels into the ground, screeching towards my 32nd birthday at the end of August, as if doing so would slow the march of time. I never thought I would be concerned about getting older, and I fully recognize that 32 is not "old" by any stretch. My 29th birthday was a golden one - I turned 29 on the 29th - and it was a wonderful, perfect weather, end of summer Friday spent with my husband, and then later my family - Dad, step-mom, sister, brother-in-law, and nephews. Glorious. Each birthday since has been more difficult - especially approaching them.
I put my finger on part of the reason last year or the year before. Growing up, people always thought I was older than I was - I looked older, and was very mature for my age, and I was pretty darn capable. I enjoyed impressing people when they found out how young I was. Now, for the most part, I think people think I am younger than I actually am. (I know, you're feeling terribly sorry for me right now) Which, all things considered, is certainly a good shift to have. But when they are impressed that someone "my age" is doing something, it's a little less impressive when they know how old I really am. When I talk about future possibilities, the response is, "Oh, you have plenty of time..." and yes, in some ways I do, but not as much time as people think. And not as much time as I used to have.
The issue of childbearing is particularly complex and painful for me, for reasons I can't go into here. I do hope to have children, and hope to have children soon, but as my body aches more and more consistently, I try to imagine running after toddlers a few years down the road. I really don't like the thought of how old I will be when my children will graduate from college, if and when I become a grandparent. My parents were always on the younger side - they were 23 when my older sister was born and 25 when I was born. Their parents were also on the younger side. My two grandmothers became grandmothers (with my sister's birth) when they were in their mid to late 40s. My parents became grandparents (with the birth of my oldest nephew) when they were in their late 40s. It is amazing to see my dad and BOTH of his parents outside playing with my nephews, building forts, running around, and enjoying their grandchildren/great-grandchildren. I may never have the chance to meet great-grandchildren, even if I live to be a ripe old age.
When I was younger (in teens up through my mid-20s) I wasn't at all worried about those things. I never had a desire to marry as young as the rest of my family did, and I wasn't even sure that children would be part of my future. I know that I am not too old to have kids now, but I'm creeping into "advanced maternal age" - when conception becomes more difficult, when problems with pregnancy and risks of birth defects start to rise significantly. It's difficult to face those issues.
When you are in your teens and twenties, the possibilities are endless. I still have many open possibilities, but not as many. Then, of course, are the issues of how various possibilities which all are good and desirable seem to be mutually exclusive - particularly in terms of career and family. This is still MUCH more of an issue for women than it is for men, much to my frustration.
I hate to complain about feeling old, especially when, by and large, I am still younger than most of the people that I interact with - 90% of the congregation, my husband, my family, and most of my colleagues and peers. I know that this post will generate very little sympathy. I get that. But it is a real struggle, and one that I need to name. I'm not a journal writer, though perhaps I should be. I wouldn't normally risk putting something like this out in public, but perhaps there are others for whom this will resonate. In the meantime, you'll find me silently kicking and screaming my way to August 29th.