Six months ago I was freaked out about turning 35.
Mid-thirties. Five years to forty. The age at which any pregnancy becomes a geriatric pregnancy.
And so I did what I do when a freak out of any variety sets in: I made an action plan.
I would spend the next six months working to finally and fully resolve all the gastrointestinal issues that have plagued me since ever thereby entering this next, health-issue laden phase of my life gut-healthy and bloat-free.
I would spend the next six months getting into the best shape of my life. You know strong is the new skinny so with a combination yoga/hiking/3 lb weight-moves-while-TV-watching I would glide ney long jump into this next, metabolism-less phase of my life strong and finally void of body image issues.
I would get my nose re-pierced. I once had my nose pierced and taking the piercing out was my #2 regret in life (#1 being not taking a year to do something abroad after college and #3 being something I can’t publish here but don’t worry it’s a business thing not a sex thing). So by getting my nose re-pierced I would sashay into this next, past-gazing phase of my life with one less shoulda-coulda-woulda in my rear-view.
I WOULD DO ALL THREE. And also Julia Cameron’s Artists’ Way because I’d been meaning to do it for years and if I did it now it could carry all this excellent, exciting pressure!
Maybe by now, you’ve been smart enough to ask yourself the question I didn’t: why was I freaked out to turn 35 in the first place?
Was my stomach in the kind of shape that required immediate, intense attention? No. Was my body? No.
Did I need a nose ring? Debatable, but even if the answer was yes that’s a five-minute not six-month task.
Was I a “blocked artist” – Julia Cameron language – in need of a wake-up? No. I’m a distracted artist in need of no Instagram.
So then why the panic?
Because that’s how the narrative goes.
In advance of every 5-year age increase from 30 on, we humans (especially human women) are supposed to have a crisis of confidence around all our existing confidence triggers. For me: health, body, facial piercings, career. What’s it for you? Money, relationships, body, passport stickers? Baby-plan, mental health, body, personal style? Politics, life plan, body, ability to cook a damn thing?
We feel this pressure because we’ve been sold this pressure. Given this pressure. Asked to take a quiz about this pressure in Cosmo.
Our culture does not celebrate aging. We ignore it or dread it or throw money at it until it looks five years younger.
But if you think about it, that’s very dumb.
If every human died at age 70 making 35 the halfway point in every single life then a 35th birthday panic would be warranted. I have no idea how long I’m going to live, which means the more logical approach would actually be a constant state of total panic.
If careers and husbands and houses and babies and puppies were doled out to all those aged 37 or under it would be fair to freak pre 35. I know people that career-changed at 40, married at 50, became foster parents at 60 and never got a house or a dog, which means the more logical approach would actually be to follow the path that feels right.
I do not mean to de-value a little age-induced life motivation. The occasion of another trip around the sun is a perfectly healthy time to take stock of where you’re stuck, and I have some sticky areas. I wake up plenty of days frustrated by how much progress I’m making as a television writer, longing for a way to make more money and wondering what it’s going to take for me to stop stress eating hummus (I’m at on a spoon level guys). I am aware that life is short, time is fleeting and it’s only getting hotter in California.
But here’s the thing that’s constantly lost on me in our future-obsessed culture. The thing that became impossible for me to see once I decided to stare down the barrel of a gun called 35: I am happy.
I like my life, a lot. I worked my ass off to make it look like it does. In it is everything I currently need– outside of a pair of Sarah Jessica Parker brand shoes and the perfect signature scent, but I’m on it.
I like myself, a lot. I worked my ass off to make her feel like she does and I’m continuing to work on the rough edges, sensitive spots and mortifying fact that I unconsciously mimic people’s accents when I’m around them, but I’m on her.
And I have liked getting older. I liked 30 more than 25, as my only other example of a socially feared 5-year age increase. But since judging your life in 5-year chunks is completely and utterly crazy, I also liked 34 more than 33 and 33 more than 32. I am getting stronger, wiser and more fearless with every passing year and, despite what I say every single Saturday and Sunday morning, I would not trade that for the ability to drink without getting hungover. Also, what’s the fucking alternative? A. I’m dead or B. I’m miserable
What do I mean by I’m miserable? This:
Hey Jessie, how did you feel about turning 35?
Shitty in every way! Yesterday I found six new grey hairs, had to eat gluten-free pizza with dairy-free cheese, still didn’t get paid on a deal I sold a year ago, and couldn’t identify a single song on Top 40s radio. Also Donald Trump is President and California is on fire.
We can control almost nothing in these sweet, short lives we’re given on earth – least of all our age. That makes the fact that we can (work on) controlling our thoughts a total gift and, I think, the key to a happy life. But wouldn’t it be easier to stay positive and logical if the narrative was conspiring with us?
The way the collective we talk about things matters. Consider this: It’s almost your 35th birthday! Are you freaking out about turning 35???
Versus this: It’s almost your 35th birthday! What are your plans?
I’m guilty as any, which is why for my 35th birthday I gave myself permission to stop asking myself if I was freaked out about turning 35.
I wasn’t. I’m not.
And because of that it came and went without my stomach in perfect health, my body in perfect shape and my way as an artist magically solved. Those things aren’t off the to-do list. They’ve just been demoted from defining my entire life.
Which freed up plenty of time for me to get my nose pierced.
And why not? I’m a 35-year-old woman.
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