Turning 38: Pretty Neat

I have successfully completed yet another trip around the sun. And it was pretty okay.

Last month, one of my cousins had a birthday and the upside down smiley face she used when she announced that she was twenty-four made me think that perhaps she didn’t dig the idea of being twenty-four. I don’t know. I’m barely literate in emoji.

Whatever her intended meaning, my interpretation of it got me thinking about how people tend to have those dreaded ages. For my roommate it was 40. For a lot of women, for some reason, it’s 40. For some, it’s 30. Mine was 13. I didn’t want to be 13 because that meant I wasn’t a kid anymore, I was a TEENAGER, and that just sounded like a fate worse than death to me. Because after teenager is adult, and who the hell wants to be that?

Not me and I’ve avoided it spectacularly.

I think I lucked out getting my dreaded age out of the way early. Now when other people are bemoaning their impending 50th or 25th or whatever, I’m turning 38 like, “Holy shit, how am I still alive? Someone should be fired for this.”

One thing I’ve noticed in my slide down the hill to 40 is that I’m loosening up some. Maybe it’s the meditations and affirmations I’ve been doing. Maybe it’s the realization that I’m getting beyond the age of expectations. It’s harder and harder for society to place expectations of certain achievements, attainments, and behaviors because I’m too old now. It’s too late. There’s no hope for me.

It’s the release of that pressure to live up to these arbitrary benchmarks that’s got me feeling loose. It’s not that I’m now going to abandon everything and become a useless lump. Some might argue that I already am one because I’ve always been one. No, it’s not giving up. It’s the shifting of focus from what society wants to me to be and achieve and the stress caused by the cognitive dissonance of that to what I actually want to be and achieve and the lack of stress from striving for that without any inner conflict.

Makes me feel pretty optimistic about 38.

I think it’s going to be some kind of chill.


Turning 37: I Can See 40 from Here

birthday hatThirty-seven years ago today I was ripped from my mother’s womb in a most undignified fashion and I’ve been disgruntled ever since. But, I do so love my birthday. I will milk this day for all its worth and I will do it with no shame. I rarely do anything remarkable on my birthday, but believe me, I believe my birthday to be a special day and I will use it as my excuse to do anything.

37 is an interesting age, I think.  From here I can see 40, a dreaded number for some reason. I guess because 40 signals middle age to so many people and middle age is the next step to being old and if there’s anything this society fears, it’s the concept of being old or seen as old. I can relate to that to a certain extent. I certainly don’t want to be seen as old because the connotations of that involves being fixed in mindset, less likely to engage in fun.

But I don’t mind getting older.

I don’t know. I just don’t think I have anything to fear from getting older. In many respects, I’ve always been an old soul, always seemed more mature and responsible and knowledgeable for my years. But then, at my advanced age I still watch cartoons and dance in public and sometimes dress like a toddler who got to pick out her own clothes and dress herself like a big girl. I feel like I’ve got a good balance going here.

I suppose I should be in panic mode. At 35, you’re just on the hill. At 36, you’re just over, but 40 is still at a considerable distance. But there’s nothing between 37 and 40 to block the view. Now here I am, in full view of 40 and I’m still struggling right along, not having checked off one item on society’s to do list. I should be mired in a pit of self-loathing right now, but I’m not.

I suppose if I hadn’t spent much of 36 in a major dialogue with myself about my life I would be panicking right about now. Instead, I’m feeling pretty zen, like maybe, just maybe, I can swing this life pretty okay and be happy doing it.

I have no fear of 37.

I think we’re going to get along just fine.

Turning 36

heartthrobHere I am, turning 36 only a couple of days after David Bowie died, and my brain is having a lot of thoughts.

The first thought is that I had no idea that I would be this affected by the man’s death, in part I suppose, like many, I never thought about him being anything other than immortal. But also, as much as I enjoyed the man and his work, I don’t think I’d ever call myself a David Bowie fan. I think the only thing I own is his greatest hits album, though I’ve definitely listened to much more than that. I just didn’t spend the money or have the devotion required to call myself a fan, I think. And yet, news of his death has left me prone to tears.

In seeing all of the very lovely thoughts and remembrances scrolling along my social media feeds, all of which were quite touching and it was amazing to see how this one person affected so many people, a certain sort of theme kind of captured my mind.

Existence and reinvention.

Existing as you are, whatever you are, that day and existing as that human until it’s time to be something else, then reinventing yourself into your new existence. That’s basically what David Bowie did during the course of his career. And people dug it because they could relate to it. They could relate to every phase of his being no matter what the outward projection was. They could relate to that honesty and that otherness that they maybe couldn’t quite accept or express in themselves.

This isn’t meant to be some kind of poetic eulogy of questionable quality. It’s supposed to be about me turning 36. Which I have done. Successfully. And it is at this successful turn so soon after this significant human’s demise that I am thinking about my existence and my need for reinvention. I’m thinking about my need for honest expression in general, for the honest expression of my otherness. I am thinking about my ability to be in my truest form.

Heavy shit, I know.

The age number is arbitrary, though I know people will enjoy elbowing me in the ribs while pointing out how close I’m getting to 40. But I’ve been having my mid-life crisis since I was 28, so that number holds no superstitious sway over me. If anything, being 36 has promise since it’s divisible by 3 and that’s the sort of thing I like.

I’m sure I won’t spend the whole time I’m 36 brooding about my life and all of the questions in it. I’ve got shit to do, after all, and I’m crap at multitasking.

But I bet I pause more often this trip around the sun to check my existence.

35 Now

birthday hatI’m going to be honest with you about something.

Yesterday, when I officially turned 35, I was more put out about the fact that I had to run errands and go grocery shopping than I was about turning 35.

When it comes to my birthday, I am like a toddler. It’s mine, mine, mine! I don’t have to! It’s my birthday! I get to do whatever I want! And I don’t want to be a grown-up and do grown-up things!

Which brings me to my next reflective point about turning 35.

I am now on the downward slide to 40 (“Hands up! Test your nuts!” as we used to say while riding roller coasters) and as such I’m sure there are people looking at me, possibly wanting to poke me, wondering what the hell is wrong with me. I’m 35 now. I’m supposed to be a grown-up. I’m supposed to be this, that, and the other with a real job and a mortgage and bills and all the trappings of adulthood. I’m supposed to be striving to meet society’s expectations of a woman of my advanced age (and weight, but that’s a different post). What am I doing?

This is actually something I’ve reflected on quite a bit in the month leading up to my birthday.  I gave serious consideration to the fact that I’m still dodging a big part of the standard adult business and that maybe I should consider, you know, straightening up and flying right.

But I just can’t make myself do it, kids. I knew it back when I was 12. I remember being supremely unhappy at the prospect of being 13 because that would mean I was a teenager and after teenager was adult and there was so much of that life stage that I didn’t find appealing. I liked being a kid and I’ve always been very bitter about the whole growing up thing.

Here’s the thing. I KNOW I can adult. I could adult with the best of them. I’m very good at responsibility. I’m so good at responsibility that I’ve been known to take on responsibilities that aren’t even mine. I’m very reliable and dependable and organized. I’m mature. I’ve been mature since I was little. I have all of the qualifications to be a good and proper adult according to society’s standards.

I just don’t want to BE an adult.

After years of doing things I hated in order to live up to someone else’s standards, trying to please other people, I realized that I have no desire to adult. It’s an epic drag and it’s not for me.

I’d rather do things my way, if you don’t mind.

So if that means being 35 and not being grown-up, that’s perfectly cool with me.

Turning 34

34I turned 34 yesterday and I’m not exactly thrilled with it (not to be confused with the actual birthday part, in which I enjoyed myself very much).

It’s not the getting older part that I don’t like. I prefer that to the alternative (aka dead). And I’m not one of those people that protests their own birthday because of the whole getting older thing. Are you kidding? This is MY day! I can do almost anything on the basis that it’s my birthday.

No, it’s not any of that. It’s just the number. 34. It sounds like a drag.

I’ve talked before about my weird number quirks. I like 3’s and multiples of 3. I was really excited to be 33 because, holy cow, that’s TWO 3’s! Double your 3 pleasure! Better yet, 33 adds up to 6! A multiple of 3! An actual doubling of 3’s pleasure!

34…that’s not a multiple of 3. Worse, it adds up to 7. Everyone else raves about that number, but it’s my least favorite. In fact, it leads me to believe that my entirety of 34 is going to be a huge bummer, as opposed to 33, which I felt sure would be fabulous simply based on the 3 factor.

Okay, yes, I’m weird. Weird to the point that I’ve been thinking of just telling everyone I’m 36 for the next few years (I’m not sure I’m digging 35 just yet either), so I can avoid being 34, at least in spirit.

Hey, if age is just a number, I should be able to do that, right?

Saying I’m 36 might also give my perception of really spending the year being 34 a boost. I don’t have high hopes for the year because of that number. Maybe I can use the 36 magic to boost my spirits some and make it a better year than I anticipate.

You never know. Maybe that little number manipulation might make me change my mind and claim to be 34, really own it.

Sure, why not?

It’s all in the math, baby.

*I have been reminded of Internet Rule #34. I’m not sure if that will make my year better or worse, but it definitely made my view of it more interesting.

The Boat

Riverboat‘Round these parts, folks go to the boat for a good time. For those of you not familiar with the Cornfield and its vernacular, “going to the boat” means going to the riverboat casino in Peoria.

This past Saturday was my roommate Carrie’s birthday. Since it was a milestone birthday (I won’t say what stone that mile marks), she wanted to do something big. Our original plan was to go to Chicago, but since she hurt her knee and wouldn’t be able to do that much walking, she decided that going to the boat would be a good alternative.

Riverboat ViewWe stayed at the hotel. Our room was fabulous with a lovely view of the parking lot and the river beyond. I’m not joking. For a parking lot view, it was still really nice. I could write lyrical poems about the bathroom. The shower was divine. You can’t say that about most hotel showers.

We hit up the buffet that night for dinner. It was a seafood special, perfect for Carrie’s birthday as she is a big lover of seafood. It was a pretty nice spread and the food was pretty good. I’ve never had seafood lasagna before and wasn’t sure I’d like it, but it was some tasty, tasty stuff.

I was probably the youngest person at the buffet and frankly, I didn’t mind it. It made for a quiet meal. The guy sitting next to us was getting his prime rib on. Meanwhile, another lady went back to her table with a plate of mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. Carrie looked horrified. “Is she being punished?”

Riverboat dinnerConsidering the dessert spread, maybe she thought she needed to earn that German chocolate cake. Laws knows that if salad didn’t count as a vegetable then I wouldn’t have eaten one all weekend.

The casino was loud and bright and crowded, but we managed to find our way to the lowest floor (deck?) and the slots. The dress code was quite loose as we saw some people dressed to the nines and other folks that didn’t seem to own any shirts with sleeves. A few people were in their pajamas.

The first night I won about forty dollars and Carrie won about fifty. The second night, we wore more on the losing end, but we still managed to come out ahead.

I spent my winnings on Steak n Shake.

We both had a lot of fun, but we both realized that we’re not casino people. We found the prime rib guy working two slots at once and he had at least 200 bucks in one of them. Another guy was sliding into Carrie’s seat as soon as she got out of it because he thought her machine was hot. We might have spent an hour or an hour and a half at most in the casino each night. It was fun while we were winning, not as fun when we were losing, and there were a whole lot of people that resembled zombies in there.

Definitely a fun once-in-a-while weekend thing, but we couldn’t make a job of it.

Happy 32!

Today is my birthday and I have successfully turned 32, which will hereby be referred to as 30-Deuce because it sounds cooler.

To celebrate, I’m going to spend the weekend in Chicago at the Cubs Convention with my good friend Becca and going to meet some of my Cubs fan Twitter friends for the first time. It’s going to be a lot of fun (I don’t give things like this any other choice).

This also means I’ll be taking the next four days off. No blog posts ’til Tuesday!

Happy birthday to me!

What Do You Do When Thousands of People Die On Your Birthday?

A year ago today I turned 30 years old. While I did that hundreds of thousands of people died in a devestating earthquake in Haiti.

Unlike most other people, particularly the people around my age, I actually had been looking forward to turning 30 and deep down I wished I could have been able to do something really spectacular to celebrate. I wanted my 30th to be memorable.

I should have been more specific.

No matter what I do on my birthday, it’s my special day. I’ve been sick on my birthday (more than is fair, in my opinion). I’ve worked on my birthday. I’ve had parties. I’ve spent it alone. But no matter how I spend the day, in my head it’s always special because it’s mine.

My 30th was no different. I went to the DMV to renew my license. It’s never much of a hassle in a town of 7,000, but that day it was almost enjoyable. My new picture is the first ID picture I’ve taken in my life that didn’t look like a mugshot following a night of booze and a misused pool cue. Lunch was just a trip through the McDonald’s drive-thru, but that was one delicious chicken sandwich. It was all due to the charm of my birthday and the glow of turning 30.

And then there was an earthquake.

I saw it first on Twitter. Initially, it was just another earthquake in a country I never planned to visit. Earthquake reports come across my Twitter feed all the time about other countries, one tweet maybe retweetted by two or three different people, and that’d be the end of the earth-shaking news.

But Haiti didn’t disappear.

More and more news came over my wire, mixing the birthday wishes with death toll numbers. The shine of my birthday had no affect on that kind of devestation. Turning 30 couldn’t compete iwth the destruction of pretty much an entire country.

So I didn’t try. I didn’t speak Haiti’s name all day and though I was aware of the news and kept up to date on the rising numbers and mounting wreckage, I kept it in my peripheral view.

Because it was my birthday, dammit! My day! And the Earth had no right to go heaving up and crushing people on my birthday. Really, it shouldn’t be doing it on any day, but this day in particular. I felt bad enough when Maurice Gibb died on my birthday. But a huge percentage of a country’s population? That’s a black cloud that lingers. Even if  I wasn’t do very much to celebrate it, my 30th birthday was now tainted, haunted, by the deaths of thousands.

I ignored that fact. I really did.

In a move that was purely and unabashedly selfish, I stuck my fingers in my ears and LALA’d in the face of a natural disaster and the dead people it brough with it. I averted my gaze from teh tragedy and focused my eyes on the glory that was the anniversary of my birth.

The rest of the day proceeded as planned. I made shrimp pasta for dinner. I wallowed in the birthday wishes from friends and family. I got a few presents. I ate cupcakes that my mother had gotten for me. My friend and roommate, Carrie, took pictures of me while I ate one, goofy, smiling pictures that belied the bizarre kind of survivor’s guilt that I felt.

Here I was celebrating a day that was seen by the rest of the world as a tragedy. And I was going to celebrate that day in teh years to come as a day of birth while everyone else would see it as an anniversary of death.

Against my will, I find myself a member of a very unique club. It’s a club of people who share their birthdays with 9/11, the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Columbine shootings, the Christmas Day tsunami, Pearl Harbor, and other notorious days known better for death than life. I’m not sure how to deal with that.

It’s a silly thing, I know. It’s a selfish thing, I know. But it’s my first birthday since this huge tragedy, so I’m still working out how to share my birthday with death.

I admit that last year I hid my head in the sand and really indulged in my selfishness, but I think I redeemed myself a little bit at the end of the day.

My birthday money went to Haiti.

Plans for 31

On Wednesday, I’ll be turning 31 (or as I prefer to say, 30 bonus year because it sounds less dull). I don’t have big plans to celebrate my birthday. First of all, it’s on a Wednesday and Wednesdays are rarely good for rockin’ parties. Secondly, by this point after the holidays, people are tired of celebrating.

Lastly, it’s supposed to be really cold this week. Nothing kills a partying mood like the potential for sub-zero windchills and frostbite just going out for dinner.

Even though I don’t have grand plans for my birthday, I do have plans for being 31. I had plans for being 30 and I admit, most of them fell through. I had really high hopes for being 30, too. I’d been looking forward to it for years. Yet, despite all the high hopes and goals and plans and trying, being 30 wasn’t as great as it should have been. Actually, it was pretty disappointing.

But, with my birthday looming, the disappoints of being 30 fade in the light of the freshness of turning 31. I’ve got new plans, new hopes, and an unblemished optimism.

31 is going to be great like 30 wasn’t.

I plan on selling a few more stories this year. I plan on getting a novel ready to submit. I plan on fixing my finances. I plan on getting out and socializing more. I plan to continue to work on getting healthy. I plan on having a good time. I plan on improving my existence.

These plans actually don’t vary much from the ones I had for 30. They’re also not all of the plans I have for 31. As open as I’d like to be with this blog, some things are just too personal to mention. But even so, they could easily fall into the categories of either having a good time and/or improving my existence.

At the very least, I hit the high points.

Okay, so most people wouldn’t think my plans are very big. I’m not trying to run fifty marathons in fifty states or visit every baseball park in a season. Hell, I’m not even trying to skydive, rock climb, or go to Vegas. And I’m sure a few people would think there are some plans missing from my 31 To Do List. You know, like find a man or a “real” job or lose all the weight that offends other people’s delicate sensibilities.

In my defense, the plans don’t have to be big for me to be happy. So long as those plans are in line with what I really want and I make them happen, then that’s what counts. Maybe one year I’ll make an attempt to visit all of the ballparks in a single season, but this year is not the year.

This year can’t even be the year to think about it.

This year is the the year to get my house in order so next year I can think about those things.

As for the standard plans that most people make in high school and achieve in their twenties that I haven’t gotten around to yet, this year isn’t going to be the year I get around to those either. That’s not to say I’m not open to meeting someone or losing a few pounds while I work on being healthy. I plan on getting a “real” job just to help my financial situation, but I already have a real job, writing. But to be honest, I’ve just never been good at the traditional plans. If I were, then I’d already have the college degree, the career, the husband, the 2.5 kids, the house, the debt, and judging by the other people I know my age, a pending divorce, if not a finalized one.

I do better with the less-than-traditional plans and to a certain extent, I’m stellar without a plan at all.

My plans for 31 have been made and like with the plans I made for 30, I’m going to try to follow through with them.

Unlike 30, though, I’m going to put a lot more effort into 31.

Friday Five: Birthday Presents

My birthday is next Wednesday and I, like so many other people, love my birthday. It’s my special day even if I don’t do anything more out of the ordinary than going to McDonald’s for lunch to celebrate it. It’s my day because it’s the anniversary of my birth and therefore, it is automatically a fantastic day.

Also, I like free stuff and birthdays are great for free stuff.

Here are five presents I would love to get for my birthday this year:

1. Tickets to a Cubs game. It’s a sin that I’ve only been to Wrigley twice in my life. Maybe they’d actually win the game so I could hear “Go Cubs Go” in person.

2. Books. I’ve got a whole wishlist of them on Amazon and I am desperately low on new reading material.

3. iTunes gift cards. I love music. I’ve got lists of songs that I’d like to acquire. Some of it recorded after 2001, even.

4. Monkees Present and Changes CDs. Yes, downloadable music is where it’s at, but they’re the last two CDs I need for my collection of original Monkees music (I’m not counting Missing Links vol. 1 and 2; I need those, too, but they’re all outtakes and alternative takes). I’ve got a great collage of the cover art going and I need those two pieces to finish. Also, the music.

5. Donations to The Dempster Family Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a local children’s hospital, or a local humane society or no-kill shelter. One of the biggest bummers to being broke is not being able to contribute as much as I’d like to charities. I think it’d be cool to have people do it for my birthday.

If you read my Christmas list, I bet you were expecting something just as wild and extravagant, huh?

Well, I’m a complex person. Get used to these sorts of surprises.