Monday, 18 December 2017

From 25 to 40: 15 years of adulting

Today I turned forty. I'm not having a midlife crisis at the moment, so it's been fun to have a 'big' birthday—especially as I really wasn't in the mood to turn thirty, so the last time I actually celebrated a milestone birthday was when I turned twenty-five.

As it happens, a friend of mine turned twenty-five four days ago, and his commentary reminded me that this had been (for me at least) the birthday where I really had to admit I was an adult now, no matter how I immature I still felt... So what have I done in my fifteen years of determined adulting?

I got engaged, married—I fell in love with my husband before turning twenty-five, and that was possibly the most miraculous accomplishment of my earlier adulting. (I don't fall in love easily, and it took having a nervous breakdown to achieve it. Long story.) We had two children, after a lot of fertility treatment and an incredible amount of privilege when we discovered our health insurance covered IVF. Long before the children, we've had the two cats who've been an integral part of our adult lives. Last year we killed four fish. I don't want to talk about it.

We bought two houses which came with two mortgages—at the time it seemed horrifically depressing to think these would not be paid off until we were in our forties. Now we're giddy at the thought that we're just a few years away from being debt-free. (Touch wood!) We've moved several times, twice it was barely a mile, once it was across the Atlantic Ocean. We moved back in with my parents for a long three months. Four years later, they moved in with us for one month. Can confirm it's easier that way round—for me at least. They may tell a different story!

First House

At twenty-eight years old, I finally figured out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: Teach Montessori pre-school. I then proceeded to have babies and gradually transitioned to stay-at-home Mum. I am not as good as caring for my own children as I am at caring for other people's, and I am utter rubbish at housekeeping, so for all the conveniences stay-at-home parenting brings, it's come at a substantial cost to my self-esteem. Going back to work became so daunting that I procrastinated. This year, I reminded myself how much I used to enjoy it and started a Montessori qualification that I should finish next summer. Let's see if I can get my career on track before I'm fifty?

I'm lighter than at twenty-five, in part because I weigh myself daily now and attempt to maintain a healthy lifestyle—and in part, because I'm no longer on the pill and my screwed up hormones are at least kind to me in the weight department. This year, my knees started clicking as I go up stairs, which I am inordinately annoyed by, but physically, I'm still active and can do anything I ever used to—in most cases more, because I've been making a conscious effort that I never did before—with the weird exception of swinging: I now get vertigo at the zenith. (Yet roller coasters are fine.)

 Selfies for Today

I've been finding grey hairs for most of the fifteen years, but as yet there are no grey streaks and I've not been tempted to dye, though this is going to be one of the hardest transitions for me. I'm vain about my hair. After thirty, I noticed a dramatic increase in "bad" photographs... my face was becoming weathered, looking more tired, the crow's feet had appeared... But ten years on, I'm not 'wrinkly' yet—except for my belly button, which hasn't been the same since pregnancy. Otherwise, the things I don't like about my body are the same as fifteen years ago—admittedly, these have got worse rather than improving.

One of my friends (no children) commented on my facebook today that at forty-two she still doesn't feel old enough to have kids. I hadn't thought about it that way, but I immediately knew what she meant. I struggle with what are surely basic adult tasks like cleaning kitchen appliances or anything to do with the car; I run to and from the mailbox because I'm too impatient to walk; I have the attention span of a goldfish and the sense of humour of a twelve year old. On different occasions, I've successfully dealt with the clean up of excessive amounts of bodily fluids—urine, vomit, faeces and/or blood—but I'm honestly a little baffled as to how.

Parenting sometimes feels natural

Yet I've learned a lot about myself. Faced a few fears; discovered more. I've had a couple of medical conditions diagnosed and treated; I wonder about some neurological ones—though that's about understanding my own idiosyncrasies, their limitations and how to work around them. It's an ongoing project. I've invested more heavily into my relationship with my husband and children than I would have believed possible—or maybe it's harder than I believed... I do know I'm grateful for the payoff.

Fifteen years ago, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with my husband. The idea of us turning forty together seemed quaintly romantic. Now it's our reality (we're halfway there... he'll be forty in a few months), and that's perhaps the best thing about today. I know better than to think this means "Happily Ever After," but I still feel that there's a hell of a lot of "Ever After" to come. So far, time remains on our side.

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