One of the best books I’ve ever read is called The Things They Carried. Written by Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien, I read it for the first time in high school. That was a few more years ago than I’d like to admit, but I’ve actually read it several times since then. I don’t read too many books more than one time. That in itself should tell you something. I think it’s his voice that draws me in. It’s real. Uncut. His truths about war and his free-flow thought process makes it feel like he’s in the easy chair across from you, just talking. His style is somewhat repetitive and reminds me of the natural flow of conscious thought. We repeat things in our heads, don’t we? The things that matter, anyway. I won’t go into all the gory details. It’s not a book for the faint of heart. But, there are several instances he reiterates, over and over. So much so that by the time you get to the end of the book, you realize how profound an experience that must have been. It’s quite brilliant, really.
Anyway, there is a point to this babble. Tomorrow marks year 34 for my existence. That’s right. It’s almost muh birfday! Not that I plan on celebrating with a big hoopla. That’s really not my thing. But, I thought I’d point out some personal truths. They’ve been dancing around in my head today. An ode to being alive and resilient at age 34 – Tim O’Brien style. So here’s what I know…….
34 is definitely NOT 29. I have joked quite a lot about all birthdays ceasing at 29. We all know I’m a terrible liar and this is not so. 34 isn’t quite as glamorous as life in the early 20s. It becomes a different kind of happy. It no longer seeks fulfillment in crazy nights on the town. 34 lets go of those expectations. That in itself is huge. 34 finds peace in being part of the audience and the realization that anyone else worth spending time with is also wandering around looking for the bigger picture. I guess that’s why I like kindergarteners so much.
34 is gymnastics and art class for my kids. It’s basketball practice and guitar lessons. It’s crock pot dinners and early mornings. It’s long work days and insomnia many nights. 34 is laundry piled to the ceiling and the many cuss words it takes to fold it all. Some evenings, it’s a messy house and a bad attitude and that weary feeling of scratchy eyes that won’t stay open. 34 is desperately trying to let go of what makes you crazy while clinging to what keeps you sane. It’s the little people watching you and the hunt for inspiration while trying to BE inspiration.
34 is finally telling the things that terrify you to take a seat. You’re all out of hoots to give. It’s letting go of the opinions of others and embracing the glorious mess that you are. It’s a check-point in the journey to self-acceptance. The realization that there is real nobility in the under eye bags and the ability to own those stretch marks like a damn badge of honor, knowing what you went through to get all of them. 34 is finally seeing the true beauty in people through a crystal clear lens. It’s the smile in knowing that it has nothing to do with aesthetics and it’s the unspoken nod between two souls who actually ‘get’ that. 34 is finally telling the things that terrify you to take a seat.
34 is a quest for balance. It’s being a mediocre crafter in an era of Pinterest Mom superstars. It’s being a mediocre mother on the days of teacher superstar and vice versa. 34 is a quest for balance.
34 also has monetary highs and lows. It’s the internal dialogue between Dave Ramsey and J-Lo in the mind. Because YOLO some days. And other days, retirement is terrifying. 34 is always looking for a bargain! Except for salon and make-up products. Some things even 34 cannot sacrifice. 34 has monetary highs and lows.
34 is being annoyed by getting called “ma’am”. After all, 34 is not THAT old. Don’t call 34 “ma’am”. 34 is holding on to youth and welcoming the idea of impending age. Most days, 34 is greeting Murphy’s Law like an old friend. Expect the unexpected at 34. 34 is dropping funny truth bombs on social media, because people relate to what’s real. And there is joy in camaraderie. 34 is being annoyed by getting called “ma’am.
Thirty-four is the undeniable truth that all things worth having require effort and hard work. It is knowing that happiness is dynamic and often complicated and often repetitive. It is the understanding that we generate a concept of ourselves at every age. This is my concept. This is my 34. Cheers, Tim.