I turned 29 today.
I'm not really sure what that means - quite possibly, it means nothing.
I am at the front end of a generation that is readily criticized for it's vocality, a vocality that can often be mistaken for self awareness. So claiming to have any sort of insight on to what this milestone in my life means would probably not be met with open arms.
But I am fascinated with the idea of aging, the idea of seeing one's self evolve, or try to. Of being able to look in the mirror and note a change, even a slight one, as a denotation of a life lived, or life in the process of being lived.
There have been so many changes for me.
Some have been obvious.
The grey hair started in college as random of assortments of one or two, but that now populate my head, most specifically the sides, in rapidly increasing gangs.
There are the bags that started appearing under my eyes in the last year when I didn't get enough sleep. There was a time when not getting enough sleep was a private fact, suddenly, it was public knowledge.
Then were the random things, the dry skin that appeared under my arms. I don't know if it suddenly appeared or I just suddenly noticed it, either way my dermatologists response when I brought it up was remarkably unremarkable.
He just laughed. And followed it with
Ahhh you're getting older.
I was suddenly aware.
Then there were the not so obvious signs.
Some signs are ones that I only think I see, lenses over eyes that have now been colored with the faintest shade of wisdom, as only experience can provide.
I know I look older, though I still look young. What defines my older though I’m not quite sure. It’s a subtle shift for sure. But much like Pirsig’s thoughts on quality, while I can’t describe it, I know it when I see it.
But perhaps what I actually see is my experience, a person who is perennially at the end of a constantly expanding timeline.
Perhaps I see growth.
I think about the number.
What does that even mean?
Before they occurred I had deeply ingrained suppositions for all the major numbers. 21 meant freedom, 25 would be my peak, 30 my defining year as an adult. Perhaps marriage, kids.
But as they happened the ages were much less defined. 21 seemed significant at the time, but 22 to 25 were very much a blur. Certainly by the time I hit it, 25 didn't feel like any sort of peak. Had it actually been my peak, I'm sure I'd be depressed right now. 28 became a rebuilding year, a time to reorganize the bricks of my life that, I thought, had been organized into a steady foundation.
It's amazing how a how a house of cards can pass for a house of bricks.
So as the weeks prior to the last year of my twenties turned into days, I felt not anxiety or dread or anything that caused my heart any extra movement. Instead the most significant sensation I felt was curiosity. What did this age mean?
Me, myself, at 29 years old.
A broad look at my life brings certain things to mind. In many ways I feel calmer, more at ease, more comfortable with myself than ever.
Yet at the same time I feel more impatient and anticipatory of the things I want to fill my life with.
Those things aside though, when I look in the mirror, I see a man I almost don't recognize. For as much as I presupposed the life I would have at older ages, I don't really think I ever accurately conceptualized the idea of 29 year old me.
In some ways, I find it almost impressive. Like owning a car that continues to run after decades.
And in some ways it's terrifying. When I take a close look at my life, as I make great effort to on my birthday, I am always reminded of how incredibly fortunate I have been.
Fortunate actually seems a trivial iteration of the word Fortune, yet that is what I have. A Fortune. A wealth, a bounty of good luck and wonderful people in my life who, when in the same room, make me wonder how I managed to find so many of them.
And whenever I think about how lucky I am, I am reminded of a quote I first read in high school.
Watch out when you're getting all you want. Fattening hogs ain' in luck.
-Joel Chandler Harris
The hog writing this post grows fatter and more paranoid every day.
Because for as much as I want, as much I crave, or I strive or complain, I have no need or want for anything. If I never made more money, friends, or had more experiences than I do today, I would still be one of the luckiest people alive
So I can't help be paranoid that this 29 year old me is always one poor mistake from losing it all.
My therapist would tell me that is my anxiety kicking in. And then she'd have me read one of the sizable chapters in the even more sizable "Anxiety Workbook" she encouraged me (successfully) to purchase.
And in many ways she is right.
Because in some ways the anxiety is unfounded.
But I look at my life at 29, at the people around me, at the air that I am privileged enough to breathe, at the absurdly incomparable good fortune I have had, and marvel at how anybody with a modicum of self awareness wouldn't also worry that all could be lost in an instant.
But being grateful and paranoid is not really a thing one is. They are emotions, feelings that one experiences. And I would be saddened if those were the only two things that defined me at any age.
I had a great writing teacher once who gave me this axiom:
Whenever you can, do not sum up.
So if I were to end this by saying where I was and who I am, well, it would be a lie and also go against a pretty great axiom.
The good news is I don’t have enough information to sum up. I know I am excited to be this age, at the things ahead of me, at the year I have already embarked upon.
And while I’ll possibly never be sure of where I am, perhaps it is the confidence in where I’ve been that will help me keep every age I am, in perspective.