Driving home from Orlando today I returned a phone call from my longest and dearest friend, Natalie. She'll appreciate that I didn't say oldest because that was, after all, the topic of our conversation. She and I will both be celebrating birthdays this month and as we joked, it seems like just yesterday we were 4.
Now don't get me wrong. I am thrilled to be celebrating my 44th birthday on Monday! I'm healthy, I'm happy and I have the love of family and friends, which truly makes me wealthy. But damn. How did I get to be middle aged? Seriously, it seems like just yesterday I was trying to decide what I was going to wear to Prom and whether or not I wanted to have children when I grew up. But grow up I did, and two children later, I try not to be angry when my daughter sashays in front of me in a bikini with her perfect little body and comments on some imperfection of mine. Doesn't she realize my body looks like this because of HER!!!
How is it that I now have a career and a mortgage and very adult responsibilities, but I don't feel grown up at all? Of course I feel mature, but I don't remember actually growing up. I remember all of the milestones...the first kiss, the first time I drove a car on my own, my first date, my first college party, and the list goes on, but I honestly don't remember the passage of time. Was I so busy doing life that I missed it?
Other than the occasional gray hairs that insist on raising their fists in victory along my hairline, and the tiny lines that are slowly creeping around my eyes, I don't really see the passage of time when I look in the mirror. I see it instead when I look at my loved ones. I see it at family gatherings: The adults who once sat me at the children's table are now the ones whose food I have to cut in small pieces so they can chew it easily. I see it my children who speak such words of wisdom about things they see happening in the world and how they wish to make a difference. So full of youthful indignation and optimism they are! I see it also when I meet up with friends who I have not seen in a while and the passage of time is clearly written across their faces, and I'm sure they see it on mine.
Although I joke about growing older and watching my youth fade, I am truly grateful for every birthday because it means that I've spent another year on this earth learning more about what it means to be human. I honestly don't mind that I'm no longer 24 (or 34 for that matter) because I am finally at a place in my life where I love me! Imperfections and all! I'm old enough not to take myself too seriously and to understand that every day is a gift.
On Monday, there will be cake and lots of well wishes, too. I am sure I will receive phone calls and texts and birthday messages on Facebook and Twitter. Most likely there will be gifts, but there isn't really anything I want other than to be able to appreciate -truly experience-every day of my 44th year!