THE BLOG
01/03/2014 10:51 am ET | Updated Mar 05, 2014

This Is 39, Too

Have you read the "This is 39" post that's collecting thousands of likes and shares? A just-turned-40 friend shared it with me and, ready for an afternoon bit of comic relief I clicked over and read it. You can read it yourself -- I won't give away the details -- but let's just say there's talk of chin hair and squinting and how dancing makes you sore.

Oh, let's just don't do that.

I know it's more fun to poke fun than appreciate getting older, and she's got me -- I'll stay in the car to finish a G N' R song too. But come on! We're 39, not 99. There's plenty of time later for self-deprecating aging humor. We're as young now as we'll ever be again. Why not celebrate that?

This is 39. Photo by Flytographer

I unearthed a box just before New Year's that contained stacks of old journals and essays. My high school and college experience is all there in my messy, circle-for-the-dot-on-the-"i", scrawl. I flipped through the pages, hunched on an upturned Rubbermaid box in the garage I was supposed to be cleaning (because I guess that's the kind of thing you do with your Saturday when you're 39, right?) and winced at my teenage self. Dependent on the attentions of boys, displeased with how I looked, excelling at school but oblivious to my potential -- I wouldn't relive those years for any amount of money.

Yes, I'm older now. Yes, things hurt that didn't used to (courtesy mostly of my exuberant foray into powerlifting). Yes, the sleep creases on my face take longer to fade in the morning and I seem to need scarves and gloves and a higher thermostat setting than I used to. But what I lacked as a fresh young thing I have in full bloom now: I'm confident.

Flipping through the old photos in the box, I found some of a bikini-clad 18-year-old version of myself, and you know, I think I look better now. Those worries about what brand of jeans to wear to school are history. I've embraced the curly hair I used to work so hard to straighten and accepted that my teeth are crooked and still smile when glee strikes. My husband loves me, but my self-worth isn't based on that. I have friends who are interesting and wise and fun, parents I can hang out with instead of combat and an amazing job -- I get paid (well, sometimes) to write.

I'm 39 and I'm strong and capable and know I can do pretty much anything I want to do if I'm willing to put in the work. I'm sad that I didn't know that when I was younger. And that's 39, too, the melancholy wondering of what could have been, if I'd only known my potential when the decades stretched out ahead of me. And that's more painful than the new crinkle I found by my eye this morning.

So, friends of a certain age, let's take it easy on the making fun of ourselves. Isn't there enough out there telling us we don't live up without joining the chorus? I know that commiserating about the less-pleasant things makes it easier to bear, but how about we spend as least as much time talking about the good stuff? If hangovers are harsher these days, well, at least there's more to our nights than downing those Jolly Rancher-infused Zimas and dashing back to the dorm to see if the answering machine is blinking. Let's look for the flip side of all the easy target negatives and be glad for what it means to be 39.

journal.jpg

In one of those earnest journal scribblings when some boy or another wouldn't call me and I was agonizing over not fitting in at my highfaluting college I wrote that I wished that I knew what was in my future. My wish 20 years later, now that the future is here? To go back and say it's all going to be OK. And although it seems impossible to imagine what will be on my mind when I'm 59, I'm going to make an assumption. I think future me, older me, wants me to know these are good years. Enjoy them. And don't waste them worrying about getting old.

This is 39 and I like it just fine.

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