This isn’t what I thought my life would look like at 35.
Over the last few years with horror and then amusement I’ve been watching my breasts succumb to gravity, the right one taking the lead. I’m noticing the skin on my face form new textures, the wrinkles on my forehead linger and the frown line between my eyes retain its shape. The skin on my neck is starting to loosen and the white hairs on my head continue to increase. It feels like overnight I went from being vexed about constantly being asked for ID to being excited on the rare occasion that I am.
In my twenties, I had no idea anxiety would catch me but sure enough, it found me in my thirties and it's something I’m learning I cannot eliminate but rather learn ways to manage. For the last decade I have started to entertain the idea that maybe the life I always expected I would eventually fall into might not be for me. It seemed like having a stable job, getting married, reproducing and owning property were the main markers of success. For a long time, despite my discomfort, I felt I had not achieved full adulthood until I ticked these boxes. It has taken me a long time to step away from that narrative and still, it is work to find confidence in embracing the things that make me happy as opposed to the things that make other people happy, work I’m proud of myself for committing to.
Giving birth to a new season of artistic expression is not as impressive as giving birth to a child and I get it. The two cannot be compared really so I am learning to enjoy these victories quietly or with people who understand that not all milestones look the same. Who I am dating, despite being a rich and full experience to me, often holds little weight against the usual search for “the one”. I used to think I was doing something wrong when my relationship goals didn’t fall under heteronormative ideals. I would try and shrink myself so that others could keep up with me. Realizing I don’t have to explain myself or my actions to anyone and that it’s not important to have everybody understand me has been such a liberating feeling
The time I spend with friends has changed too. When we get together now we talk about our growth and all its glorious messiness, lifting each other with stories of success and comforting each other with the stories of failure. Our hangouts are now walks and meditations, drinking coffee and Kampuchea and stretching together, discussing books and the ongoing complexities of relationships and learning from each other. We trade skin care secrets, recommend wellness methods and brag about how early we got to sleep the night before. We remind each other to drink water and empathize when somebody's back hurts. I love being in my mid thirties where I feel I can connect with both my age mates and people older and younger than me.
When it comes to taking a break from trying to find purpose in other people and instead taking some space to love myself and know myself, I have always been resistant. Of course I heard of the notion of self love, sure. But I thought since I didn’t have an issue with self image and hadn’t been through any major trauma, I could defy this. I wasn’t aware I needed to heal from anything and I guess I was afraid of what I would find if I did look inside. Turns out there were some demons in there after all and facing them, though painful and difficult has also been rewarding and to me, has been the real mark of achieving adulthood.
The glamour of being a strong, independent woman has its downfalls and struggles too. Sometimes it seems, the world is designed for couples. I have gone from feeling bitter about this to learning to adjust my expectations, find value in community and focus on things that bring me peace. Some days I am lonely, of course. I’m learning how to be comfortable with this and I’ve surprised myself by getting used to enjoying my own company. Some days I feel so incredibly liberated I can’t believe life can be this good, that I have had the power all along to choose the life I want to live and the elation makes me want to pinch myself.
At times I have trouble accepting the fact that my body isn’t as agile as it was in my twenties but this only makes me appreciate more what it can still do. And my mind - my mind is sharp. I feel lucky to be able to grow, lucky to be able to provide nourishment and give myself what I need. I am so grateful for all the good people in my life and to have the time and space to evolve into a grown ass woman. I hope I never lose the desire to keep growing. I’m excited about what the future holds and all I can achieve because right now, it feels like I can do anything. This isn’t what I thought my life would be like at 35. It's even better than I imagined!