i feel like i’m finally reaching that age when getting excited about my birthday seems unnecessary. whereas before, i celebrated the big day like a 12-year-old finally turning 13, the transition from 36 to 37 has been just as unremarkable as it sounds. and now at 38, i can only summon the same emotion that has characterized each birthday for me since i hit 35: disbelief.
in my head, i am still somewhere in my early 30s. and i’d like to remain there instead of facing the reality of eventually turning 40. not that there is anything wrong with 40 and what comes after, but the start of each new decade of life can’t help but carry with it some semblance of urgency that moves us to PANIC and begin taking life seriously.
i don’t think i’ll be panicking when turning 40, certainly not like i did when i turned 30 and wrote a series of lengthy blog posts highlighting everything i wish i knew in my twenties (a.k.a., my failures at life). with that came goals i hoped to accomplish by the time i turned 40, goals i revisited at 33 and then again at 35 to check my progress (needless to say, i fell short).
i thought of revisiting those goals again this year and then realized it would only depress me by highlighting my shortcomings, so better to skip it. and maybe that’s the biggest lesson i’ve taken away with each passing year: the key to maintaining happiness is staying delusional. this is not to suggest there is some simmering misery below the surface of my life, just that i don’t need to wreck a good mood in the name of facing a harsh reality.
harsh realities will always be standing by to face later, and i’ll face them soon enough. they are not that scary anymore, which is perhaps another lesson i’ve taken away from the passing years: face the truth, even when it hurts like hell. because while the truth is often mean-spirited and runs counter to every well-intentioned life plan, it’s all we have, and it will always get us in the end. so better to pony up sooner and get the hurt over with.
i’ve been working at sorting out the truths in my own life for several years now and can say that, without a trace of irony, at 38, i’m happy. and of course now that i’ve confessed this to the unforgiving tubes of the internet, i will be fired from my job, mauled by one of my dogs, dumped by my boyfriend, cursed with facial warts, and overrun by an incurable case of BO. (note: i never said i stopped being neurotic.)
all joking aside, i am happy this year, just as i was last year around my birthday. at that time, i was entering into a relationship with Tico, which, admittedly, has provided me with a steady stream of smiles, punctuating the year with the warm and fuzzy emotions that can only come out of romantic love. though our union is far from perfect, it’s the healthiest relationship i’ve ever been in and i know i need to nurture it every day. this is less a reflection on past partners than it is on me and my previous inability to be in a healthy relationship. only took me 38 years to get here.
but even if i weren’t in a healthy relationship, i’d like to think i’d still manage to be happy, because romantic love is not my life’s ultimate goal – happiness is. i was plenty happy (though a little bored) during my year of celibacy in 2012 when i relied on the love of friends and family to fill me with joy. they also managed to provide me with their own special brand of warm fuzzies, and still do. the dogs do as well (miss you, Pinko).
add to that the stable career, roof over my head, food in the fridge, healthy parents and functional body, and i am one lucky girl. i don’t even need to keep reminding myself of this fact because it stays with me always nowadays, thanks to a lot of LA asshole-type navel-gazing in which i learned to reflect and simplify and basically chill the fuck out already. so i’m (mostly) chill now, knowing that my lofty goals will be accomplished with time and even if some never are, it will be OK.
yesterday’s not-so-big day started with a lavish breakfast prepared by Tico, featuring some of my favorite foods (plantains and avocados). then came a breezy workday when i yelled at the break room TV when the U.S. lost its World Cup match to Germany (those damn nazis!).
Tico picked me up from work early and whisked me to a two-hour Thai spa treatment, complete with full body massage. then came a romantic dinner by the beach and walk along the pier, where we took dumb selfies and exchanged kisses as he counted down the minutes until midnight, when my cinderella day would end and he could quit playing prince (see, NOT perfect).
and when it did end, my clothes turned into rags and car turned into a pumpkin and i had to panhandle for cab fare to get home. but i kept my happy disposition through all of it, because i’m goddamn happy person nowadays.
what i want most from the coming year is nothing to change, at least not too dramatically. and if it has to change dramatically, i hope it’s only for the better. of course, i realize how original this wish is, but it’s the only one i have, this year and every year, because at 38, loud noises and sudden moves make me wet my pants.
happy birthday to me, and cheers to the best year yet (or some close approximation).