Today is my birthday.
I have reached the seemingly impossible age of 42, which is the age my parents will always be in my head. It's weird as fuck.
Having been an adult for quite a few years now, I think it's safe to say that no one ever really feels like a grown-up. Even those friends of mine with children, people I've known since we were ourselves little more than children, seem fundamentally unchanged by the passing of time.
We pay hydro bills and mortgages, mow the lawn and tip the waiter, make dinner and vacation plans, fill the car up with gas when gas prices are low, file our taxes and do the dishes, help our moms with their computers, watch election debates and the evening news, bring a bottle of wine: all the stuff that responsible adults do.
Despite all appearances to the contrary, however, that rebellious youth still exists in there, beneath the extra weight and the thinning hair and the sensible shoes. Except that now a hangover lasts for two days, and we can't always get time off work, and we need to find a babysitter, and we pack kleenex in our purses, and we buy reading glasses, and we develop fibroids in our uteruses and arthritis in our knees, and we search desperately for a moisturizer with both anti-aging and anti-acne properties, and we start sort of paying attention to Depends undergarments commercials because you never know.
I find myself seeing old people in a new light, when I pass them on the street or sit next to them in restaurants. They are no longer the Other of my youth. Rather, they are themselves youths, but youths caught by Father Time and forced against their will into these withered, sagging, greying bodies, peering out at the world through cataracts, wondering what the fuck happened. What must they think when they look in the mirror?
Looking at the framed photographs of myself around the house, I notice subtle changes. A softening, maybe. It's hard to explain. I still look like me, but, well, older. One cannot defeat the indefatigable progress of aged decrepitude. (Or at least not without surgically altering one's appearance, and I have no desire to turn myself into a botoxed mannequin. At least not yet.)
I don't actively fear death, but I am aware of its existence in a more-than-abstract way. Sometimes I regret not doing something greater with my 40+ years. I wish I had more ambition. I wish I'd been brave enough to be a punk in high school.
But mostly I'm pretty thankful to be the individual that I am today, the girl/woman who still embarks on rock and roll road trips, and goes drinking and dancing on Sundays, and paints her fingernails blue.
I'm thankful for the ability to read and write.
I'm thankful for music and dancing.
I'm thankful for the financial security that means I can leave this two-bit town from time to time and see the world.
I'm thankful for the genes that mean I still get carded every now and then.
I'm thankful for the family that reminds me of the child I was.
I'm thankful for the people in my life who make me think and laugh and learn and love.
I'm thankful for the wisdom I have accrued thus far, and I look forward to becoming a wizened and wrinkled old woman, with that weird old lady voice that seems inevitable, because it sure as hell won't make a difference if I fight it.
Aging sucks and Death is waiting patiently around some unknown corner to snatch me off to who-knows-where, but I'm alive now. And so are you, if you're reading this. So let's give old Father Time a hearty fuck-you and riot on together until our joints seize up and our blood pressure rises and our hearts weaken and we have to buy motorized wheelchairs with portable oxygen tanks, and then let's riot on some more, because that's fucking life, man. And isn't it amazing?