Saturday, July 22, 2006

It's my birthday, and I'll cry, if I want to

I'm thirty-two years old today.

This week two years ago, I was panicking in a big way. That terrible fate that strikes fear in the hearts of twentysomethings the world over was crashing towards me at lightning speed. Lord have mercy on us all, I was only days away from The Big Three-Oh. Few events in my life had been as nerve wracking as that.

For I wasn't ready. I hadn't done nearly as much as I thought I would have by the age of thirty. Where were my two point five kids and dog? (Ok, I had the dog already at least). Where was my house with a picket fence? (Granted, I lived in Paris, there aren't any picket fences for miles in these parts. Nor houses, for that matter). Most depressingly of all, I was approaching that time crutch with no husband and no prospect of one. (At least that what's I thought at the time. As it turned out, I had met my future husband already and didn't even know it. But that's a blog for a rainy day).

That list of things that women should have done by the time they were thirty loomed over me. I had the eight matching wine glasses and plates but couldn't cook for crap. Why should I, I had no husband. And anyway, it's not like eight people could even stand up in my tiny little chambre de bonne. I had several black lace bras but no idea how to use a cordless drill, let alone have one packed away in my little chambre de bonne. And while I was content with my youth up until that point, I wasn't at all ready to move past it.

I woke up that hot july morning that was my thirtieth birthday, and there are two things I remember about that morning:

One: the cherries I had bought the night before were the sweetest and juiciest and ripest I had tasted that summer.

Two: As I was walking down the stone steps of my old building to go to work, I slipped in my flip flops on a puddle of water that the gardien had left while cleaning the staircase, and fell smack on my buttocks, leaving a huge bruise. As I watched my apartment building flip upside down and I found myself staring up at the sky through the courtyard, two things went through my mind:

1. "That didn't hurt as much as it should have. Better cut back on the croissants."


2. "Today I am thirty years old, I don't have too many more years left in which I can fall like that without snapping any osteoporosis-stricken bones in two."

I picked myself up calmly and as with as much elegance as I could muster and slid gingerly down the rest of the steps on my backside, wincing all the way.

I got through the rest of the day with no more tumbles and I celebrated the momentous event with a couple of friends while drinking a bottle of wine by the Seine at Paris Plage. And then I woke up the next morning, and poof, the thirty thing was gone. It was over and done with. All the anxiety that had led up to the date was over with. I was no longer in my late twenties, I was now a woman in her early thirties. For some reason I woke up feeling younger than I had in a while, not older.

Two years on, I have come to realize that I didn't really have much to worry about. I actually prefer being in my thirties than I ever did being in my twenties. My twenties were a time filled with pressures from everywhere. Pressure from family about what to do with my life, school pressures, career pressures, pressure to find the love of my life, pressure to go out and enjoy my fleeting youth because one day I would turn thirty and it would all be over with.

There's pressure, of course, in one's thirties of a different kind, but what I've come to realize is that things are not so absolute, as they seem when one is in one's twenties. At thirty-two, I feel like I have more knowledge and experience than I did at twenty-two, but I still feel young enough to take advantage of that knowledge and experience. At thirty-two, I'm still not exactly certain what my life's calling is, but I do have a better idea of what kind of life I want, as well as what kind of life I don't want. I think the most important thing that I learned in my twenties is that things aren't always absolute, that you are allowed to change your mind even if it's towards something you once completely shunned. And also, that miraculous things do happen, both good and bad. Life can throw you the most horrible curveballs, but it can also dish you, in the blink of an eye, the most amazing turn of events, that are sometimes even better than you ever dared wish for.

At thirty-two, and this part is weird, I feel more comfortable in my body than I ever did when I was in my teens and twenties. I find this odd considering I've arguably got more of a backside on which to cushion my fall down the stairs than I ever did when I was a slender nineteen year old eating everything in sight. I still long for those twig days, but at the same time, I'm more comfortable flaunting it than I was back then. I have no explanation for this. I don't know why this is.

With all this in mind, I'd like to revisit a previous post of The Bold Soul, in which on the eve of her 45th birthday she recounts 44 things she has enjoyed up in her life up till now. I'm cheating a little bit though, because I'm just picking 32 things that I like off of my list of 100 things I like:

32 things I've enjoyed so far:

1. I have to start with Bold Soul's number 1: Chocolate. Hands down.
2. Bit 'o champagne with my chocolate, and I'm good to go.
3. If I'm eating by candlelight, whoa mama!
4. the sound of snow crunching under your feet
5. purple sunflowers
6. the view, after the hike
7. sinking into a hot bath
8. the smell of night blooming jasmine in the summer months in Los Angeles
9. coming across old pictures of friends and family
10. opening the mailbox and finding a postcard by snail mail
11. having a real good laugh, so hard your side splits and you aren't sure if you are laughing or crying
12. the 360 degree view of the ocean at Point Reyes in Northern California
13. the smell of christmas trees at the end of november
14. swimming in the mediterreanean
15. Italy. Everything. The food. The art. The architecture. The language. The food.
16. Friday afternoons, knowing you have the whole weekend ahead of you
17. foot massages
18. getting a baguette that is still warm
19. when the fog rolls in at four pm in San Francisco
20. Vietnamese spring rolls
21. Speaking French, especially while sitting at a café….with an espresso… in the Latin Quarter…while smoking a gauloise…wearing a beret….ok I've gone too far.
22. the first strawberries, apricots, cherries and basil of the season
23. shiny, metallic toenail polish
24. the sound of hair being cut
25. the sound of the Xylon voices in the original Battlestar Galactica tv show.: "By. Your. Command". (Did I just admit that out loud?)
26. The Eiffel tower when it's doing its hourly sparkling dance
27. spooning
28. thunderstorms in summer
29. watching the sun come up (A rare treat, let me tell you).
30. picking up right where you left off after not seeing eachother for a while


30. my very good friends, the ones I've known for most of my life, who are more like family at this point


31. having had the good fortune to come across the World's Greatest Dog ten years ago, whom someone had thoughtlessly abandoned along the 101 freeway near Salinas. Their loss.


of course

32. having had the great fortune to come across the World's Greatest Husband, thousands of miles from both our roots, who brings me breakfast in bed on my birthday.

Today on this maddeningly humid July day in Paris, I am thirty-two years old, and I feel inclined to reflect upon and celebrate this event with a bottle of wine consumed by the river at Paris Plage. And to continue to take advantage of being Old Enough To Know Better, but Young Enough To Seem Like I Don't.

But I'm still not yet ready to move past my youth. Get back to me on that one when I'm forty.


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