“Wow. 36. Can you believe it?” my aunt asked this morning. “Seems like you were born yesterday.”
“How about you? You turned 66 yesterday. Can YOU believe it?” We are birthday buddies, my sweet aunt and me. Thirty years and one day. I must’ve been an excellent birthday gift.
“I can’t. Would that we could each just subtract a decade, huh?” I laughed and she laughed, but then she stopped, “Wait. Were you happy at 26?”
She asked because she knows two things about me: 1. I am happy now, and 2. There have indeed been significant periods of my life when I wasn’t.
I didn’t hesitate. “I was. Ten years ago I was a newlywed, freshly back from an amazing two-week honeymoon. We were living in Minneapolis and just enjoying our new life.”
“That’s right. That was ten years ago. Wow.”
“But I wouldn’t go back. I complain a lot about my kids, but they’re pretty great. I do often miss the child-free days, but really, this is so much better.”
Now that I’ve moved back to my home town, I can see my aunt and uncle pretty much any time I want. They live less than a mile from us. On the same street. Yes, they babysit. So, I imagine these conversations will only get better. Like me, my aunt wears her heart on her sleeve. We’re so alike it’s scary. (My sister is also eerily similar to my mom’s other sister. Coincidence or influence, we’ll never know.)
In ten years, my spouse and I have moved from the city to the suburbs to outstate. We’ve lost weight and gained weight. We’ve had kids and lost parents. We’ve watched our families change because of it. We’ve both been seriously ill. We ate out every night and traveled the world; we budgeted our groceries and skipped concerts. We stayed up all night because we were partying in Chicago. We stayed up all night because our baby wouldn’t stop puking on us. (Seriously. After about three shirts each, we just stopped even putting them on. Towels, people. Lots of towels.)
People like to write lists of why their 30s are better than their 20s (and why their 40s are even better still; can’t wait!) Or Ten Things I’d Tell My Younger Self. But the fact is, both the best things AND the worst things have happened in these last six years. My thirties kind of suck. But they’ve also been the best yet. I probably felt the same way at 26, frankly. Because those six years between 20 and 26 were full of ups and downs, too. I’m kind of getting the impression that that’s just how life works.
So, even though I’m willing to consider the idea that time travel is real, I wouldn’t go back a decade. Too many people in my life have died before they should have that I happily consider getting older a great privilege. I mean, I’m totally going to dye my hair various shades of neon tomorrow with my six-year-old daughter, so don’t call me old yet, but you get the idea.
At 26, I was very happy. At 36, I’m very, very happy. You can only guess where I’ll be at 46.