On getting older and personal identity

Friday, January 31, 2020

I'm 42 years old. Incidentally, the age my cousin's Ouija board once told me I was going to die in a fiery car crash, so if I seem a bit more on edge this year than normal, I have an excuse. Sometimes - like right now, with my hip bursitis flaring up and a kink in my neck from sleeping weird a couple of nights ago - my body feels every one of those 15,000+ days. But for the most part, my mind doesn't feel any older than say, thirty. 

I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Alan and I have been together since I was 18 and he was 19, and we've never had kids. Unlike most of our friends and peers, the passage of time hasn't been marked by our kids transitioning from one grade to the next, and let's face it - we've probably gotten a lot more sleep. (Except for that whole debilitating insomnia thing I had going back in 2012.) We moved in together fairly young, too, and developed a routine that's still pretty much how we live  today. I often think it's because our lives don't look radically different than they did when we were first married that it's hard to fathom the fact that we're coming up on eighteen years of marriage in a couple of weeks (having celebrated our twenty-fourth dating anniversary on Sunday).

So back to that whole personal identity thing. You'd think at 42, I'd have it figured out, but I don't.

There's always this question of who I think I should be versus who I really am. And when you add society's expectations on top of those weighty questions, I sometimes struggle with finding the right answer. I'm 42, and my favorite thing to do in the summer now that we live in a coastal community is to throw on a pair of cut off jean shorts, grab my Kindle and a beach chair, drop the top on my convertible, and head out to the beach with music blasting out of my speakers. And while I love dining at high end restaurants, my favorite meal is a plate of wings, fries, and a cold beer.

When I think about some of my favorite days over the last several years, floating in the lake with my sister and my nieces springs to mind. Or hanging out at the river on the 4th of July with friends up in the Russian River. Or heading out to the bay to BBQ oysters and drink champagne until the sun goes down. (For the record, Alan is there in each of these scenarios. For better or worse, we are practically joined at the hip.)

The thing that's brought this to my mind lately is the question of a new vehicle. I love my Mini Cooper Convertible, but it's really only great to drive about two months a year. I've been talking about trading it in, and part of me loves the idea of a luxury vehicle that's warm and soundproof and has a killer smooth ride. But then, I know in my heart, that's not me. I still have sand in my floor mats from our last hurrah to Plum Island back in early October. I'm not a fancy woman, and despite liking fancy things, I'll never be the person who fits the fancy mold.

And I'm finally starting to realize that's okay. I can be the 42 year old woman who rolls through town with oversized sunglasses singing Miranda Lambert at the top of her lungs. I can be the woman who knows more about beer and whiskey than dudes. I can be the woman who's most at home in flip flops instead of heels.

I can be me.

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I saw an article today with a passage that perfectly sums up how I'm starting to feel about my place in the world and the space I occupy. From Gen X Will Not Go Quietly:

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