It seems that ever since my 25th birthday, I never really fully embraced my new number -- or age, to be more specific. Not that 26 or now, 28, is old. Of course I know that. But, for some reason, I think I've failed to really know my age since my mid-20's.
Let's see, how can I explain this?
For my whole life, my age was something I could just announce without thinking. I just knew it. I couldn't imagine not knowing it. Then, when I was buying some very girly malt beverages recently and the store owner looked at my ID and then asked me how old I was -- I couldn't answer. I literally hesitated, said 27, quickly thought of what year it was, and then said, "Oops! I mean 28. I'm 28. I can't believe I didn't remember that!" Followed by some nervous laughter and avoidance of eye contact.
Um, who's nervous buying liquor at the age of 28? Someone who suddenly realizes she doesn't even know her own age so who knows what else could happen, that's who.
I left the store unscathed -- other than the disapproving look I got from the store owner who was probably hoping he wouldn't get busted for selling liquor to a girl who didn't even know the age on the "ID" she was using -- and I went on with my life. A little weirded out, but I didn't give it much more thought.
A month later, on a summer-like spring day, I started thinking about my age again. More specifically, I found myself thinking, "Oh my god. I'm only a year-and-a-half away from turning 30!"
This threw me into a different kind of age-related tizzy. This one was more focused on the question, "What the hell have I been doing for these last few years and how am I going to make up for all this lost time before I turn 30?!"
For days and weeks after, I found my brain landing on this topic a lot, wondering how I was going to accomplish all of these goals I'd thought I'd accomplish by the time I was 30. (Other than the fact that 30 is just a milestone age, it's also the number I always used to avoid thinking too much about when I'll have kids.)
"Oh, I'll start thinking about that when I'm 30," was what I'd been telling myself and most others who'd asked.
And now -- awesome! -- it's practically here!
With a year-and-a-half to go, you'd think I'd have jumped right on that big to-do list of "accomplishments" I had running, right? But instead, I just kept freaking out. Looking back, I was like a dog chasing it's tail. I'd think about this looming milestone, have a brain freak-out, forget about it a little, then think of it again and freak out again. This cycle continued for weeks.
And then something hit me one day.
I never thought past 28.
At first, this realization seemed absurd. I'd think, "Of course I've thought past 28, and I imagined myself ... " Blank. It was blank. I really hadn't thought past 28. This is not to say I'm one of those people who never thought I'd make it to a certain age -- I've actually always imagined I'd live well into my 90's, for some reason. But what I'm saying is that I never really pictured myself in my life past this age.
There were things I'd pictured I would have done by now -- age 28 -- like meet my future husband (check), have a job I could be proud of (check), visit lots of cool places (check-ish ... don't want that one to be "done" per se). But there are other things I definitely want to do and accomplish, but I guess I just never really pictured myself doing those things the way I'd always pictured myself at this age.
I think it always just seemed so far off, like a version of me I couldn't really relate to. At least for me, when I was younger and in school or in my first job, the world just sort of seemed like it was at my fingertips, so full of possibility, so open to take me in so many different directions.
Hitting 30 has always represented a time when grown-up life starts, when things get more serious and more, well, boring. But I'm only a year-and-a-half away from that now and that's nothing like how I feel. So, I've been freaking out.
But not anymore.
I certainly don't feel like a "grown up" today, despite owning a home and being married with a dog and a yard and having a tax bill to pay (ew, that one sounds so grown up). But I'm starting to realize, maybe there is no scary, crappy day when you suddenly turn "grown up" you and become lame.
So if that's the case, then there's no reason why now can't be the future, right? What I mean is, I'm already doing the things I pictured that "Renee at 28" would be doing. I'm not, however, doing the things that I want "Renee at 30" to be doing -- the fun career and personal-life things, that is (Not the yucky tax bill kind of things ... I'm already doing that!).
So why not start right now?
Here I've been pretending that my age hasn't increased past my mid-20's (see liquor store incident, above) -- just sticking my head in the sand anytime my mind started to wander to the next big age -- when what I should have been doing was being happy about where I am today and working to do even more to keep it that way. Did I really think the 20's version of me would just disappear the minute the birthday clock strikes 30? I kind of think I did. And it could, if I let it.
But all this freaking out has lead me to realize what people are really saying when they repeat the old cliche, "This life is not a dress rehearsal."
It means that this is my life today, right now. It's running along this very minute. So I better stop wasting time wondering about what will happen when 30 comes and get back to living all the moments leading up to it.
How will I find the time to squeeze in all the fun I want to have and accomplishments I hope to achieve by then? Maybe I should start by quitting the wondering -- and, let's be real, the worrying -- and just do it. Today.