'A tiny drop in the bucket'

{adorable image by rocpaper}
At a birthday dinner for my father-in-law last month, our niece asked Grandpa's age. "How old do you think he is?" we prodded. She guessed a low number, and so we started to move around the table playing the very fun game of seeing how young a second grader might think the adults around the table.

My turn: "How old am I, Maggie?"

"35!" she said with resolve.

A swell of laughter engulfed the table. A little high. To my niece, age is not really something tangible. Until recently, growing older felt outside of me, distant, like something to worry about some other time. Commercials, creams, wraps, bras, and all of the other hullabaloo hype about staying young-looking or anti-aging -- I've always scoffed at them.

"Wrinkles are just part of life," I've said, "So what if you laughed, got a sunburn, or furrowed your brow at some point in your life? Why pretend that all that living never happened?"

Patrick turned 30 this winter. My husband had no great panic or crisis about achieving a new decade. We celebrated in style with a weekend getaway, a surprise dinner, and couples massages. It was a lovely and sweet day. I, however, may have been a little freaked.

Naturally, watching loved ones and close friends reach milestones, it begins to seem possible that these same milestones will (gasp!) happen to me. When Maggie guessed "35," I admit I thought... "Do I look 35?"

I've started to notice myself noticing changes. I "found" a negligible line between my eyes that may or may not be a wrinkle. My mother laughed. Patrick squinted to try to find the offending crease. It bothered me.

Changes aren't just physical. Sometimes lately I catch myself imagining life goals in age-ranges. By 30, I'll do xyz. By 35, I'll be blahblahblah. It's strange and somewhat unfair to arrange these ultimatums with oneself.

I work at a Big Ten university and see students pretty regularly. I have siblings who are not yet 20, not yet 21. Some days, the clock ticks very, very loudly. The difference between 27-year-olds and 20-year-olds is acutely obvious.

However, it's an acknowledgment different from the feeling of "never wanting to go back to high school." I yearn for the freedom -- to study abroad, to skip a class or go to one, to eat every meal with friends. Yet, not one ounce of my soul longs for the insecurity and uncertainties that fade with age. I don't feel older. I don't feel "old." I just like knowing who I am.

I don't like my one wrinkle. (Yes, I swear it's there!) But I'm not content to stop growing. I don't plan to grow old or make myself promises in five-year increments. I just want to keep filling up the bucket with more precious drops, remembering that "young" is relative and intangible.


  1. i've got that wrinkle too - i'm 29, so i'm feelin' what you're sayin. :)

  2. :) Thanks, Gina. It's a pesky little wrinkle! I like to think it's from laughing, though, at least that makes me feel better about it.

  3. Growing older is, I will agree, something you can't stop and you shouldn't worry about because you can miss so much trying to be something (younger) that you are not. The best we can do is enjoy every day, laugh, love the people around us, try not to complain too much and sort of roll with it! It is prudent to take care of your physical self as a healthy body grows old and achy a little slower! But here's a one good thing --- you probably won't go gray until your 60 like my mom! Love, Mom