Friday, April 1

Milestone, Signpost, Whatever

I'm not big on ages; never have been. It was clear from a young age that they didn't really mean much... People thought I was older when I was younger - probably because of my height. Ever since my early 20s, people have thought I was younger than I actually am. I had 2 ages I was interested in reaching: 16 to drive (until it became clear I wasn't allowed to get my licence until I was an adult and could get it myself) and 21 to drink everything (we could drink "low beer" at 19, but had to wait for everything else until we were 21). To a mild degree, I looked forward to 18 for my driver's licence, but other than that, 18 didn't mean much. After that, it didn't matter.

A lot of people have milestone ages for whatever reason... A younger friend anxiously awaited age 25, when her automobile insurance rates would go down. Another friend looked at 18 as a goal for "being an adult". Someone else was looking forward to 35.

Milestone. Not my favorite word for this kind of thing. One, it isn't really set in stone - it is only part of you for a year. As the definition has it, after reaching a certain age, there really isn't a stage of development or really any significant change, other than what an individual puts into it. "Signpost" is really more accurate in my book: it's just a bit of information that flashes by as you zoom through life. It isn't like most folks are looking to get off at the next exit after a certain signpost: it's just (insignificant) data.

Our society pulls certain numbers out as milestone birthdays: 1, 2, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, 40, 50, 62, 80, 100... Fifty seems to be a major one, though... That "half a lifetime" signpost, as our lifespan has gotten to the point where it isn't unheard of for someone to live to 100 years of age. Time to break out the black "over the hill" paraphernalia, gag gifts and old jokes. Whatever. It is mildly entertaining, but for something that so many hold up to be so significant, you'd think there would be more substance and pomp to the thing.

For me, 50 was more of a "get it out of the way" kind of thing. It was annoying to have that "looming" ahead in society's headlights and while it was a small bit of a "hey, I made it this far!" kind of feeling, mostly I just wanted it behind me, so I could get past all the "The Big Five Oh!" and other comments and jokes. It is fun, to an extent, but just like all the "Fool" jokes over the last 50 years, it gets tiresome.

Youth has much time on its hands... vast numbers of years to look forward to... little experience behind... Like many, I spent a good deal of my youth planning (read: fantasizing) about the future and what that would look like. I had semi-goals career-wise. I wasn't much interested in a career, once I'd put the idea of teaching behind me, because whatever it was was going to be interrupted by my big goal: being a mom and having kids.

Okay, I was raised in the '70s, with lots of ideas of women's lib and doors opening up to possibilities for females; I was raised by fairly progressive parents - especially older parents (they were in their late 20's when I was their firstborn) - who did a pretty good job of instilling in me the ideas that I could do what I wanted, regardless of gender. I had many career ideas over the years, from vet to machinist to fashion designer to auto mechanic to model/spokesperson, but through it all I wanted to be a Mom.

I had picked out 7 or 8 names for my kids (the father's wishes and preferences never even entered my thought process), decided how far apart in age they'd be, had hopes for which one would be born in which order and what their interests and personalities would be like. Seriously. I planned out in my head little scenarios where they'd have troubles and I'd brilliantly come up with a solution or punishment or whatever it was that the situation required - and let me tell you, fantasy Mom was Awesome! I rarely ever failed, and when I did, it was just an opportunity for me to be human and to be gracious about my failure. :: grin :: Oh, youth... ! ...I think there was just some inner writer in me that just couldn't put the character development into a workable, readable story in black-and-white. :: grin ::  But, I digress.

When our oldest was born (on my birthday), I'm fond of saying that I "tried to hold out for a few hours" until after midnight (he was born at 10:45 pm), so he'd have his own birthday, but that he apparently had other ideas. I was concerned he'd be resentful to share a birthday with his mom. Other than that, *Best* birthday present *ever*. :: heart :: But what I didn't realize at the time was that my birthday had almost ceased to exist. Not that it was a big deal, because as long as there is cake, birthdays aren't really big on my list, anyhow. There are other holidays with much more oomph than my birthday that I look forward to.

Five years ago was our 25th anniversary. Kind of big, more of a milestone kind of thing for me - definitely moreso than a birthday. Because things have changed financially in the last 6-8 years, my hopes for a big-ish party/celebration fell to the wayside. I was a little disappointed, but the goal was the important part; learning to live with someone else and merge our lives together and *keep* it that way for 25 years is a success in itself - the party would just have been icing.

In high school, I had 2 other close friends that are still friends today. One of them had a big party for her 50th earlier this year and it was pretty cool to see the friends & family who came to help her celebrate. There was fun and laughter and camaraderie and FOOD - yummy, yummy food! - a lot of music, a little dancing, old friends to catch up with, friends' kids to be shocked by their astounding growth. It was nice. It was at about that point that I started feeling a little blue about 50. We did not have the funds for a party - not that it would be right/fair, since Dave didn't get one in November, anyhow - especially with a 17th birthday to plan for our oldest!  Try explaining that to feelings, though. Still, I have so much, where others don't and I can be sad for a moment (or two... or three... ) and move on.

Then, on my birthday eve eve, a good friend (who'd been sick for a while) passed away. There are regrets there and complications of those regrets, but "Only the Good Die Young" has been playing in my head off and on since then. He was a kind, gentle soul who overcame a lot and was a great conversationalist. I *loved* exploring ideas with him and will miss those talks so much...

So, in the shower last night, I came up with an idea to make the most of what I could out of my birthday: my family & I would sit up together (whoever wanted to) and talk and plan my "fantasy birthday": what we'd do if money and logistics and normal "roadblocks" were no object. That would be fun! Then, at midnight, I'd head to bed with my youngest. As I got excited about this idea, I stared planning on what I might want to do first. There was an idea of a trip to a tropical local the night before, so I could wake up on a beach at sunrise after sleeping in to my heart's content (timeflow be damned! :: grin :: ) and a surprise party to wrap it up somewhere down the line, but then my friend popped up in my head and my need to be here to organize my oldest's celebration and I started thinking about the conflict he and I had been going through recently... Darn growing up and separating one's self from their parents, anyhow... Stupid nature. :~P And I thought, well, since we're doing this fantasy thing, I'll get the negative stuff out of the way, first! I'll wish for my friend to not just *not* die 2 days before my birthday, but instead, he'll make a miraculous recovery and live to 110! And then, my teen will come to me and say how much he appreciates me and all that I've done for him over the years and offer to focus on me this year on our birthday.... And, well, by that point, I was weeping in the shower. Happy fucking birthday. So, I went to bed, instead.

So, maybe it is peri-menopause. Maybe it is 50. Maybe I'm emotional because it is That Time of the Month. Maybe it is the hardship of the last few years. Maybe it is my juvenile childish immaturity rearing its head. Maybe it is a combination or all of those. Maybe it is something else. Next week, it'll all be behind me and I'll wonder at the extent of my upset and depression. Right now, it is the morning of my 50th birthday and I have tears running down my face with a heart full of sadness in a quiet house with no plans for myself for the day. I'll go read my birthday wishes on my wall in a little while and find some funny stuff on Facebook to smile and laugh at. I have a day of work & catching up on my craft show to look forward to tomorrow, so things will turn around here at some point. And it won't be too long until that signpost is behind me, with open road ahead to travel. But for now, in this moment, 50 sucks. And I didn't even see it coming. 

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