Today is my birthday.
Today, I am 50 years old.
That’s a lotta years old. That’s half a hundred years old. That’s I-have-to-scroll-waaaaay-down-when-asked-for-my-birthdate-on-online-forms years old. Like I have to do a Wheel-of-Fortune spin to get to my birth year. And whenever that happens, what I really would rather do is just buy a vowel and be done with it.
I recall my earliest years of birthdays as having been riddled with a certain wanh-wanh-wanh-sound predictability, like that deflating moment when the game show contestant loses out on her one chance to win a new car, skulking back to her seat in the audience with nothing more than a box of rice-a-roni to show for her efforts.
Growing up in Western New York, I was no stranger to the “Lake Effect” that would visit my early May birthdays with unremitting rain and occasionally snow. Ergo, my first several birthday parties were doused by disappointment.
Notwithstanding my reluctance to be cynical at that age, my contempt for birthdays set in by the time I hit double digits.
My early world-wariness aside, I’ve always been young for my age.
That is to say, I was always the youngest in my class in school. Initially, this distinction felt fun, but by the time I was a teenager, it became very not cool.
I was the last to get a driver’s license. And I was the last to be of legal drinking age, not that it mattered much since we didn’t have photo IDs back then and we would simply alter our paper licenses with the aid of a protractor point and a pencil. Once I think I even used my mom’s license, which would have made me nearly the age I am now.
I assume nobody noticed. Certainly nobody cared.
Being a year older, most of my high school friends turned 50 last year.
I got to watch them one by one as they met their milestones, and it was like marveling at lined-up dominoes tipping into one another in perfectly choreographed movement to form a shape or a word. Only because I was so very far behind, nobody really noticed that I was the last domino when it came time for me to tip over.
Also, to be fair, it wasn’t that important to anyone else. Most likely they just forgot. But I recall that feeling of anticipation like I was in high school again, only this time it felt much more victorious to stand out, to be a purposeful observer.
Now, though, there’s no more watching. Everyone else has marched steadily onward, and the cheese stands alone.
My milestone is important only to me.
Nor is there any brass ring for this go-‘round. Unlike when I was voted best dressed in high school, I’d rather not have my name associated with any of the superlatives that describe me now.
Today, I’m perimenopausal. My thyroid doesn’t work. My mouth holds more crowns than the Tower of London. My hair is greying only slightly faster than my ears are growing. I have alarmingly high cholesterol that I have to attend to even though it’s genetic and not technically my “fault.” I can’t run anymore because running hurts my knees. I have that hangy flesh under my upper arms that teachers get which I pretend is just relaxed muscle to make myself feel less pathetic.
Also, I forget words, like the word for when you put something off on purpose. Procrastinate. Oh there, I remembered it. I procrastinate things like calling to make an appointment for my colonoscopy.
Like running any errand until I can batch a few together so I don’t waste gas or time, even though it usually means that I end up being late for something else and running out of gas on the way. Because I also try to fit too many things into too little time. Although I should be more familiar with it than ever before, I have developed unrealistic expectations of what time can hold.
Mostly these days, it’s enough to know where I’m at, starting with a respectful nod toward where I came from. The progeny of real excellence, I was born at the intersection of Phi Beta Kappa and the Olympics, and I’ve spent most of my life trying to deserve that sort of distinction.
But frankly, by the time you get to be the last domino, most of the heavy lifting has already been finished. So I don’t worry too much about what people think of me anymore. At least, that is to say, I don’t try to impress people or seek their approval.
Yet I do try to be kind. And I do try to be a good friend, to listen well, without judgment, with love and empathy. Because that’s what I would want from me if I were my friends.
I try to smile and especially to laugh. In these efforts, as in so many others, I seek community, and I value the importance of having good folks around me. I need them to be close, but not too close because I need to have peace in each of my days.
Most of all, I need to have love. And I need to share kindness. But when it all boils down to it, what I need most is to be excellent at being myself. Today, at 50 years old, I can honestly say that I’m starting to know what that feels like.
Like so many people who write their own bios to accompany their work, Sarah Rosenberg struggles with referring to herself in the third person. Nonetheless, she enjoys finding the space that surrounds each of life’s struggles to breathe, explore, laugh, and grow. Sarah believes in fairies, unicorns, soot sprites, and the occasional opportunity life provides to end a sentence with a preposition without fear of reproach. Find her at www.saraheverosenberg.com. She’s there right now.