Friday, December 19, 2014

On turning 31 ...

Being officially in my thirties is an interesting thing. Even in my twenties, I wasn't dreading reaching the Big Three-Zero, and really, it was other people's response to it that got me thinking about it.
"Only three more years until you can't call yourself a twenty-something!"
"Oh, my God, isn't it weird that you're going to be 30?"
"Do you feel nearly 30?"
And now that I've crested fully into a new decade of age, I've realized that, yep, I kinda like it here. Now, my twenties weren't necessarily this horrible ten-year span of awful - although plenty of pretty awful things happened to me, many of which were of my own making - but there is a certain freedom that comes with leaving them.

In a strange way, I have reverted to a more child-like state, and I don't mean that I'm naive or cheerfully flitting through life with nary a care. I mean, yes, I have a predilection to pick up the newest My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic comic book (I bought the first omnibus earlier this week and have been enjoying the sweetness ever since) along with my more adult titles like Saga or Drifter, but it's more than that. In my twenties, I had no idea how dependent I was on other people's approval of my actions or beliefs and often chose to keep my mouth shut or deny myself what were my true passions. But looking back, it causes a certain kind of shudder as I remember removing little parts of my own personhood to assuage others who I wanted to impress.

Then I recall what I was like as a child: completely aware of who and what I wanted to be, even if it wasn't clearly defined by adult standards. I was idealistic, spunky, weird, extroverted, studious, nerdy, talkative, impulsive, creative, flighty, daydreamy. I wanted to craft stories and learn as much as I could in my lifetime and explore the ends of the earth. Somewhere along the way, though, I was told that everything I was happened to be wrong. I needed to focus on a career (something I have never really shown an interest in, unless it was being a full-time writer or artist - or a paleontologist) and be more feminine and reserved (or else I wouldn't get a husband, because obviously that should be my only goal as a woman) and less outspoken and blunt (because only bitches are that way, and I didn't want to be a bitch, did I?). I needed to grow up.

Well, I did the growing up part. I graduated from college with a completely useless degree for a career that had already started to shrivel by the time I was a junior. I took whatever job I could find, each time promising myself that my plan was to stay with the company (the longest I was at any job was for a little over three years, and good GOD, that was a soul-destroying period of my life). I meandered through romances and friendships, never once believing any could last. I bought a motorcycle, which then caused me to catch fire (long story), and then cheap, not-so-surprisingly unreliable cars (seriously, you should just go read my I Have the Worst Luck with Cars series). I bought a dog and adopted some cats. I got married to a wonderful human being. Basically, I made both good and bad decisions, none of which I regret - which is actually a point of contention between me and my mother for various reasons - but they were all chosen on a basis of what other people thought I should do. Yes, even getting married*.

Now? I quite plainly don't give a fuck. I can recall saying that sort of thing when I was younger, but I didn't really mean it in the way that I do now. A few months ago, I told my mother to her face that I was done justifying who I was and what I believed and what I did. Even more recently, I admitted to my sister that for nearly thirty years, I had worn a mask when around my family because I had always worried that they would reject me, especially considering our conflicting views on plenty of topics and my parents tend to shut people, even other family members, out of their lives - at least on an intimate level; they'll play nice for short periods of time due to what they feel are obligations, I suppose, but don't really like to stay for too long - if their world views are too disparate from their own. I came out as bi. I stopped trying to fit into what my culture says I should do and got a job at a comic shop, working for minimum wage and loving every single minute of it. And oh, my GOD, did it feel great. This burden I'd been carrying for so long - not anyone's fault but my own, obviously, since the only thing I can truly control is my own reaction to things - was finally gone, and I could fully embrace that little girl, the one I used to be: the one who giggles whenever she gets excited about something seemingly trivial, the one who plays hide-and-seek with her husband when he comes home, the one who tries to see the light in every individual who crosses her path. I love that Juju. I am that Juju.

I still can't anticipate what getting even older will be like. I'm assuming it will be even less spectacular than turning thirty-one is. I might even forget my birthday at some point (Not this year: I am wearing a Birthday Girl crown all fucking day, and I'm working so all the customers will know). But I don't think that's the point of aging. Other than the inevitable return to the earth from whence we came, we are here to learn, to grow, to love, and to ultimately find out who we are. It sounds simplistic, and to an older ear (er, eye? I guess?), it may appear woefully silly. It's who I am, though, and I won't apologize for it. That is the woman I want to be, and I have the rest of my life to be her.

* I am not saying that I don't want to be married to Three, because believe me, that is one of the best decisions that I have ever made. In hindsight, I would have chosen to just live together for a few years before tying the knot. However, I did not want my parents or grandmother nagging me at every family gathering about how I was living in sin or asking when the wedding was. So I just did my thing and got married on my damn lunch break without telling anyone until after the deed was done. Hell, if I was going to play by their rules, I was going to do it my way.
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