Friday, October 28, 2011

I'm Old, and Here's Why

When I read through this for typos and grammatical errors, I noticed that it felt a lot more melancholy than I intended. It felt very matter-of-fact when I was writing it. So when reading it, please keep that in mind. I am mostly over my October Crabbies and, on account of today being my day off, I'm feeling pretty good. This is mostly my way of explaining why, Crock Pot aside, I feel old, and why I don't mind.

So, my birthday turned out okay. Nothing special, nothing exciting, but that's what happens when you're an adult, isn't it? Nothing is as big a deal as it was when you were a kid. When you're a kid, the whole world stops for your birthday. It's an Event. People fuss over you and pay special attention to you. You get asked how old you are, and no matter what you answer, people are excited for you. "You're four? Hey, that's great! Four is a great age!" There will be presents, and a cake in the shape of an animal. (I had a giraffe cake one year. You can't beat that.)

But when you're an adult, you get, "Oh, happy birthday!" and that's about it. No one tells you, "How exciting to be twenty-eight! It's such a fun age." No one asks, "What did you get for your birthday this year?" Because the answer is usually just, "Older." The question I keep getting asked is, "Did you do anything fun for your birthday?" People don't even assume that I actually did do something fun - they ask if I did. Because I am an adult, and adults are very often too tired to do anything fun, because they spend all their time working, and cleaning the house (even though the house should, by all rights, stay clean, because they are never actually home), and worrying about things like the weather and their car's gas mileage and Kids These Days and how quickly fruit seems to spoil. (Or maybe that's just me.)

Two days after my birthday marked three years since I found out I was pregnant. In my mind, my birthday and that day are inextricably linked. I'm okay with that. Grown-up Jill was born when I saw those parallel pink lines, so it feels appropriate that the two dates should come to mind as a pair. It also means that I miss Roo just a tiny bit more around my birthday, but that's okay.

Grown-up Jill is three this year. She feels much, much older.

I want to make it clear that I've always been bothered by young people who complain about how old they are. That hasn't changed. If you can't rent a car, you are not old, so please shush. I used to joke about being prematurely old, on account of my fibromyalgia (which totally sounds like an old person's disease, doesn't it?) and the fact that I can't get off the couch without making some sort of pained noise, and how I hate most popular music, and having used, more than once, the phrase, "When I was your age."

I didn't really believe that I was old. It was just something funny to say. I knew I still had a lot of growing up to do, and I was okay with that. I wasn't in any great rush to get it over with. I've never understood why younger people are in such a rush to grow up. You have the rest of your life to be an adult - why speed to get there? I realize in retrospect that I probably should have started to grow up sooner, but my parents were very kind in letting me take my time. They didn't rush me. I appreciate that.

Then I found out I was responsible for growing another human being, and that whole no-big-rush thing sort of went up in smoke. If pregnancy didn't grow me up enough (I thought it did), placement sure finished the job. I found that I no longer felt the least bit young. As amazing as it was discover that I could love another person as much as I love Roo, to discover that I could love enough to hurt myself, it was also heavy - it aged me. It's a great responsibility, to love so much. It changed me. I'm so glad it did! But it's a very grown-up sort of change.

I envy birth moms who are able, after placement, to go back to being young and carefree and giggly. I wasn't able to. Although in all fairness, I was never particularly giggly before, and I don't think I've ever been carefree. I was a frequently serious child (thanks to an anxiety disorder), and a serious teenager (thanks to a mood disorder), and a serious young adult (thanks to growing up with anxiety and mood disorders). None of that's gone away.

It's not that I never laugh, or that I'm never happy. I do laugh, quite frequently as a matter of fact, and as far as happy goes, I'd say I'm happier than I've been in a long time. But I still feel old. I guess part of the problem is the people with whom I spend my time. At church, I am part of a congregation of young single adults, ages 18-30. That is a huge age range, I think. I thought it was ridiculous when I was 18 and I think it's equally as ridiculous now. My particular congregation skews young, and there are several girls in it who graduated from high school a few months ago. They are very young, and very giggly, and not the least bit serious. They are legal adults, but they haven't had to grow up yet. They haven't had to be selfless. They have probably never worried about kilowatt-hours or interest rates or insurance deductibles. And that's okay! I'm glad they haven't. Like I said before, I don't think there should be any great rush to be an adult. But being around these people who seem so very young, makes me feel old. I share none of their interests or their current life experiences, and yet I find myself grouped with them time and time again because of the way things are organized - we're all 18-30! We're all alike! Psh. The more I'm around them, the older I feel.

Then I go to work. In reality, I am not really that much younger than some of my co-workers. I think the biggest difference is that they're married (or were married) and have kids, and I am ostensibly this young, selfish, single person who never has to think of anyone else, and who has less money deducted from her paychecks because there are no dependents on her insurance. Any time anything age- or life-related comes up, I hear, "Yeah, but you're still young," in a very dismissive tone, as though because of my apparent youth, I wouldn't know what it's like to be an actual grown-up.

Every time I hear that phrase, hear the word "young," I think, I don't have the words to explain how little you understand. I'm not young. I haven't been young in a long, long time. I can't remember the last time I felt young. Even before I placed, even before I got pregnant, there was my dad's death, and his cancer before that. I vaguely remember thinking once or twice back in beauty school that I was kind of still a kid, but my mind blurs. Was it beauty school? Or was it college before that? Those phases of my life sort of run together in my memory. They feel like ages ago. I think it's probably been six or seven years since I felt young. And that ship has since sailed.

I don't mind. I'm quite comfortable being an adult. There is something very improving about rising and falling on my own merits or lack thereof. It's something I can recommend with great enthusiasm. I've embraced it. I want Roo to be proud of me, and I don't think she would be if I regressed after placement, if I clung desperately to my youth. Instead, I cling to my love for her. I want to set a good example, the kind of example I owe to her because of my love. If Roo were to grow up and be in my situation - not a birth mom, but single and alone in the world at my age - I wouldn't want her to be giggly and carefree and a child. I would want her to be responsible, to take care of herself, to work hard. I know that she has an excellent example in her own mother, but should she ever look to me, I'm mindful of what she'll see. I want her to see maturity and responsibility and contentment and faith in God. I'm working on them, and they're not conducive to the prolonging of my youth.

I'm not young, and that's okay. I'm okay.

And in case you're wondering, for my birthday, I went to my mom's house for dinner, and my brother and his family came, and there was a cake in the shape of a rectangle, and I got older.


Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

Rectangle cakes are just as delicious. Although I think you should get another giraffe cake for when you turn 30. I think I'm going to have an Elmo cake next year for my own {33rd} birthday. :)

It will be so easy for Roo to look up to you and include you as someone who is a wonderful example to her.

Lara Zierke said...

You truly have a lot of "living" experiences in your past. I've always been a "little grown up" as well, shunning play for adult things. And still I will catch myself telling my friends, "I can't stand eating at Applebee's. It is too loud. Let's go somewhere quiet." And then I get teased for being an old lady. I don't think anything is wrong with that. Although I do like to make big deals for birthdays. Next year, try for a square cake. :)

The Blessed Barrenness said...

What a powerful post Jill. Loved it! I'll be 40 next year and while I know I'm old and I do feel the weight of responsibility, I do feel young at heart and often wonder how on earth I've been deemed responsible and grown up enough to care of a child? It all feels so very grown up.

Independent Adoption Center said...

Happy Adoption Awareness Month! As a fellow adoption advocate we thought you would enjoy taking part in Open Portrait, a blog that is painting a portrait of open adoption through photos, videos, and quotes. We would love you to participate and help spread the word!

Lacey T said...

I don't recall how I came across your blog, but I'm so glad that I did. I have wanted to adopt since I was a child. I believe that stumbling across blogs like your's will help to evolve me until the time comes that my family may expand our family. I think you are extremely courageous to have made the choice that you did. Please don't ever think it goes unnoticed. I hope someday that I am able to find such an incredible woman that is willing to give my family such a wonderful gift.