My son turned five this year. For at least six months leading up to his birthday he was counting down. Many of his sentences started with, “When I’m five…” Five was going to be magical. He was going to be able to run “super” fast, he was going to stay dry through the night, and he was going to eat zucchini. (Still waiting on that last one). What is it about turning five? He had never shown much interest in any of his previous birthdays. My only guess is that it was the hot topic of the playground at school. I received daily updates on who turned five and who was already five.
But then a funny thing happened as his birthday began to approach. He didn’t want to be five anymore. He didn’t even want to be four or three. “I want to be a baby, mommy,” he said. “You want to wear a diaper?” I asked.
“You want to drink milk?”
“You want to not be able to walk and talk and just go ‘Wa-wa-wa’ all the time?”
Dude was serious. I had to break it to him: there was no turning back. Five was coming whether he wanted it to or not. What if five wasn’t as magical as he thought it would be? What if he couldn’t run any faster than when he was four? What if he still had to wear a pull-up at night? What if every night for the rest of his life he’d have to face a mountain of zucchini on his plate? What once seemed challenging but exciting now became terrifying.
I can relate. I’m turning thirty-five this year and I’m not counting down the days with excitement. Something about turning thirty-five gives me a slight case of the blues. Technically I’ve been an adult for more than a decade. I started working at eighteen. Moved into my first apartment at nineteen. Married at twenty-three. But thirty-five is like a point of no return to real, true, capital A Adulthood. And I’m not ready for it.
I am happy to say that my son and I are over our growing pains. Five is working out just fine for him. He’s in kindergarten, he has a more active social life than me, and not only is he super fast but the coolest too, according to him. Me? I’m alright. Which means most of the time I’m an anxious mess with a long list of goals and dreams that runs like a scroll. When I need to calm the storm in my head I say this: “24 hours.” It seems sometimes like my 24 hours are more like 4. In that time I may only find one hour for myself but there is no shortage of ideas, just the struggle to narrow it down to one, workable idea at a time.
As I approach this mountain I see it’s not so intimidating after all. My life is not a resume or a list of achievements. It’s not about what everyone else is doing or seems to be doing. I imagine if I live to be an old woman I’ll look back at these mountains and realize they were just hills. What is thirty-five when you live to see eighty or ninety? What is five when you live to see thirty-five? I’ll tuck this away for when I reach the “big 4-0” and see if I can remember what all the anxiety and fear of thirty-five was about.
Ambata is a writer who lives in New Orleans, LA with her husband and son. She blogs about writing and other things at www.aknthoughtsonthings.