The Day You’re Older

My birthday party, age 4

I’m older today. That’s right, the dreaded birthday has arrived.

I was recently at a tax appointment with my first grown-up accountant (not that I used children to do my taxes before, only that this is the first time I am being a grown-up and using a pro accountant to do my taxes) and as she plugged in our info, she noticed that our birthdays were approaching. E’s was Sunday, and mine is today. We’re the same age, and we’ve been together since we were technically teenagers, so sometimes it’s like watching your childhood disintegrate before your eyes. I remember him when he was young. I remember being young with him. Sometimes I look in the mirror and am shocked that we’re not who we were when we first fell for each other and became inseparable. It’s quite strange.

Unfortunately, E drank some magical potion when he was younger or something because he barely shows his age. Me, I’ve been dyeing my hair since I was 22. I blame stress. Anyway, our accountant said happily that it was almost our birthdays and we groaned involuntarily, couldn’t help it. This wasn’t the best of reactions, because though we may feel old—and maybe there are things we wanted untangled in our lives that are still in tangles and we really hoped we’d have it all figured out by now—we are not as old as we could be, and we have each other, and, as our accountant pointed out, we are alive. And every year you are still alive is a great thing. Many people don’t make it this far.

Hearing that when you are groaning about your upcoming birthday puts things into perspective, for sure. Maybe I am not where I thought I’d be at this age, but I’ve stopped running the race only I was in. My life unfolded, is unfolding, at a pace I can’t control, but every year I get closer to the dreams I’ve held since I was a kid… dreams that I confessed to E when we first met and fell in love, in fact. I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as he’s known me—longer.

So, here I am, one year older. The book I think of as my true debut—my real self on those pages—won’t be out for a year and a half, so I’ll be even older then. And you know what? The number just can’t matter. It can’t. I want to stop counting.

For those who wonder if they will ever reach the goals and dreams they long for, who measure their accomplishments in years and think they failed if the arbitrary year marker passed them by, I want to show you how much things can change.

Wait. That’s not for you—it’s for me. I want to remind myself how much things have changed.

This is from a blog post I wrote four years ago today, on my birthday in 2006:

Today… is my birthday. Today is also the day I received (via email, via the account of her assistant) a rejection for my novel from a prominent agent who I had tangled myself up in hope thinking perhaps-maybe-you-never-know-i-could-be-lucky that she might like the thing this time. Email said no: my revisions were not enough. My heart sort of cracked open at the timing though. Birthdays are notoriously awful days that remind me of everything I didn’t do right the year before and I suppose the email this afternoon was the final door slam of last year and there’s nothing much I can do about it now. This agent, btw, is a complete other person from the editor I was talking so much about in months past. The editor has never ever (ever) responded and I’ve pretty much given up on that whole thing, but there was a part of me that expected the No from her today, too. It’s my birthday; fate is cruel like that. But one rejection was certainly enough, thank you. So after the rejection we went to see a movie (Brokeback Mountain) and afterward in the lobby I was crying and it wasn’t over the movie and I couldn’t get my eyes to stop leaking and made a gallant effort in a bathroom stall that didn’t stick with me when I left the bathroom and E saw me and he felt helpless I know, for all these faceless people breaking my heart over and over again and he can do nothing to stop it. But really he is what is keeping me upright. I couldn’t take all this without him. (written 2/23/06)

That’s how much your life can change in four years.

So I’m older today, fine. But I’m here together alive with E—and though HE DOESN’T AGE, I SWEAR IT’S CRAZY HOW YOUNG HE LOOKS, we’ll be fine.

Happy one more year to me.

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