What a Strange Age

There’s something about hitting your forties that’s just plain weird.  For the first couple of years, I saw posts from people I went to school with having babies, sending kids off to college, and others becoming grandparents all at the same ages. The forties seem to bring big changes: careers, marriages, divorces, earning degrees, buying houses, selling houses, moving. I always hear people freak out about turning forty, but so much stuff happens during that decade. I don’t know why it’s associated with the idea of death.

Over the last year and a half, as I’ve let my hair grow longer than it’s been in probably ten years, I see more white and silver woven through my locks. Not a ton, which surprises me. I always thought I’d have all gray or white hair by 45, but I don’t. I have some, but so do a lot of people who are younger than me. I went to college with classmates who had full heads of white hair by 19 years old. So in my mind, that’s where I’d be by now. That or dying my hair funky colors to cover it up. But nope. Maybe by the time I’m 50?

People my age are climbing mountains and running marathons, while others are having heart attacks or dealing with cancer. Some are divorced or getting married for a second and third time, while others celebrate decades of being together. Some are searching for or finding that spark with another person.

Much of my cohort in grad school are twenty years younger than me, and it’s a wee bit weird. We’ll figure it out, but for now, we step tentatively around each other, feeling out a common ground so we can relate with each other. You’d think it would be the topic we’re all studying or the classes we’re in together, but that’s not how people bond. We look for a t-shirt of a band we like or earrings or a tattoo. Something that we can connect over that feels both personal and separate from ourselves.

It’s not that I need my cohort to be my friends, I have wonderful friends, but I want to find enjoyment and comfort with each other. We take classes to learn from one another and grow. Each week we seem to be getting closer. I’m not worried that we’ll eventually feel like a cohort. But then the semester will end, and we may not have any classes together in the spring, and it’ll start all over again.

I’m okay with being older and having been through a lot to get here. I appreciate every moment I get to read and write and talk in these classes. Deep inside, I’m nervous that I’ll be discounted as the older lady who is out of touch or unable to keep up. I don’t believe I’m viewed that way. It’s just a feeling. But I’m not gonna lie; if one more person calls me “mature,” I will puke on their shoes.

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