Next Monday is my 38th birthday. It is very weird to see that sentence. I don't feel 38...most of the time. Like, when my mother was 38, she had children aged 5 and 9. When my paternal grandmother was 38, she had four children. I am not able to fathom being a parent at my age. And yet, nearly all of my contemporaries are. Some of my students' parents are not much older than I am now. When I started teaching, I was very close in age to my students. Now, I'm very close in age to their parents. How does that happen?
Part of what keeps me feeling (emotionally) young is that I work with teens. They keep me up on what is hip. They are so sharp and savvy and while I sometimes wish I didn't ever have to hear another screech in my life, I generally find them interesting and want to know what they're up to, what they like, and how they spend their time. It feels like a fair exchange: I teach them about what I know, they teach me about what they know.
Another part of my emotional youth is basically just immaturity, I believe. I am still on my own. I am still able to do more or less whatever I want whenever I want. However, I also know that I am so different now than I was when I was truly young. Every year, I feel myself opening up to more understanding and empathy. I didn't even realize this until, of all things, I found myself feeling some sympathy for Heathcliffe of Wuthering Heights (yes, I am a total nerd). I'd always hated Heathcliffe. What a dick, right? Except, one day recently, I felt like maybe he wasn't so bad. Maybe he was more complicated than that. And maybe he was a victim of his own circumstance. Anyway. It was a real turnaround for me. And it signaled a change in how I feel about a lot of people and situations.
Recently, a friend told me she doesn't mind her birthday because it's just a number and, anyway, she still believes she'll get her life together when she's 40. That got me thinking. It really is just a number. I am 38 but I don't feel 38. So, for now, there's still time to see beautiful things and open up to more experiences and make new friends and try to understand the appeal of Justin Bieber. Well. Some things just won't ever make sense to me. That's OK, too.