In my memory, I am about 10. It’s a spring day, and we are all crowded in the Isaacsons’ dining room. The three Isaacson girls, the kids from up the street, me. Perhaps others. Mrs. Isaacson is drawing us pictures of what we’ll look like when we grow up. The paper is manila-colored and she draws quickly. When she turns her artist eye on me, I am thrilled. And curious. The girl who emerges from under her quick and talented hands is 18 years old. Maybe 21 even. She is slender, wearing jeans and heels. Her long hair is pulled back in combs. She is lovely. I am mystified. Who is this girl?
That picture is long gone. But that feeling of being mystified remains. In fact, it’s intensified by the the imminent arrival of a very scary birthday in just two short months. It’s one of those stock-taking birthdays. One of those wait-I’m-how-old birthdays? One of those birthdays that automatically comes with gray hairs, and doesn’t really end with “…and fabulous.”
I’ve never had a birthday that has thrown me so dramatically. So undone my sense of self and shaken awake long-quieted questions. Am I where I am supposed to be at this point in my life? Did I, like that 10-year-old girl with her glimpse into the future, imagine myself at this age? If so, am I the me I envisioned?
This birthday has jump-started a self-reflection process unlike any other that I’ve undertaken. And, that’s good. I’ve never made figuring out who I am and where I’m going such a priority. I never was one of those people who had life planned out. You know those people, don’t you? The ones who knew that they’d go to X college and Y graduate school, get married to their high school sweetheart and have two kids, one girl, one boy? Part of me was alway a bit envious of the surety of their path, and another part of me wondered if it closed them off to unknown opportunities. The road map for my journey has been developed along the way, and the result is a life that’s probably very different than the one the younger me would had seen in the future. I find that so interesting and wonderful. And, a little bit unnerving. It makes each decision, each choice so very profound.
Aging is a strange and exhilarating process. I’ll be exploring it here on Red Shutters (especially as that birthday gets closer and closer). So far, I’ve decided that I like the now me a lot more than the me I was ten or fifteen years go. I’m more confident now; I appreciate myself more. And, if those wrinkles indicate anything, I might even smile more.